One of the events at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings that has really fallen on hard times in the last few years is the Rule 5 Draft. This year's draft could feature some movement from teams, as there are more than a few interesting names out there who could be attractive to someone else.
Of course, teams are not obligated to make a pick in this draft. The 2011 Rule 5 Draft featured just 12 picks between all 30 teams.
All of the prospects featured in the draft will be older, at least by prospect standards, so teams are not going to be comfortable giving up a roster spot to someone who probably isn't going to be good enough to play every day.
In anticipation of this year's Rule 5 Draft, we are going to give you all the information you need to know.
Where: Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn.
When: Thursday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. ET
Live Stream (Audio Only): MLB.com
What Is the Rule 5 Draft?
The Rule 5 Draft is used for teams to add potential pieces to the big league club without having to sacrifice a lot, either in money or prospects.
Everyone available in the Rule 5 Draft has been left off a team's 40-man roster after playing at least five years in the minors if they signed at 18 years old, or at least four years if they signed at 19 years old.
Every offseason teams have to trim their rosters down to at least 40, though most will keep less than that in order to make trades or sign free agents.
This draft gives older prospects, usually between the age of 23-25, who have fallen out of favor with their current club a shot to make it with another team. If a player is taken in the Rule 5 Draft, he must remain on the 25-man roster all season or be offered back to his original team for $25,000.
For a complete breakdown of the Rule 5 Draft rules, click here.
Top Prospects Available
Jesus Aguilar, 1B/DH, 2013 Season Age: 22 (Cleveland Indians)
2012 Stats Across High-A and Double-A: 127 G, .280/.372/.461, 15 HR, 58 BB, 115 K
Aguilar is a fascinating hitter to watch. He has the "old-man skills," meaning that he can draw walks and has a lot of power but won't add much else to the proceedings.
Plus, Aguilar's body is something that teams have to be wary of. He is listed at 6'3", 257 pounds, but I saw him at the Futures Game in Kansas City last July and he looked like he was closer to 300 pounds. He is not out of shape, just carries a lot of weight on a huge frame.
Considering how little power there is in the minors right now, not to mention the fact that Aguilar is just 22 years old, Aguilar could be one of the most attractive names in this draft. It all depends on whether or not someone believes he can hit enough to play first base or DH at the big league level right now.
However, Aguilar has not played above the Double-A level and only has 20 games there, so the odds of him being taken by a team this year are slim.
Tim Crabbe, RHP, 2013 Season Age: 25 (Cincinnati Reds)
2012 Stats Across High-A and Double-A: 8-8, 4.25 ERA, 144 IP, 127 Hits, 14 HR, 81 BB, 153 K
Crabbe has a lot of work to do before he can make an impact at the big-league level. You look at the K/9 rate and see some upside, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind before noticing that.
First, Crabbe actually started the 2012 season at Double-A Pensacola and walked 66 in 86.1 innings before being sent back down to High-A Bakersfield. He did find himself after the demotion, posting a 3.28 ERA with a 60-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.2 innings pitched.
However, Crabbe should be dominating that level because he pitched last season at 24 years old. He is more advanced physically and mentally than most players at the High-A level. He has to prove he can find the strike zone against more advanced hitters in Double-A.
If Crabbe is going to find a new team through the Rule 5 Draft, he is going to end up pitching out of the bullpen.
According to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, Crabbe works with good deception on a low-90s fastball, changeup and slider, with the latter being his worst offering.
If Crabbe were to scrap the slider and just become a two-pitch reliever, he could find a home in a second-division bullpen. He has to figure out his control problems, though, before earning a shot at the big leagues.
Josh Fields, RHP, 2013 Season Age: 27 (Boston Red Sox)
2012 Stats Across Double-A and Triple-A: 42 G, 2.01 ERA 58.1 IP, 38 Hits, 4 HR, 18 BB, 78 K
Fields is exactly the kind of player that the current version of the Rule 5 Draft was created for. He is way too old to still be thought of a prospect, not to mention the fact that he is strictly a reliever.
However, after struggling to find the strike zone in each of his first three minor league seasons, Fields was able to put everything together in 2012. He walked just 16 in 44.2 innings at Double-A Portland before getting a promotion to Pawtucket.
As long as Fields' command issues are behind him, he can step into a bullpen right now and have success. Any team thinking about taking Fields would have to slot him into a middle-relief role before putting him in high-leverage situations until he proves he can handle it.
Relievers are all the rage in the Rule 5 Draft, so don't be surprised to see Fields get a shot with a new team after all the dust has settled from this year's event.
For a look at the Top 20 Rule 5 Draft Prospects, click here.