The 2006 Rule 5 Draft turned out to be one of redemption and opportunity. And Cincinnati benefited from both scenarios.
There were 19 players chosen in the Major League phase (27 overall) of last year's draft in Lake Buena Vista and no one was more intriguing than Josh Hamilton. The former top pick in the First-Year Player Draft was selected from Tampa Bay in the Rule 5 by the Cubs and promptly dealt to Cincinnati within minutes of the draft's conclusion.
Hamilton, whose downward spiral off the field made for interesting reading for the better part of this decade, seized the opportunity and made many people remember why he was a top pick to begin with. He battled injuries and illnesses throughout the season, but after earning a spot on the Reds' Opening Day roster he was one of their more productive players --when he was on the field.
The top pick in the 1999 draft made his Major League debut in '07, appearing in 90 games. He hit .292 in 298 at-bats while connecting for 19 homers, driving in 47 runs and posting a solid .368 on-base percentage. Hamilton also played each outfield position, committing only four errors while picking up six assists in 211 chances.
The Reds also grabbed Jared Burton, a reliever in the Oakland system, and gave him the chance to play in the Major Leagues. The 27-year-old South Carolina native didn't disappoint, either, going 4-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 47 appearances. He allowed just one homer in 22 1/3 innings at The Great American Ballpark as well.
It will be interesting to see if any players selected this year -- the draft is Thursday morning, with Tampa Bay getting the first selection - will make that kind of contribution.
There were three other players chosen last year who stuck with their new clubs and had a huge impact in Jesus Flores, Joakim Soria and Kevin Cameron. The Nationals, with first-year manager Manny Acta, selected Flores from the Mets, who inexplicably left the catcher unprotected, despite the fact he had been a two-time Minor League All-Star, including 2006 in the Gulf Coast League.
Acta, who knew of Flores from his time with the Mets, gave him a huge opportunity and he responded by hitting .244 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 180 at-bats while backing up Brian Schneider. The Mets, sorely in need of a catcher, wound up dealing for Schneider last week while Flores figures to move into the starter's role this season in Washington.
Cameron, who pitched well in helping Rochester reach the 2006 International League playoffs, made his big-league debut after he was selected by San Diego and was a staple in the Padres bullpen. He went 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 48 games.
The Padres, however, didn't protect Soria, who also made the most of the opportunity presented by the Royals. The young right-hander was clearly a bright spot for Kansas City, saving 17 of the 62 games in which he appeared. He was 2-3 with a 2.48 ERA, striking out 75 and walking only 19 in 69 innings.
The Cubs lost three players in the Major League phase off their Triple-A Iowa roster when left-hander Ed Campusano (selected by the Brewers), right-hander Lincoln Holdzkom (selected by the Astros) and shortstop Jason Smith (selected by the Blue Jays) were taken. The Brewers traded Campusano to Detroit, for whom he blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. He was returned to the Cubs in October.
Holdzkom was returned to the Cubs in March, then released before the Red Sox signed him in April. Smith, meanwhile, made the rounds after going to the Jays. He was claimed off waivers by Arizona in May before the Royals grabbed him off the waiver wire in July.
The Pirates selected right-hander Sean White from the Braves and proceeded to trade him to Seattle. He was 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA in 15 games for the Mariners but spent the bulk of the season on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis.
Oakland selected reliever Jay Marshall from the White Sox and he appeared in 51 games, posting a 6.43 ERA. Josh Phelps was selected by the Yankees from Baltimore and split time between the Bombers and Pirates, hitting .306 with seven homers and 31 RBIs.
The Nationals selected Levale Speigner, who went 2-3 with an 8.78 ERA in 19 games (six starts). He was also 3-4 in 17 games (six starts) at Triple-A Columbus.
Ryan Goleski, the top pick in the draft, was returned to Cleveland from Tampa Bay. Others selected and returned were Alfredo Simon (Baltimore back to Texas), Adam Donachie (Philadelphia back to Kansas City), Nicholas DeBarr (Boston back to Tampa Bay), Jim Ed Warden (Philadelphia back to Cleveland) and Ryan Budde (Philadelphia back to the Angels).