Despite the Rule 5 Draft's risk factor, there have been more than enough success stories to encourage teams to continue taking shots on Minor Leaguers left unprotected by their organizations -- especially considering the price tag.
Today's Major League rosters are dotted with Rule 5 players who made it. Here's a look at the top players selected in the Rule 5 Draft since 1990:
1. Josh Hamilton
Rule 5 selection: By Cubs from Rays, 2006. Traded to Reds on Draft day
There's a new sheriff in town. Since MLB.com started running this Top 10 list, Johan Santana sat atop it, but the seasons Hamilton had in 2010-2011 move the outfielder into the No. 1 slot. He followed up his 2010 MVP season with another All-Star campaign, the fourth straight time he was named to the game. Even though he missed time with injury, he hit 25 homers and drove in 94 runs. He now has a very impressive .308/.366/.543 line in his career. Even with that 2009 season that saw him miss all but 89 games, Hamilton's 162-game average in his five-year big league career is a robust 32 homers and 117 RBIs.
2. Johan Santana
Rule 5 selection: By Marlins from Astros, 1999. Traded to Twins with cash for Rule 5 selection Jared Camp on Draft day
Dropped to No. 2 for the first time, Santana missed the entire 2011 season. His resume is nonetheless impressive. He has two Cy Young Awards on his shelf and finished third in 2005 and '08. For his career, the four-time All-Star is 133-69 with a 3.10 ERA and 1,877 strikeouts in 1,908 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit .226 against the southpaw. His strikeouts per nine innings rate has dropped a bit, but it's still 8.85, good for 10th all time. If he bounces back in 2012, he could still bounce back up to No. 1 on this list.
3. Dan Uggla
Rule 5 selection: By Marlins from D-backs, 2005
After a very sluggish start with the Braves this past year, Uggla ripped off an extraordinary hitting streak and finished with the kinds of numbers people have come to expect from the power-hitting second baseman. He topped the 30-homer mark for the fifth straight year and now has 190 homers in six big league seasons. Yes, he continues to strike out a lot -- he averages 158 K's per 162 games -- but he also draws a fair share of walks, even in a "down" year like 2011.
4. Shane Victorino
Rule 5 selection: By Padres from Dodgers, 2002. Returned to Dodgers, May 2003. By Phillies from Dodgers, 2004
The two-time Rule 5 selection had another solid season for the Phillies, being named to his second All-Star team. He once again had double digits in doubles, triples and homers (his 16 triples tied him with Jose Reyes for the National League lead). He also went 19-for-22 in stolen-base attempts. He and the Phillies made it to the postseason again, even if they didn't go as far as people expected. Victorino has a career line of .279/.344/.438 with 162 stolen bases while providing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Not bad for a guy twice passed over.
5. Joakim Soria
Rule 5 selection: By Royals from Padres, 2006
The Soria express took a little step back in 2011. While he still racked up 28 saves, his ERA and hit rate climbed while his strikeout rate declined. Still, he's just 27 and the Royals picked up his $6 million option, so they still believe in him. With 160 saves in his five-year career, he's no doubt the best Rule 5 reliever taken in the aforementioned timeframe. He still has a 2.40 career ERA and a 9.7 K/9 ratio. Hitters have just a .210 average against him and he has a nifty 1.04 WHIP. He's now 13th on the career active saves list.
6. Miguel Batista
Rule 5 selection: By Pirates from Expos, 1991. Returned to Expos, April 1992
Batista gets the Rule 5 longevity award as he has now pitched in parts of at least 17 Major League seasons, including his brief time in the bigs in 1992 after being taken. The Pirates didn't keep the right-hander, sending him back to the Expos after pitching him in just one game, but clearly they saw something in him. He's filled a number of roles over the years, closing in 2005 (31 saves) and making 243 big league starts. He's hit double digits in wins five times and now has amassed more than 1,900 career innings. He might have more lives than a cat, getting released at age 40 by the Cardinals and then going on to pitch very well for the Mets in 2011, moving him one more spot up on this list.
7. Fernando Vina
Rule 5 selection: By Mariners from Mets, 1992. Returned to Mets, June 1993
Vina holds steady in this spot after sliding down in recent years, largely because of inactivity and the success of the active players above him. Clearly Seattle had the right idea when it drafted Vina from the Mets. But after 45 at-bats with the Mariners in 1993, Vina was given back to New York. He made the Majors for good in 1994 and went on to make an All-Star team and win a pair of Gold Gloves. Even though he was hurt for much of 2003 and '04 before retiring, a .282 career average and more than 4,200 big league at-bats say he deserves to be on this list.
8. Scott Podsednik
Rule 5 selection: By Rangers from Marlins in Minor League phase, 1997
Podsednik's magical ride may have begun to come to an end in 2011 as he played in just 34 Minor League games. Then again, it seemed like he was fading away before and he's roared back to life. He did it in 2009 with the White Sox, hitting .304 with 30 steals as their leadoff hitter. He had a solid '10 season as well, with 35 more stolen bases. Even if he is finally riding off into the Rule 5 sunset, he is a good choice to be Exhibit A for why everyone should also pay attention to the Minor League phases of the Draft. You never know when one of those guys is going to develop. It took Podsednik a while to get going, in 2003, when he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting. He was an All-Star two years later on the White Sox World Series-winning team. His 35 steals in '10 marked the sixth time he'd hit that plateau (four others were 40 or more) and he now has 301 career steals to go along with a .279/.340/.381 line.
9. Willy Taveras
Rule 5 selection: By Astros from Indians, 2003
When the Astros selected Taveras, they realized they wanted to keep him, but in the Minors. So they made a trade so they could keep him and let him continue to develop. In two seasons with the Astros, he hit .284 with a .340 on-base percentage and 68 steals. He was then dealt to the Rockies and he proved to be a catalyst in their run to the 2007 World Series, hitting .320 with 33 steals over 97 games. He took off, literally, in '08 with his 68 steals, leading the Major Leagues. He swiped just 25 in '09, the first in the past five in which he didn't top the 30-steal plateau. Still, he was among baseball's leaders with 194 steals from 2005-09, but he had just 37 plate appearances in 2010 and didn't reach the big leagues at all in '11.
10. Frank Catalanotto
Rule 5 selection: By A's from Tigers, 1996. Returned to Tigers, March 1997
Even though the Tigers left Catalanotto unprotected in 1996, they knew they had a good player on their hands. He moved from Double-A to Triple-A after the A's returned him to the Tigers, then made his Major League debut in the 1997 season. It took him a while to establish himself, but he went from being a super-sub with the Rangers to an everyday outfielder for the Blue Jays in 2003, when he hit .299 and set career highs in homers and RBIs. Even though he missed much of the 2004 season due to injury, he still hit .293, then improved that to .301 and tied a career high in RBIs in '05. He hit .300 in '06 to bring his career average to a nifty .297. He parlayed that into a three-year deal back with the Rangers in '07, settling into a utility role in Texas and continuing that with the Brewers in '09, though it looked like 2010 might have been the end after just 25 big league at-bats with the Mets. From the humble beginnings of being a Rule 5 pick, Catalanotto has played in more than 1,200 big league games and collected more than 1,100 hits in 3,824 career at-bats.
Honorable mentions: Antonio Alfonseca, Luis Ayala, Jared Burton, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Flores, Jay Gibbons, Graeme Lloyd, Javier Lopez, Matt Mantei, Evan Meek, Guillermo Mota, Ivan Nova, Alexi Ogando, Jorge Sosa, Derrick Turnbow.