The beauty of baseball's Rule 5 Draft is that a pitcher can go from performing before a sparse crowd at Double-A to toeing the rubber at a tiered Major League stadium just like that.
Count right-handed reliever Rhiner Cruz among the next group of ballplayers attempting the jump.
The Houston Astros plucked Cruz out of the New York Mets' system with the top pick in Thursday's annual selection process, the final act of the Winter Meetings in Dallas. He was one of eight pitchers chosen among 12 players picked in the MLB phase.
Cruz fashioned a 3.89 ERA in 44 games this past season at Class A Advanced St. Lucie and at Double-A Binghamton. The 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic then compiled a 1.29 ERA in 15 Winter League games, where, according to MLB.com Draft reporter and prospects expert Jonathan Mayo, he routinely reached triple digits on the radar gun.
Like the other 11 players chosen in the MLB phase, Cruz will be added to his new organization's 40-man roster and invited to Spring Training. The selecting club -- in Cruz's case, the Astros -- forks over $50,000 to the player's former club and must keep him on the 25-man roster for the entirety of the season to retain his rights. Excluding trips to the disabled list, the player must remain active for a minimum of 90 days. (A complete rundown of the rules can be found here.)
Among other notable picks, right-handed hurler Terry Doyle (White Sox) was tapped by the Twins at No. 2. Doyle, who pitched at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham last year, wowed in the hitter-happy Arizona Fall League. Facing many of the game's best young prospects, Doyle, 26, went 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in eight starts. In the process, he topped 200 innings for this first time in his four-year pro career.
Bound for Baltimore, second baseman Ryan Flaherty (Cubs) went to the Orioles at pick No. 4. Flaherty, the 41st overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, batted .305 with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs in 83 Double-A games before struggling in his first Triple-A trial.
The fifth overall choice, left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral (Red Sox) was plucked by the Royals. He later was dealt to the Yankees for cash considerations. Cabral sported a 2.95 ERA in 36 games between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland. He fanned 70 batters in 55 innings.
Twenty-five more players switched organizations during the Triple-A and Double-A phases of the Draft. The Pirates and the Cardinals grabbed Aaron Poreda (Padres) and Shooter Hunt (Twins), respectively. Both pitchers were first-round selections in their First-Year Player Draft classes.
Like their peers, Poreda and Hunt were eligible to be picked because they were signed when they were 19 or older and have four years of pro experience or were signed at 18 and have endured the Minors for five years. (Teams protect players that fall into either category by assigning them to their 40-man roster.)
Another former first-round draftee, San Diego's Drew Cumberland, was expected to selected on Thursday but was passed over. Cumberland, a former Futures Game participant, retired following the 2010 season due to an inner-ear issue.