2023 MLB Rule 5 Draft Primer: 10 Names To Know

With the 2024 Rule 5 Draft approaching, we cover all the information you need to know about the event and the top names available this year.

WORCESTER, MA - MAY 18: Worcester Red Sox LHP Shane Drohan (15) throws a pitch in his AAA debut during a AAA MiLB game between the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Worcester Red Sox on May 18, 2023, at Polar Park in Worcester, MA. (Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

During the Major League Baseball offseason, the Rule 5 Draft is one of the most heavily anticipated events. Each year, minor leaguers who are left off of their respective team’s 40-man roster are left exposed to the draft.

In the past, notable names like Johan Santana, José Bautista, Ryan Pressly, Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Mark Canha, Anthony Santander and the legendary Roberto Clemente found themselves on the move by this process.

This year, the Rule 5 Draft will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 6th at 2:00 pm ET. Anyone attending the Winter Meetings in Nashville will have an up close and personal view of which players get selected.

Here, we’ll provide some background info on the event and what the rules are. We’ll also take a look at 10 of the top names who will be available.

Ad – content continues below

What is the Rule 5 Draft?

Specific minor league players that are not added to their team’s 40-man roster will be available for the taking by the other 29 teams in the league.

To qualify, a player that was signed at 18-years of age or younger must be added to the 40-man within five years of being drafted. If they’re signed at 19-years or older, within four seasons. This is largely put into place to prevent teams from hoarding prospects.

In 2023, this means a high school draft pick or international signee from 2019 or college player taken in 2020 will qualify.

If players are selected, the drafting club will have to pay $100,000 to acquire their services. In MLB, that sum is a pretty small amount. The player will then have to be on the club’s major league roster all year long, or else they’ll need to be offered back to their former team for $50,000.

Once said player spends the entire year on the 26-man roster, they can then be freely optioned to the minor leagues the next season.

Most times, teams use the draft as a way to fill roster holes with big league-ready prospects. Look for rebuilding organizations to be the ones that take the most gambles on some of the young talent.

Ad – content continues below

Teams will always protect their top prospects once they become Rule 5-eligible, but occasionally some slip through the cracks. Ultimately, it’s more about finding a diamond in the rough than it is swiping away a top-shelf prospect; as evidenced by the fact that none of the notable players coming up are featured in Just Baseball’s top 100 prospects list.

What did last year’s Rule 5 Draft look like?

There were a lot of intriguing names that found new homes last year.

  • Thad Ward went from the Red Sox to the Nationals, where he spent the whole season pitching out of the Nats’ bullpen.
  • Ryan Noda went from the Dodgers to the A’s. In Oakland, he spent the entire year on their roster as a power-hitting first base/corner outfielder.
  • Blake Sabol went from the Pirates to the Reds and was later traded to the Giants. He spent all year on their roster as a catcher and corner outfielder.

What order are teams drafting in?

Here is the 2023 Rule 5 Draft order; which is last year’s regular season standings in reverse order. The number in parentheses is how many players are currently on a given team’s 40-man roster.

1. A’s (39)
2. Royals (40)
3. Rockies (40)
4. White Sox (39)
5. Nationals (38)
6. Cardinals (39)
7. Angels (39)
8. Mets (33)
9. Pirates (38)
10. Guardians (39)
11. Tigers (38)
12. Red Sox (37)
13. Giants (36)
14. Reds (39)
15. Padres (31)
16. Yankees (37)
17. Cubs (37)
18. Marlins (39)
19. D-backs (38)
20. Twins (36)
21. Mariners (38)
22. Blue Jays (37)
23. Rangers (35)
24. Phillies (38)
25. Astros (38)
26. Brewers (35)
27. Rays (39)
28. Dodgers (39)
29. Orioles (36)
30. Braves (33)

10 names to know

Troy Johnston – Miami Marlins 1B

2023 stats: 134 G, 157 H, 102 R, 26 HR, 116 RBI, 24 SB, .307/.399/.549, .948 OPS

Johnston, 26, is a first baseman/corner outfielder who is one of the surest things in this year’s draft. The lefty-swinging slugger hit over .300 in the high-minors last year while striking out in less than 20 percent of his plate appearances. It seems pretty clear that his bat is ready for the big leagues. On defense, he primarily plays first base but can fake it in the corner outfield in a pinch if needed.

Ad – content continues below

Justin Slaten – Texas Rangers – RHP

2023 stats: 40 G, 2.87 ERA, 59.2 IP, 20 BB (3.0 BB/9), 86 K (13.0 K/9)

Slaten, a third-round pick by the Rangers in the 2019 Draft, surprisingly was not added to the club’s 40-man this offseason. The 6-foot-4 righty is strictly a reliever but has a high-90s fastball and lethal mid-80s slider that has scouts excited; as does his above-average spin rate that he boasts with most of his offerings. If he manages to go unclaimed in the Rule 5 Draft, it’d be a surprise.

Matt Koperniak – St. Louis Cardinals – OF

2023 stats: 129 G, 143 H, 75 R, 18 HR, 85 RBI, .287/.362/.437, .799 OPS

Koperniak, 25, hails from the United Kingdom and features much more of a contact-oriented approach than others on this list. Last year, he hit a career-high 18 home runs and drove in 85 while playing above-average defense in the outfield. He also draws his fair share of walks and doesn’t strike out much; what more could you want?

Tanner Burns – Cleveland Guardians – RHP

2023 stats: 29 G, 14 GS, 3.01 ERA, 86.2 IP, 41 BB (4.3 BB/9), 86 K (8.9 K/9)

Burns is a former first-round pick of the Guardians back in 2020, and has experience as both a starter and reliever. This versatility should only add to his value in the Rule 5 Draft. He’s not going to strike a ton of batters out and at times his control can be suspect, but he did a solid job in the run prevention category last season while only surrendering a .217 opponent average on the year.

Ad – content continues below

Nasim Nuñez – Miami Marlins – 2B/SS

2023 stats: 125 G, 110 H, 84 R, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 52 SB, .225/.341/.286, .627 OPS

When it comes to Nuñez, any team selecting him will need to be comfortable with his total lack of a bat. Through and through, he is “glove only” but also steals a ton of bases. However, modern day baseball has proven that speedy utilitymen always find homes, even when they don’t hit much. He, like Johnston, will likely be on the move.

Mitch Spence – New York Yankees – RHP

2023 stats: 29 GS, 4.47 ERA, 163 IP, 53 BB (2.9 BB/9), 153 K (8.4 K/9)

Spence’s case is interesting, as he is not featured on the Yankees top 30 prospects list per MLB Pipeline. However, he is fully built up as a starter and has shown over the past few years that he’s durable and a true strike-thrower. He has a four-seam fastball with decent movement that he pairs with a nasty cutter and decent curveball and changeup. His wide pitch mix and profile as a back-end starter that’s ready for the big leagues should land him an opportunity somewhere.

Blaine Crim – Texas Rangers – 1B/3B

2023 stats: 133 G, 143 H, 89 R, 22 HR, 85 RBI, .290/.385/.506, .891 OPS

Yet another prospect with crazy power, Crim has hit 20 or more home runs in each of the last three seasons. The 26-year-old hits both lefties and righties well and can line up at both infield corners.

Ad – content continues below

The fact that he’s blocked at the big league level by Nathaniel Lowe and Josh Jung shows exactly why the Rangers chose to leave him unprotected. He is too good to stick around the minors, so he’s earned a shot at consistent time in the big leagues.

Coleman Crow – New York Mets – RHP

2023 stats: 4 GS, 1.88 ERA, 24 IP, 6 BB (2.3 BB/9), 31 K (11.6 K/9)

Crow, who came over to the Mets in the Eduardo Escobar trade with the Angels, did not appear in a single game, as his season was already lost to Tommy John surgery.

When he’s healthy, Crow has routinely shown off a strong knack for throwing strikes.

Any team that claims him will have to do so knowing that he’ll be out all of 2024 and will have to fulfill standard R5 requirements in 2025. The talent is there, it’s just a matter of whether teams will see him as a risk worth taking.

Justin Dirden – Houston Astros – OF

2023 stats: 84 G, 73 H, 39 R, 10 HR, 42 RBI, .231/.314/.396, .710 OPS

Ad – content continues below

While the 2023 season was an injury-shortened one for Dirden, he is only one year removed from hitting 40 doubles and 24 home runs with 101 driven in. He has excellent gap power, reaches base a ton and is undoubtedly ready to become a team’s fourth outfielder in the big leagues. Defensively, he can play any of the positions out on the grass, which furthers his value.

Shane Drohan – Boston Red Sox – LHP

2023 stats: 27 G, 25 GS, 5.05 ERA, 123 IP, 72 BB (5.3 BB/9), 129 K (9.4 K/9)

Drohan made six starts in Double-A to kick off the 2023 season and was dominant. In 34 innings, he posted a 1.32 ERA thanks to just five earned runs in that time. After a promotion to Triple-A, the wheels fell off and his season never recovered. A knockout changeup is his calling card and he pairs it with a powerful four-seam fastball, curveball and cutter. He could easily be a back-end starter in a big league rotation if a team is willing to bet he returns to his Double-A form.