NO DOWNSIDE
Baseball America|January 2021
Smart front offices are taking advantage of the minor league Rule 5 draft
J.J. COOPER

In the major league phase of the 2018 Rule 5 draft, 14 players were selected. Just three of those 14 stuck with their drafting organizations.

No. 1 pick Richie Martin played regularly at shortstop for the Orioles. Righthander Elvis Luciano, a 19-year-old plucked out of Rookie ball, was buried in the Blue Jays’ bullpen for all of 2019. Before the coronavirus pandemic arrived, he was ticketed to return to the minor leagues in 2020 to continue his development.

The other player who stuck, right-hander Brandon Brennan, worked low-leverage relief for the Mariners in 2019, appearing in 44 games. He spent most of 2020 sidelined with an oblique injury.

But the Rule 5 draft does not end with the final selection of the major league phase.

As soon as the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft ends, the minor league phase begins. And for many big-league front offices, analytics teams and scouts, that’s where the real fun begins.

As mentioned, 14 players were taken in the major league phase of the 2018 Rule 5 draft, but there were 41 players taken in the minor league phase.

And the best pick of the 2018 Rule 5 draft was not Martin or Brennan. It was righthander Ryan Thompson.

The Rays drafted Thompson in the minor league phase from the Astros organization. The reliever had missed all of 2018 after having Tommy John surgery. The Rays liked what Thompson, a 23rd-round pick in 2014 from Campbell, had done before his surgery and picked him.

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