On Dec. 7, 2008, Major League Baseball will begin the Rule 5 Draft which takes place every year at the Winter Meetings. As a creative feature in player development, the Rule 5 Draft serves as a method to help prevent teams to stockpile on minor league talent.
Teams must protect players on their 40-man rosters within three or four years of their original signing. Those left unprotected are available to other teams as Rule 5 picks.
Depending on the player's age, High School players drafted in 2004 and college players drafted in 2005 will be eligible for the first time this year.
To add a Rule 5 pick, teams must pay $50,000 and must keep that player on the active Major League roster for an entire season. If not, they must offer the player back to his original organization at half the price.
The draft order is determined by record, worst team record selecting first.
The most recent Rule 5 pick to burst onto the scene is, Josh Hamilton. The former first-round pick by the Rays in 1999 was left unprotected and drafted by the Reds.
Other notable Rule 5 picks have included, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino, Willy Taveras, Joakim Soria, and most famous Rule 5 pick of all, Roberto Clemente.
As the next Rule 5 draft is near, here are just a few names, in no particular order, that you could hear about next year:
1) Eduardo Morlan
Right-handed reliever in the Tampa Bay system, Morlan allowed only 44 hits in 47 Innings with an 8.62 K/9 ratio.
2) Ryan Mullins
This 6'6 starter in the Twins farm system doesn't have the best numbers, but his .204 avg , 0.88 WHIP could make him a valuable left-handed reliever.
3) Kei Igawa
Even though he did not impress while being a Yankee starter, he does have big league experience.
4) Chris Mason
Another talent hiding in the Tampa Bay system, Mason had impressive Double-A numbers (15-4, 2.57 ERA) in 2007. However, took a step back last year (3-10, 6.21 ERA).
5) Jesus Guzman
Hit .364 avg Double-A Oakland as a 3B, but can play in any infield position.
6) Corey Wimberly
This speedster can play any infield position while hitting .291 avg and stealing 59 bases in Colorado's Double-A system.
7) Wade Townsend
In one of the most talented 2005 Rule 4 drafts, this former #8 overall pick has had all the talent needed to succeed as a right handed starter. Only thing holding him back is injuries.
8) Juan Abreu
This single-A fireballer struck out 104 batters in 76 innings in the Royals system.
9) Jordan Brown
This first baseman for the Indians hit .333 avg, 11 home runs, 76 RBI's last year in triple-A.
10) Chris Nicoll
Nicoll spent last year as a reliever in double-A for the Royals throwing a 4-1 record, 3.09 ERA, and a monster 11.34 K/9 ratio.
While there are plenty of names out there in the minor league systems, the Rule 5 Draft is a great way for young talent to have the taste of the big league. Look for who your team drafts Dec. 7th, never know if the hidden talent may become a future Cy Young, All-Star, or better yet, history in the Hall of Fame.