Back in December, the Dodgers lost three players in the Rule 5 Draft, with the A’s selecting first baseman Ryan Noda, the Pirates taking left-hander Jose Hernandez, and the Brewers drafting pitcher Gus Varland.
Rule 5 picks have to remain on the active roster or injured list all year. They can’t be sent to the minors this season without first clearing waivers and then being offered back to their old team for $50,000, which is half the fee paid when the player was selected in the Rule 5 Draft. If a Rule 5 draftee spends time on the IL, they have to spend at least 90 days on the active roster that year, or else roster restrictions remain for next season.
Noda and Hernandez always felt like good bets to stick with their new teams because both the A’s and Pirates are very bad, and if in the worst-case scenario those teams use an active roster spot all year on a bad player it wouldn’t affect those teams’ ability to contend. For them, drafting Noda and Hernandez were long-term plays, and if they happen to pan out earlier, all the better.
But with the Brewers at least trying make the playoffs, it’s a tougher sell to use an active roster spot on Varland, who hasn’t yet pitched above Double-A and had a 5.98 ERA in 105⅓ innings in his two years in Tulsa.
Varland this spring has pitched very well, especially of late. After allowing a home run in three of his first four Cactus League outings, Varland has whiffed three in each of his last three games. He has 15 strikeouts against only one walk in 7⅓ innings this spring.
Adam McCalvy in his latest Brewers opening day roster projection for MLB.com, he included Varland making the team.
“We left Rule 5 pick Varland off of previous iterations of the roster, but he’s pitched his way into an Opening Day job, striking out nine of the past 11 batters he’s faced,” McCalvy wrote.
Hernandez allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 17 hits in 10 innings this spring for Pittsburgh, his 10 appearances tied for the team lead, with 10 strikeouts, three walks, and three home runs allowed. Though the way things are shaking out, Hernandez might not only make the team but could be their only left-handed reliever.
From Rob Biertempfel at The Athletic:
“We’ve seen a lot of good things from Hernandez,” Cherington said. “He’s been in the strike zone. His stuff is clearly there. He had an ugly outing (when he allowed four runs in one inning against the Orioles), but otherwise he’s been pretty effective.”
Noda has been a three-true-outcomes machine this spring, though with only one home run maybe it’s more of a two-true outcomes situation. He’s tied for the team lead with 11 walks and leads the majors with 24 strikeouts in 62 plate appearances this spring, hitting .152/.339/.283.
But Noda could find himself splitting time at first base in Oakland with Jesús Aguilar.
We’ll find out officially within the next week, but it sure seems like all three Rule 5 picks will start the season with their new teams.