Monday, September 12, 2016

2016 Astros Rule 5 Draft Primer and Eligible Players

With the recent addition of James Hoyt, Teoscar Hernandez and Brady Rodgers to the 40-man roster, there is only one player currently listed on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Prospect list that isn't currently protected on the 40-man roster, LHP Reymin Guduan at Number 28. However, Guduan is slated to become a minor league free agent this fall as he has now played in the minor leagues for seven seasons (UPDATE: Guduan was added to the 40-man roster in advance of the date upon which he would have become a free agent). As of today, there are 40 players on the 40-man roster (roster is at 37 as of 11/10).

Jon Kemmer - June 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

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 on December 8th at the Baseball Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Maryland.


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 was originally found on the now-defunct Biz of Baseball site. 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 2012 season; and 2) players who signed after the end of the 2012 season and prior to the end of the 2013 season who were 19 years old or older when they signed. That means most 2013 drafted college players are eligible, but high school players (and some community college players) drafted in 2013 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 Juan Minaya, IF Nolan Fontana, OF Andrew Aplin, C Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP Jandel Gustave, RHP Joe Musgrove and RHP David Paulino were all added to the 40-man roster by the Astros 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. The front office took a calculated risk by not adding players such as OF Teoscar Hernandez, RHP Brady Rodgers 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 and were very successful in that none of the unprotected players were claimed in last year's Rule 5 draft.

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.


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 were assigned at the end of the minor league season. Players who are first year eligible have been #'d.

AAA Position Players
C Tyler Heineman
#OF Jon Kemmer
#IF Jack Mayfield

AAA Pitchers
#LHP Chris Cotton
RHP Edison Frias
RHP Mike Hauschild
LHP Brian Holmes
RHP Jordan Jankowski
#LHP Albert Minnis
RHP Tyson Perez
RHP Aaron West

AA Position Players
#1B Conrad Gregor
#1B Chase McDonald
#OF James Ramsay

AA Pitchers
RHP Kevin Comer
#LHP Kent Emanuel
RHP Angel Heredia
RHP Kyle Smith

Position Players at High A or lower
C Marlon Avea
IF Rodrigo Ayarza
3B Randy Cesar
IF Arturo Michelena
#OF Brauly Mejia
#OF Luis Payano
#OF/1B Hector Roa
#IF Kristian Trompiz
IF/OF Marc Wik

Pitchers at High A or lower
RHP Agapito Barrios
#RHP Elieser Hernandez
#LHP Sebastian Kessay
RHP Andrew Walter

#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 the major league season in which case they are free to explore free agency.

Minor League Free Agents
LHP Evan Grills
LHP Reymin Guduan - added to 40-man roster before becoming a free agent
IF Chan Moon
C Roberto Pena

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


  1. I've been waiting for this! Thanks for posting. Looks like a much different situation this year versus last year. The only one that I think the Astros will have to think about protecting is Kemmer.

  2. Great info and much appreciated. There doesn't seem to be too many obvious 40 man roster protections with the probable exception of Kemmer. With the potential loss of Castro to free agency, one might think that Tyler H and/or Pena as catchers may be added on, but they may be long shots.

  3. I would think Kemmer and Hauschild would be 2 candidates to protect. Kemmer had a solid 2nd half for Fresno, and Hauschild was pretty even with Brady Rodgers the entire year as one of the better starting pitchers in the PCL. But neither is a sure bet.

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  5. I doubt if Kemmer needs protection. But a number of pitchers could be taken-Jordan Jankowski, Mike Hauschild... Some team might even take Kyle Smith. He has a fairly high ceiling, and with a year of pitching under his belt after Tommy John, may be poised to take off.