What was already suspected has now been reported by Zach Buchanan of The Athletic and confirmed by Baseball America’s JJ Cooper: the rest of the 2021 Rule 5 draft will not take place. The lengthy MLB lockout and compressed spring training combined to create too many complications. And the Marlins should be totally fine with that.
In each of the previous four offseasons, the Marlins selected players during the Rule 5’s major league phase. In December 2020, for example, they snatched Paul Campbell from the Rays and traded with the Diamondbacks for Zach Pop (previously with the Orioles).
It’s possible that the Marlins would’ve kept their selection “streak” alive under normal circumstances, but my guess is no. For an organization with a newfound urgency to contend for a postseason berth that has a deep group of controllable major leaguers plus several soon-to-debut impact players in need of 40-man roster spots—like JJ Bleday and Max Meyer—Miami has limited flexibility. The Marlins were active during the minor league phase, which proceeded as originally scheduled on December 8. The key difference is those players can be assigned to the Triple-A roster and don’t affect the 40-man.
On the other side of equation, the Marlins’ unprotected prospects are definitely staying put. It was a mild surprise back in November when the team declined to add any Rule 5-eligibles to its 40-man, in particular Bryson Brigman and Griffin Conine. The Fish took a calculated risk and can now breathe a sigh of relief.
Here are the 2021 individual stats, position summaries and levels of competition for some of those prospects:
A complete list of Rule 5-eligibles can be found on Roster Resource (look for the red R5 in the “Options or R5 Status” column)
There is still hope for these guys to make major league contributions in 2022 and beyond. Even if the Marlins are skeptical of them panning out, perhaps they will have enough value to other clubs to be included in future trades that either fortify the 40-man with more accomplished veterans or add depth to the farm system’s lower levels.