MLB Rule 5 Draft 2012: Analysis and Bold Predictions for Top Prospects

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MLB Rule 5 Draft 2012: Analysis and Bold Predictions for Top Prospects
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Courtesy of James Garner, MILB.com

It doesn't happen every year, but from time to time a player taken in the Rule 5 draft can turn into a superstar in Major League Baseball. This year's draft takes place on Thursday at the Grand Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., site of the Winter Meetings.

Over the last few years, the Rule 5 draft has not produced as many hidden gems due to new rules put in place by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Since players can now spend four or five years in the minors before teams have to protect them, there aren't as many undiscovered prospects.

In the past, players only had three or four years with a team before a decision had to be made about protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. That left a window for players to be chosen in the Rule 5 draft hit their stride in another organization.

The most recent big-name players to come out of the Rule 5 draft were Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton and Dan Uggla. Santana was taken by Houston in the 1999 Rule 5 draft, then traded to Minnesota on the same day. Uggla went from Arizona to Florida in 2005.

Hamilton was taken by the Cubs in 2006, then traded to Cincinnati the same day. Players can still be found. It is just a matter of timing on the team's part and talent on the player's part. 

As draft day approaches, here are the top five players available in this class. 

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