SAN DIEGO – For the first time in three years, since the last time the Winter Meetings took place in San Diego, the Rule 5 Draft will be held in person. That’s after it was forced into being a remote event because of the pandemic in 2020 and canceled in 2021 because of the lockout.

In years past, the Rule 5 would be the final act of the Winter Meetings on Thursday morning, with all of baseball gathering before heading to the airport. This year might have the same vibe, though the event has been moved up to Wednesday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET/2 PT (Live audio stream on MLB.com) in these slightly truncated Meetings.

What hasn’t changed at all, however, is that the Rule 5 provides a low-risk opportunity for all 30 teams find potential big league talent. Teams are going through the vast eligibles list and reviewing scouting reports to help determine if they want to make any picks.

Unlike the amateur Draft (Rule 4), whose order is now determined in part by a lottery, at least in the first round, the Rule 5 Draft order continues to be dictated by the reverse order of last season’s standings. So the Nationals, who had the worst record in baseball in 2022, have the first pick, followed by the A’s. The Pirates and Reds finished with identical records this past season, so the Pirates get the potential No. 3 pick in the Draft due to finishing with a worse record in 2021. The Reds pick fourth and the Royals round out the top five.

The Draft order
Below is this year’s complete Rule 5 Draft order. A team must have room on its roster to make a pick, so each team’s 40-man status is included in parentheses.

Players first signed at age 18 or younger must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the active Major League roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000. For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2018 had to be protected. A college player taken in the 2019 Draft was in the same position.

1. Nationals, 55-107 (38)
2. A’s, 60-102 (38)
3. Pirates, 62-100 (38)
4. Reds, 62-100 (39)
5. Royals, 65-97 (40)
6. Tigers, 66-96 (38)
7. Rangers, 68-94 (40)
8. Rockies, 68-94 (38)
9. Marlins, 69-93 (39)
10. Angels, 73-89 (40)
11. D-backs, 74-88 (40)
12. Cubs, 74-88 (36)
13. Twins, 78-84 (39)
14. Red Sox, 78-84 (39)
15. White Sox, 81-81 (36)
16. Giants,  81-81 (38)
17. Orioles, 83-79 (38)
18. Brewers, 86-76 (38)
19. Rays, 86-76 (40)
20. Phillies, 87-75 (38)
21. Padres, 89-73 (34)
22. Mariners, 90-72 (37)
23. Guardians, 92-70 (39)
24. Blue Jays, 92-70 (39)
25. Cardinals, 93-69 (38)
26. Yankees, 99-63 (39)
27. Mets, 101-61 (33)
27. Braves, 101-61 (38)
29. Astros, 106-56 (37)
30. Dodgers, 111-51 (37)

There is also a Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, with the costs rising from $12,000 to $24,000 for a Triple-A pick (anyone not protected on a big league or Triple-A roster is eligible). The Double-A phase has been eliminated. Players selected in this portion of the Rule 5 Draft aren’t subject to any roster restrictions with their new organizations.

Recent successes
The last Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft took place in 2020, with 18 selections made. Seven of them have gone on to accrue positive bWAR over the past two years, led by Red Sox right-hander Garrett Whitlock (4.7) and Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo (2.5). Both are among the top 10 Rule 5 picks of the last decade.

All-time best picks
Changes to how the Rule 5 Draft works make it a little difficult to compare across eras. Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente is obviously the best ever to be taken in the Draft, but it was a different mechanism back then. So looking at a more modern era, since 1990, here’s how a top five lines up of Rule 5 players who stuck, ranked by career WAR.

1. Johan Santana, LHP (51.7)
2. Shane Victorino, OF (31.2)
3. Josh Hamilton, OF (28.1)
4. Joakim Soria, RHP (18.6)
5. Dan Uggla, 2B (17.5)

Soria is the player on this list who has played the most recently, pitching for the D-backs and Blue Jays in 2021. Among active players taken in the Rule 5, Ender Inciarte has eclipsed Uggla with a 17.9 WAR, but he was actually returned to his original team, the D-backs, after the Phillies took him in 2012 and he made his big league debut with Arizona in 2014. Odúbel Herrera is closest among active players who stuck, with 13.4 WAR.

Top available prospects
There are a number of Top 30 prospects who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year, though typically not too many highly-ranked prospects change hands. There have been some intriguing names coming up a bit in lobby talk, like Phillies lefty Erik Miller, Braves right-hander Victor Vodnik and Rays southpaw Jose Lopez.

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