Fantasy Baseball's Tumbling Dice: Rule 5 Gambles

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on March 11, 2014 @ 19:43:17 PDT

 


If you are in a deep league -- that is, an AL- or NL-only format, or a mixed league with 20 or more teams -- ensuring everyday production can be a tough thing to achieve for all your slots.

Of course, there are always the injury issues that plague us, but the other issue is ineffectiveness followed by a demotion to the minors, and that is where a gamble on Rule 5 selections can be advantageous.

Rule 5 players, for the uninitiated, are players with five years of service and no major league time played. At the end of each season, teams must determine which of their minor league players to protect, and those five-year minor leaguers who are not covered can be selected by the remaining teams in what amounts to a snake draft.

Milwaukee Brewers RP Wei-Chung Wang
Wang doesn't follow rules

The caveat with Rule 5 players is the selecting team must keep the player on the active roster for the duration of the coming season, or put the player on waivers, allowing the other MLB teams a shot at the claiming him.

A lot of the time Rule 5 players are total busts, but, sometimes, as in the cases of Josh Hamilton and Johan Santana, teams hit paydirt with the Rule 5 selections.

So, let's look at some of the Rule 5 players for 2014 and their possibilities for contributing some fantasy success on our team.

Patrick Schuster (P, 23, Padres): Schuster, a 13th-round selection by the Diamondbacks in 2009 out of J.W. Mitchell High School, suffered up and downs as he struggled to simply pull himself out of the lower reaches of the minors. A starter until 2011, Schuster seemed to hit the wall with High A Visalia in 2013 (4-5, 4.90 ERA) with the move to the 'pen early in 2012. But, the southpaw responded last year going 0-1, 1.83 with 45 whiffs over 44 1/3 innings and a 1.08 WHIP. The Astros grabbed Schuster as a Rule 5 pick, and then turned him over to the Padres to complete the Anthony Bass deal. Schuster will get some innocuous mid-relief time to start with the Pads, so he could be a sneaky help. But, also remember incumbent closer Huston Street is hardly a durable commodity, so a chance for some saves might be out there.

Adrian Nieto (C, 24, White Sox): Drafted by the Nationals out of Plantation High School (Fla.) in the eighth round in 2008, Nieto has a pretty solid eye (165 walks, 301 whiffs, .345 OBP) but not much stick as witnessed by his .254 batting and .385 slugging averages. Another youngster who struggled to make it to High A, let alone succeed, Nieto had a sort of breakthrough season in 2013 at Potomac, hitting .282-11-53 over 109 games. With questionable Tyler Flowers as the No. 1 backstop on the South Side of the Second City, Nieto might have a real chance to step up and show what he can do. Certainly, in an AL-only format he deserves some consideration as a No. 2 catcher.

Tommy Kahnle (P, 24, Rockies): The Yankees selected Kahnle in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, out of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., although unlike most young hurlers, as a reliever. The truth is Kahnle has performed pretty well since signing (6-9, 3.07 ERA, with 26 saves and 285 strikeouts over 214 innings), logging a successful season at Class AA Trenton in 2013 with a 1-3 and 2.85 marks that included 15 saves and 74 punch-outs over 60 frames. On the Rockies, with aging LaTroy Hawkins as the incumbent closer, anything is possible, and in an NL format, Kahnle as a $1 middle man is not a bad bet (even better as a reserve pick).

Wei-Chung Wang (P, 21, Brewers): Signed by the Bucs out of Taiwan in 2011, Wang needed Tommy John surgery, and that allowed some machinations within the Rule 5 rules that allowed the Brewers to select the lefty last winter. Wang, who only has an MLB resume playing in the Gulf Coast League last, did very well with a 1-3, 3.23 record over 11 starts and 47 1/3 innings. During that span, Wang whiffed 42, allowed 37 hits, and walked a miniscule four batters, good for a 0.87 WHIP. It is hard to imagine such success with a jump from the Gulf Coast League to The Show, but those numbers -- and Wang's arm -- should be ready to the task.

Michael Almanzar (3B/1B, 23, Orioles): Probably the longest shot on this list, but one of the few Rule 5 chances this year who is not a hurler, Almanzar has pretty good power, but not a lot else. With a .250-49-304 line that includes 135 doubles, the third sacker has only 158 walks to 543 strikeouts (.302 OBP) as a minor leaguer. His biggest challenge on Baltimore -- aside from making contact -- is that Chris Davis plays first and, when healthy, Manny Machado plays third. So, barring an injury, Almanzar gets time DHing and maybe spelling the hot corner pending the return of Machado.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.

Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.

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