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The Brewers and the Rule 5 Draft

Since major league clubs finalized their reserve lists (also known as 40-man rosters) on November 20, the Internet has been abuzz with speculation about the Rule 5 draft. This year's Rule 5 draft takes place on December 11 at the end of the annual Winter Meetings. So what exactly is the Rule 5 draft and why are people so excited about it? Perhaps more importantly for us, how have the Brewers participated in it over the years?

The Rule 5 draft is intended to move players who may be blocked on talent-rich clubs to clubs who aren't stocked with as many skilled players. It's not a modern invention--the first Rule 5 draft took place all the way back in 1903. Back then, players were subject to the reserve clause, binding them to their teams for as long as the team saw fit. Without a chance to ever freely move from team to team, players could be blocked by established veterans for years. More important in the eyes of many owners, wealthier teams could stockpile good players and keep them in the minors indefinitely, creating a nearly inexhaustible depth chart of talented players and keeping major league talent from less wealthy teams. To combat this stockpiling, the Rule 5 draft was invented. During the draft, teams could select players left unprotected by other teams in the hopes the players would blossom into quality big leaguers. While the draft was (and is) hit or miss, it contained enough diamonds in the rough to keep teams interested.

To prevent teams from completely raiding each other's systems, however, a couple ground rules were laid down: first, there was a fee charged for each pick. Second, each pick had to remain on the drafting team's major league roster for the entire season after the draft. If the drafting team wanted to send the player they selected to the minors for more seasoning, he first had to be offered back to his original team for the waiver price. Sometimes teams would no longer have room for the drafted player to return and they let his new organization keep him, but these two basic rules kept teams from drafting too many players each season.

Those rules are still in place (with enhancements) today. Each Rule 5 draft pick costs $50,000 and must stay on the big league roster for a full season. Ninety days of that season must be spent on the Active List (i.e., not the disabled/military/etc. list). If the player fails to reach that ninety days in his first season with the club, he must stay on the major league roster during the next season until he reaches ninety days. This prevents stashing a guy on the disabled list all year just to keep him in the system. If the drafting team wants to release their pick or send him to the minors, he must clear waivers and then be offered back to his original team for $25,000. If the player's original team chooses not to reclaim him, his new team can treat him as just another player in their system. What has changed over the years are the eligibility requirements for the draft. To be eligible for the Rule 5 draft today, a player:

  • Must not be on his organization's 40-man roster
  • If 19 or older on the June 5th before he signed his first contract, must have spent four seasons in the majors or minors.
  • If 18 or older on the June 5th before he signed his first contract, must have spent five seasons in the majors or minors.

There are also rules governing which teams can select players in the draft: teams select in reverse order of that season's finish and since a Rule 5 draft pick automatically is added to a team's 40-man roster, the team must have an open roster slot in order to pick. For example, the Rockies had 40 players on their 40-man roster at the time of the 1999 Rule 5 draft, so they couldn't make a selection.

In addition to the major league Rule 5 draft described above, there are two minor league phases of the draft. In the AAA phase, players eligible for for the Rule 5 draft but not on a team's 40-man roster or in AAA can be selected for $12,000. In the AA phase, eligible players from below AA can be selected for $4,000. Selected players do not have to be offered back to their original clubs once picked. Usually players picked in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft are roster filler for minor league affiliates, but occasionally future major leaguers are selected. One example is Giants utilityman Eugenio Velez, plucked from the Blue Jays in the AAA phase of the 2005 draft.

So now that we've hashed out all the specifics of who can pick and be picked in the draft, let's look at how the Brewers have used the Rule 5 draft throughout the years. It's easy to find all the selections during the last decade since they're easily accessible online. Unfortunately, complete drafts from before then are not available online, so finding selections becomes a matter of combing through transactions lists and finding guys who eventually made it to the majors. It's safe to assume there were a number of Brewers Rule 5 draft selections from 1970 to the late 1990's that never made it to the majors and thus aren't on those lists. Thus this isn't a complete list of all Brewers Rule 5 picks but it is, I believe, a complete list of Brewers picks (and players bought immediately from other teams) who at some point played in the majors.

Drafted by Brewers Drafted From Brewers
Name Position Year Picked From Name Position Year Picked By
Edward Campusano LHP 2006 CHC Callix Crabbe IF 2007 SDP
Marcos Carvajal RHP 2004 LAD Ramon Garcia RHP 1996 HOU
Jeff Bennett RHP 2003 PIT Marc Ronan C 1995 NYY
Enrique Cruz SS 2002 NYM Bobby M. Jones RHP 1994 COL
Matt Ford RHP 2002 TOR Tim Fortugno LHP 1991 CAL
Jorge Sosa RHP 2001 SEA Dwayne Hosey OF 1991 SDP
Ryan Christenson OF 2001 ARI Dave Stapleton LHP 1988 HOU
Matt Williams RHP 1999 NYY Gibson Alba LHP 1987 STL
Al Reyes RHP 1994 MON Bob Gibson RHP 1986 CHW
Jose Mercedes RHP 1993 BAL Jeff Parrett RHP 1985 MON
Graeme Lloyd LHP 1992 TOR Willie Lozado IF 1984 STL
Rob Lukachyk OF 1991 CHW Jesus Vega 1B 1977 MIN
Matias Carrillo LHP 1987 PIT Ron Tompkins RHP 1970 CHC
Vicente Palacios RHP 1986 PIT
Brian Giles IF 1984 NYM
Jamie Nelson C 1983 SEA
Mike Warren RHP 1981 OAK
Tom Candiotti RHP 1980 KCR
Mark Brouhard OF 1979 CAL
Ned Yost C 1977 NYM
Marshall Edwards OF 1976 OAK
Jeff Yurak OF 1976 NYM
Aurelio Monteagudo RHP 1971 KCR

Players in italics were selected during the minor league portion of the draft.

You might be wondering who Edward Campusano and Marcos Carvajal are. They were picked by the Brewers but immediately sold to Detroit and Colorado, respectively. Similarly, Graeme Lloyd was picked by the Phillies and was promptly traded to the Brewers. Obviously, the Brewers have been more active as "buyers" than "sellers" during the Rule 5 draft when it comes to guys who made the majors, especially recently. That's not a big surprise, as bad teams don't usually have much worth taking from their farm system, unless something goes terribly wrong.

The Brewers have also dabbled in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in the past few years. I could only find full details for those drafts going back to 2002, but here's a quick list of players selected by the Brewers:

  • Joe Bateman (RHP) in 2007, from San Francisco
  • Richard Campbell (RHP) in 2007, from Washington
  • Juan Sandoval (RHP) in 2007, from Seattle
  • Michael Carlin (1B) in 2006, from Pittsburgh
  • Steve Bray (RHP) in 2006, from Kansas City
  • Landon Stockman (RHP) in 2004, from Cleveland
  • Juan Cerros (RHP) in 2004, from Cincinnati
  • Ryan Costello (LHP) in 2003, from Toronto
  • David Manning (RHP) in 2002, from Minnesota

Outside of Bateman, Bray, and maybe Manning, that's a list that makes you say, "who?" See what I meant when I said the minor league portion is used for roster filler? The Brewers didn't lose much in those drafts either: the most notable names are RHP Ben Diggins (2005), LHP John Foster (2003), OF Pete Zoccolillo (2003), and the other RHP Dan Kolb (2004).

So now you know more than you ever thought you would about the Brewers and the Rule 5 draft. Will the Crew pick a player to keep for themselves for the first time in six years? Will anyone from the Brewers system be picked by another team? The answer to both questions is "probably not," but you never know. Anyone the Brewers pick will be able to commiserate with manager Ken Macha, himself a Rule 5 pick in 1978. That player will also join a list that has some surprisingly good names and an awful lot of forgotten ones.

Further Reading on the Rule 5 Draft:
Rule 5 draft information from Baseball America
Hardball Times article about interesting historical Rule 5 picks
Major League Rule 5 draft results back to 1998
A summary of Major League Rule 5
Retrosheet transactions data