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2023 Rule 5 Draft preview: Date, time, how it works and names to know

Hot Stove season isn’t the only action taking place at the 2023 MLB Winter Meetings.

Nasim Nunez of the Peoria Javelinas bats during the game between the Peoria Javelinas and the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park on Wednesday, October 4, 2023 in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Chris Coduto/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The 2023 MLB Winter Meetings are in full swing, and already we’ve seen some significant moves — from NAME to NAME. As of Wednesday morning, XXX of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, so there’s plenty more action to come before everyone departs Nashville later tonight.

Before Winter Meetings wrap, however, there’s one more bit of business to attend to: the Rule 5 Draft. For the uninitiated, the Rule 5 Draft basically exists to prevent prospect-hoarding. Every player who signs with an MLB organization has only so many years before they have to be added to that team’s 40-man roster. If they aren’t added (or “protected”) by a certain point — the fifth Rule 5 draft for players who signed at 18 or younger; the fourth for players who signed at 19 or older — then they’re made eligible to be selected. From there, teams can pay a small fee to pick players, with the the catch being that they have to keep said players on their active roster all season in order to fully gain the rights to that player’s services.

As you might imagine, most players who swap teams during the draft don’t wind up carving out significant MLB careers; their original teams declined to add them to their 40-man for a reason, after all. But while it’s been some time since we’ve seen a Johan Santana-like Rule 5 success story, there have still been some clear wins in recent years. The 2020 group, for example, included Red Sox righty Garrett Whitlock and Guardians reliever Trevor Stephan, each of whom has since solidified themselves as big-league contributors. Might this year prove to be as fruitful? Let’s find out together — here’s everything you need to know, about when the Rule 5 Draft takes place, how it works and names to watch for.

2023 Rule 5 Draft: Everything to know

Date

The Rule 5 Draft will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. ET, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee.

The rules

Once again: Players first signed at age 18 or younger must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process (players signed at age 19 or later must be added within four seasons). For this year, that means an international or high school draft pick signed in 2019, or a college player taken in the 2020 Draft.

Players available in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft are ones who were not added to their club’s 40-man roster by the mid-November deadline. If selected — for a price of $100,000 — they have to stick on the 26-man roster for the full season or get offered back to their former teams for $50,000.

Got all that? Good. Below is this year’s complete Rule 5 Draft order, which is dictated by the reverse order of last season’s standings. (A team must have room on its 40-man roster to make a pick, so each team’s current roster number is included in parentheses.)

2023 Rule 5 Draft order

1. A’s (39)
2. Royals (40)
3. Rockies (40)
4. White Sox (39)
5. Nationals (38)
6. Cardinals (39)
7. Angels (39)
8. Mets (33)
9. Pirates (38)
10. Guardians (39)
11. Tigers (38)
12. Red Sox (37)
13. Giants (36)
14. Reds (39)
15. Padres (31)
16. Yankees (37)
17. Cubs (37)
18. Marlins (39)
19. D-backs (38)
20. Twins (36)
21. Mariners (38)
22. Blue Jays (37)
23. Rangers (35)
24. Phillies (38)
25. Astros (38)
26. Brewers (35)
27. Rays (39)
28. Dodgers (39)
29. Orioles (36)
30. Braves (33)

Names to know

Coleman Crow, RHP, Mets: Acquired from the Angels in the Eduardo Escobar trade this past summer, Crow is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and has yet to pitch for his new team. Still, he’ll only be 23 for all of the 2024 season, and he’s flashed back-end starter potential in the Minors.

Matt Sauer, RHP, Yankees: Sauer has also had a hard time staying healthy, but in 68 1/3 innings in 2023, he missed a ton of bats (11.3 K/9) and held hitters to a .189 batting average. The Yankees seem to churn out arms like this on a regular basis, but another more pitching-needy team could take a flier.

Justin Slaten, RHP, Rangers: Slaten posted a 2.87 ERA with a whopping 13 K/9 across Double-A and Triple-A, showcasing a high-90s fastball and a bat-missing slider. Entering his age-26 season, he’s strictly a relief prospect, but he could be a good one.

CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Blue Jays: He missed 2022 due to Tommy John surgery and was limited during the 2023 regular season, but the Florida State product threw well in the Arizona Fall League with a full array of pitches that could allow him to stick in someone’s rotation.

Cole Wilcox, RHP, Rays: Another Tommy John victim — sense a theme developing here? — Wilcox was acquired from the Padres in the Blake Snell trade. 2023 was his first full healthy season in the pros, and while he struggled to a 5.23 ERA, he was drafted in the third round back in 2020 for a reason. Some team might think there’s more upside to be tapped into here.

Will Banfield, C, Marlins: His strikeout rate isn’t what you want, but legit catchers (Banfield seems like a sure bet to stick behind the plate) who pop 23 homers at Double-A don’t grow on trees. He was a second-round pick once upon a time, and the development timeline for catchers is notoriously finicky.

Troy Johnston, 1B, Marlins: The 26-year-old is coming off a 20-20 year with a .948 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s relegated to a corner spot on the diamond, so he’ll have to keep on hitting to have any value at the Major League level — and again, he’s 26. Still, it was quite a breakout season, and he’s on the doorstep of the bigs.

Grant McCray, OF, Giants: The fact that he’s yet to play above A ball and posted an ugly 29.3% K rate in 2023 point to just how big a flier this is, but this kind of raw power/speed combo (37 homers and 95 steals over the last two years) doesn’t come around in the Rule 5 that often.

Nasim Nuñez, SS/2B, Marlins: Nunez hasn’t really hit at any stop on his professional journye, but he can really defend at either middle infield spot and he can really, really run. His ceiling is likely someone like Nicky Lopez, but hey, that’s a useful player for a contender to have on its bench.

Anthony Prato, UTIL, Twins: He can play all over the field and puts together consistently professional at-bats, posting a .990 OPS in 72 Triple-A games in 2023. The Twins already had Donovan Solano, but someone else might be able to use the younger version.