Blue Jays: Top 10 Rule 5 Selections in Team History

TORONTO - 1987: George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during an MLB game at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Canada during the 1987 season. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
TORONTO - 1987: George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during an MLB game at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Canada during the 1987 season. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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BRONX, NY – 1989: Kelly Gruber #17 of the Toronto Blue Jays poses in 1989 in the Bronx, New York. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images) /

Hitting the jackpot: A pair of All-Stars

#2. Kelly Gruber – 1983

During the 1983 Rule 5 Draft the Toronto Blue Jays stole a former 10th overall pick from the Cleveland Indians.  Kelly Gruber wasn’t quite progressing through Cleveland’s farm system at the rate they thought he should and they weren’t ready to put him on their 40-man roster.  The Blue Jays selected Gruber and what they got was a Gold Glove, Silver Slugging third basemen that finished fourth in AL-MVP votes in 1990, and one who played in two All-Star Games.

Fans around the league started to take notice of Gruber in 1989 when he was selected to the All-Star Game after hitting .308 by mid-season, and he came out hot after the break hitting home runs in three consecutive games.  Gruber’s game went to the next level in 1990 when he batting .274 on the season with 31 home runs, 118 RBI and went 14 for 16 in stolen bases.  That season he won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove at third base.

Gruber was part of three post-season teams in Toronto and did well in the first two trips.  Although he struggled offensively in the 1992 post-season, he made several great plays at third base.  Like Manny Lee, the Blue Jays would move on from Gruber after the first World Series.  Gruber would be traded to the California Angels for Luis Sojo.

Gruber would play parts of nine seasons in Toronto playing in 921 games and collecting 114 home runs, good for 16th in franchise history, just two behind Josh Donaldson for third basemen.

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TORONTO, CANADA – APRIL 8: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays is presented with the 2015 A.L. MVP Award by former player and only Blue Jays player to ever win an MVP George Bell before the start of MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on April 8, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

#1. George Bell – 1980

George Bell should go down as one of the greatest Rule 5 selections in MLB history.  Bell was signed as an 18-year old out of the Dominican Republic by the Philadelphia Phillies.  He had done very well through the Phillies minor league system, however was coming off an injury-filled 1980 season that saw him get just 58 plate appearances.  He did have eight extra base hits in those limited at-bats, but it wasn’t enough to crack the 40-man roster and he was exposed for the Blue Jays to snap up.

While he remained on the active roster in Toronto for 1981, the 1982 season was lost almost entirely to injury.  Bell would play the majority of 1983 in AAA, but would get called up in July and in his first game of the season he hit a double and home run. He wouldn’t return to the minor leagues for the next decade or for the remainder of his time in Toronto.

In Bell’s first full season in Toronto he would hit .292 with 39 doubles and 26 home runs that got him votes for the AL-MVP.  The next three seasons he would win the Silver Slugger trophy, be named an All-Star, and in 1987 he would become the first Blue Jay to win the AL-MVP.  That 1987 season, Bell batted .308 with 32 doubles, 47 home runs and a league leading 134 RBI.

Over his time in Toronto he would hit at least 20 home runs five times, 100+ RBI three times and finished with a .286 average over nine seasons and 1,181 games. One of the great video clips in Toronto history is George Bell making the game ending catch in left field for the team’s first AL East Pennant win in 1985.

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Other notable players: Tony Johnson, Dewayne Wise and Corey Thurman.

Do you agree with the list? Would you change players around?  Was there someone you thought was more deserving?