For the average baseball fan the Rule 5 is probably a semi-familiar term with a need for further explanation. Believe it or not the Rule 5 Draft has been around since 1950, adding an extra wrinkle to the player development equation. Only one Hall of Famer has ever been a Rule 5 draftee, guesses? In 1954 the Pittsburgh Pirates quite literally stole the legendary Roberto Clemente from the Brooklyn Dodgers. 18 seasons, 12 straight Gold Gloves, over 3,000 career hits, and one of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game, not too shabby for a Rule 5 pick!
Here's a quick Rule 5 synopsis: Major League teams must protect players on their 40-man rosters three or four years after their original signing, dependent on age. Those left unprotected are available to other teams as Rule 5 picks. But there is a condition, the selected player must remain on the big league roster for the entire upcoming season or be given back to his former team for half of the $50,000 selection price. The draft limits the amount of young talent a team can stash in the minors, while enabling other teams to capitalize with that talent on the Major League level.
The Phillies most notable Rule 5 selection is certainly Shane Victorino. In 2002 the Flyin' Hawaiian was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the San Diego Padres, only to be given back to the Dodgers in late May of that season. The Phillies made Victorino a Rule 5 pick two years later in 2004 and the story was quite different! By 2006 Flyin' was an everyday player for the Phillies and quickly became a phan favorite. His Game 2 grand slam off of CC Sabathia in the 2008 NLDS is legendary and Flyin' will forever be a part of the 2008 World Champion team.
In December the Phillies selected middle infielder, Odubel Herrera, from the Texas Rangers, in desperate hopes of infusing some much needed young talent into the big league roster. At only 23, ODB has been the major bright spot for the Phillies early on in this spring. After dominating the Venezuelan League in the winter, winning a battle title (.372), MVP, and Rookie of the Year, Herrera quickly became the talk of the town heading into camp. He has not disappointed!
Through five Spring Training games ODB leads the Phillies in BA (.500), hits, stolen bases, and OBP. The sample size is obviously small but still exciting. It doesn't take much with this 2015 team! A converted infielder, Odubel is transitioning well in the outfield having spent a majority of his winter playing CF in the Venezuelan League.
On Wednesday the Phillies notched their first win of the spring with a 3-1 victory over the hated Yankees. ODB, batting leadoff, and playing center, reached base 4 times, stole 3 bags, and scored 2 runs. Not bad for a forgotten middle infielder! The Phils are committed at shortstop with Freddy Galvis, despite his deficient bat, so finding time for ODB in the outfield and getting extra AB's this spring seems like a logical move.
Herrera has spent his entire minor-league career at second base and shortstop so leaving him in the middle infield feels right. One of the Phillies biggest needs is producing runs, and ODB replacing the below average Freddy Galvis at short seems like an easy fix. When Chase decides to hang it up, a future middle infield with ODB at second and JP Crawford at short sounds pretty enticing! But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself!
ODB has above average defense, he can hit, and has plus speed. In 2014 he won the Texas League batting title .321/.373/.402 in 96 games. He has good bat speed and an easy swing, allowing him to hit to all fields. It is still unclear whether or not Herrera will become the next Flyin' Hawaiian of the Philadelphia Phillies but I am clearly on the early ODB bandwagon! Who's down with ODB?!?