In each of the last four years, Neal Huntington has made a selection in the Rule 5 draft. In 2008 the Pirates selected Evan Meek. In 2009 it was Donald Veal. In 2010 they had John Raynor. This year the Pirates have shortstop Josh Rodriguez, selected from the Cleveland Indians. Each year the Pirates have opened the season with their Rule 5 pick on the roster, although that could change this year.
In Colin Dunlap’s notes after Sunday’s game with Tampa Bay, he noted the following:
From what Neal Huntington said in the pregame news conference, by mentioning that Josh Rodriguez would be in a good situation with the Cleveland Indians if he went back there with this Rule 5 deal, it seems likely Rodriguez is on the outside looking into a roster spot right now with the Pirates.
Because the Pirates have kept their Rule 5 pick for the start of each season in each of the last three years, it’s been assumed that Rodriguez will make the team. However, there is some competition for the middle infield bench spots, which could force Rodriguez off the roster. Corey Wimberly is an intriguing option, adding a lot of speed off the bench, with the ability to play both middle infield spots, and the outfield. Pedro Ciriaco is strong defensively at shortstop, and could be a good starting option if Ronny Cedeno continues with the inconsistent performance that we’ve seen from him in the past.
So far Rodriguez has seen more playing time, although it’s early. Heading in to today, he’s played three games, with five at-bats. Ciriaco has played two games, with three at-bats. Wimberly has played two games, with two at-bats. Both Ciriaco and Rodriguez started in today’s game against the Yankees. Obviously not a lot can be made off of a few days of Spring Training action, although the early playing time favors Rodriguez.
Wimberly brings speed and versatility, while Ciriaco brings strong defense to the table. Rodriguez also brings something to the table, and that’s some power from the middle infield position. Rodriguez is also the only player the Pirates would lose if he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Despite their individual strengths, none of the options really project to be starting material in the majors in the future.
The choice between the three players really comes down to a preference between the individual strengths. If the Pirates want to focus on defense, the choice would be Ciriaco. If they want power, the choice would be Rodriguez. If they want speed and a guy who can also play other positions, the choice would be Wimberly. Considering that they might have power off the bench with guys like Garrett Atkins, and considering they’ve been aggressive on the bases, and have focused on speed this off-season, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wimberly ends up winning the middle infield bench spot over Rodriguez.