The Rule 5 Draft is good for three things. It forces MLB clubs to add deserving talent to the 40 Man roster. It gives lower-functioning teams a chance to poach talent on the cheap. It spurs on some of the more wild jingoistic thinking in the baseball calendar. Here is a look at a pathway to a potential Cubs Rule 5 selection this cycle.
When discussing Rule 5 success, the standard look is to the outliers. Roberto Clemente was a Rule 5 pick, who had been a bit sabotaged by the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had him pulled from Triple-A games when scouts arrived. That doesn't happen anymore. All 30 teams should have dossiers on 20 to 40 guys from every other organization, and shame on those who don't. The Rule 5 Draft is a scouting exercise.
When fans assess their team's draft talent, many tend to wear their fan glasses. If assessing opposition talent, cynicism is welcomed. From either side, success is likely under 20 percent.
The Cubs’ most recent December success was Hector Rondon. Claimed from the Indians, he was "not worth releasing" for two years, filthy for awhile, then regressed. Relievers are popular Rule 5 fodder, and plenty of names drawing interest on the Rule 5 list chuck at 98 or better.
A near-hit for the Cubs recently was Caleb Smith. The southpaw didn't show quite enough to stick around in his spring opportunity. Returned to the Yankees, he was traded to the Marlins, where he finally had an opportunity to learn and develop.
If a word is close to as important as "scouting" in the December draft, it's “opportunity.” A few years back, a team examined their roster and saw an opening for a capable player, as available. The guy that looked interesting filled an outfield need of theirs. And the Phillies added Odubel Herrera from the Rangers.
Herrera was very good as a rookie, and an All-Star the next year. Since then, Herrera has been much more pedestrian. However, by going from the Rule 5 Draft to the Mid-Summer Classic, he's a success story.
If the Cubs are to take a player, it might be for another team's benefit. The Cubs have the 16th spot in the process. To be eligible to select, a team needs a vacant roster spot. If a team drafting after the Cubs wants a player, and the Cubs aren't selecting anyway, that's an easy way to earn $5,000 or so toward their next waiver wire buy.
If, though, the Cubs draft for themselves, two possible types of players could get a look. A pitcher, more likely a reliever than a starter, could get plucked. So could a center fielder or second baseman. Teams are believing that talent can learn on the fly. Players don't have to have already "proven readiness" to survive as a Rule 5 success.
If the Cubs invite a Rule 5 guy to Mesa, you have two choices. You can take him as a personal affront to your team loyalty ("He's going to take at-bats from ________________.”), or as another player to get to learn about. Neither is disallowed. Only one, though, is educational.
My favorite Rule 5 Twitter follow is Luke Siler. An Orioles fan, November sees Siler deep dive into likely and then eligible names for the draft. He researches, so you don't have to. Among his favorites a year ago was Josh VanMeter, who was a nice mid-season call-up by the Reds. He'd be worth a $100,000 purchase now, I'd guess.
I doubt the Cubs pick anyone in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft this year. If they do, it might be for someone else. The road to surviving as a December choice is hard, regardless who drafts them. They need to stay healthy, outlast more established players in March, start well in April, and carry it through the season. Don't overreact to additions or subtractions from the draft. As for me, if the Cubs add or lose a player, I'll wish them success. People are more important than fabric.