Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 Draft is a non-amateur draft conducted annually at the Winter Meetings. Not to be confused with the Rule 4 Draft, which occurs in June and is often called “the draft” or “the amateur draft,” the Rule 5 Draft does not involve high school or collegiate athletes, but players already on major and minor league rosters.

The Rule 5 Draft occurs in three phases, the MLB phase, where eligible players can be selected and placed on the 25-man roster for a $50,000 fee, and the Triple-A and Double-A phases, where players can be selected for a fee if they are not on the protected list, but in this phase, they do not need to go to the 25-man roster.

If a team removes a player from the MLB 25-man roster before the end of the year, the player must pass through waivers and then be offered back to the original team. Only if the original team does not want the player can the organization demote the player to the minor leagues. Drafted players can be and often are traded, but the Rule 5 rules apply to the new team just the same (unless it is the player’s original, pre-draft team).

In order for a player to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, they must (A) not be on the team’s 40-man roster and (B) they must have signed at age 18 or 19 and spent 5 or 4 years respectively in the organization (essentially, they must be 22 years old and not protected).

Players that are drafted go onto the new team’s 25- and 40-man rosters. Therefore, drafting teams must have at least one open spot on their 40-man roster to make a Rule 5 pick.


Most teams do not make selections in the Rule 5 draft, but when teams do, the player they select must stay on the MLB 25-man roster and is typically ready or near-ready to play at the MLB level. Therefore, Rule 5 picks tend to have generally strong success compared to Rule 4 picks — especially mid to late round Rule 4 picks.

The minor league portion, however, is often employed to fill rosters and not select potential impact players — though some have indeed come through the Triple-A and Double-A phases.

Here is a list of a few notable Rule 5 picks:

Roberto Clemente
Jose Bautista
Johan Santana
Josh Hamilton
Bobby Bonilla
Dan Uggla
Shane Victorino
R.A. Dickey
Alexi Ogando (selected in the minor league phase)

Things to Remember

● Rule 5 Draft draftees must stay on the MLB roster all season. If they go to the DL, they must be active for at least 90 days — so if the draftee misses a whole season, they must be on the active roster for 90 days the following season to satisfy the Rule 5 Draft requirements.

● Teams must pay a fee for every player drafted: $50,000 (MLB phase); $12,000 (AAA phase); and $4,000 (AA phase).

● Players on the 40-man roster are protected from all phases of the draft.

Links for Further Reading

2011 Rule 5 Draft Results —

About the Rule 5 Draft —

A Quick Explanation of the Rule 5 Draft — Baseball America (2002)

1997 to 2010 Rule 5 Draft Results — Wikipedia

Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

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