le 5 Draft remains a low-risk talent pool when shaping rosters, execs say

The runup to Opening Day often means a lot of tough decisions for MLB teams as they decide which players get the final spots on their 25-man rosters. Some of these choices will be made on players selected in the Rule 5 Draft, the annual December spectacle that takes place on the final day of MLB’s winter meetings. The Rule 5 Draft has a certain set of rules, with players only eligible if they weren’t on a team’s 40-man organizational roster and if they spent at least four or five years in the minor leagues. To top that off, a player selected in the Rule 5 Draft has to remain on a team’s 25-man roster for the entire season and many of these picks never played above the Double-A level or be offered back to the team the player was taken from for just $50,000.MORE: 18 burning questions for the 2018 seasonWith all these permutations and hoops to jump through, it’s not surprising that the succe s rate for Rule 5 players is low. Of the 18 players taken in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft last season, only five made any kind of impact for their teams in 2017, and none of those players provided a WAR better than -0.7, according to FanGraphs data.So why do teams still take players in the Rule 5 Draft?Sporting News spoke with two major league executives on why the Rule 5 Draft is still an important tool, how Rule 5 players are scouted, and the proce ses teams go through to maximize their selections.We try to explore every avenue to acquire players, said Gene Watson, the Royals’ a sistant general manager and senior director of profe sional scouting. We always take a lot of pride in our preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. We feel like it’s been helpful for us.Kansas City took two players in December’s draft, right-handed pitchers Brad Keller and Burch Smith. Because both players are still po sibilities for the team’s Opening Day roster, Watson didn’t want to discu s them on the record, but said that the https://www.redsedges.com/cincinnati-reds/scooter-gennett-jersey Royals have found quality players from the Rule 5 Draft including All-Star reliever Joakim Soria and pitcher Nate Adcock and will continue to use the draft in years when it makes sense for them. More on that in a bit.One National League executive, who requested anonymity because he was directly involved in recent Rule 5 Draft deals, said that teams still select players this way because there’s little to no downside involved.There’s nothing stopping you from sending the guy back at any point, the executive said, noting that the $100,000 it costs to draft a player or the $50,000 it costs to return a player is a relative drop in the bucket. I think the best way to describe it is teams treat it as a free look at a guy that generally has some upside in some way.Watson agreed.You have the safety net of being able to return the player if it doesn’t work out, he said. MORE: Opening Day schedule for all 30 teamsOf course, each team scouts and evaluates Rule 5 Draft players in different ways. Every team is going to look at scouting reports, statistics, players’ injury histories and more, the NL executive said. For Watson, scouting for https://www.redsedges.com/cincinnati-reds/billy-hamilton-jersey the Rule 5 is different than the June amatuer draft because these players already have a minor league track record.Two huge factors in selecting a Rule 5 player are a team’s roster flexibility and whether those teams have players with minor league options.If you look at the large market teams that are built to win, Watson said, rarely are they that active in the Rule 5. And if so, it could be a situation where they’re in a slight rebuild mode at the time. It’s a lot easier when you’re kind of in a mode of resetting and rea se sing where you are as an organization, which is where we are.Every team has its own Rule 5 Draft strategy, but since Watson joined Kansas City’s organization in 2006, the Royals have only taken pitchers with their picks.We try to find ceiling arms, he said.The Royals took two players in December, but declined to make a pick over the previous few years when they were more competitive and had upper echelon relief corps that didn’t have room for a Rule 5 flier. But even if a team is building toward the future but is carrying players without minor league options meaning that a player would have to go through waivers if he were sent down that also severely limits a team’s ability to carry a Rule 5 player who can’t be sent down without having to offer him back to the original team.If you have no out-of-option (players) in your ‘pen and now you’re taking on one or two guys that have to stick around all year long, then it really paralyzes you, Watson said. If your starter has a rough start and your long man goes out and gets beat around a little bit and you need to send that guy down and there are no optionable guys, it makes it almost impo sible to carry a Rule 5.MORE: SN’s experts make their 2018 MLB predictionsWith so many factors going against a Rule 5 pick ultimately producing at the big league level for the team that drafted him, how do executives define a succe sful Rule 5 selection?If a guy makes it through with you for the year and you have him and can option him next year, I’d call that a succe s, the NL executive said, adding that he estimates this only happens one to three times per season on average.For Watson, a succe sful Rule 5 selection is more broadly defined.It’s not nece sarily that they always stick, but anytime they’re competing for a spot at the end of spring training, you feel like it was worth the financial investment to go down that road, he said.The NL executive said there are probably five or six players directly acquired through the Rule 5 draft that are solid pieces on their roster. And even that miniscule total, he said, makes the Rule 5 Draft worth the focus.It’s just that https://www.redsedges.com/cincinnati-reds/cliff-pennington-jersey tiny risk, some reward equation, he said. That’s why it continues to be an avenue that teams go down.