2008-09 Rule 5 Eligibilities: The Offense

This is the first installment of Rule 5 Eligibilities.  On Royals Nation, I compiled a list of players in the Royals organization who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason.  The 2008 Rule 5 Draft will take place on  Thursday, December 11, the final day of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada.  For those of us still unfamiliar with the rules surrounding the Rule 5 draft, they are as follows:

As in the amateur draft, the selection order of the teams is based on each team's win-loss record from the prior regular season, each round starting with the team with the worst record and proceeding in order to the team with the best record. Any player selected under Rule 5 is immediately added to his new team's 40-man roster; thus, teams who do not have an available roster spot may not participate in the Rule 5 draft. Players who are not currently on their team's 40-man roster are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, but only after a standard exemption period has elapsed. See Exemptions to Selection Eligibility below.

If chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a player must be kept on the selecting team's 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft--he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the Rule 5 draftee. If a Rule 5 draftee clears waivers by not signing with a new MLB team, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the Rule 5 draft choice. Once a Rule 5 draftee spends an entire season on his new team's 25-man roster, his status reverts to normal and he may be optioned or designated for assignment.

To prevent the abuse of the Rule 5 draft, the rule also states that the draftee must be active for at least 90 days. This keeps teams from drafting players, then placing them on the disabled list for the majority of the season. For example, if a Rule 5 draftee was only active for 67 days in his first season with his new club, he must be active for an additional 23 games in his second season to satisfy the Rule 5 requirements.

Any player chosen in the Rule 5 draft may be traded to any team while under the Rule 5 restrictions, but the restrictions transfer to the new team. If the new team does not want to keep the player on its 25-man roster for the season, he must be offered back to the team of which he was a member when chosen in the draft.

Exemptions to Selection Eligibility

Players signed at age 19 or older are exempt from the Rule 5 draft for three years after being drafted (in the amateur draft) or signed by their current organization; players drafted or signed at age 18 or younger are exempt for four years. For example, players drafted in 2005 (or later) at age 19 (or older) will be exempt from the 2007 Rule 5 draft, as will players drafted in 2004 (or later) at age 18 (or younger).

The exemption periods were extended by one year in October 2006 as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The change took effect immediately, exempting many players from the 2006 Rule 5 draft even though they had been signed in some cases more than four years before the new agreement came into effect. Prior to the rule change, players were exempt for two or three years after the year they were signed (regardless of the year they were drafted), rather than three or four years.

Now for the Royals organizational eligiblities.  I have included some general/personal information about the player, vital 2008 statistics, and the "selectability factor", which is simply the chances they are selected in the December Rule 5 Draft.  This grading is on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being highly unlikely to be taken, 3 being somewhat likely to be taken, and 5 being very likely to be taken.  I will divide this into a two-part series.  Let us begin with the hitters.

C - Adam Donachie (Opening Day Age:  25 / B-T:  R/R)

2008 Line:  .212/.310/.299/.609, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 91 G, 308 PA, 3.27 RC/G (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability factor:  1 / 5 (Not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Donachie was selected two years ago in the Rule 5 draft by the Baltimore Orioles.  However, he was returned to the Royals in Spring Training.  Donachie was one of the infamous 2003 $1,000 signees by Baird and the Glass family.  Suffice it to say, he has not exactly exceeded expectations in the Minor League system.  If Donachie chooses to, he can declare himself a Minor League free agent.  It's difficult for me to believe he would be signed elsewhere.  Any other organization would likely place him in a similar situation as the Royals - a part-time Minor League catcher.  The Royals have almost zero catching depth in their Minor League system, so it would be telling if Donachie chooses to remain a Royal.  He is fine defensively, but is so woeful offensively that he's reduced to merely a footnote on the Minor League organizational depth chart.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

C - Jeff Howell (Opening Day Age:  25 / B-T: R/R)

2008 Line:  .259/.323/.385/.708, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 85 G, 316 PA, 4.16 RC/G (A+ Wilmington)

Selectability Factor:  1 / 5 (Not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Howell wil likely platoon with catcher Adam Donachie in Northwest Arkansas in 2008.  After toiling in the Royals Minor League system with mostly mediocre results, he actually exceeded many people's expectations in 2008.  That said, he is definitely not worth retaining on a 40-man roster.  Even if another Peter Angelos-esque Baltimore Orioles squad swoops from out of nowhere to select him, their chances to retain him even as a backup are almost zero.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

C - Brayan Pena (Opening Day Age: 26 / B-T: S/R)

2008 Line:  .303/.376/.462/.838, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 60 G, 266 PA, 5.96 RC/G (AAA Omaha) / .286/.333/.357, 4-for-14 (MLB Atlanta)

Selectability Factor:  5 / 5 (Worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Pena was a brilliant, under-the-radar waiver acquisition by Dayton Moore, who selected him in June.  Pena projects most likely as a backup catcher given his lack of power.  However, his contract rate in the Minors has been excellent over the previous four years, as evidenced by the fact that he struck out merely 17 times in 60 games last year in Omaha.  Pena is also a bit quick on the basepaths (7 stolen bases in 10 attempts).  I ike Pena, and believe he's essentially a catching version of Alberto Callaspo, except with better speed and athleticism.  Place Brayan Pena not only on the 40-man roster in December, but let him compete with John Buck for the starting catching slot in Spring Training.

Projected 2009 Level:  MLB

C - Kiel Thibault (Opening Day Age: 25 / B-T: R/R)

2008 Line: .160/.196/.220/.416, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 31 G, 1.46 RC/G (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  1 / 5 (Not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Suffice it to say, Thibault will likely only return to the Royals organization in 2009 in an extremely limited role.  Thibault raked in the Pioneer League his rookie season (in 2005, he hit .310/.338/.593/.981 in Idaho Falls), but has mostly disappointed since.  At age 25, he is Minor League filler at the absolute best.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

1B - Mike Stodolka (Opening Day Age: 27 / B-T: L/L)

2008 Line:  .286/.366/.405/.771, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 75 G, 259 PA, 5.49 RC/G (AAA Omaha)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Stodolka has performed admirably in the Royals Minor League system after busting and getting derailed with injuries as a pitcher.  Selected in the first round of the 2000 draft, Stodolka is used to riding buses instead of flying in airplanes by now, as he will enter his tenth season in the Minor Leagues in April.  Stodolka's time as a Royal might be through, though.  He can declare himself a Minor League Free Agent if he so chooses.  Stodolka was relocated to a corner outfield position because of the presence of Omaha Royals DH/first basemen Ryan Shealy, Kila Kaaihue, and Billy Butler, who ranked much higher on the organizational depth chart.  Stodolka performed horribly defensively in the outfield, as was to be expected, but performed decently offensively, given the circumstances.  His contact rate has remained tolerable of his three seasons as a hitter in the organization, but 42 strikeouts in 259 plate appearances is still a bit high.  As a first baseman, he possesses too little power to hold a Major League role for any period of time.  He may get a few call-up stints here and there throughout his career, but he is likely not worth protecting.  In December, he may still be selected, though, as an emergency bench bat.

Projected 2009 Level: AAA

2B - Josh Johnson (Opening Day Age: 23 / B-T: S/R)

2008 Line:  .253/.399/.337/.736, 3 HR, 38 RBI, 118 G, 459 PA, 4.64 RC/G (A+ Wilmington)

Selectability Factor:  1 / 5 (Not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Plate discipline and versatility on the infield have been Johnson's only defiant strengths, thus far, rising up the organizational ladder.  He possesses little extra base power, but is still only 23.  Johnson will likely begin next year in Springdale, Arkansas, and I'm anxious to see what the switch-hitter can deliver in the Texas League.  That said, he is definitely not worth protecting, although he could still develop power with age, which will complement his on-base skills nicely.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

UT - Irving Falu (Opening Day Age: 25 / B-T: S/R)

2008 Line:  .301/.367/.384/.751, 5 HR, 42 RBI, 101 G, 405 PA, 4.93 RC/G (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Falu, a Royals 21st round amateur draft pick out of Indian Hills Community College, enjoyed a career season at the plate in 2008.  He was allocated defensively, even beyond the likes of what superutilityman Esteban German has seen in recent Royal years.  Falu played eight different positions in '08 - including designated hitter - and performed decently at all.  He possesses little power at all, but given his 2008 surge, is likely worth keeping in the Minor League system as a starter for '09, at the upper levels which otherwise lack depth in talent.  That said, he probably is not worth protecting on the 40-man roster, as he is still miles from a mentionable prospect.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

SS - Chris McConnell (Opening Day Age: 23 / B-T: R/R)

2008 Line:  .252/.333/.325/.658, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 120 G, 529 PA, 3.45 RC/G (A+ Wilmington)

Selectability Factor:  1 / 5 (Not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Defense is McConnell's prime strength, as he was named the organizational player with best defensive skills by Baseball America prior to the 2008 season.  That said, his sole strength went southbound considerably last year, as he committed 28 errors in '08, culminating in a mere .950 fielding percentage.  Not brilliant numbers to define a defensiveman, sure, but they are cause for concern, nonetheless.  He possesses at least some raw speed, at least enough to compliment the entire lineup of Juan Pierres and Chone Figginses they fielded in Delaware last season.  There is no way McConnell gets selected in December, for reasons obvious to anyone who watched a Blue Rocks game last season.

Projected 2009 Level:  A+

3B - Edward Lucas (Opening Day Age: 26 / B-T: R/R)

2008 Line:  .304/.372/.415/.787, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 79 G, 303 PA, 5.64 RC/G (AA Northwest Arkansas) / .128/.241/.128/.369, 6-for-47, 0 HR (AAA Omaha)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Lucas, an eighth round draft pick in 2004 out of Dartmouth College, defied the Royals' scouts impressions and posted excellent offensive results in 2008 in Northwest Arkansas.  He will likely continue his newly established career as a part-time Minor Leaguer in 2009.  Actually, he could gain more playing time if no first base or third base frontrunner emerges in Northwest Arkansas or Omaha.  However, he struggled mightily after getting promoted to Omaha in August, looking completely overmatched at the plate.  Lucas doesn't project as a major leaguer, as he's a corner infielder without enough power.  He is close enough to deserve an extended glance as a protectee, but will likely not get selected in December.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

LF - Chris Lubanski (Opening Day Age: 24 / B-T: L/L)

2008 Line:  .242/.306/.448/.754, 15 HR, 54 RBI, 116 G, 438 PA, 4.79 RC/G (AAA Omaha)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  The raw power is still there, and Lubanski could still enjoy a Major League career as a stopgap corner outfielder or platoon player, but his contract rate and strikeout rate have fallen to such woeful levels in the Minor Leagues the last two years, that it's easy to understand why the Royals would not protect him this winter.  He was - somewhat justifiably, at the time, in my opinion - upset the Royals didn't protect him last winter, and it definitely showed.  How motivated he was to whiff an appalling 130 times in 116 games last year.  He will always strike out waaaay too much (he has topped 91 strikeouts in every year in the organization except 2003). Very little speed and very little outfield range give him less projectability in the wide confines of Kauffman Stadium.  Another non-protection candidate this winter.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

CF - Jose Duarte (Opening Day Age: 24 / B-T: R/R)

2008 Line:  .250/.313/.350/.663, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 28/36 SBR, 133 G, 585 PA, 3.86 RC/G (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  3 / 5 (Maybe worth protecting / Maybe not)

RN Perspective:  Duarte's two defining strengths, at this point, are speed and an ability to play center field.  The Texas League is always a hitter's league, and it's tough to get enthusiastic about a .663 OPS from an age 23 (a typical AA age) player at that level.  Duarte should repeat the level in 2009 and prove that he's worth keeping.  However - and this is worth considering - he does possess raw talent and tools on the baseaths and in the field.  He's a poor man's Joey Gathright, and that might force teams to take a gander at him in December.  It's debatable whether he's worth devoting a roster spot to simply because of his ceiling and tools.  Scouts love the guy.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

RF - Brian McFall (Opening Day Age:  25 / B-T: R/R)

2008 Line:  .241/.329/.454/.783, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 7/6 SBR, 106 G, 404 PA, 4.95 RC/G(AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  McFall has struck out way too often while climbing up the organizational ladder.  He possesses raw power, but not enough to make him anything more than a C prospect.  He probably isn't worth considering, because even if he gets selected, I'm sure no club will tolerate a .220/.290/.400 role, even from the bench.  Let him master the TL, and see how he can perform in Omaha.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

In conclusion, it's fairly evident that there isn't much organizational depth at the top rings of the Minor League system.  Plenty of toolsy players - read: speed! - and C prospects, but little else.  The only player definitely worth protecting is Brayan Pena, who I'm convinced could post a .280/.350/.420 line in the big leagues, like, right now.

Join Rule 5 Eligibilities next week, as we assess a slightly brighter spot, the pitching!

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.