Each team’s most recent Rule 5 keeper

Five keepers were suspended just as a result of ……..

While a solid percentage of picks in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft get at least some big league time the season following their selection, it’s not so easy to stick around for an entire year.

Below is the last Rule 5 selection (or player traded for immediately following the Rule 5 Draft) for each team that stuck all year. This was no small task, as we had to go digging far into the past to find a player who fit the bill for some teams.

Blue Jays: Elvis Luciano, RHP (2018)
Luciano was just 18 years old and had yet to pitch above Rookie ball when the Blue Jays plucked him from Kansas City’s system in 2018. He was deployed selectively out of Toronto’s bullpen, often working multiple innings, and posted a 5.35 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 24 walks in 33 2/3 innings (25 appearances) before a right elbow sprain prematurely ended his season in mid-June. Luciano hasn’t pitched in the Majors since and has gone unsigned since becoming a free agent in November 2022.

Orioles: Tyler Wells, RHP (2020)
Taken from the Twins organization in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Wells was a solid option out of the Orioles’ bullpen. The righty tossed 57 innings and recorded a 5.4 K/BB ratio (65 strikeouts, 12 walks) with a 0.91 WHIP. He moved into the rotation for most of the past two seasons, amassing a 2.8 bWAR in the process and appearing out of the bullpen in the postseason in 2023.

Rays: Kevin Kelly, RHP (2022)
The former Guardians sidearmer was an important contributor to the Tampa Bay bullpen in his first season as a Major Leaguer. His 67 innings led full-time Rays relievers, and he sported a 3.09 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 2.0 BB/9 in that span. Kelly relied heavily on a 89-91 mph sinker and mid-70s sweeper to keep hitters off-balance from his lower arm angle.

Red Sox: Garrett Whitlock, RHP (2021)
The Red Sox grabbed Whitlock away from the rival Yankees with the fourth pick in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. The then-25-year-old righty became a bullpen fixture for Boston, recording a 1.96 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 17 walks over 73 1/3 innings. He has continued to be effective while serving the Red Sox in a variety of roles the last two seasons.

Yankees: Billy Parker, INF/OF (1973)
The Yankees rarely make a selection in the big league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, which is why it’s been 50 years since they took a player whom they held onto — and Parker spent three years in their system without playing in New York. The last Negro Leaguer to play in the Majors, he was the first parks and recreation director in Surprise, Ariz., where the field the Rangers and Royals make their Spring Training home is named after him.

Guardians: Trevor Stephan, RHP (2021)
One of three players taken from the Yankees organization in the Major League phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Stephan struck out 75 batters with a 4.41 ERA over 63 1/3 innings for Cleveland. He has continued to pitch well in a relief role for Cleveland in the two seasons since.

Royals: Brad Keller, RHP; Burch Smith, RHP (2017)
One of the best Rule 5 success stories in recent memory, Keller has been an 9.0 bWAR player for the Royals since the club acquired him from the Reds — after Cincinnati had selected him from Arizona’s system with the No. 5 pick in ’17. The right-hander spent six seasons on the Royals’ staff, posting a 4.27 ERA over 679 innings, before heading to free agency this offseason after thoracic outlet syndrome issues. Smith, whom the Royals acquired from the Mets with the No. 6 pick, stuck on Kansas City’s active roster in 2018 as well, though he was released after the season.

Tigers: Mason Englert, RHP (2022)
Englert landed in the Detroit bullpen from the Rangers organization and stuck around despite middling results (5.46 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 41 strikeouts in 56 innings). He went on the injured list with left hip tightness in late July, began to rehab a month later but didn’t get healthy enough to return to the Majors. Englert’s best pitch was a mid-80s slider that he threw more than one-third of the time, and he did show an ability to work in the zone with a 6.7 percent walk rate.

Twins: J.R. Graham, RHP (2014)
Graham began his pro career as a fourth-round Draft pick of the Braves out of Santa Clara University in 2011 and had just started a move to the bullpen in 2014 when the Twins selected him. He appeared in 39 games for Minnesota in 2015, finishing with a 4.95 ERA. After dealing with arm issues, he was designated for assignment in May 2016, then sent to the Yankees, where he appeared in 23 Minor League games, his last appearances as a pro.

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