An interesting, lesser-known MLB process is couched in the flurry and media buzz of Winter Meetings: the Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft, despite having a significantly smaller number of eyes on it than the regular draft (which, to be fair, doesn't have a ton of eyes on it either), does have the potential to make a real impact on teams that lose or gain players through it. Notable 5 pickups include Johan Santana, Ryan Pressly, and Garrett Whitlock. So, what is the Rule 5 draft? Why does it matter? How might the future of the Houston Astros be affected by it? This should clear a few things up.
What is the Rule 5 draft?
The Rule 5 draft is a supplemental draft comprised of minor leaguers that takes place annually at Winter Meetings, which will be held from Dec. 3-6 in Nashville this year. Qualifications for prospects who go into the Rule 5 draft differ based on their age when they were initially drafted. Players drafted at 18 or younger are eligible in four years, and players drafted at 19 and older are eligible in five years. These players become open for other teams to pick up for $100,000 to the player's old club. There are some other strange, roundabout processes that follow, but that's the general idea.
Each team that doesn't already have a full 40-man roster has the option to draft an available prospect in reverse order of standings from the preceding season. If a team definitely wants to keep a prospect, they can protect him by placing him on their 40-man roster.
The goals of the Rule 5 draft are to keep talent from being hoarded by any one or just a handful of teams, and to give prospects more opportunities to make it into the major leagues.
Astros prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft
Colin Barber (No. 8)
Kenedy Corona (No. 11)
Justin Dirden (No. 14)
Miguel Palma (No. 17)
Zach Daniels (No. 19)
Shay Whitcomb (No. 25)
Jaime Melendez (No. 27)
Misael Tamarez (No. 30)
Eight of the Astros' 30 top prospects are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, which ties them with the Miami Marlins and Oakland Athletics. The Astros currently have 37 players on their 40-man roster, leaving them three spots to protect these prospects. There's a chance that the team might not protect any of them and keep 40-man spots open in order to participate in the draft and possibly accommodate acquisitions from other teams, as none of the Astros top 30 prospects rank in the top 100 of MLB, and their farm system was ranked worst in MLB this year by MLB.com.
Which Astros prospects will be protected from the Rule 5 draft?
If the Astros do decide to protect any of their top 30 players, Barber, Corona, or Daniels seem like the best bets. Barber hit .244/.358/.433 and Corona hit .244/.324/.449 in Double-A, which are not staggering numbers by any means, and the two stumbled between Double-A and High-A this year alone, but scouting reports still project more excitement for them than the other names on this list.
Daniels, who could leapfrog Dirden and Palma in likelihood to be kept safe by the Astros does so because Dirden has put up middling numbers in Triple-A for two years, and Palma hasn't cracked High-A despite being signed in 2018. Daniels played five rehab games at Low-A following wrist surgery at the beginning of the year, then hit .278/.348/.469 in Double-A over 79 games.
It's important to remember, however, that just because prospects are available during the Rule 5 draft, it doesn't mean they are guaranteed to be taken by another team. The majority of prospects will funnel through the draft unclaimed by a new team.
Corrected Nov. 13