A closer look at the Blue Jays upcoming Rule 5 Draft-related decisions

The Toronto Blue Jays are currently rostering 38 players on their 40-man roster, leaving only two slots at present to add a prospect or a free agent.
Oct 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Adam Macko plays for the Peoria
Oct 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Adam Macko plays for the Peoria / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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A chance to draft the next George Bell or Kelly Gruber?

Conversely, with the Blue Jays front office hoping to add multiple position players this offseason to replace Matt Chapman, Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Belt and Whit Merrifield; could they uncover another George Bell, a Rule 5 draft pick from the Phillies in 1980 who went on the win the AL MVP in 1987? Or another Kelly Gruber, who was drafted from Cleveland in 1983 and went on to two All-Star nods, plus Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards in 1990?

Here’s a list of all Blue Jays Rule 5 picks in their 47 year franchise history, highlighted by Bell, Gruber, Manny Lee and Willie Upshaw. The most recent pick was then-18-year-old Elvis Luciano from the Kansas City Royals in 2018, who stayed with the Blue Jays through their 95-loss 2019 season, but didn’t pitch with any MLB organization in 2023 after becoming a free agent.

Last year’s Rule 5 Draft

Fifteen players were selected in MLB’s 2022 Rule 5 Draft last Dec. 7. Of those, eight were returned to their original team, while seven remain on the 40-man rosters of the teams that drafted them. The ages of those players who stuck with the team who’d selected them ranged from 23-year-old Mason Englert of the Detroit Tigers to 33-year-old Wilking Rodríguez of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Two of the Rule 5 picks last year had solid 2023 seasons with their new MLB teams: 27-year-old Ryan Noda had a bWAR of 2.3, an OPS of .770 and OPS+ of 121 for the cellar-dwelling Oakland Athletics, banging out 16 home runs with 54 RBI in 128 games. Kevin Kelly, 25, went 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA and ERA+ of 135, pitching 67 innings with a WHIP of 1.015 for Tampa Bay.

What about Ricky?

Assuming he’s not called up before then, top Blue Jays prospect Ricky Tiedemann won’t be R5-eligible until December of 2025. Jays players eligible after next season include Damiano Palmegiani and pitchers Chad Dallas, Hayden Juenger, Connor Cooke and Conor Larkin.

We’ll see which R5-eligible players are left unprotected by their organizations on Tuesday, and start speculating on who the Jays could potentially draft themselves for the first time in the R5 Draft since 2018, as well as which players other teams might covet from the Blue Jays system.