Minnesota Twins: The Best and the Worst of the Twins Rule 5 Draft History

Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins pitches in a game against Cleveland. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins pitches in a game against Cleveland. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Twins
Shane Mack of the Minnesota Twins takes a swing against the Milwaukee Brewers. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Twins’ Best Rule 5 Picks

No. 3-Ryan Pressly: Ryan Pressly was once a Boston Red Sox farmhand who was solid in the first three seasons of his pro career. Everything fell apart in 2021, as he produced a 5.38 ERA and 1.399 WHIP at Double-AA and High-A. The Sox left him unprotected heading into the draft and the Minnesota Twins pounced, taking him fourth overall.

He became a reliable piece in the bullpen for five-and-a-half seasons, producing a 3.75 ERA, 8.0 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9 in 281 games. The 32-year old was traded to the Astros in the middle of 2018, and he hit a new level of dominance after, producing a 2.21 ERA and 43 saves in 168 games.

There’s added value in the pick when you consider the trade package they got back, as the club received Jorge Alcala, a solid reliever in his own right, and Gilberto Celestino, a 22-year old speedy outfielder with a good glove.

No. 2-Shane Mack: The best offensive player the Twins have chosen in the Rule 5 Draft, Shane Mack, was a Padres first-rounder out of college in 1984. He didn’t show much with the Friars, posting an 80 wRC+ in two seasons. This kind of performance convinced the front office to leave him vulnerable in the draft.

The Twins brass saw the opportunity to add a talented hitter and took him fifth overall before the 1990 season. He didn’t disappoint. Not only did he surpass the expectations of most Rule 5 players, but he spent five years with the team, amassing 17.9 fWAR while slashing .309/.375/.479 with 67 home runs and 71 stolen bases.

From ‘91-’92, his age 27 and 28 seasons, he ranked sixteenth in all of baseball in fWAR, right behind Ozzie Smith, and two spots ahead of Kirby Puckett. During this time, he owned a .874 OPS and 141 wRC+.

Mack left for Japanese baseball after 1994, then returned to North America, playing for the Red Sox, Athletics, and Royals. He wasn’t around too long, nor was he a star, but his peak offensive output made him a steal from the Rule 5 Draft.

No. 1-Johan Santana: Technically speaking, Johan Santana shouldn’t be on this list. Officially, the Marlins picked him in 1999. We include him here because the Minnesota Twins had a deal in place to swap Santana for Jared Camp, the Twins’ pick that year.

After joining the team for the 2000 season, he wasn’t an immediate success. He produced a 6.49 ERA in 86 innings his rookie year, followed by a 4.74 ERA as a sophomore, but he lit it up from there, ending his Twins tenure with an impressive 3.22 ERA and 3.31 FIP while posting 9.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over eight years.

From 2002-2010, he was second in pitching fWAR with 44, never posting an ERA above 3.33. During his career, he was a four-time All-Star and won two Cy Youngs, placing within the top seven four other times. In 2018, the left-hander appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot but only received 2.4% of the votes, not enough to remain on it.

Santana is by far the best player the Twins acquired via the Rule 5 Draft and ranks as one of the best Rule 5 picks of all time. Now, let’s focus on the key steals that other teams grabbed from the Twins.