The Detroit Tigers struck gold when they selected Akil Baddoo from the Minnesota Twins’ farm system with the third selection in the 2020 Rule 5 draft. In 2019, the Tigers chose Victor Reyes with the first overall pick, and he remains on the roster. This year, the Tigers will have the 11th selection.
Major League Baseball teams must submit their 40-man rosters by November 19 in order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. The Detroit Tigers have 40 players on their 40-man roster following their latest round of cuts and free agent departures, but that could change in the next few days.
The players eligible to be selected are minor leaguers who have been with their organizations for four or five years, but are not on the team’s 40-man roster. The Rule 5 draft is conducted on the last day of MLB’s annual Winter Meetings each year pursuant to Major League Rule 5. At this time, there could be a lockout by the owners which could lead to a player transaction freeze and cancellation of the winter meetings, including the Rule 5 draft.
Who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft?
Players eligible this year include those who were drafted and signed their first pro contract in 2018, or those who first signed in 2017 but were under the age of 19 at the time. Essentially, this includes players who were drafted out of college in 2018 and international free agents or high school draftees who were signed before the end of the 2017 season. Players who were eligible in previous years are also eligible again, if they’re not on the team’s reserve list.
Just two of the Tigers’ top 30 prospects, ranked by MLB.com, are eligible this year. Kody Clemens (No. 18) who was drafted in the third round out of the University of Texas in 2018, and Paul Richan (No. 25), a supplemental second round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2018 who was dealt to Detroit in the trade for Nick Castellanos. Parker Meadows, the Tigers’ second round pick in 2018, was drafted out of high school, so he will not be Rule 5 eligible until next year.
While the Tigers selected Baddoo, they also lost Will Vest to Seattle, and he pitched out of the Mariners’ bullpen for a few months before being returned to Detroit. He will be eligible once again this year if not added to the 40-man roster.
How does the Rule 5 draft work?
A club must have space on their 40-man roster on draft day in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft. A player can still be non-tendered or waived to create space before the draft. However, players may not be added after November 19 unless they are acquired from another team or signed as a free agent. Teams will often remove players from the 40-man roster at this time to make room for prospects, rather than waiting to non-tender them in December.
There is a major league phase, a Triple-A phase, and a Double-A phase to the Rule 5 draft. Players who are signed as international free agents as teenagers are in a race against the clock to make the roster before being Rule 5 eligible.
Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft will have an opportunity to stay with their new club for the 2020 season. The player’s former club will receive a $100,000 fee. Players selected must be kept on their new team’s 25-man MLB roster for the entire season. They cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers and then being offered back to their former club for $50,000. Pitcher Will Vest was taken from the Tigers by the Seattle Mariners last year, made his MLB debut, and was returned to Detroit. He will be eligible again this year.
Players’ Rule 5 rights can be traded, as can players who are selected in the draft. A player is more likely to get through the Rule 5 draft than clearing waivers, so teams will not add players to the roster intending to take them off later.
Players who have accrued six years in the minor leagues are eligible for minor league free agency immediately after the season, and never make it to the Rule 5 draft. Such was the case with pitcher Elvin Rodriguez, who was added to the Tigers’ 40-man roster this month. Rey Rivera would have been eligible, but he was traded to Cincinnati for catcher Tucker Barnhart.
Who will the Tigers protect?
Unlike last season, when a glut of meaningful prospects in the organization became eligible, there are not many who need protection this season. However, here are some Tigers prospects who will be considered for protection from the Rule 5 draft before the November 19 deadline to add them to the roster.
Following is the full list of the other players in the Tigers’ organization who are Rule 5 eligible. Thanks to Eddie Bajek (follow @Ebajek85) for putting this list together.
Angel De Jesus
Sandel De La Cruz
Eric De La Rosa
The Tigers have protected up to six players in seasons past, but I think the list of protected players will be short this year. Which players would you like to see protected?