I’ll assume you have a calendar nearby. Perhaps by your desk, perhaps just on your cell phone. Or maybe you just use what’s supplied by your laptop. Maybe you have no idea what day of the week it is. That’s okay.
The date today is October 20. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, that puts us a month from the finalization of the 40 man roster and the Rule Five Draft (that is unconfirmed but that’s the speculation of the date).
A quick refresher on Rule Five eligibility rules:
- Players who signed when 18 or younger are eligible for the draft after five years.
- Players who signed when 19 or older are eligible after four years.
- If these players aren’t on their teams’ 40 man rosters, they’re exposed.
Also remember that a player selected in the Rule Five Draft, they must remain on that team’s 25 man active roster for the entire season or be offered back to the original team.
That all being said, what players are the Royals going to have exposed to the draft, and what players should they protect?
First off, don’t be afraid – Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and the other big prospects aren’t eligible yet. They’re in no danger of going anywhere.
Now, in the past, the Royals have gotten some useful players out of the Rule Five. Joakim Soria comes to mind, but beyond his obvious success, Andrew Sisco had a decent showing as a major league lefty specialist for a year with the Royals and in 2010, the Royals were able to select Edgar Osuna and retained him after Atlanta refused to take him back. Osuna was then able to be assigned to Double A where he performed alright out of the back of the rotation.
Probably the two most famous Rule Five picks are Johan Santana and Josh Hamilton, though they’re the exception rather than the rule. The Baseball Analysts looked at the history of the Rule Five draft and determined that most players selected accumulate 0 WAR, or are basically replacement level if they play at all. It’s rare for a player to a) stick with a team and b) perform well enough to be a factor.
The Royals have the following noteworthy players eligible:
- LHP Everett Teaford
- 1B Clint Robinson
- SS Jeff Bianchi
- IF Kurt Mertins
- OF Patrick Norris
- OF Adrian Ortiz
Keeping in mind that a player selected must be retained on the active roster, that narrows this list to a pretty manageable level. Bianchi is still coming back from an elbow injury that cost him all of 2010, so I can’t see any team stashing him on the roster with that fact in mind. Kurt Mertins hit .311 and had a .762 OPS in Northwest Arkansas, but struggled in Omaha. Nobody’s taking him. Norris and Ortiz haven’t advanced past High A.
That leaves Teaford and Robinson as potential losses. Robinson won the Triple Crown in the Texas League in 2010 and has hit everywhere he’s been. But he’s never been higher than Double A, and would be a fringe bat at this point in his career. I’d say there’s about a 15% chance he gets selected, and that may be generous.
Teaford, however, should be protected. Teaford broke out in 2010, striking out more than ten batters for every nine innings in Double A. He made one start in Omaha and got hit hard, but he also represented Team USA in the Pan Am Games and looks like he could be a spot starter/long reliever as early as late 2011 if injuries warrant it. He could probably be a replacement level lefty for a team if they selected him with upside to develop. It’s a stretch, but in this case, the Royals should add him to the 40 man, set him up in Omaha and let him start every fifth day and see what they have.
If they choose not to protect Robinson or Teaford, it’s not the worst thing in the world. The stipulation that teams have to carry their pick on the roster all season keeps many teams from retaining them. Often, they give them right back to the original team for some future considerations.
From 2005 through 2009, a total of 87 players were selected in the Rule Five Draft. Of those, 16 stuck for the full year. Of the selections, 65 were pitchers, of which 11 stuck on a team’s roster for the full season. That leaves five position players in that span. (For this purpose, I counted Josh Hamilton as “sticking” though he was drafted by the Cubs, then traded to the Reds right after. He didn’t stay with the original drafting team, but he still stuck. Obviously.)
In the event that Teaford or Robinson are left exposed and get drafted, it’s a decent possibility that the Royals would make some effort to reacquire them. Teaford’s the only player I see having any small level of production right now on a big league roster, so yes, he should be protected (and Gaby Hernandez is right there waiting to pack his bags). Otherwise, there isn’t much to worry about.
In the future, though, I’ll take a look at what players from other teams may be exposed and how viable they may be as selections by the Royals for the 2011 season.