P2Daily: What Will Happen With the Rule 5 Draft?

In any normal year, the MLB Rule 5 Draft would be an overhyped event, with a small risk of losing a potential big league player who at best could be an average starter, but more likely will end up a 30-40 grade player.

This year, the Rule 5 draft was postponed, due to the MLB lockout. The draft — meant to keep teams from hoarding potential major league talent in their minor league system — typically takes place at the end of the Winter Meetings in early December. The drafted players must remain on their new team’s MLB rosters all season in order for the new team to keep the player. Typically, most drafted players are returned by the end of Spring Training.

It’s possible that MLB won’t hold the Rule 5 draft this year, due to all of the complications with the lockout. Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark reported that MLB executives want to take a year off from the Rule 5 draft.

However, as JJ Cooper points out, that isn’t exactly something that MLB can unilaterally decide:

I think the most likely scenario on the lockout front is that MLB ends up cancelling all of the April games, and reaching a deal to start the season in May.

A draft this year would be unlike any previous Rule 5 draft, due to the amount of information available.

We’ve already reported this week on Tahnaj Thomas, Mason Martin, and Cal Mitchell, who are three big names who could be lost by the Pirates. All three are in minor league Spring Training. If a draft were held in April, all three would already be playing in-season games, following a full camp. Imagine if Thomas threw six shutout innings with no walks in Altoona to open the season, or Martin hit three homers in Triple-A in the first week, while reducing strikeouts.

Ultimately, Thomas was left unprotected for a reason. He’s got good stuff, but control issues due to inconsistent mechanics. Martin was left unprotected for a reason. He’s got a lot of power, but plate patience issues. Mitchell was left unprotected for a reason. This is interesting, because he’s the opposite of Martin, with good plate patience, but a lack of in-game power to match his raw abilities.

All three development weaknesses come with a significant amount of risk. Anyone reading about this trio on this site probably has an emotional attachment to the person involved in their analysis, and that includes this writer, who has followed two of these guys since they turned pro.

Imagine if the CBA wasn’t figured out until after the minor league season began, and all three were able to put up numbers at a higher level. Image if any of them has any kind of positive small sample size result that would lead teams to believe there’s hope that they’ve got it figured out.

It kind of makes me want to see an in-season draft take place, just to see the players benefit.

But also, what could we see from Cal Mitchell and Mason Martin if they knew that a strong April could lead to a shot in the majors? I think that’s a valid question for them, regardless of what happens with the Rule 5 draft.

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