Rule 5 and the World Series

I know, it’s a connection everyone has been dying to talk about. But in my world, it’s fairly interesting.

Everyone always talks about the Rule 5 Draft as being a low-risk endeavor. It tends to be low-reward as the vast majority of players taken, from the Major League phase on down to the two Minor League phases, don’t ever make it. Even the ones taken in the big-league phase, the ones who have to stick on a 25-man roster all season or be returned, they largely do get returned and/or don’t ever stick in the bigs for any length of time. Those who do make it are, then, the exception rather than the rule.

So, to me, the fact there are four players among the 50 on the two World Series rosters is significant. I don’t know what the percentage of Rule 5 players to make it to the big leagues is, but 8% of World Series participants is pretty good, no?

The Rangers are “loaded” with Rule 5 talent, though only one of the three (that’s 12 percent!) was a player they themselves took in the annual December draft. Of course, the big one is Josh Hamilton. The MVP candidate was taken in the 2006 Rule 5 Draft in a bit of a surprise. His story is well-told by now, but he hadn’t played above A ball and he hadn’t played much at all for a variety of reasons. Technically, he was taken by the Cubs, then sold to the Reds on the day of the draft. After that one season in Cincy, he was dealt to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Daniel Ray Herrera.

Darren O’Day was plucked from the Angels by the Mets in the Major League phase of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft. After just four appearances and three innings in New York, the Mets tried to slip him through waivers in April 2009. The Rangers swooped in and claimed him and O’Day has rewarded them with a 1.99 ERA over the past two seasons (Think the Mets could’ve used that kind of bullpen help this year?).

Alexi Ogando is an interesting case, and the one player actually taken by the Rangers in a Rule 5 Draft.  At the time Texas took Ogando from the A’s in the Triple-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5, he was a strong-armed outfielder who hadn’t played above short-season ball. He was caught up in a visa scam and that forced him to remain in the Dominican Republic for a number of years. When the Rangers took him in the Rule 5, they immediately converted him into a pitcher and he worked in relief for three different summers in the Dominican Summer League (he didn’t pitch in 2008) as the Rangers tried to figure out a way to get him to the United States. He was finally reinstated and allowed to return to the U.S. this year, making the jump from the DSL to Double-A. After a 2.05 ERA in 18 games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma City, Ogando got called up and he’s been there since.

The one Rule 5 alum on the Giants roster is Javier Lopez, who has proven to be an invaluable cog in the San Francisco bullpen since he joined the team in a deadline deal with the Pirates. The lefty was taken back in the 2002 Rule 5 Draft, selected from the Diamondbacks by the Red Sox. When Boston realized there was no room for Lopez, they dealt him to the Rockies and he went on to have a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season.

The point of all this? Maybe it’s just that you never know where contributors are going to come from. That, and maybe everyone should pay a little more attention to the Rule 5 Draft when it comes this December.

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