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The top 10 of the Rule 512/05/2006 10:00 AM ET
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
There have been hundreds of players selected in the Rule 5 Draft since its inception. Some have gone on to become stars, like Roberto Clemente. Some have become productive Major Leaguers, like George Bell. Most have never made a splash at the big league level, like Rafael Quirico.
That's all part of the risk involved in making Rule 5 selections. But there have been more than enough success stories for teams to continue taking shots on Minor Leaguers left unprotected by their organizations.
Today's Major League rosters are dotted with Rule 5ers who made it. Here's a look at the top players selected in the Rule 5 Draft since 1990:
1. Johan Santana
It seems only a matter of time before they rename the Rule 5 and start calling it the "Santana Draft." He's fast approaching all-time Rule 5 greats George Bell (probably already there) and Roberto Clemente (OK, not quite there yet). He's got two Cy Young Awards on his shelf -- winning his second after taking the pitching Triple Crown this past season -- and was a serious candidate in 2005. For his career, he's 78-31 with a 3.20 ERA and 1,146 strikeouts in 1,089 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit .220 against the southpaw, who's struck out 9.47 per nine innings, placing him fifth all-time (just ahead of Sandy Koufax), Oh, and he'll be just 28 in 2007.
2. Dan Uggla
Some may say it's too premature to put a guy from last year's Rule 5 this high on the list. But it's hard to look past Uggla's accomplishments in one season. He's the first Rule 5er in the history of the draft to be named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Team in the year following his selection. He also finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting, taking the Marlins' starting second base job by the horns and finishing with a .282 average, 27 homers and 90 RBIs. He may never overtake Santana on this list, but it's hard to imagine anyone surpassing Uggla in terms of immediate impact.
3. Jay Gibbons
Gibbons held the top spot on this list before Santana started dominating and just following his 100-RBI season in 2003. He took a step back in 2004, when his overall production dropped considerably. He moved back into the upper echelons by bouncing back in 2005 with a .277 average, 26 homers and 79 RBIs in 139 games, setting a career high with a .516 slugging percentage. He wasn't able to build on that at all in 2006 as he lost two months to knee and back injuries. He hit 13 homers and drove in 46 runs over 90 games and his OBP actually improved to a career-high .341, so if he can bounce back healthy in 2007, he could give Uggla a run for No. 2 on this list.
4. Fernando Vina
He moves down a notch from last year with Uggla's emergence, but clearly Seattle had the right idea when it drafted Vina from the Mets. But after 45 at-bats with the Mariners in 1993, Vina was given back to New York. He made the big leagues for good in 1994 and went on to make an All-Star team and win a pair of Gold Gloves. Even though he was hurt for much of 2003 and 2004 before retiring, a .282 career average and more than 4,200 big league at-bats say he deserves to be in the top three here.
5. Scott Podsednik
Podsednik may be Exhibit A for why everyone should also pay attention to the Minor League phases of the Rule 5. You never know when one of those guys is going to develop. In Podsednik's case, it took a while. Taken by the Rangers in '97, he played three seasons in the Texas organization before becoming a free agent and signing with the Mariners. But it wasn't until he was waived and claimed by the Brewers in 2002 that he started making a name for himself. His breakout season in 2003, for which he finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting, established him as a valuable speedster, first with the Brewers and then with the White Sox.
6. Frank Catalanotto
Even though the Tigers left Catalanotto unprotected in 1996, they knew they had a good player on their hands. He moved from Double-A to Triple-A after the A's returned him to the Tigers, then made his Major League debut in the 1997 season. It took him a while to establish himself, but he went from being a supersub with the Rangers to an everyday outfielder for the Blue Jays in 2003, when he hit .299 and set career highs in homers and RBIs. Even though he missed much of the 2004 season due to injury, he still hit .293, then upped that to .301 and tied a career high in RBIs in 2005. He duplicated that with a .300 effort in 2006 to bring his career average to a nifty .297. He parlayed that into a three-year deal back wtih the Rangers this offseason.
7. Matt Mantei
Mantei's comeback in 2005 wasn't all that successful, as he posted a 6.49 ERA in 34 games for the Red Sox. Still, his overall numbers are pretty impressive. Originally taken in 1994, the Marlins made a deal to keep Mantei in their system. He made his big league debut in 1995 and was in the Majors for good in 1998. He was hurt often after being traded to the Diamondbacks but had a terrific season in 2003 with 29 saves. Overall, Mantei had 93 career saves with a 4.07 ERA and 396 strikeouts in 322 2/3 innings. Even with the injuries, he kept opponents to a .213 batting average.
8. Willy Taveras
The Astros realized two things about Taveras the first spring he was with them after being taken in the Rule 5: They liked him a lot and he wasn't ready for the big leagues. So they worked out a trade with the Indians and sent Taveras to Double-A, where he promptly won the Texas League batting and stolen base crowns. He got a taste of big league life that 2004 season, then hit it for good in 2005. In two full seasons in the Astros outfield, Taveras has hit .284 with a .340 OBP and 68 steals. His strikeout-to-walk ratio may leave some wanting more, but he's already shown Houston he was worth keeping.
9. Miguel Batista
The Pirates didn't keep the right-hander, sending him back to the Expos in April 1992 after pitching him in just one game. But clearly, they saw something in him. And say what you will about his inconsistencies over the years, there aren't too many Rule 5 picks who have gone on to spend parts of 11 seasons (not counting '92) in the big leagues. He's also shown the ability to fill a number of roles, closing in 2005 and saving 31 games and topping 200 innings as a starter for the first time this past season.
10. Graeme Lloyd
Left-handed pitching is always popular at the Rule 5 Draft, and that's a big reason why he was selected, then traded in the 1992 draft. He appeared in 55 games with the Brewers the following season and didn't look back, putting up typical lefty specialist numbers: 568 games, 533 innings.
Honorable mention: Antonio Alfonseca, Luis Ayala, Guillermo Mota, Scott Sauerbeck, Jorge Sosa, Derrick Turnbow, Shane Victorino.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.