Right now, the Brewers are one of four teams in Major League Baseball who still have their Rule 5 draft pick with the team. Wei-Chung Wang has made a whole two appearances for Milwaukee -- the first was a perfect inning, the second not so much. However, the Brewers have the best record in baseball despite playing with basically a 24-man roster.
So that made me think: How many teams have made the playoffs while keeping their Rule 5 draft selection on the active roster.
My hypothesis, based on no data: Very few. I expected maybe one or two. I was almost hoping there were none so I could start this whole thing off with "Here are MLB playoff teams who have kept a Rule 5 player on the roster" and then just had a chart showing nothing. I thought that might be amusing. It probably wouldn't have been, that much.
Anyway, as you may have surmised, the data did not match my hypothesis. Since 2000, here are the teams who have made the playoffs while carrying a Rule 5 draftee on their roster:
2012 Orioles, Ryan Flaherty, INF
2011 Diamondbacks, Joe Paterson, LHP
2011 Phillies, Michael Martinez, INF
2010 Phillies, David Herndon, RHP
2005 Red Sox, Adam Stern, OF
2004 Cardinals, Hector Luna, INF
2004 Astros, Willy Taveras, OF
2004 Red Sox, Lenny DiNardo, RHP
2003 Athletics, Mike Neu, RHP
2002 Athletics, Jason Grabowski, INF
2000 Athletics, Bo Porter, OF (see comments)
It was certainly more than I thought there would be. Typically, you would expect teams who are projected to be terrible (and end up being terrible) to keep their Rule 5 players because they have less to lose. Teams like the Athletics of the early 2000s and the Red Sox since 2003 would not be the kind of team one would think to keep these kinds of players around.
And, really, there wasn't much benefit for the teams to keep those guys around. I mean, look at that list. It's basically a whole bunch of really bad players. Willy Taveras wound up being pretty good for the Astros and Joe Paterson was one of the Diamondbacks' best relievers that year (then pitched eight major league games the rest of his career).
Obviously we have the benefit of hindsight, and every already knows Rule 5 picks overwhelmingly turn out to be busts. But it's interesting to see how many teams that have a shot at a World Series are willing to waste a roster spot on a player that provides no immediate benefits.
It's interesting to note that of the
11 10 players above, just four are pitchers. I would have expected the majority of them to have been pitchers as that is typically a position favored in the Rule 5 draft. However, three of the six position players drafted were on an American League team. It's a little easier to hide those players when you have a designated hitter and rarely have to worry about pinch-hitting.
This all makes me feel a little better about the Brewers keeping Wang this year. I, of course, hope the Brewers keep him in the organization, but with the team looking more like a serious contender each day it's getting harder to justify having him on the roster when he can't be trusted to actually, y'know, pitch. Still, looking at the last 15 years shows that it's hardly impossible for Milwaukee to make the postseason while still keeping Wang.
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