The Rule 5 Draft is quickly approaching. The deadline to protect players on the 40-man roster has passed, and the draft will commence at the end of the Winter Meetings. The current iteration of the Rule 5 draft dates back to 1997. That was just one year before the Arizona Diamondbacks’ inaugural year. But since then, who have been the best players the Diamondbacks have taken but also lost in the draft?
Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks haven’t had much success in the Rule 5 Draft. It is a shot in the dark when you take a player, so there’s no reason to blame them. Most Rule 5 draft picks don’t work out. The best thus far has been Joe Paterson. Paterson was taken in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft, and third overall off of the SF Giants.
Paterson only had one decent season, that being 2011 when he was used as a LOOGY (62 games, 34 innings). Paterson owned a solid 2.91 ERA, 3.44 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. While his 18.4% strikeout rate was about league average, and his BB% of 10% was worse than average, he was a ground ball machine with a 49.8% GB%, leading to an outstanding 0.26 HR/9.
The best Rule 5 players selected, but also lost by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, this would be the only season Paterson would ever pitch more than three innings. He’d combine for just 6.1 innings over the next three seasons from 2012 to 2014, allowing 17 earned runs and walking double the number of batters he struck out (2:4 K:BB ratio). Paterson then bounced around between the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, and Cincinnati Reds.
The Diamondbacks have lost a handful of players in the Rule 5 Draft who went on to have decent careers. Javier Lopez, Luis Ayala, and Brad Keller are some of the notables; however, the one that stings the most is former three-time All-Star Dan Uggla. Uggla was selected by the Florida Marlins eighth overall in the 2005 Rule 5 Draft.
Uggla would go on to play five seasons with the Marlins, batting .263/.349/.488 with a .361 wOBA and 118 wRC+. He was one of the best power hitters at his position with 154 home runs, a .224 isolated slugging percentage, and hitting at least 27 home runs each season, including four straight years with 30+ dingers. After a few years with the Atlanta Braves and finishing his career off with the SF Giants and Washington Nationals, Uggla ended up being one of the best power-hitting second basemen ever. Among the players who played 90%+ of their games at second base, Uggla has the 10th most career home runs.
It must have been a hard decision to leave Uggla off the 40-man roster. In 2005, Uggla batted .297/.378/.502 with 21 home runs, a 9.1% walk rate, and 18.1% K-rate for the Snakes’ Double-A affiliate. While the keystone was Uggla’s regular position, he also saw a lot of time at third base, first base, and some games at shortstop.
But second base was taken up by veteran Craig Counsell, who led the team in bWAR, Troy Glaus occupied third base at the time, and over at first base, Chad Tracy had put up a .911 OPS, while veteran 1B Tony Clark had a 1.003 OPS in 2005. The D-Backs had also just taken a shortstop in the first round of the 2004 draft, Stephen Drew.
There are a few other notable players that I think are worth mentioning. One is Tyler Gilbert, who was taken in the minor league phase of the draft in 2020. Gilbert recently elected free agency, but in his first major league start, the left-hander threw a no-hitter. Gilbert hasn’t done much since 2021, however. Another player is Ender Inciarte. Inciarte was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies 10th overall in 2010.
But the Phils opted to return Inciarte to Arizona. Inciarte ended up being a solid player for the D-Backs, slashing .292/.329/.387 with a 94 wRC+ in 2014-2015. However, he was one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. His +46 defensive runs saved was third among outfielders in these two seasons. But the Diamondbacks included Inciarte in the ill-fated Shelby Miller swap.