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Rangers Lose Four Players in Minor League Rule 5 Draft

The Winter Meetings are scaled down to minor league business, and the Texas Rangers lost four prospects in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.

The lockout between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Players Association (MLBPA) has already had a significant impact on the game. Though no games are not yet in jeopardy, the Winter Meetings—the marquee event of the baseball offseason—are not generating the same buzz as usual this week in Orlando. Since no business can take place between clubs and players on 40-man rosters or big-league free agents, the MLB portion of this week's meetings were canceled.

The Winter Meetings are typically wrapped up on the Thursday of the week they are held, and the Rule 5 draft is viewed as the conclusion of the meetings. Instead, the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft is indefinitely postponed until MLB and the MLBPA sign a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

However, minor league business is still taking place at the Winter Meetings, including the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which took place on Tuesday.

What is the Minor League Rule 5 Draft?

Some of you may already be familiar with the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Players signed at age 18 or younger must be added to their club's 40-man roster within five seasons or they are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Players signed at age 19 or older must be added within four seasons. 

When the Rule 5 draft is held every December, clubs can select eligible prospects with the only cost being $100,000 and the requirement to keep that player on their active roster for the entire following season. If the player is removed, he must be put through waivers. If he clears waivers, the player must be offered back to the club from which he was selected.

In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, any of those Rule 5-eligible players who are not on their club's 38-man Triple-A roster can be selected. Clubs with a full 38-man Triple-A roster cannot make selections in the minor league Rule 5 draft, but clubs with vacant spots can make as many selections as they want until they get to 38 players.

The biggest difference between the two phases is players taken in the minor league phase do not have to be kept at the Triple-A level. The cost paid to the original club is $24,500 per player, and the selecting club can assign the player to any level of the minor leagues.

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Who Did the Rangers Select/Lose in the Draft?

The Rangers had a full 38-man Triple-A roster, so they were not permitted to select anyone. They did, however, lose four prospects in the draft:

  • INF Charles Leblanc (fourth pick by Miami Marlins)
  • RHP Abdiel Mendoza (18th pick by Toronto Blue Jays)
  • RHP Cole Uvila (26th pick by Baltimore Orioles)
  • RHP Nic Liao (27th pick by Pittsburgh Pirates)

Leblanc, 25, was selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh. In 2021, Leblanc slashed .229/.313/.455/.768 with 17 home runs and 57 RBI in 96 games with Triple-A Round Rock.

Mendoza, 23, was signed by the Oakland Athletics on July 2, 2015, and was acquired by the Rangers via trade on August 31, 2018. In 2021, the Panama native went 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 10 total appearances (seven starts) with Low-A Down East. Over 246 minor league innings, Mendoza has a 10-12 record with a 3.51 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.

Uvila, 27, was selected by the Rangers in the 40th round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Georgia Gwinnett College. In 2021, Uvila pitched very well at Double-A Frisco, recording a 2.90 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and converted all eight save opportunities in 31 innings. However, he struggled after being promoted to Round Rock. In 22 2/3 innings, Uvila registered an 8.74 ERA and 2.21 WHIP. Command was arguably the biggest issue in the transition. Uvila's walks per nine innings (BB/9) sky rocketed from 4.07 at Frisco to 6.35 with Round Rock.

Liao, 24, was selected by the Rangers in the 20th round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of Western Michigan University. In 2021, the right-hander registered a 5.43 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 56 1/3 innings between Low-A Down East and High-A Hickory. While Liao missed a lot of bats (12.6 strikeouts per nine innings), he allowed home runs at more than twice the rate he did with short-season Spokane in 2019.

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