The Rule 5 draft is scheduled to occur tomorrow during the winter meetings in Orlando. Any player that has three years of minor league experience (four years if drafted at before age 18) and is not not on their major league team’s 40-man roster is available for the rule 5 draft. Any player that is taken in the Rule 5 draft must be on his new team’s 25-man major league roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original team. A team that drafts a player in the Rule 5 draft must pay the former team $50,000.
The folks over at Scout.com have come up with a list of the top players that are available in this year’s draft. There are no D-Rays on the list even though there are a couple of notable Rays that are eligible for the draft, including Josh Hamilton, Jason Pridie (who was selected by the Twins last season), John Jaso and Kevin Cash. Unless Hamilton was promoted to AAA Durham, and there is no indication that he has, a team could also draft Hamilton with the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft. In that case, they would only have to keep Josh at AAA for the entire 2007 season and pay the Rays $12,000. Catcher Jaso, who has battled injuries, could also be taken in the AAA portion of the draft.
Of the players available in the draft, several could be on the radar of the Rays front office. In addition to the numerous pitchers, two first basemen stand out on the list. The first is former Cuban defector Michel Abreu. Abreu has only one year of minor league experience in which he split the season between single-A and double-A in the Mets organization. In 111 games at AA Binghampton, Abreu hit .332 with 17 home runs. Abreu is 27 years old and 6’3″ 230. He could be the position player on the list that is closest to being major league ready and just happens to play a position that the Rays need to fill.
Another possibility is 26 year old first baseman Nate Gold of the Rangers organization. The former NCAA home run champion had a strong 2006 campaign, hitting .292 with 34 home runs and 103 RBI in AA.