After a two-year hiatus, the MLB Rule 5 draft will return this Winter after it was canceled a year ago due to the lockout (though the Minor League portion did still occur, as the Royals lost four players, including local prospect Grant Gavin).
Typically, the Rule 5 draft is one of the major events of the MLB Winter Meetings which takes place in December. While the MLB first-year player draft (also less commonly known as the Rule 4 draft) is the more popular and well-known kind of MLB draft with baseball fans, the Rule 5 draft has also been a method for teams, including the Royals, to acquire MLB-ready talent from other organizations.
Here is a definition of what the Rule 5 draft is, according to MLB.com:
Held each December, the Rule 5 Draft allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Clubs draft in reverse order of the standings from the previous season. Players signed at age 18 or younger need to be added to their club’s 40-Man roster within five seasons or they become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Players who signed at age 19 or older need to be protected within four seasons.
Not every club will make a selection, but those that do pick a player must pay $100,000 to the club from which said player was selected. Rule 5 Draft picks are assigned directly to the drafting club’s 26-man roster and must be placed on outright waivers in order to be removed from the 26-man roster in the subsequent season. Should the player clear waivers, he must be offered back to his previous team for $50,000 and can be outrighted to the Minors only if his original club does not wish to reacquire him. A Rule 5 Draft pick can be placed on the Major League injured list, but he must be active for a minimum of 90 days to avoid being subject to the aforementioned roster restrictions in the next campaign.
Clubs may trade a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but the same restrictions apply to the player’s new organization. However, a club may also work out a trade with the Rule 5 pick’s original club to acquire his full rights, thereby allowing him to be optioned to the Minors under traditional circumstances.
The Royals have been active participants in the Rule 5 draft in the recent past, even though they did not select anyone in the last draft which took place in 2020 right before the pandemic. Brad Keller has been the Royals’ most successful recent Rule 5 draft pick, though the Royals did not draft him initially (the Reds did and Kansas City traded for his rights with Cincinnati).
After a year hiatus, there are many Rule 5-eligible players in the Royals system who could be intriguing options to opposing teams in this December’s draft. Thus, which players are the Royals going to add to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft?
And which prospects are the Royals going to leave unprotected, with the hope they go undrafted and stay in the Royals organization for 2023?
Instead of just writing one big long post, I am going to break down five Rule 5-eligible prospects who JJ Picollo and the Royals front office may be conflicted on when it comes to adding them to the 40-man roster this offseason. While some 40-man roster turnover attrition is to be expected (let’s hope this is the year Ryan O’Hearn finally is designated for assignment), the Royals have a backlog of Rule 5-eligible prospects who all have a case to be protected this Winter.
Here are the seven prospects (three position players and three pitchers) who stand out the most from that “eligible group” that will have separate posts over the next couple of weeks in this “Royals Rule 5 Radar” series (they are listed in the order that they will be posted):
- Alec Marsh, RHP
- Samad Taylor, 2B/3B/LF
- T.J. Sikkema, LHP
- Logan Porter, 1B/C/3B
- Drew Parrish, LHP
- CJ Alexander, 1B/3B
- Jonah Dipoto, RHP
I understand that it’s possible that some of these players may be added to the 40-man roster by the mid-November deadline (which it typically is). Should any of these players get added to the 40-man before their post is written, I will still do a deep dive into their profile and why perhaps the Royals added them.
The Royals farm system is not particularly strong as of this moment, as the Royals ranked last in Baseball America’s mid-season rankings and 21st in MLB Pipeline’s mid-season rankings. Therefore, many Royals fans may wonder if some of these Rule 5-eligible prospects should be worth holding onto, especially considering that many were disappointments in the Royals system in 2022 (especially on the pitching end).
However, there is a new general manager in charge in Picollo, and it will be interesting to see how Picollo shapes the farm system structure this offseason in order to maximize the current talent they have with the Royals organization.
If Picollo can change things systemically, especially in regards to pitching development, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think that these seven prospects (and maybe more who Rule 5-eligible prospects who go undrafted) will break out in the Minors in 2023 and perhaps make their MLB debut toward the end of the season as well.
It’s not just the Major League team that Picollo needs to revamp in his first season as head of the Royals front office. The Minor League teams and system needs to adjust and adapt, especially after such a down year for Royals pitching prospects throughout the organization.
These seven prospects could be the key to a Royals system turnaround next year…
As long as they are not selected in the December Rule 5 draft.
Photo Credit: Blue Jays Nation