Who Should the Pirates Protect From the Rule 5 Draft?

In two weeks and one day, on November 20th, MLB teams will have to submit their 40-man rosters, complete with players protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. I’ve posted the players who are eligible before, and you should know the rules if you’ve been reading this site for any amount of time. If not, here is a quick refresher on when players become eligible.

**If a player was 18 or younger in the year he was signed, he is eligible for his fifth Rule 5 draft.

**If a player was 19 or older in the year he was signed, he is eligible for his fourth Rule 5 draft.

In most cases, this impacts high school players in the 2009 draft, and college players in the 2010 draft. There are some exceptions, primarily if a high school player was 19 when signed. That’s the case with Stetson Allie, who was a prep player in 2010, but was 19 that season.

The international signings can be a bit tricky. The rules are still the same with the 18/19 split, and most international players are 18 or younger when signed. However, there is an exception for when the count begins.

If an international player signs after the DSL season is over, his count doesn’t begin with that year’s Rule 5 draft. Instead, it begins with the following year’s draft. As an example, if a player signed in September 2009, his count would begin with the 2010 Rule 5 draft. By comparison, if a player signs in July 2009, his count begins with the 2009 draft.

Alen Hanson is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Alen Hanson is eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Previously I made a mistake with Alen Hanson, leaving him off this list. Neal Huntington confirmed that Hanson was eligible on The Rumbunter Podcast a few weeks ago. My confusion was with the above rule. When Hanson signed in mid-July 2009, he signed a contract that started in 2010. He couldn’t play at all that season in the DSL, since his deal started the following year. However, because he signed when the DSL season was taking place, he became eligible for the 2009 draft. I assumed that if he wasn’t eligible to play in 2009, he wouldn’t be eligible for the 2009 Rule 5 draft. That wasn’t the case.

I’m not sure how I made the mistake, since I had Ramon Cabrera correctly projected as eligible last year, and he was under the same circumstances as Hanson. Either way, the end result is that Hanson is eligible. It also presents a flaw with the eligibility process for international players. If Hanson would have signed two months later, he would have been eligible one year later. He also wouldn’t have had any additional experience, since he wouldn’t have been eligible to play in 2009 no matter when he signed. The advantage to signing a player earlier is that you avoid other teams getting in the bidding and driving the price up. But if two players who are the same age sign in 2009 are ineligible to play until 2010, then there shouldn’t be a scenario where one player is Rule 5 eligible in 2013 and the other is Rule 5 eligible in 2014.

That said, the rules are the rules. Here are the players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if left unprotected on November 20th, along with my thoughts on who should be protected below.

 

Previously Eligible

Aaron Pribanic
Ali Solis
Andy Vasquez
Ashley Ponce
Atahualpa Severino
Benjamin Gonzalez
Brett Carroll*
Brooks Brown*
Carlos Paulino
Charles Cutler
Darren Ford*
David Bromberg*
Eliecer Navarro
Emmanuel De Leon
Erik Cordier*
Ethan Hollingsworth
Evan Chambers
Francisco Aponte
Francisco Diaz
Graham Godfrey
Ivan De Jesus
Jared Goedert*
Jarek Cunningham
Jeff Larish*
Jeffrey Inman
Jhonatan Ramos
Joan Montero
Junior Sosa
Kenn Kasparek
Kurt Yacko
Kyle Waldrop*
Lucas May*
Luis Sanz*
Matt Hague
Miguel Perez*
Nathan Baker
Oscar Tejeda
Quinton Miller
Roberto Espinosa
Ryan Beckman
Samuel Gonzalez
Yhonathan Barrios

*Have filed for minor league free agency

None of the players on this list are really big threats to be selected in the draft. If another team did draft one of these players, it wouldn’t be a major blow to the farm system, the Pirates’ future, or even a minor blow to the system. There are some interesting guys who do stand out on this list. However, most of them have been eligible in previous drafts, weren’t taken at that time, and haven’t done much to improve their stock since.

The only player who is significantly different is Yhonathan Barrios, who made the switch to pitching this year. When I saw Barrios, he was throwing 95-96 MPH pretty consistently. He hit 99 MPH during instructs, according to a report I received from someone outside of the Pirates organization. That’s a great arm, and he’s got some nice movement with his slider and a decent changeup. However, it would be a stretch to see him go from the GCL to the majors. There are players in the lower levels who hit 99 MPH, or even who throw 95-96 MPH. If that is all it took, then guys above like Erik Cordier, Jeff Inman, and Joan Montero would also be drafted, since they’ve worked mid-90s or higher at levels greater than the GCL. Barrios will be interesting to watch next year, but I don’t think he’s a risk to be drafted, and thus, he probably isn’t a candidate to be protected.

First Time Eligible in 2013

Adalberto Santos
Alen Hanson
Casey Sadler
Clario Perez
Dan Grovatt
Dovydas Neverauskas
Drew Maggi
Elias Diaz
Gift Ngoepe
Gregory Polanco
Jason Townsend
Jimy Hernandez
Joely Rodriguez
Justin Howard
Kawika Emsley-Pai
Kelson Brown
Luis Campos
Matt Curry
Mel Rojas
Raul Fortunato
Rinku Singh
Stetson Allie
Tyler Waldron
Walker Gourley
Zachary Fuesser
Zack Dodson
Zack Thornton
Zack Von Rosenberg

Must Protect

These are guys who I would 100% protect.

Gregory Polanco will be protected in the Rule 5 draft.

Gregory Polanco will be protected in the Rule 5 draft.

Alen Hanson – He’s going to be a top 100 prospect this year, and possibly a top 50 prospect again. So he will be protected, even if he might not be major league ready until 2015.

Gregory Polanco – Polanco will absolutely be protected since he’s a top 25 prospect in the game, and could be up in the second half of the season.

Joely Rodriguez – I’d put Rodriguez on the must-protect list. I profiled Rodriguez last month, noting that the lefty was sitting 91-94 MPH with good command of his fastball this year. He has only pitched as high as A-ball, but the Pirates have protected players out of A-ball in the past. Some recent examples are Kyle McPherson, who only had four innings above low-A when he was protected, and Duke Welker, who only had ten innings above high-A, and profiled as a late inning reliever. Rodriguez is a lefty starter who throws low-to-mid 90s with good movement. At the least he’s the same value as McPherson and Welker when they were protected.

Casey Sadler – He put up a 3.31 ERA in 130.1 innings as a starter this year in Double-A. Sadler sits 90-93 MPH with his sinker, and could emerge this year as rotation depth out of Triple-A in the second half of the season. He’s got the upside as a back of the rotation starter, but could move to relief if the Pirates eventually have too many rotation options.

Borderline

These guys would be questionable for the final 1-2 spots. There is more projection involved here than the above guys, since these players have some obvious holes in their game, or a lack of upside. I could see scenarios where all of these guys go undrafted if they are left unprotected. I could also see scenarios for all of these guys where a team is willing to gamble on their upside.

Stetson Allie – He might be one of the most likely to be protected from this group, even if he has some glaring issues with his game. He’s got some impressive power, but also some alarming strike zone discipline. If it wasn’t for the strike zone issues, he would be a must protect. If it wasn’t for the amazing power, he wouldn’t be a candidate to be protected at all. Honestly, I could only see Allie being drafted by an AL team, since an NL team might have trouble carrying a backup first baseman on the bench.

Gift Ngoepe – He had a horrible season in Altoona where he was completely over-matched at the plate. The numbers were better in Bradenton, but the strikeouts were still too high. The thing about Ngoepe is that he has plus-plus defense at shortstop, and is easily the best defender in the system. He also has a ton of speed. He doesn’t profile as a guy who has a bat, but he wouldn’t be the first defense only shortstop to be protected in the Rule 5 process. It might be easier to protect Ngoepe than Rojas and Allie. Teams don’t usually go to their backup middle infielder as a pinch hitter, instead using that spot for speed and defense, which Ngoepe provides.

Mel Rojas – He profiles as a strong fourth outfielder in the majors, and might be better than that if something eventually clicks. He’s been incredibly inconsistent in his career, but did a better job of that this season. The numbers weren’t outstanding, with Rojas posting a .742 OPS. I could see him going undrafted if he isn’t protected, although there could be a team that gambles on his upside while drafting him for his immediate abilities off the bench.

Zack Thornton – He had great numbers this year, and could profile as a middle reliever in the majors. However, he doesn’t really have dominant stuff, sitting 90-92 MPH and touching 93. This is a case where the Pirates have a player who has good numbers, upper level success, and the potential for the majors. The potential for the majors could put him at risk to be drafted, especially by a team that lacks pitching depth. The Pirates do have a lot of pitching depth, which means he’s not a guarantee to be protected.

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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  • John Dreker

    I agree with the 100% candidates and Rojas is the only other one I’d protect. Ngoepe could be taken, but his bat will keep him from ever being more than a AAAA type player. Allie could be taken too, but there is no way he would stick, doesn’t have the pitch recognition yet to fully utilize his tremendous power. I will say that if he is picked, it will probably look bad the first week or so of Spring Training when pitchers are going fastball heavy. I wouldn’t be surprised if some team took Carlos Paulino and he stuck as a backup catcher all season. The bat might not play well, but defensively he would be a fine Sunday starter. I’d have him as a darkhorse to be protected

    • Born4rf

      Agree with you on Paulino, that one stood out to me but I don’t know that I would protect him anyway. I just don’t know enuff about his D but they should.

      Disagree completely on Allie and Ngope however. Look at all the people who want the Bucs to resign Barmes (including me) shows the value, and rarity of a great glove at SS. If Gift can OPS 600 he will play in the MLB, if he can brush 700, he will start in the MLB. I’d consider drafting him as an 8th inning player, either at SS or PR.. Allie won’t get any productive MLB at bats but he has that ONE THING, he can hit the long ball, he can also throw a ball 100 MPH, which makes him an intriguing player. Just as Rojas won’t be picked because he is mediocre with 5 tools, Allie and Gift each excel at ONE.

      Not sure about Sadler but I wouldn’t risk Rodriquez. Wouldn’t protect Thornton, even though he is the most likely to be drafted and stick. Great list, nice hot stove topic.

      • John Dreker

        Ngoepe is struggling in the AFL and he couldn’t hit AA pitching, which means he will be right back there next year and at minimum, two years away from being that 25th man he has an outside chance of being. His bat needs a lot of work to be a bench option and he will never be a .700 OPS player in the majors. At worst, you’re losing a .200 bench hitter with no power and a good glove/speed, who will be ready two years from now. That is easily replaced.
        Allie is too far away to worry about him sticking. He needs better pitch recognition because once he saw better breaking balls in the FSL, he was lost. He hit .229 with four homers and 82 strikeouts in 66 games with Bradenton. That won’t translate to AA next year, forget the majors. He is a first baseman only now, so his arm is useless there and pitching isn’t an option anymore. I wouldn’t be shocked if a team took him, but it would shock me if he stuck with them. He is more someone you would think about protecting next year if he progresses like he did this year.
        With both of them, you’re taking up two roster spots and you’ll have no use for either for the next two years in the majors and basing it on wishful thinking that they reach that ceiling. Both could easily never make the majors at this point.

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

      Paulino was one of the “he was eligible last year, and didn’t do much to improve his stock this year” guys. He has great defense, but no bat. He’s a good depth guy, but nothing has changed from when he went unselected last year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    No consideration for Adalberto Santos? He looks like he could be a quality utility guy with a good bat. I feel like he’s close enough to the majors for a team to take a shot with him and keep him on the roster all year…

    • Born4rf

      Love me some Al Santos but if I had a HUGE hole at on my roster I would look first at Cunningham who probably has the better infield glove and has potential infield power. Santos is more Harrison, Cunningham is more Walker. I’d role the dice towards Walker.

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

      I didn’t include Santos because his upside is a utility player with poor defense. He’s got the chance to make the majors, but he’s not a risk to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, and thus shouldn’t be protected.

  • jg941

    I was thinking of Santos, too, and maybe DeJesus (although, I didn’t think DeJesus was a Rule 5 guy, just a MiL FA). And a longshot to protect JustinHoward. I could see any of those three finding a home on someone’s MLB roster next year, but the Bucs may just be OK with that.

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

      The upside for all three of those guys is that they might become bench players in the majors. It wouldn’t make sense for a team to draft any of them, since it hurts you in the short-term, with little to no upside in the long-term.

  • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

    I would protect Allie and Barrios.

    Boston was the best team in baseball and Mike Napoli was a pretty big part of their core. I would think Allie projects as a similar player.

    • https://profiles.google.com/106508220943703406151 Kevin Anstrom

      One thing I meant to say.

      Ryan Beckman and Zack Thornton likely won’t be protected but could help out a MLB pen from day 1.

      If I was a decision maker for a team with limited pitching depth (CWS, Cubs, Mets, Nats, Orioles, Phillies, TIgers, etc.) I’d consider picking several of the unprotected arms (Barrios, Beckman and Thornton).

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrishale525 Chris Hale

    Definitely protect Allie because you just never know . He is a well known name around baseball . Also if he can make the same kind of jump he did from the end of 2012 where he couldn’t hit a lick (understandable in his first action as a professional hitter) to what he did this year in a pretty aggressive jump ,we could have a serious offensive threat . If something clicks for Allie and he takes off ,he has the kind of power to shoot into the top 100 prospects. Unlikely yes but it’s too early in his career as a hitter to write off the possibility.