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.
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.
Emmanuel De Leon
Ivan De Jesus
*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
Zack Von Rosenberg
These are guys who I would 100% protect.
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.
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.