LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- So much for expectations.
The scuttlebutt in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel surrounding the Rule 5 Draft had it tabbed as an afterthought to the Winter Meetings. Rumors abounded that because of the new protection restrictions, not many players would be selected. Many writers were joking about the over/under chosen coming in around six.
Well, smart money took the over. Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft actually provided some of the most extensive action of the week with 19 players selected in the Major League phase and 46 players chosen overall. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that three of the top four selections were made and then traded -- and one of those names proved to be a bit of a surprise.
Tampa Bay had the top pick and grabbed outfielder Ryan Goleski from Cleveland. The Devil Rays then proceeded to trade the slugger to Oakland. Two picks later the Cubs grabbed controversial former first-round pick Josh Hamilton only to trade him to Cincinnati immediately following the draft.
The Pirates grabbed Sean White with the fourth pick and then dealt him to Seattle. All three deals were made for cash considerations.
Hamilton, 25, made a much-heralded return to the field this season, appearing in 15 games for Hudson Valley of the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League. It was the first on-field action in four years for the 1999 top draft pick, who was out of baseball while battling a myriad of problems, including drugs and alcohol.
"You do as much background work as you can," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "I'm not sure if they ever had a No. 1 pick overall taken in the Rule 5 Draft, but he has an upside and we're excited to have him. I've never seen him play but he has as good [a set of] raw tools as you've seen come along in some time. But raw tools are one thing and production is another.
"He met [Cincinnati manager] Jerry Narron in his younger years and Jerry's brother, Johnny, coached him in youth ball. Jerry knows all about him. So we'll give him a call, try to make him feel comfortable and give him a fresh start."
Hamilton hit .260 with five RBIs in 50 at-bats for the Renegades and is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery.
Goleski, meanwhile, figures to see plenty of action in Oakland because it doesn't appear as if the A's will re-sign Jay Payton. The former 24th-round pick (2003) out of Eastern Michigan University combined to hit .306 with 27 homers and 106 RBIs this year for Class A Advanced Kinston and Double-A Akron.
"Our scouts have liked him as far back as college," Oakland assistant general manager David Forst said.
The Cubs were hit the hardest in the Major League phase, losing three players off their Triple-A Iowa roster. 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 Cubs also lost second baseman Richard Lewis (selected by Kansas City) and right-hander Andy Shipman (selected by Oakland) in the Triple-A phase.
Chicago did, however, add right-hander James Henderson, selecting him from Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League.
"You hate to lose these guys because they're great kids," Chicago's director of player development Oneri Fleita said. "These guys were brought up by the organization. You get attached to them, but it's part of getting better and managing the 40-man roster.
"Lewis was always very gifted but that was an area that we felt we had a lot of depth in the organization. It will be a good change of scenery for him."
Two more of the picks worth keeping an eye on from the Major League portion of the draft are Jesus Flores and Josh Phelps. The Nationals grabbed Flores, a 22-year-old catcher from the Mets who spent the season at Class A Advanced St. Lucie of the Florida State League. Flores hit .266 with 21 homers and 70 RBIs and is sound defensively. New Washington skipper Manny Acta, formerly a coach with the Mets, is also very familiar with Flores.
The Orioles, meanwhile, had targeted Phelps as someone who would see time with the parent club next year, but for now he figures into the Yankees' plans after they grabbed him with the final pick of the first round. Baltimore signed Phelps, 28, to a Minor League deal last month after he hit .308 with 24 homers and 90 RBIs at Triple-A Toledo. He's spent parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues, the latest coming in 2005.
The Nationals were hammered during the Triple-A phase of the draft, losing seven players off their Harrisburg roster. They did select left-hander Justin Jones from Double-A New Britain during the Triple-A phase.