Who Should Be Protected From the Rule 5 Draft?

Locke is a guarantee to be added to the 40-man roster today.

Today marks the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters, and protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 draft, held on December 9th.  Teams have until midnight tonight to set their rosters, which should provide for a lot of transactions to watch throughout the day.  The Pirates have the following players who are Rule 5 eligible:

Eligible From Previous Years:

Adenson Chourio
Anthony Claggett
Craig Hansen
Melkin Laureano
Michaelangel Trinidad
Michael Crotta
Adam Davis
Michael Dubee
Miles Durham
Casey Erickson
Shelby Ford
Jared Hughes
Matt McSwain
Jim Negrych
Jordan Newton
Kris Watts

First Time Eligible in 2010:

Nathan Adcock
Eric Avila
Jesus Brito
Brandon Holden
Jeff Locke
Austin McClune
Miguel Mendez
Gerlis Rodriguez
Gabriel Alvarado
Maurice Bankston
Tom Boleska
Brian Friday
Eric Fryer
Erik Huber
Ryan Kelly
Noah Krol
Jairo Marquez
Kyle McPherson
Daniel Moskos
Eliecer Navarro
Anthony Norman
Andy Vasquez
Tony Watson
Duke Welker

The current 40-man roster has two open spots, which will be used to protect some of the above players.  The Pirates will likely protect more than just two players, which means we should see a few spots opened throughout the day.  After midnight, teams won’t be able to add internal players to the 40-man roster, leaving those players exposed to the upcoming Rule 5 draft.  So which players will the Pirates protect, and which players will they clear from the roster?

Your Vote: Who Would You Protect From the Rule 5 Draft?

Tim Williams

It was previously believed that the Pirates had a major roster crunch on their hands, until it was discovered that Starling Marte, Rudy Owens, and Diego Moreno won’t be Rule 5 eligible until the 2011 draft.  The Pirates don’t have as many players to add, although that just makes some of the decisions on the fringe prospects a little more difficult.

When a player is drafted in the Rule 5 draft, the drafting team must keep that player on their 25-man roster the entire season, or waive the player and offer him back to his original team.  A lot of focus goes in to which players are drafted, but the real focus should be on which players are retained.  Below is a chart that tracks the number of players drafted by position over the last four drafts, and how many of those players were protected the entire season (note that “protected” includes players being lost to their original team, with the exception of trades that were worked out between the drafting and former clubs).

The most popular pick during this time has been pitchers, and for obvious reasons.  It’s easy to hide a pitcher on your 25-man roster all season.  It’s even easier to hide a right handed pitcher, as seen in the protection percentage.  It’s also easier to hide outfielders on the bench, although outfielders and other position players aren’t selected that often.

Catchers and corner infielders don’t get drafted often.  No team wants to rely on a Rule 5 guy as their backup catcher, and teams don’t want to carry three catchers all year.  The one catcher who was protected was Jesus Flores, protected by the Nationals in 2007.  Corner infielders don’t get drafted often mostly because teams don’t leave valuable corner infielders unprotected, but also because teams don’t usually carry a backup first or third baseman.  The one middle infielder who was protected was Everth Cabrera in 2009.

The players the Pirates need to protect can be broken down in three categories:

1. Guarantees – This includes Jeff Locke, Daniel Moskos, and you could make an argument for Nathan Adcock.

2. Fringe Prospects – These are guys who have put up good numbers, but might not project to be more than bullpen/bench guys.  They include Brian Friday, Eric Fryer, Tony Watson, and Michael Crotta.

3. Good Players in the Low Levels – These guys have put up good numbers, or have shown talent, but are all taking a huge jump from their previous level to the majors, making it unlikely that they would be protected.  This group includes Eric Avila, Kyle McPherson, and Eliecer Navarro.

I would definitely protect Locke and Moskos.  Locke is one of the top pitching prospects in the system, and Moskos was one of the best relief prospects in the minors last year.  I am concerned about Adcock.  The fact that he hasn’t had success above high-A is a concern, especially considering his only success at high-A came in a pitching friendly league, and he struggled during the second half of that successful season.  I’d still protect him, considering that the Pirates have expendable players on the 40-man roster.

I wouldn’t protect anyone from group number three.  In the rare event that one of those guys gets taken, I doubt they remain in the majors all season.  As for group two, that all depends on who would be dropped from the 40-man roster.  I don’t see any of those four players as bench/bullpen options, and losing them isn’t a big loss if the Pirates already have a similar player on the 40-man roster.  The question is, do the Pirates have similar players on the 40-man roster?

I don’t think Brian Friday is worth protecting.  He’s basically got the upside of a backup middle infielder with a poor bat.  The Pirates have that in Pedro Ciriaco, only with much better defense.  Eric Fryer has the potential to be a Major League backup catcher, and had an impressive year at the plate in 2010, although it was in high-A at an advanced age.  Since the Pirates lost Erik Kratz, I would protect Fryer.  He should start the 2011 season in Altoona, and could be in the majors by 2012, maybe sooner, as a backup option.

Michael Crotta had a good season between AA and AAA in 2010, although he’s not much more than a middle relief prospect.  He’s a good sinker ball pitcher, but I’m not sure he’d be a big upgrade over the guys he would be replacing.  Tony Watson, on the other hand, is a left hander who can also get right handers out.  He doesn’t have a lot of velocity, but could be a younger, cheaper and possibly better, Brian Burres.

I would protect Locke, Moskos, Adcock, Fryer, Watson, and maybe Crotta if there was room.

As for the room, the Pirates have two open spots, which means they need 3-4 spots cleared for the above group.  The players who I would get rid of:

Zach Duke – It’s pretty much a guarantee he will be non-tendered, although the Pirates might try to trade him before making a final decision, making it unlikely he gets removed for a Rule 5 guy.

Delwyn Young – He’s eligible for arbitration, but his production isn’t worth arbitration prices, and the Pirates probably won’t get anything for him in a trade.

Argenis Diaz – With Pedro Ciriaco on the 40-man roster, and Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison coming up from AA, Diaz is expendable.

Brian Burres – I don’t see the Pirates holding on to him with all of the similar/better options on the 40-man roster.

Chris Leroux – He’s got good stuff, but hasn’t put it all together yet, and probably would pass through waivers unclaimed.

Other Players Who Could be Removed – Ramon Aguero, Alex Presley, Joe Martinez

I would remove Delwyn Young, Brian Burres, and Chris Leroux first to make room for Fryer, Adcock, and Watson.  I don’t think I would protect Crotta, just because I don’t think he’s any more valuable than one of the options I’d have to get rid of, like Diaz, Aguero, Presley, or Martinez.

As for the remaining players, there will be a lot of guys passing through waivers over the next few days, and the Pirates have first dibs on all of them.  I’d expect at least one waiver claim, like the Pirates did last year in adding Chris Jakubauskas.

Overall I would add Locke, Moskos, Adcock, Fryer, and Watson, clearing Young, Burres, and Leroux to make room for those players.

Wilbur T. Miller

The Pirates currently have 38 on the 40-man roster. They have to clear a roster spot for every player they need to protect, minus two. The task, though, is easier than most people thought it would be. They appeared to have five players who were locks to be protected: OF Starling Marte; LHPs Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke and Dan Moskos; and RHP Diego Moreno. It turned out, however, that Marte, Owens and Moreno aren’t eligible for the Rule 5 draft until next year.

That leaves just Locke and Moskos as players who are certain to be protected. Locke shouldn’t require any explanation. Moskos had a big year in AA, but hit a serious bump during an abortive promotion to AAA, when he couldn’t throw strikes. Nevertheless, he’s a LHP whose velocity reaches 95 and who showed an ability to dominate in AA.

Some other possibilities to consider:

Nathan Adcock, RHP: Adcock had a very good, but not dominant year in his second try at high A. With a good curve but only a marginal fastball, his upside is probably 5th starter/long reliever. Moreover, his performance dropped off as the 2010 season went along. The fact that the Pirates left at high A for a second full season, despite him having a strong first half, probably shows that they don’t think he has great upside. I’d guess that they won’t protect him.

Mike Crotta, RHP: Crotta got off to a brilliant start in AA in 2010, but after an early promotion went back to being very hittable. His fastball now sits at 91-94 and he has very good control, but his performance has never quite matched his stuff. His ceiling is probably long relief. It’s very unlikely the Pirates will protect him.

Brian Friday, IF: Friday had a chance to establish himself as a legitimate candidate to play short for the Pirates, but had a mediocre season in AAA. He probably also lacks the defensive upside the Pirates are looking for, and they moved him primarily to second in AAA to make way first for Argenis Diaz and then for Pedro Ciriaco. Teams don’t look for utility players in the Rule 5 draft. I doubt he’ll be added to the roster.

Eric Fryer, C: Fryer is maybe the most interesting of the borderline cases. He has distinct pros and cons. Among the pros: He’s a very athletic catcher with good defensive skills and a strong arm, and he’s coming off a big season offensively. Well, a big half-season, as he missed half the year after being hit in the fact by a pitch. On the negative side, at 24 he was old to be playing in high A, and his hitting has been erratic during his minor league career. Catchers are difficult to hide on a major league roster, but on the other hand Fryer’s defense is good enough that he might be able to handle a seldom-used-backup type of role, and good defensive catchers with any offensive upside at all are not common. I think the Pirates should protect Fryer, but I’m not sure whether they will.

Kyle McPherson, RHP: McPherson had a strong season at West Virginia, allowing few baserunners and fanning over a batter an inning, thanks to an outstanding changeup. He’s made only slow progress in four pro seasons, though, and I don’t believe the Pirates will add him to the roster.

Tony Watson, LHP: Watson seemingly was relegated strictly to relief work by a history of significant injuries. He had a great year in relief for Altoona, completely shutting down left-handed batters. Pressed into the rotation late in the season, he pitched very well after a couple shaky outings. The fact that he returned successfully to starting will enhance his status with the team’s current front office, which doesn’t place much value on lefty specialist relievers. I think the Pirates will protect Watson.

Altogether, that’s three players I think will be added to the roster: Locke, Moskos and Watson. To do that, the Pirates would have to clear just one more roster spot. There are a lot of possibilities.

Zach Duke, LHP; Andy LaRoche, 3B; and Delwyn Young, IF/OF: There’s very little chance of Duke returning to the Pirates in 2011, and a very good chance LaRoche won’t after his complete collapse at the plate. Young also has not panned out, as he hasn’t hit well enough to compensate for his lack of defensive skills. The Pirates, however, will no doubt be trying to trade one or more of these three, almost certainly including Duke. They’ll probably want to continue their efforts right up until the non-tender deadline, which is two weeks after the deadline for setting the roster.

Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart, RHPs: Both are out of options and coming off shoulder surgery, and neither is likely to be ready for the majors by opening day. Nevertheless, they both have considerable upside if they can get healthy. I think the Pirates will put them on the disabled list at the beginning of the 2011 season and try to get them ready for the majors through rehab assignments.

Ramon Aguero, RHP: Aguero had a miserable, injury-plagued 2010 season, but he throws in the mid-90s and has a good changeup. I don’t see the Pirates removing him from the roster.

Brian Burres, LHP: Burres pitched as well as he’s likely to pitch in 2010 and still had an ERA of 4.99 and WHIP of 1.53. Pitchers like him are useful, but shouldn’t be taking up space on the 40-man roster. The team should, and probably will, release Burres. They may try to re-sign him to a minor league deal.

Jeff Karstens, RHP: The Pirates won’t remove Karstens from the roster again. He finished third on the team in innings in 2010 and they value him too much as a swing man.

Chris Leroux, RHP: I’m really not sure why the Pirates chose Leroux off waivers, but he hasn’t had a chance to pitch much for them and has an option left. His performance in the upper minors has never been very good, so the Pirates may try to outright him to AAA.

Joe Martinez, RHP: Martinez profiles more as AAA depth than anything else, and struggled after the team acquired him from the Giants. There’s little evidence that he could help them as a starter in the majors any time soon, and they’ll have several actual prospects moving up to AAA, so it’s hard to see what purpose is served by Martinez staying on the 40-man roster.

Argenis Diaz, SS: Diaz has gone nowhere with the bat and the Pirates now have the very similar, but somewhat better, Pedro Ciriaco. He’d become a free agent if the Pirates removed him from the 40-man roster, though, so that might discourage them.

In summary, I think the Pirates will remove Burres from the roster to open the final spot.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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