27 Outs Baseball Network

Disabled List Keeps Rule 5 Opportunity Alive for Glenn Sparkman

Photos by Tony Capobianco

After three seasons in the Kansas City Royals’ farm system, Glenn Sparkman was going to get his shot to the show with another team thanks to the Rule 5 draft. Given the Toronto Blue Jays’ reputation at this function, Sparkman should consider himself fortunate.

The Rule 5 draft occurs on the final day of the Baseball Winter Meetings every December. It’s fair game for any minor leaguer who is not on their Major League organization’s 40-man roster and were either 18 or younger upon their signing going into their fifth Rule 5 draft, or 19 or older going into their fourth.

The Blue Jays snagged the likes of George Bell, Willie Upshaw, Kelly Gruber and Manny Lee, who helped bring Toronto its first World Series championship in 1992. The Blue Jays found recent success in the Rule 5 draft with last season’s selection of reliever Joe Biagini, who jumped from Double-A to the big leagues, posting a 3.06 ERA and striking out 8.2 per nine innings in 60 relief appearances as a rookie.

Sparkman’s career has been an enigma. He showed his potential during his first two seasons which included a stellar 2014 season in the Single-A Advance Carolina League where he went 8-3 with an outstanding 1.56 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. His 2015 season was cut short in Double-A Northwest Arkansas after four solid outings due to Tommy John Surgery. His first season back was a bit of a struggle, posting a 5.22 ERA spanning four different Minor League levels from rookie to Double-A.

Still, the Blue Jays decided to take a chance on him in the Rule 5 draft with hopes of him possibly ending up like Biagini. However the injury bug bit Sparkman during spring training in the form of a right thumb injury after two outings and ended his attempt at the Blue Jays bullpen.

But the injury actually bought him some time. Entering the spring originally as a dark horse in the race for the bullpen, had he not made the 25-man roster by Opening Day, Sparkman would’ve been offered back to the Royals for $50,000. The disabled list was the loophole for Sparkman to remain in the Blue Jays organization and reach his big league destination.

So far, Sparkman has made a Minor League rehab start in Single-A with the Dunedin Blue Jays and in Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. If he moves up to the Buffalo Bison it would be his first appearance in Triple-A. As someone who is rehabbing an injury, this gives Sparkman his best chance to stay with the Blue Jays but a decision will soon have to be made once he is deemed fully healthy to theoretically pitch for the big league club.

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