Cubs Rule 5 Draft Primer

Nate Spears (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

In recent years the Chicago Cubs have been a popular team in the Rule 5 Draft. Not so much for their own acquisitions of players, but for their players' popularity among other clubs.

The Rule 5 Draft is a way to prevent teams from stockpiling too many young minor league players. This essentially decreases the chances of those players getting caught or "stuck" in a system.

Only players that are not presently on their club's 40-man roster may be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Beginning this year, players selected in the 2005 amateur (summer) draft that are not currently on their team's 40-man roster are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, provided they were at least 19 years old at the time their first professional contract was signed.

Players selected in the 2004 amateur draft are eligible, provided they were at least 18 years old or younger when they signed their first pro contract.

Any player drafted by a club will cost that club $50,000. The drafted player must remain on that club's 25-man roster for the duration of the upcoming season or be offered back to his original club for half the price ($25,000).

Few teams have had as many players selected in the Rule 5 Draft as the Cubs.

A year ago the Toronto Blue Jays added RHP Randy Wells in the Rule 5 Draft. Less than a month into the regular season, Wells was returned to Chicago.

In 2006, the Cubs lost three players in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft and two more during the minor league phase of the draft. They also lost one in 2005 when the St. Louis Cardinals selected RHP Juan Mateo, and in 2004 when the Kansas City Royals chose LHP Andy Sisco.

No team necessarily likes to lose players in the Rule 5 Draft, but it's probably not too far-fetched to say that club's don't often do a lot of grieving over having their players taken.

"When you start coming up with more guys that have a chance to get drafted, it shows that the depth is starting to build a little bit. It makes you feel good," explained Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken.

The Cubs recently protected three players from Rule 5 eligibility by adding them to the 40-man roster in November. They are: RHPs Mitch Atkins, Justin Berg and Marcos Mateo.

But for every player protected there is one left unprotected that could be worth another club taking a gamble on. Here are some players in the Cubs' system that might be of interest to other clubs:

Donald Veal – LHP

Since setting the Class-A levels on fire two years ago, the southpaw has regressed at Double-A. He continues to lack consistency and, just as unfortunate, command. The Cubs had high hopes for Veal, now 24, but he had another up-and-down stint at Class AA Tennessee and the Arizona Fall League, and the organization had been toying with the idea of moving him into the bullpen.

Nate Spears – 2B/INF

It's taken Spears awhile to get noticed, but the lefty hitting second baseman is coming off his best season, batting .299 with a career-high 23 doubles at Tennessee. He received a late-season promotion to Class AAA Iowa and had a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League, batting .349 in 23 games.

Jim Adduci – OF

This probably would be a reach, even for Rule 5 standards, but the lefty hitting outfielder has had two solid seasons with the bat since joining the Cubs in a trade from the Florida Marlins in late 2006. Considered a gamer by coaches and scouts, he shows a fair amount of speed with an average to above-average outfield arm, and he can hit well for average.

Jesse Estrada – RHP

Estrada is worth a look because he's an intimidating presence (6-foot-8, 280 pounds) and may be peaking at the right time. His velocity was up this year and he's always thrown strikes. His numbers have never been staggering, but the Cubs believe they may have hit on something with Estrada.

J.R. Mathes – LHP

Because left-handers with durable arms that throw strikes are always in demand, Mathes could attract a few suitors. He had much better success in his second Triple-A stint than in 2007, which can largely be attributed to the addition of a cutter and a sharper breaking ball.

Ed Campusano – LHP

This isn't Campusano's first rodeo when it comes to the Rule 5 Draft (he was taken by Milwaukee in 2006 and then shipped to Detroit). Soon after, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2007, only to rejoin the Cubs a year later and toss 65 innings – primarily at Double-A. His numbers there (6.34 ERA in 34 outings) were weak, but his fastball showed some life at 91-93 mph and he had some success throwing his curve/slurve for a breaking ball.

Chad Fox – RHP

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry seems to have an odd fixation with Fox, who last put together an injury free season around the time that Time Magazine named the world's first IBM Computer its Person of the Year. This past year it took Fox only three games before he was shut down for the season with ulnar neuritis. He recently inked a minor league deal with the club.

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