Reviewing the 2011 Rule 5 Roster Crunch

Marte is a must protect for the 2011 Rule 5 draft.

We’ve reviewed the upcoming Rule 5 roster crunch before, noting that the Pittsburgh Pirates will have a lot of players eligible for the upcoming draft in December.  With about half a season in the books, let’s review the best of the first time eligible players, broken down by category.  The categories will be:

Must Protect - The obvious choices

Good Talent - Guys with the talent, but lacking the results

Depth - Guys who are putting up good numbers, but ultimately fill a depth role, like a backup catcher or a bullpen arm

Fringe - Fringe prospects who have a good tool, but stand little chance of being protected, and probably won’t be more than a bench player in the majors

MUST PROTECT

Chase d’Arnaud - There’s a good chance that d’Arnaud won’t be on this list by this time next week, as he might be getting the call to the majors.  At any rate, he deserves to be added to the 40-man roster, and the 25-man roster, well before November, when the roster decisions need to be made.

Starling Marte - He’s living up to the hype that made him our #2 overall prospect heading in to the year.  Marte has a .335/.368/.464 line in 239 at-bats at the AA level.  On top of that, his defense is very strong in center field, with a great arm.

Jordy Mercer - He started off slow, but has been on fire in May and June, hitting over .300 each month, with an .858 OPS in May, and a 1.017 OPS so far in June.  He has 11 homers in 230 at-bats this year, and you can never dismiss a middle infielder with those power numbers and the defensive abilities to play shortstop.

Rudy Owens - He hasn’t had the best numbers in AAA, with a 4.70 ERA in 67 innings, along with a 4.6 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9.  I would still protect him, as you can’t dismiss what he’s done the previous two seasons.

Aaron Pribanic - He might be the sleeper on this list, but the sinkerball pitcher has a 2.86 ERA in 66 innings at the AA level.  He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, with a 3.7 K/9 ratio, but he also limits walks, with seven walks in his 66 innings this year.

Justin Wilson - His primary concern is a control issue, with a 4.2 BB/9.  However, his control issues come from a lot of late movement on his pitches, which makes him hard to hit, with 67 hits in 73 innings.  He’s got good overall numbers, with a 3.45 ERA, and his stuff is great.  He could be a special pitcher if he could learn to control the movement on his pitches.

GOOD TALENT

Andrew Lambo - He’s young, only 22 this year, and he’s got talent, but his numbers have been horrible in AAA.  So far he’s hitting for a .194/.270/.309 line.  That might call for a move back to the AA level to fix whatever isn’t working.  At this point I couldn’t see him getting protected by another team.

Brian Leach - Leach has great stuff, with a 94-96 MPH fastball, but his control has been horrible, with an 8.4 BB/9 ratio, and he’s just not getting results.  He was demoted back to high-A, and doesn’t seem like a risk to be taken.

Diego Moreno - Moreno might have the best stuff of any relief prospect in the system, but like Leach, he’s not getting results.  He’s got a 5.33 ERA in 25.1 innings between high-A and AA.  His strikeout ratio of 10.3 K/9 is great, but his 3.9 BB/9 ratio, and his one hit per inning ratio are both a concern, considering he’s a guy who can hit the upper 90s with his fastball.

DEPTH

Tim Alderson - He’s having a great season, although it’s coming from the bullpen.  He has a 2.78 ERA in 35.2 innings, with a 27:13 K/BB ratio.  The results are good to see considering his struggles last year, and he’s been in the upper 80s when I’ve seen him, compared to the mid-80s last year.  I still don’t see him as more than a #5 starter or bullpen guy in the majors.

Ramon Cabrera - The 21 year old catcher out of Venezuela is putting up good numbers in high-A, with a .331/.398/.428 line in 145 at-bats.  The big drawback here is his size.  Cabrera is 5′ 7″, which raises concerns about his durability behind the plate.  He does have a thick frame, but 5′ 7″ is still pretty small.

Michael Colla - He might be this year’s Michael Crotta, which only makes sense, as I already get them confused.  Colla has a 2.84 ERA in 57 innings, with a 49:13 K/BB ratio. Even more impressive, his success has come from the rotation, where he capitalized on a Bryan Morris injury, and performed so well that he bumped Aaron Thompson from the rotation when Morris returned.  Colla has a 2.63 ERA in nine starts, spanning 48 innings, with a 39:10 K/BB ratio.

Eric Fryer - He’s arguably the number two catching prospect in the organization, behind Tony Sanchez, and is currently the closest to the majors.  He’s got a .327/.416/.535 line in 159 at-bats between AA and AAA, including a .283/.389/.500 line in his first 46 at-bats at the AAA level.  Fryer needs time behind the plate, which he is getting with Indianapolis, with 13 starts at catcher since being promoted.  I argued to protect him last year, and I’d definitely protect him this year.

Brett Lorin - He might be this year’s Nathan Adcock, as in a guy who is putting up good numbers in high-A, but might not make the cut due to questions about his stuff at the upper levels.  The Pirates can’t make the same mistake they made with Adcock.  That mistake wasn’t leaving him unprotected.  It was leaving him in high-A all year.  Lorin currently has a 2.82 ERA in 54.1 innings, with a 53:10 K/BB ratio.  He’s also 24 years old, so there’s no reason to keep him down in Bradenton.  Ultimately he profiles as a back of the rotation starter, or a strong bullpen option.

FRINGE

Jeremy Farrell - He’s putting up good numbers in Altoona, with a .292/.369/.445 line in 209 at-bats.  The downside is that he lacks the defensive skills to be a regular at third base in the majors, and he’s too injury prone.  This is his third full season as a pro, and his career high in at-bats was 289, last year.

Matt Hague - He’s always put up good numbers, no matter what level, but has lacked the power you want from a first baseman.  Hague has a .293/.346/.401 line in 242 at-bats this year.  He also has strong defense at first.  Ultimately he could be a platoon player, with a .327 average and an .812 OPS against right handers, compared to a .229 average and a .614 OPS against left handers.

Quincy Latimore - He’s got a lot of power, but that’s about it.  Latimore currently has a .220/.275/.350 line in 223 at-bats in Altoona.  He’s got six homers and 11 doubles, with his 71 strikeouts are very alarming, and currently lead the minor league organization.  He’s pretty much a one tool player, and at this point only profiles as a John Bowker type if he makes the majors.

ROSTER OPTIONS

As it stands right now, the 40-man roster is full, with three players on the 60-day disabled list.  Those players are Ross Ohlendorf, Chris Snyder, and Kevin Hart.  The only one of those three that I think is assured of a spot is Ohlendorf.  The Pirates will be losing Lyle Overbay and Joe Beimel for sure after the season, as they’re only on one year deals.  Ryan Doumit is also likely to be gone, freeing up a third spot.  They also have three other catchers on the 40-man: Dusty Brown, Jason Jaramillo, and Michael McKenry.  I wouldn’t be surprised if only one of those options returns.  That would create five spots, with at least one of those going to the guys on the 60-day disabled list.

Obviously the Pirates need more spots, and we could see those spots come from bullpen/bench guys like Steve Pearce, Brandon Wood, Pedro Ciriaco, Chris Leroux, and Aaron Thompson.  Xavier Paul, Daniel McCutchen, and Gorkys Hernandez could also be candidates, depending on how they perform the rest of the year.

On the surface, there would seem to be enough spots to protect the top players.  However, a few spots will be needed to add pieces to the major league roster over the off-season, and we also can’t rule out players who could be acquired via trade (although generally those players would just take the spot of the player who was traded to acquire them).  The crunch will affect guys like Colla, Fryer, and Lorin, or might leave guys like Lambo and Moreno exposed due to their struggles this year.

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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  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if I’d categorize d’Arnaud as a “must protect”; obviously, you don’t keep a Paul or Brandon Wood on the 40-man at his expense, but he’s still far from a safe bet to be an everyday player at the MLB level.  Of the six “must protects” listed here, I’d say he’s number six on that list, plus you don’t know what a prospective Maholm trade might bring–the Bucs could acquire someone who would push him farther down the list.  I’d also be curious to see what Fryer offers at the big-league level; given his play at Altoona, he might not slide through the Rule 5 this year, and (given the flotsam and jetsam ahead of him) it would be worth seeing if he’s a viable backup option behind the plate.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      With the numbers d’Arnaud has been putting up the last two months, along with his speed and defensive skills, you don’t leave him unprotected.  Shortstop is the hardest position to fill.  You leave a guy like d’Arnaud unprotected, and it’s a guarantee he gets claimed.  And as we’ve seen with Brandon Wood this year, it’s not hard to keep a guy on the active roster when he can play shortstop.  D’Arnaud is actually good at shortstop.

      Also, just to clarify on the order above, it’s all alphabetical by last name.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6EETLMCYZ754U2G7TFYJMCFPGU HankS

    Kevin Hart is still on the 40-man????  He hasnt throw a pitch since 1982!!!!  The Cubs deal was bad (other then harrison), then again we really didnt give up to much to get 2 DL  players and a 5’7 hitting machine… 

    Also you talk alot about Starling Marte but is the power going to be there?  if not what is the difference between him and Paul or Alex?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Hart is on the 60-day DL, so technically he’s not really on the 40-man right now.  But basically he is.

      Marte probably won’t hit for a lot of power, but he’s got strong defense in center field, and a ton of speed, which is the difference between him and Paul/Presley.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6EETLMCYZ754U2G7TFYJMCFPGU HankS

        If the Pirates sign Cutch for 5-6 yrs wouldnt that just block Marte? 

        Also Great Job on your Draft Coverage I dont know how you were keeping up with everything that was crazy!!

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I believe Marte could play in the same outfield with Cutch and Tabata.  I also think Marte is a better CF option than Cutch, and wouldn’t mind Cutch moving over to LF.

          Thanks! I think I slept like 10 hours during those three days, and ate one meal.

  • Anonymous

    If they don’t trade some of these guys, I don’t know how many they will be able to protect. I think you might see a couple bucco prospects get taken next year in the draft and Tim, How long until Starling moves up to AAA?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Marte remains in AA for the majority of the year, similar to Jose Tabata in 2009.  Marte has already been rushed through the system.  No need to move him to AAA, especially when he won’t arrive until June 2012 at the earliest.

  • Anonymous

     as the team gets better a lot of retreads will be let go.

  • Anonymous

      If  Hague can hit  around  .270 – .280 in ML  with good skills at first I would rather have him right now than Overbay who has a HR once or twice a month and doesn’t hit for avg.  How many times this season has Overbay struck out when just making contact would have helped?

    • Lee Young

      Tim…I asked this once before, but Hague is a RH batter.  Is this really correct?
      “Ultimately he could be a platoon player, with a .327 average and an .812 OPS against right handers, compared to a .229 average and a .614 OPS against left handers.”

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        Hague is a right handed batter, and has reverse splits.  It’s rare for that to happen, but it does happen.  Usually it only happens with right handers struggling against left handers, rather than the other way around.

  • F Lang

    I think you have to protect Cabrera. Especially with the Pirates catching situation the way it has been this year with injuries. Fryer is a tough call also because he has hit well and he can also play the OF.  I could easily see him getting swiped. Then again, he could be in the majors soon also.  Lattimore still has potential if he can get some patience at the plate.  But I don’t think he would get picked anyways so he is a safe bet not to be protected. (Unless he catches fire all of a sudden which he is known to do.)

  • The Hammer

    Nice piece. Fryer will definitely be protected.

  • F Lang

    After trades and expiring contracts there are a lot of spots open for most of the rule 5 guys. After looking the roster and this article over I would say the situation is not as bad as I thought. Especially considering there is still 2+ months of baseball in the minors to work out who is worth keeping and who may not be. Regardless, there are gonna be 4-5 guys that possibly have a future left hanging out there. This is a shock to Pirates fans because we are not used to having players hanging out there that other teams might want. This situation is just the residue of having more talent than in the past. Plus we have had a lot of guys that show flashes and then either stuggle or get hurt, slowing down their progress while their rule 5 clock moves forward. I wouldn’t expect next year to be anything like this year with around 20 players reaching rule 5 eligibility this year. With all the high schoolers we added the last few years and the guys we do keep making it or not making it next season I am guessing it will be easier in 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Kind of disappointing seeing some of those names on the good talent and below part of your list. By disappointing, I mean guys that we were big on as part of trade returns or over-slot draft signings.

    I guess the season is still young enough that some of them work themselves back into the must protect category. It would be more exciting if hard decisions had to be made about who to keep and who to package in a trade. Looks like we still have a bit of dead weight to jettison.