Rule 5 Decisions Provide Valuable Insight

For non-prospect fans, I wonder if last Friday was just another ho-hum day in their baseball lives. 40-man protections? Who cares! Why protect players in A-Ball anyway! Call me when they are ready to help the team I root for win a World Series. Maybe the Fangraphs crowd has moved beyond that line of thinking, but has the run-of-the-mill baseball fan who turns on a ballgame after work to unwind down after a busy work day?

Truth is any baseball fan who takes the time to dissect Friday’s moves will potentially learn more about the future of their favorite organization than any other day of the year. Why? Because the reason a player is protected is simple – Their respective organization believes he is a future big leaguer. Truth is, this level of clarity is rare for an organization as the name of the game is protecting the value of assets.

A great example of this is a conversation I had last June with a contact about former Atlanta Braves farmhand and current Houston Astros prospect Brett Oberholtzer who was the defacto centerpiece of the Michael Bourn trade. Having both seen the young lefty, we were amazed at the level of prospect hype he had received. Oberholtzer isn’t a bad prospect, but the stuff simply didn’t match the reports – At least not on the days we scouted him.

Without prompting, the contact said, “Don’t be surprised if he (Oberholtzer) is traded. I’m just hearing too much buzz surrounding him right now.” A month later, Oberholtzer was with a new organization. In general, the Atlanta Braves are masters at guiding the conversation surrounding their prospects. 40-man protections are more clear cut – Either protect the player, or risk losing them. Nothing screams clarity more than that, no?

Take the Mets for example. On Friday, they chose to protect a number of players including Jeurys Familia, Reese Havens, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Robert Carson, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Cesar Puello. For breakdowns on each player, Anthony DiComo has you covered. For me personally, the implications of protecting these particular players is more interesting considering top-10 organizational prospect Jefry Marte was left off of the list.

Entering the 2009 season, Wilmer Flores, Jefry Marte and Cesar Puello were a “three amigos” of international free agent signings. At the time, Jeurys Familia was a relatively unknown commodity within the organization. Marte crushed the Gulf Coast League in 2008 prior to struggling in full season baseball for three consecutive seasons. Wilmer Flores and Cesar Puello had their own struggles, but not to the extent of Marte as they distanced themselves from the young third baseman – at least in scouting circles. However, Marte continued to be ranked on Mets top-10 lists based on projection and his previous ranking as a top prospect within the organization.

As of Friday, the court of public opinion can no longer plead lenience – even after an Arizona Fall League season in which Marte posted a .333/.436/.538 triple slash line. In being left off of the Mets 40-man roster, a clear message was sent that Marte was deemed to have less value to the Mets, and other organizations for that matter, than any of the players the organization chose to protect. Marte supporters will be quick to point out he broke his wrist towards the end of the AFL season, but is expected to be back by Spring Training so I’m not sure this played much into the decision.

Ultimately, the combination of Marte’s youth, lack of offensive production, suspect defense and the fact he’d need to be protected on the 40-man roster left him more lotto ticket than surefire prospect at this point in his development – A risk the Mets obviously could not take. However, with Marte having never played an inning above A-ball prior to excelling in the Arizona Fall League, he’s almost guaranteed to be taken in the double-A phase, if not the Triple-A or Major League phase of the rule 5 draft.

Marte to the Chicago Cubs would be a perfect match as the organization’s lack of prospect depth, holes at both first and third base and need to rebuild the roster would make the $50,000 investment needed to secure him extremely low risk. After all, they would be acquiring him for only 9% of his original signing bonus.



Print This Post



Mike Newman is the Owner/Managing Editor ofROTOscouting, a subscription site focused on baseball scouting, baseball prospects and fantasy baseball. Follow me onTwitter. Likeus on Facebook.Subscribeto my YouTube Channel.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
david
Guest
david

Have you heard that Marte was actually left off the much larger list of players excluded from the Triple-A phase of the draft? That would mean there are 20 guys at either Binghamton or St. Lucie who aren’t on the 40 man that the Mets like better than him! That seems highly improbable.

More generally, the roster shuffling this time of year isn’t just (or even primarily) a calculation of how likely a player is to become a big league contributor. It’s a calculation of how likely the other 29 clubs are to take a chance that the guy is a contributor right away, and how likely it is that he’ll stick in the majors in the coming year.

If you look at players who are most often taken (and the ones who stick most often) in the Rule 5, its guys who can be stashed in the bullpen or at the end of your bench as a defensive specialist. If you’re laying odds on which of the amigos is more likely to last on a big league roster all the way through 2012, you’ve got to say Flores, regardless of which of those guys you like better long-term.

Jeffrey Paternostro
Member
Jeffrey Paternostro

Marte also broke his wrist in the AFL, and while he should be reading for a minor league assignment in April, I am betting that will scare most teams off from drafting him in the Rule 5. He is also incredibly raw and not actually a 3B, so I don’t know where you hide him. With someone like Cesar Puello, for example, at least you could use him as a defensive replacement/pinch runner.

Paul
Guest
Paul

On the other hand, it seems like a team could hide him on the DL and rehab assignments for something like half the season. But you’re right, they would still have to really love the bat.

Jeffrey Paternostro
Member
Jeffrey Paternostro

He does have to spend the majority of the time on the MLB roster. The Nats tried that tactic with Elvin Ramirez this year and ended up having to give him back to the Mets.

david
Guest
david

Any Rule 5 pick has to spend at least 90 days on the active roster. If someone is picked and spends the first five months of the year on the DL, then he’d have to complete the 90 days of active service time the following year before being eligible to be optioned.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Yeah, I didn’t know the rule but assumed it would be something like the majority of the season. To be specific, I think coming off a broken wrist a team that likes him could justify putting him on the 60-day, try to get a look at him during his rehab assignment if he’s healthy, then see what their roster looks like around June. Then again, it would be hard to evaluate him since you’d have to think the power will be sapped. I think that still leaves us with a team that loves the bat, whether they want to try and hide him on the DL for a while or not.

wpDiscuz