The Phillies have done it again: they have taken a player in the Rule 5 draft. According to Todd Zolecki, the Phillies have taken outfielder Ender Inciarte in the draft from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The pick is the first since prior to the 2011 season when the Phillies selected Michael Martinez.
Inciarte is a speedy centerfielder who hit .307 last season combined at two levels of class A. He posted a .376 on base percentage and stole 46 bases. While these numbers show the makings of a leadoff hitter, Inciarte has not passed beyond the equivalent of Clearwater in Phillies terms and was likely slated for AA next season.
As we saw with David Herndon and Michael Martinez, being saddled with an extra player who may not contribute anything is difficult for a contender. For the Phillies to carry Inciarte, he would likely mostly function as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. In order for the Phillies to keep Inciarte he will have to remain on the roster for all of 2013, or be offered back to the Diamondbacks. As we saw with Shane Victorino in 2005, the team could decline to take the player back and the Phillies could keep him.
Contenders rarely use the Rule 5 draft because they need the space on their roster to function through the season. It's one thing for a team with no playoff hopes to concede a spot on the roster, but a contender may have to sacrifice productivity. The Phillies, short on offense, may need every available roster space they can get.
Inciarte hails from Venezuela and was signed as a non-drafted free agent.