We’ve all heard of the Rule 5 Draft, but not everyone knows exactly how it works. Originally adopted as the “Bonus Rule” in 1947, the rule was designed to keep teams from stockpiling minor league players. Renamed in 1959, Rule 5 requires teams to submit their 40 man roster on November 20. Certain players who are left off the 40 man roster are considered unprotected and subject to being drafted by other MLB teams. Which players are eligible? I’m glad you asked. Players who were signed at age 18 or younger and have spent five years in the organization are. Players signed at age 19 or older with four years in the organization are also unprotected. Are you with me so far?
The Rule 5 Draft takes place every December at the Baseball Winter Meetings. Teams draft in reverse order of the previous year’s standings. Only teams with fewer than 40 players on their roster may make Rule 5 selections. Each player picked comes with a $50,000 price tag. If that’s not enough to scare buyers away this next fact might be. Rule 5 draftees must spend the entire season on the Major League roster or be offered back to their original team for $25,000. Yes, it’s a pretty risky proposition. Consequently only a few picks are made each year. This winter 19 players, including 16 pitchers, were selected by 15 teams.
The Astros selected two right-handed pitchers, Aneury Rodriguez from the Rays and Lance Pendleton from the Yankees. Both youngsters enter spring training competing to be the Astros fifth starter. Rodriguez has a very good chance to secure the spot. The 22 year-old went 6-5 with a 3.80 ERA at AAA last season. Rodriguez gained even more attention with a productive Dominican Winter League session. Pendleton is a Houston native and Rice University product. The 27 year-old has a 93 mph fastball and could stick with Houston as a reliever.
The Astros made one of the biggest blunders in Rule 5 history when they left Johan Santana unprotected prior to the 2000 season. Santana was selected by the Marlins who immediately dealt him to Minnesota for pitcher Jared Camp. Oops! The Santana gaffe rates pretty high, but it’s not the worst ever. That distinction belongs to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Prior to the 1955 season Brooklyn exposed a young outfielder named Roberto Clemente to the Rule 5 Draft. Clemente was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates and would spend his entire 18 year career with the Bucs. Clemente collected exactly 3,000 hits and posted a career .317 batting average and a .475 slugging percentage. Clemente was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame shortly after being killed in a plane crash attempting to deliver aid to eartquake striken Nicaraguans.