How Have the 2023 Rule 5 Selections Fared this Season?

Checking back in on the Rule 5 Draft picks of the 2023-2024 offseason. Who stuck with their club and who was returned to sender?

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 30: Justin Slaten #63 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after closing the game in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Fenway Park on April 30, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jaiden Tripi/Getty Images)

For the most part, the Rule 5 Draft pool is derived from former highly regarded prospects that have not panned out the way their organizations may have hoped or those who were squeezed out of the 40-man roster after teams went through solidifying their rosters. While not every team decides to make a selection during the draft due to needing to hold them on their active roster throughout the season, it is always interesting to follow those who are selected and see whether they were returned back to their original organization, or if they have stuck around with their new team.

Immediately following the conclusion of the draft, Aram and Jack gave their instant reactions and broke down each selection on Just Baseball’s The Call-Up podcast.

In this article, I am going to provide an update on all 10 selections, if they stuck with their new teams, and how they have been performing whether they did or not.

Mitch Spence (RHP) – Oakland Athletics (via Yankees)

Spence found himself in an advantageous situation being taken by the Athletics with the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft and having a clear path to making the Major League roster out of spring training.

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He ended the Cactus League pitching to a 3.06 ERA over 17.2 innings during Spring, Spence was able to make the Opening Day roster in the Athletics bullpen with an opportunity to get a few starts sprinkled in throughout the year.

After pitching in essentially every role possible in the bullpen, Spence was given his first opportunity to start for Oakland against the Kansas City Royals on May 17. Even though he wasn’t announced as the starter until hours before first pitch, Spence was able to grit out 4.2 innings only allowing one run.

Spence has done everything the A’s have asked him to do since day one. With outings ranging between 10 and 72 pitches, and this strong outing against KC, the Spence selection has shown to be the right decision for Oakland.

Matt Sauer (RHP) – Kansas City Royals (via Yankees)

The second pitcher poached from the Yankees in this year’s Rule 5 was Matt Sauer, who was taken by Kansas City. Also like Spence, Sauer came into the year with the ability to be a great swingman for the Royals and provide them with some spot starts whenever they may need.

However, Sauer’s performance has been rocky and led to the ultimate decision by the Royals to designate him for assignment on May 21.

This news provides an opportunity for us to break down what happens to a Rule 5 selection when he is no longer on the roster. The Royals now have four days to find a trade partner for Sauer, where he would then need to stick on the big league roster of the acquiring team as he did with the Royals. If he doesn’t, he would enter the same limbo he currently finds himself in.

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If he is not traded within the four days, Sauer would then go into outright waivers, allowing any team to claim him, but he would still need to stick on the roster. The rule change does not alter just because he is on a new team.

Should he clear waivers, the Yankees would then need to decide whether they want to bring him back into their organization. If they do, the Royals would receive $50K by the Yankees as compensation.

Anthony Molina (RHP) – Colorado Rockies (via Rays)

Anthony Molina was another player who was able to make the Opening Day roster in his new team’s bullpen. With the Rockies, you would figure that Molina had every opportunity to make the roster.

The start to his Major League career was rocky… to say the least.

His debut was a bittersweet one. In only 1/3 of an inning, he allowed six runs on six hits and a walk. With the Rockies setting their eyes on the future, Molina is going to continue to get every opportunity to try to settle in at the big league level.

While he is still posting an ERA over seven, the former Rays prospect is still on the Rockies’ big league roster.

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Shane Drohan (LHP) – Chicago White Sox (via Red Sox)

The Drohan selection was an interesting one and the start to his White Sox career has been no different.

After missing all of spring training with an injury, the White Sox immediately placed Drohan on the 60-Day injured list as he continued to work back from left shoulder nerve decompression surgery.

With Drohan still rehabbing from the injury, he is still protected from the current Rule 5 rules which gives the White Sox a chance to continue to evaluate his future in their organization. Barring a dramatic development, he is likely to stick with the ballclub.

Nasim Nuñez (SS/2B) – Washington Nationals (via Marlins)

The Nationals selecting Nuñez in the Rule 5 Draft was a bit of a head-scratcher. Throughout his professional career in the Marlins organization, Nuñez has been known as a glove-first player with above-average speed.

The issue was that his bat has never really translated the way the Marlins had liked, and was the reason he went unprotected heading into the draft. The reason the Nats taking him was a surprise is that it seemed as if they were content with using a spot on their 26-man roster on a defensive replacement, or pinch runner, later into their games.

As the season continues to progress, the pre-distinguished role for Nuñez has seemed to come to fruition. The Nationals have a bright young shortstop named CJ Abrams that looks to be the brightest spot of their future, so Nuñez’s playing time was always going to be limited.

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Ryan Fernandez (RHP) – St. Louis Cardinals (via Red Sox)

Fernandez had a strong spring training for the Cardinals and led to his eventual debut on the Opening Day roster.

Though it took some time for him to make his big league debut, Fernandez has put on a strong showing for his new team. Entering May 21, he was pitching to a 3.20 ERA with 24 strikeouts across 19.2 innings.

This is a great sight to see after many questioned whether he would even stick on the Cardinals roster after being “misused” by the organization at the beginning of the year. The Cardinals have been known to be devoid of pitching for quite some time now, so the selection of an arm in the Rule 5 Draft should not have come to the surprise of anyone.

As the Cardinals continue to try and right the ship and find their identity, Fernandez looks to have established a role in their ‘pen.

Justin Slaten (RHP) – Boston Red Sox (via Rangers – traded to BOS by Mets)

What a ride it was for Slaten on the day of the draft.

After being taken by the New York Mets during the draft, he was immediately traded to the Boston Red Sox and has been a great success for a Boston pitching staff that has impressed everyone compared to what the expectations were coming into the season

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In 26 innings, Slaten has pitched to an ERA slightly over three, but a sub-2 FIP and generating ground balls over a 50% mark. Slaten has utilized a three-pitch mix of a cutter, sweeper, and four-seem fastball at an equal usage throughout the 2024 season, which is what enticed the Red Sox to make the trade for him.

The Red Sox pitching development team has done a great job with their pitching staff as a whole and is a big reason why they have had as much success as they have had this season. With Slaten continuing to be one of the Red Sox’s best relief pitchers, he looks to have entrenched himself within the organization going forward.

Deyvison De Los Santos (3B) – Cleveland Guardians (via Diamondbacks)

Even though they have been quite successful this year, and continue to win games at a high rate, the Guardians returning De Los Santos to the Diamondbacks was puzzling. During Spring with the Guardians, he posted an OPS of .545 across 44 plate appearances but wasn’t enough to convince Cleveland that they should use a spot on the 26-man roster on him.

Granted, De Los Santos had not played an inning over Double-A in his professional career so far, but the power is tantalizing. There were a lot of concerns with his profile at the plate with the high strikeout rates throughout the years, but he had seemed to make tangible changes to his approach and cut that number down significantly.

As of May 21, De Los Santos was just recently promoted to Triple-A Reno after posting a 1.122 OPS and 14 home runs in Double-A Amarillo.

Stephen Kolek (RHP) – San Diego Padres (via Mariners)

With pitching seven scoreless in Spring, Kolek was able to make the trip to Seoul for the Padres’ first game of the MLB regular season.

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After a rocky start to the season, Kolek has been able to settle in, for the most part, in the San Diego Padres bullpen. The Padres always have high aspirations for their ballclub, as evidenced by the aggressive move to trade for Luis Arráez as early as they did.

With a 4.50 ERA across 22 innings thus far, Kolek may be on the roster bubble as his last six outings have resulted in five earned over 6.2 innings. While I do not see the Padres cutting Kolek, I would not put it past this organization to cut ties in a move they feel betters their playoff chances going forward.

Carson Coleman (RHP) – Texas Rangers (via Yankees)

The selection of Coleman came with the knowledge that he would not pitch for the Rangers in 2024 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2023.

With that idea, the Rangers thought the chance to stash him on their Injured List as he recovered was something they were willing to do. As shown above, Coleman isn’t void of pitch-ability. His fastball profiles as an above-average pitch and is something I am sure this Rangers front office is excited to see on the mound in Arlington in the future.