Sunday, August 23, 2015

Astros Rule 5 Draft Primer and 2015 Eligible Players

The Astros 40-man roster has required a great deal of juggling throughout this season, something that will continue as the team looks toward the playoffs. And that process will not get any easier once the Astros have to focus on protecting players in late November from December's Rule 5 Draft. As the farm system gets deeper (and older), there will be more and more players that will receive consideration for protection on the 40-man roster. As of today, there are 40 players on the 40-man roster plus two additional players (RHP Brad Peacock and RHP Samuel Deduno) who are currently on the 60-day DL.

I will likely expand on my thoughts about who will be/should be protected closer to the deadline, but here is a primer based on my understanding of how the Rule 5 draft works, as well as some preliminary information about this year's draft eligible players. The draft will be held in December at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.

Joe Musgrove - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Musgrove is the highest ranked player via MLB Pipeline (who is not currently on the 40-man roster) who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December if not protected.


The Rule 5 draft (don't call it the Rule V draft or baseball purists will jump down your throat) has both a major league phase and minor league phases which I'll cover later, but first things first ... eligibility. Those players who are eligible in a given year fall under these guidelines:

[That is directly from the 2008 Major League Rules which can be found here. If it has changed since then, I haven't seen that information.]

What that means in English is that this year's eligible players basically include: 1) any player who signed prior to the end of the 2011 season; and 2) players who signed after the end of the 2011 season and prior to the end of the 2012 season who were 19 years old or older when they signed. That means most 2012 drafted college players are eligible, but high school players (and some community college players) drafted in 2012 are not eligible until next year. For the international free agents, one needs to know when the player signed their first professional agreement and their age at signing to make the determination. There are exceptions, but that is the basic gist of it.


The first phase of the Rule 5 draft is the major league phase. In order to protect an eligible player from being drafted in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, they must be on the major league club's 40-man roster prior to November 20th (if that falls on a business day). Players on the 40-man roster at that deadline are considered "protected."

Obviously not all of a team's best players can be protected on the 40-man roster. That is where the 38-man AAA Reserve List helps. If a player from the AAA Reserve List is drafted in the Rule 5 draft, that player must remain on the drafting team's 25-man major league roster for the full season or he will have to be put through waivers. If claimed, the new team will be subject to the same conditions regarding that player. If not claimed, the player will be offered back to the team from which they were drafted.

The cost of drafting a player in the major league phase of the draft is $50,000. If the player is offered back to the team from which he was drafted, the original team must pay $25,000 back to the drafting team. If the original team declines, the player will be put on waivers.

Last season RHP Vince Velasquez, RHP Michael Feliz and IF Ronald Torreyes were all added to the 40-man roster in advance of the deadline. The front office made the determination that these three players were the most likely players to be taken in the Rule 5 draft. Presumably, the front office took a calculated risk by not adding players such as OF Delino DeShields, RHP Jandel Gustave, LHP David Rollins and others to the 40-man roster, but only included them on the AAA Reserve List. They made a determination as to which players, if drafted, were more likely to "stick" on a major league roster for a full season. All three of those players were claimed in the Rule 5 draft, but Gustave was subsequently returned.

Since players taken in the Rule 5 draft have to remain on the drafting team's 25-man roster for the full season, pitchers are taken much more frequently than position players simply because it's fairly easy to use a pitcher sparingly out of the bullpen. Position players can't be tucked away quite so neatly if they struggle. It all comes down to another team's ability to find room on their 25-man roster for a full season. It's simply not that easy to do and that's why so very few players are drafted in the Rule 5 draft and stick with a team.

It's also the case that often minor league fans overvalue prospects. We may think much more highly of a player than the other teams' front offices do. When all is said and done, the Astros front office will take some risks in leaving players unprotected, but it will be a highly educated guess based on many factors, including future needs.


There are two minor league phases of the Rule 5 draft as well. The players on the 40-man roster and the 38 players on the AAA reserve list aren't eligible to be taken in the minor league phases of the draft. So, in essence, you are protecting your top 78 players from the minor league phases. (As far as I know, AAA Reserve Lists are not made public so we are left to guess who the Astros will be shielding from the minor league phases of the draft.)

In the AAA Phase of the draft, a player who is on the AA Reserve List or lower can be drafted for inclusion on the drafting team's AAA Reserve list for a cost of $12,000. In the AA Phase of the draft, players at all of the levels lower than AA can be drafted for inclusion on the drafting team's AA Reserve List for a cost of $4,000.

The kicker on the minor league phase of the draft is that the drafted player basically becomes that team's property. There is no requirement to offer the player back if he doesn't work out. He can be traded, released, etc. at a team's discretion. In the minor league phase of the 2014 Rule 5 draft, the Astros lost OF Ariel Ovando to the Cubs, for whom he is now a pitcher in the Rookie level Arizona League.


The following are those players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December if they are left unprotected. I have organized them by the level at which they are currently playing. Players who are first year eligible have been #'d and those who are on MLB Pipeline's current Top 30 list are in bold. Obviously, there will be some tough choices ahead and I will re-visit the topic closer to the November 20th deadline.

AAA Position Players
#OF Andrew Aplin
3B/1B Matt Duffy
#IF Nolan Fontana
#C Tyler Heineman
#IF Joe Sclafani

AAA Pitchers
#RHP Mike Hauschild
#RHP Jordan Jankowski
RHP Tyson Perez
#RHP Brady Rodgers
LHP Tommy Shirley

AA Position Players
#OF Teoscar Hernandez
SS Chan Moon
C Roberto Pena
OF Danry Vasquez

AA Pitchers
#RHP Travis Ballew
RHP Chris Devenski
RHP Edison Frias
LHP Reymin Guduan
RHP Jandel Gustave
#LHP Brian Holmes
#RHP Joe Musgrove
#RHP Aaron West

Position Players at High A or lower
#C Marlon Avea
#OF Rodrigo Ayarza
#3B Randy Cesar
2B Jose Fernandez
#IF Arturo Michelena
#IF Luis Reynoso
#IF/OF Marc Wik

Pitchers at High A or lower
#RHP Harold Arauz
RHP Agapito Barrios
#RHP Kevin Comer
#RHP Samil de los Santos
#RHP Yeyfry del Rosario
LHP Evan Grills
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Jose Montero
#RHP David Paulino
#RHP Christian Powell
RHP Gonzalo Sanudo (currently on loan to the Mexican league)
#LHP Edwin Villarroel
RHP Andrew Walter

Disabled List
#RHP Kyle Smith

#First year eligibility for Rule 5 Draft

In addition to the above, the following players will be minor league free agents at the conclusion of this season in which case they are free to explore free agency if they are not re-signed by the Astros.

Minor League Free Agents
RHP R.J. Alaniz
C Alfredo Gonzalez
IF Jio Mier
RHP Juan Minaya

Here is some basic information from MLB about the Rule 5 draft.


  1. Isn't James Hoyt rule 5 eligible this year? He's really pitched well lately at Fresno, and throws the ball 95 mph.

    1. I don't think so because he's only been in affiliated ball for 3 years. Before that he played in independent ball. He should be first-time eligible next year.

    2. Thanks. Glad he's not rule 5 eligible. I think Hoyt is someone that could compete next year in spring training.

    3. Thanks. Glad he's not rule 5 eligible. I think Hoyt is someone that could compete next year in spring training.

  2. Would Alfredo Gonzalez have to be protected in the 40man roster if the Astros resigned him. Could he opt to be a free agent even if the Astros decide to protect him?

    1. I don't know exactly how all that works, but I assume that no one will claim him because he could just turn around and declare free agency so there would be no point in protecting him. I really think that the Astros will work to re-sign him.

  3. This was and is an excellent report on the Astros and their Rule 5 availability. Are you working on a 2016 version? That would be great if you are. Thanks.

    1. I thought I had pinned this to the front page, but I guess I didn't. The 2016 version is here: