The biggest issue with the upcoming roster crunch will be the players who are eligible for the 2010 Rule 5 draft, which takes place on December 9th, 2010. The following is the complete list of Pittsburgh Pirates players who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
The first group of players are eligible for minor league free agency, which I went over yesterday. If these players re-sign with the Pirates as minor league free agents before the draft, they would be eligible.
Yung Chi Chen
Jonathan Van Every
The next group of players have been previously eligible for the Rule 5 draft, but aren’t eligible for minor league free agency yet.
Jose De Los Santos
The biggest name from this group would be Michael Crotta, with the season he had this year between AA and AAA. Crotta doesn’t really project as more than a middle reliever, so the loss wouldn’t be huge if he was drafted. He was eligible for the first time in 2009, but didn’t have the success during the 2009 season that he saw this year. I wouldn’t say that anyone here is at risk of being selected.
The third group will be eligible for the first time this year.
I’ve gone over these guys several times, so the summary of who I think should be kept is below:
Definitely need to be protected: Nathan Adcock, Jeff Locke, Starling Marte, Diego Moreno, Daniel Moskos, Rudy Owens
You could make an argument for: Tom Boleska, Brian Friday, Eric Fryer, Kyle McPherson, Eliecer Navarro, Tony Watson
Fryer, McPherson, and Navarro might be too far from the majors to be at any risk of sticking the entire season. I talked about this issue the other day, along with Tony Watson’s chances of being protected.
One interesting name that hasn’t been talked about a lot is Eric Avila. Avila had a big year this year in the Gulf Coast League, hitting for a .277/.327/.472 line with seven homers in 195 at-bats, which is good for the very pitcher friendly GCL. Avila was signed in 2006 at the age of 16, and spent three years in the Venezuelan Summer League. In his final year, the 2009 season, he hit for a .315/.358/.494 line with nine homers in 267 at-bats.
By comparison, Starling Marte was also signed in 2006, and only spent two years in the Dominican Summer League, before moving to the US in 2009. Marte started the 2010 season in Bradenton, due to his success last year. Marte is a year older than Avila, but obviously ahead, since Avila would optimistically project to be in West Virginia next year at the age of 21, while Marte was a level higher at the same age.
Avila doesn’t really stand a chance at being drafted, as there’s no chance he jumps from the rookie league to the majors. However, a strong year next season could put him on the map, especially if he moves up to full season ball in West Virginia and has success at the level.
The Pirates definitely have space on the 40-man roster to protect the six guys in my first list. They also have space to add one or two of the guys from the second list. However, there are only 40 spots on the roster, and 25 of those spots have to go to the major league team. You also need a few spots for major league depth. Finally, you can’t assume that every available spot will be open by November 20th, the deadline for players to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. For example, the Pirates are expected to non-tender Zach Duke, but the non-tender deadline is a few weeks after the Rule 5 deadline, and the Pirates will most likely try to trade Duke before making any decisions on whether to tender him a contract.
That might mean losing the opportunity to protect someone like Tony Watson, but at the same time it could give the Pirates a chance to acquire a prospect better than Tony Watson. Due to that reason, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates leave some guys unprotected, and just hope that those players don’t get drafted, and don’t get protected the entire 2011 season. That would allow the Pirates to try and get some sort of a return on guys like Duke or any of the other non-tender candidates.