The Astros left Koby Clemens and Drew Locke, among others, unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. That seems like a risk to me. Hopefully, Ed Wade is right when he says he put himself in the place of the other GMs and felt that they would not be players who could be kept on a ML roster for a full season. But the Astros reached that same conclusion regarding a young pitcher named Johan Santana and he was selected in the Rule 5 draft. I'm not saying that Clemens or Locke can become franchise type players, like Santana, but it does show that teams can miscalculate when it comes to protecting Rule 5 candidates.
Teams think the way Wade has in this case and still get surprised when players, who don't appear advanced enough to stay on a major league roster, do get picked and succeed. In the recent past, the Mets believed that A-level catcher Jesus Flores wasn't advanced enough to make a ML roster. However, he was drafted by the Nationals a couple of years ago to be the team's third string catcher, but ended up showing that he was good enough to be a starting catcher--and continues on the Nats' ML roster. Outfielder Brian Barton was thought to be safe, given a down year in the minors, but became a successful Rule 5 pick of the Cardinals in 2007, showing decent production as a platoon player in the 2008 season. Dan Uggla is similar to Locke, to the extent that he showed good production in AA but Arizona left him unprotected because he was viewed as too old for that level. Uggla was drafted by the Marlins and became one of best offensive 2d basemen in baseball. Josh Hamilton is another recent example of an outfielder who was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and became an All Star after he was selected. The Rays apparently felt that Hamilton's troubled history and low development level (his recent play was in A ball) would keep teams from drafting him.
I honestly felt that the Astros should give Locke a shot at competing for a major league roster spot as a back up outfielder. Given his advanced age, I don't think AAA will do anything for him other than make him a Quad A player. That would seem to make him a perfect candidate for the Rule 5 pick. Wade's decisions must indicate that he doesn't think that Locke can compete for a major league back up position with the Astros are anywhere else. Clemens is a longer shot for a Rule 5 drafting team, but his age and versatility as an emergency back up at several positions might help. If a team has room to keep a third string catcher, like the Jesus Flores example, he might get drafted. In both cases, the eye popping stats for Clemens and Locke will draw some attention. Clemens led all minor league players in RBIs, with 123. Locke was the best run producer in the Texas League, despite missing a month or so with an injury, and the last I looked he continues to hit well in the Venezuela Winter League.
I certainly hope that Wade's calculation is correct, and this doesn't come back to bite the Astros.