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Odubel Herrera and the Phillies are winning the Rule 5 Draft

Fourteen players were selected in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies' Odubel Herrera has been the best so far.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Who wants to focus on consecutive losses giving up 13 runs?  No one!  Instead, let's focus on something the Phillies are winning right now, and that's the 2014 Rule 5 draft.

The Rule 5 draft happens every off-season.  It allows teams to select minor leaguers from other teams who have spent 4 or 5 years in the minors without making a major league roster.  The catch is that the selected minor leaguer must stay on the selecting team's 25-man roster the entire season (barring disabled list stints) and the selecting team must pay the other team $50,000.  (There is also a minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, but that's not what this post is about.)  If the player is removed from the 25-man roster, he must be offered back to his original team at half price.

Last year, 14 players were selected in the Rule 5 draft.  The Phillies selected two players -- Odubel Herrera and Andy Oliver.  Oliver is a pitcher who pitched in 7 games for the Tigers in 2010 and 2011, but otherwise has spent his career in the minors.  He failed to make the Phillies' big league roster out of spring training and was released into free agency.  He initially signed with the Rays, but that didn't stick, and he's now in the Orioles minor league system.  Clearly, Oliver isn't how the Phillies have won the Rule 5 draft.

No, as should be quite obvious, it's all about Odubel Herrera.  When Herrera was selected this off-season, there was hope that he would make some contact, have speed on the basepaths, and not bumble his way in the field to being released.  He's done all of those things and more (such as played an essential role in Cole Hamels' no-hitter).

Going into today's game, Herrera has accumulated 356 plate appearances, is the Phils' everyday centerfielder, and has a .287/.316/.424 triple slash line, good for a .740 OPS.  He has produced a 1.4 bWAR and 1.2 fWAR.  Herrera's defense has been decent enough.  He's committed 4 errors, but leads all outfielders in baseball with a 2.78 range factor/9 innings.  Fangraphs isn't high on his defense, but they don't think he's terrible either.

In other words, Herrera is having himself a fine season.  But that doesn't tell us that the Phils are winning the Rule 5 draft this year.  What tells us that is that the other 13 guys are worse than Herrera.  Let's break it down.

There were five hitters taken in the Rule 5 draft:  Herrera, Oscar Hernandez (by Arizona), Mark Canha (by Colorado but traded to Oakland), Delino DeShields Jr. (by Texas), and Taylor Featherston (by the Angels of Anaheim).  All five are still in the majors  Here's how they've performed so far, sorted by bWAR:

Odubel Herrera 356 0.287 0.316 0.424 0.740 1.4
Delino DeShields 290 0.265 0.357 0.378 0.734 1.3
Taylor Featherston 92 0.133 0.180 0.205 0.385 0.6
Mark Canha 272 0.230 0.290 0.379 0.669 0.0
Oscar Hernandez 27 0.130 0.231 0.174 0.405 -0.3

From the bottom up, Hernandez missed three months with a hamate injury.  Canha is a backup outfielder for the A's who gets semi-regular playing time but has been replacement-level for the year.  His poor hitting is compensated for by his strong fielding.  Featherston has been a defensive replacement mostly, staying on the roster all year but seeing very limited playing time.

Only DeShields is a challenger for Herrera.  DeShields has put up a very solid season, but Herrera edges him out in most metrics.  As the chart shows, Herrera has a higher OPS and bWAR.  Not shown is that Herrera has a slightly higher OPS+ (104 to 103) and a higher fWAR as well (1.2 to 1.0).  DeShields is no slouch, but Herrera is better.

Of the pitchers selected in the draft, four have not seen major league action.  Oliver, Jandel Gustave (taken by Kansas City), and Logan Verrett (selected by Baltimore) were all released or returned to their original teams.  Dan Winkler, taken by the Braves, has been out all season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

That leaves five pitchers who are still playing this year.  Here's how they've performed:

Sean Gilmartin 34.7 2.08 1.18 0.8
Andrew McKirahan 13.3 4.05 1.27 0.1
JR Graham 53.7 4.19 1.29 0
Jason Garcia 14.7 5.52 1.57 -0.1
David Rollins 12.7 7.82 1.97 -0.4

Rollins and McKirahan have limited innings because they both served 80-game suspensions for PED use.  Garcia has limited innings because of a shoulder injury that cost him three months.

Only Graham and Gilmartin have seen significant time.  Graham is a replacement-level reliever for the Twins.  Gilmartin is having the best pitching season of the group, showing promise in the Mets bullpen.  However, his value to the Mets so far has been less than Herrera's (even more so with fWAR, which gives Gilmartin 0.4 to Herrera's 1.2).

Amidst our 2015 waste of a season, Herrera is not only a shining light, but he's also the best Rule 5 draft pick of 2014.  Kudos to the Phillies for finding this diamond in the rough.