Every year teams protect their own players from the Rule 5 Draft and search for a diamond in the rough among the unprotected players in other organizations. While there are historical Rule 5 success stories like George Bell, Johan Santana, and Dan Uggla, those occurrences are few and far between. Many players selected in the annual draft have intriguing tools or the overall potential to contribute at the major-league level, most fade into obscurity and are rarely heard from again. This year’s draft, which took place this morning in Nashville and in which 15 players were picked, will likely be no different in that respect, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting storylines to watch as the 2013 season approaches.

Favorite Pick: Josh Fields (RHP, Houston Astros) – Many in the industry were surprised when Fields was not protected by the Red Sox. The 27-year-old right-hander finished the season strong by not allowing a run in 10 appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket and then continued to show well in the Arizona Fall League. His fastball-curveball combination is big-league ready and his command has improved to the point that he can hang with the big boys. He has a setup reliever ceiling and could pitch in that role by the end of the season.

Least Favorite Pick: Chris McGuiness (1B, Cleveland Indians) – It is hard to be critical of the Indians when looking at their first-base situation right now, but I really struggle to understand this pick. McGuiness is a solid hitter with a very good approach at the plate, good doubles power, and average home run pop. If the Indians are looking to him as a possible stopgap in 2013, then he is a nice, cheap alternative. If they have visions of him becoming something more than a stopgap or a flyer, then I think they might be sorely disappointed.

Most Surprising Pick: Starling Peralta (RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks) – Don’t get me wrong, Peralta is an intriguing arm. However, after taking three-plus years to get out of rookie ball and then repeating the Midwest League in 2012, he isn’t exactly the type that has a good chance of sticking under the restrictions of the Rule 5 Draft. Peralta’s fastball-slider combo could work in relief, but it’s a long shot to do so in 2013.

Most Likely to Stick: Ryan Pressly (RHP, Minnesota Twins) – I had extensive exposure to Pressly in 2011 and 2012, and while I liked him as a starter, his move to the bullpen has been a boon for his career. Pressly offers the Twins an arm that could still be a back of the rotation piece or a solid seventh/eighth-inning reliever. In the bullpen, his fastball, cutter, and curveball can all play immediately, and he should have a role on a Twins team that is rebuilding.

Sleeper: Braulio Lara (LHP, Miami Marlins) – Arguably the highest-ceiling player available in this year’s draft, Lara is the type of player that may stick with the Marlins out of sheer stubbornness. With big-time heat from the left side, he is a rare prospect. His ability to throw strikes requires a lot of development, but if you can stash him as the 12th man on a pitching staff for the year, you might just be able to cultivate a valuable pitcher down the line.

Scouting Notes

Houston Astros – Josh Fields, RHP (Former Team: Boston Red Sox) – Improved delivery and command/control; FB up to 97 in 2012; shows hammer CB that can miss bats, potential seventh/eighth-inning reliever.

Chicago CubsHector Rondon, RHP (Cleveland Indians) – Injury reclamation project; FB sits 91-93 when healthy and can reach 95; scouts report solid performances and stuff in Venezuela so far this winter; may fit better in relief.

Colorado Rockies Daniel Rosenbaum, LHP (Washington Nationals) – Thick, strong and physical; average velo that gets up to 92; commands FB well; good ability to sequence pitches and keep hitters off balance; offers CB, CH and SL; will challenge hitters; big-time competitor; built to eat innings; potential no. 5.

Minnesota Twins – Ryan Pressly, RHP (Boston Red Sox) – Moved to bullpen in 2012; stuff played up in shorter stints; FB reaches 96 and sits 92-94; CB showed harder and tighter in relief, solid pitch; CT is a nice weapon; still has a chance to start long term; could fill seventh-inning role in relief.

Cleveland Indians – Chris McGuiness, 1B (Texas Rangers) – Excellent pitch recognition, strike zone knowledge, and approach to at-bats; has average home-run power, maybe a tick more to the pull side; doesn’t use the whole field at all times and would be well-served to do so; can get caught selling out for power; scouts question how much he’ll hit premium pitching; up-and-down profile for me.

Miami Marlins Alfredo Silverio, OF (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Derailed by serious car accident; free-swinging approach but has good contact ability; gap power with potential for 10-15 home runs annually; solid runner; doesn’t profile in CF defensively; arm is a question after injuries sustained in a car accident; tweener profile that lacks up-the-middle defense or prototypical corner power.

Boston Red Sox (Traded to Detroit)Jeff Kobernus, 2B (Washington Nationals) – Wiry strong; heady, aggressive player; grinder type; contact-oriented approach with decent hitting ability; well below-average power; plus runner with solid base stealing instincts; doesn’t have hands or instincts for SS; fits better at 2B; fringy profile; fits best in utility role.

New York Mets (Traded to Detroit) Kyle Lobstein, LHP (Tampa Bay Rays) – Below-average velocity, topping out at 89-90 when he reaches back for more; throws strikes; doesn’t locate; mechanical inconsistencies hold him back at times; CH has plus projection with good deception; CB is fringy; difficult profile without consistent breaking ball or improved command.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Starling Peralta, RHP (Chicago Cubs) – Showed 92-93 mph FB in 2012; reached 95 at times; SL is inconsistent but has above-average potential; both pitches could play up in relief; lacks command and control; frame has projection remaining; really raw.

Philadelphia PhilliesEnder Inciarte, OF (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Speed player with plus run times; solid base running and outfield instincts; can play all three outfield spots; good arm; some feel for hitting but likes to swing too much; lacks power; up-and-down fourth OF.

Chicago White SoxAngel Sanchez, INF (Los Angeles Angels) – Glove-first guy who plays all infield positions well; doesn’t excel at any position; good contact ability; lacks power; significant MLB experience; pure utility profile.

Baltimore OriolesT.J. McFarland, LHP (Cleveland Indians) – Touch and feel lefty; FB 87-88, touching 90 mph; can make FB move at will; some deception in delivery that helps FB play up at times; CH flashes fringe-average but he doesn’t trust it; more consistently 40 CH; SL is average; nothing stands out enough to make him a true lefty specialist.

Texas RangersCoty Woods, RHP (Colorado Rockies) – Sidearmer; FB sits 88-90, touches 92; loopy CB in the mid- to upper-70s; CH has its moments, shows sink; situational reliever.

Houston Astros – Nate Freiman, 1B (San Diego Padres) – Huge, massive guy; big-time raw; more of a strength and uppercut swing; slider bat speed; has some swing-and-miss but not enough to completely negate raw power; org guy profile.

Miami Marlins – Braulio Lara, LHP (Tampa Bay Rays) – Big-time velo; FB sits 94-95 and I’ve seen him up to 98; really raw; more of a thrower than a pitcher; CB has plus potential with sharp 12-6 break; lacks control; no long-term command profile; fits much better in relief but could be a late inning arm.

For more Rule 5 coverage, read Jason Martinez' take on the picks most likely to succeed.

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Curious why you'd send a guy to the AFL (Fields) then not protect him in the Rule 5. Thoughts?
It's a fair question. Unfortunately, I don't consider myself close enough to the Red Sox decision making to offer a well-reasoned opinion on that. I've pinged our resident Red Sox prospect guru, Chris Mellen, in hopes that he can shed some light on this.
Fields was not in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. He was pitching in the Dominican Republic.
Just no love for Joakim Soria.
Now that he's with a real team his popularity will explode.

Man, I hate myself for saying that.
If a player was selected and traded, does his new team have to keep him up all year or return him to the team from which he was selected?
Even when traded, a player is still bound by the regulations of the Rule 5 draft. Both of the players the Tigers acquired will have to remain on the 25-man roster or be offered back to the Rays and/or Nationals.
I'm not sure how I feel about the Orioles pick of McFarland. A part of me thinks he could continue to develop well in the O's bullpen this season - Buck does a great job of managing the bullpen and the guys in it.

But another part of me thinks they had an opportunity to take a chance on a position player/prospect that could help at a corner infield or outfield spot.

Do you think the McFarland pick means the O's are determined to trade an arm or two to pick up that bat? I know they're interested in Mike Morse and the Nationals need a lefty reliever (Troy Patton or Brian Matusz maybe)..
Personally, I don't think the McFarland pick means much of anything for guys like Patton or Matusz, or anyone else on the roster for that matter. I'm not a huge McFarland fan, but even the most ardent supporters of him would probably tell you that this is just a flyer pick. They're going to see how he looks in the spring, probably working in shorter stints out of the bullpen, and in all likelihood, he'll head back to Cleveland or a deal will be worked out so the O's can send him to the minor leagues.
I just discovered the AAA and AA components of the rule 5 draft. Looks like a fair number of players were taken in the AAA phase, but none in the AA. Does it work the same, where players taken in the AAA phase must remain on the team that picked them's AAA franchise for the entire season?
IIRC no, the players from the minor league phase are just acquired by the new org and that's it. it's kind of like minor league free agency only without the free will
The minor league phase has similarities and differences to the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

On the minor league side, there are still protection lists. Teams can "protect" guys by placing them on higher (AA or AAA) rosters, though I remain unclear on the actual rules regarding what roster they need to be placed on at various times.

The biggest difference, once a player is selected in the minor league portion of the draft, that player is the property of the new team; free and clear. There are no opportunities to send them back and there are no requirements that they must remain on a certain roster. They can be assigned anywhere in the system.