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MLB Rule 5 Draft start time, order, eligible players & more to know for 2020

The Major League Baseball Rule 5 Draft takes place Thursday as part of the conclusion of 2020’s virtual Winter Meetings.

If you’ve never heard of the Rule 5 Draft, don’t worry about it — that’s what we’re here for. It’s an opportunity for teams to acquire players who have been relatively given up on by one organization in the hopes of unearthing an unexpected star or big-league contributor. In recent years, Johna Santana, Shane Victorino, Dan Uggla and Josh Hamilton all turned out to be standout Rule 5 Draft picks.

There were 11 players taken in last year’s MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and six of them played in the major leagues for their selecting team (or a team that acquired them in an immediate trade, something common in the Rule 5 Draft). The 2017 Rule 5 Draft brought the Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller, the most recent selection to record a substantive WAR total (8.3) with his drafting team.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 iteration of the Rule 5 Draft:

MORE: Lance Lynn to the White Sox trade grades

What is the MLB Rule 5 Draft?

The Rule 5 Draft takes place every offseason and allows clubs to select players from other minor-league systems that haven’t been placed on a 40-man roster after a set length of time. We get more into the eligibility rules below, but the Rule 5 Draft essentially attempts to prevent worthy players from toiling in a team’s minor-league system.

Any player taken in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft is required to stay on the selecting team’s major league roster for a year. Otherwise, the player is offered back to the system he came from.

There is also a Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, which allows similar movement among players in the lower minors after they’ve spent a set amount of time in their original farm system.

When is the MLB Rule 5 Draft in 2020?

  • Date: Thursday, Dec. 10
  • Start time: Noon ET

The Major League Baseball Rule 5 Draft always takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings. This year, the Winter Meetings are virtual and the Rule 5 Draft is taking place over the phone, but it’s still taking place on the final day of the altered Winter Meetings. 

MLB Rule 5 Draft order

The Rule 5 Draft order is the reverse order of the 2020 regular-season standings. Teams can only make a selection if they have an open spot on their 40-man roster.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates
2. Texas Rangers
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Baltimore Orioles
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
7. Kansas City Royals
8. Colorado Rockies
9. Los Angeles Angels
10. New York Mets
11. Washington Nationals
12. Seattle Mariners
13. Philadelphia Phillies
14. San Francisco Giants
15. Houston Astros
16. Milwaukee Brewers
17. Miami Marlins
18. Cincinnati Reds
19. St. Louis Cardinals
20. Toronto Blue Jays
21. New York Yankees
22. Chicago Cubs
23. Chicago White Sox
24. Cleveland Indians
25. Atlanta Braves
26. Oakland Athletics
27. Minnesota Twins
28. San Diego Padres
29. Tampa Bay Rays
30. Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB Rule 5 Draft eligibility

For players to be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, they have to have been in a MLB team’s minor-league system for a set length of time. Here are the parameters:

  • Players who signed with their current club at age 18 or younger and have five years of experience are eligible to be drafted if they aren’t on the 40-man roster.
  • Players who signed at 19 or older and have four years of experience are eligible, as well.

Once a player is selected, the drafting team pays the player’s former team $100,000 for the pick. If the player doesn’t stay on the MLB roster for the full season, he must be offered back to the former team for $50,000.

Best Rule 5 Draft picks

The greatest Rule 5 Draft pick ever has to be considered Roberto Clemente, who was taken by the Pirates from the Dodgers in 1954. That was in a very different era of the Rule 5 Draft, though, as some of the parameters have changed over time.

Here are some of the more recent best Rule 5 Draft picks:

  • Johan Santana: Picked by the Marlins from the Astros, Santana was traded immediately to the Twins where he grew into a southpaw ace.
  • Shane Victorino: Picked by the Phillies from the Dodgers and turned into a two-time All-Star outfielder.
  • George Bell: Picked by the Blue Jays from the Phillies and won the 1987 AL MVP.
  • Josh Hamilton: Picked by the Cubs from the Devil Rays before being sold to the Reds. Cincinnati eventually traded Hamilton to the Rangers, where he became a star outfielder.
  • Dan Uggla: Picked by the Marlins from the Diamondbacks and became a slugging second baseman in Florida.
  • Marwin Gonzalez: Picked by the Red Sox from the Cubs before being traded to the Astros, where he became a standout utility player.
  • Jose Bautista: Picked by the Orioles from the Pirates, although it took a few more stops before Bautista became a feared slugger. 

2020 Rule 5 Draft targets

The Rule 5 Draft often comes down to a particular club’s evaluation of a player being higher than everyone else’s, along with some elements of a heavy MLB need contributing. In an unprecedented offseason, it’s impossible to predict who may be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Four unprotected players who stand out include Kevin Maitan (infield | Angels) and Lazaro Armenteros (outfield | Athletics), who were two of the most-hyped international prospects of the last decade, former fourth-overall pick Riley Pint (right-handed pitcher | Rockies) and former 22nd-overall pick Will Craig (first base | Pirates).

Here’s a list of players ranked in MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 for each club that are unprotected heading into the 2020 Rule 5 Draft:

Atlanta Braves
Thomas Burrows, LHP

Baltimore Orioles
Cody Sedlock, RHP
Brenan Hanifee, RHP

Chicago Cubs
Brendon Little, LHP

Chicago White Sox
Lenyn Sosa, SS
Luis Mieses, OF
Will Kincanon, RHP

Cincinnati Reds
Jacob Heatherly, LHP
Alferdo Rodriguez, SS
TJ Friedl, OF
Joel Kuhnel, RHP
Mariel Bautista, OF

Cleveland Indians
Luis Oviedo, RHP

Colorado Rockies
Daniel Montano, OF
Riley Pint, RHP
Ever Moya, LHP

Detroit Tigers
Wenceel Perez, SS
Elvin Rodriguez, RHP

Houston Astros
Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP
Luis Santana, IF
Ronnie Dawson, OF
J.J. Matijevic, 1B/OF

Kansas City Royals
Seuly Matias, OF
Brewer Hicklen, OF
Yefri Del Rosario, RHP

Los Angeles Angels
Packy Naughton, LHP
Jose Soriano, RHP
Oliver Ortega, RHP
Livan Soto, SS
Orlando Martinez, OF
Kevin Maitan, IF
Leonardo Rivas, SS

Los Angeles Dodgers
Omar Estevez, IF
Brett de Geus, RHP
Cody Thomas, OF

Milwaukee Brewers
Zack Brown, RHP
Payton Henry, C
Lucas Erceg, 3B
Pablo Abreu, OF

Minnesota Twins
Wander Javier, SS
Akil Baddoo, OF
Jose Miranda, IF
Yunior Severino, 2B
Gabriel Maciel, OF

New York Mets
Shervyen Newton, IF
Dedniel Nunez, RHP
Michel Otanez, RHP
Tony Dibrell, RHP
Daison Acosta, RHP

New York Yankees
Trevor Stephan, RHP

Oakland Athletics
Jordan Diaz, 3B
Lazaro Armenteros, OF
Buddy Reed, OF
Brian Howard, RHP
Parker Dunshee, RHP

Philadelphia Phillies
Enyel De Los Santos, RHP
Jhailyn Ortiz, OF
Rodolfo Duran, C
David Parkinson, LHP
Arquimedes Gamboa, SS
Daniel Brito, 2B

Pittsburgh Pirates
Santiago Florez, RHP
Kevin Kramer, 2B
Will Craig, 1B
Lolo Sanchez, OF

San Diego Padres
Tirso Ornelas, OF
Esteury Ruiz, 2B
Lake Bachar, RHP
Pedro Avila, RHP
Eguy Rosario, IF
Jordy Barley, SS

Seattle Mariners
Joe Rizzo, 3B

St. Louis Cardinals
Julio E. Rodriguez, C
Juan Yepez, OF
Roel Ramirez, RHP
Alvaro Seijas, RHP

Tampa Bay Rays
Moises Gomez, OF
Paul Campbell, RHP

Toronto Blue Jays
Kevin Smith, IF
Josh Winckowski, RHP

Washington Nationals
Israel Pineda, C
Sterling Sharp, RHP
Raudy Read, C
Cole Freeman, OF
Nick Banks, OF

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