2013 Rule 5 Draft: Wei-Chung Wang Drafted by the Brewers

Wei-Chung Wang was drafted by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft.

Wei-Chung Wang was drafted by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft.

The 2013 Rule 5 draft is underway, and the Pittsburgh Pirates surprisingly lost Wei-Chung Wang to the Milwaukee Brewers. The move wasn’t expected for the reason that Wang has only pitched as high as the GCL. It also wasn’t expected because Wang signed his contract in October 2011. Most players from the draft are high school players from the 2009 draft and college players from the 2010 draft. Wang wouldn’t have normally been eligible until the 2015 draft.

The reason Wang was eligible here is because his original contract with the Pirates was voided. The Pirates originally signed him for $350,000, but the deal was voided due to medical concerns which led to Tommy John surgery. They re-signed him to a second deal and he underwent the surgery. Any player whose original deal is voided becomes Rule 5 eligible the next draft, no matter when they signed their contract.

On the surface it would seem that Wang has no chance of sticking. He has only pitched 47.1 innings in his career, and all of those came in the GCL. The jump from the GCL to the majors is a massive one. In order to fully lose Wang, the Brewers would have to keep him on the active roster all year. I don’t think there’s a strong chance Wang is protected, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. He’s got some impressive stuff, getting his fastball up to 93-94 MPH consistently at the end of the year, and touching 95 which is where his velocity was pre-injury. He also has a really nice curveball which could be classified as a plus offering. Here is a video of Wang in his final start in the GCL.

Wei Chung Wang striking out a batter. Lefty throwing 93-94 in his fourth inning.

The combination of his fastball velocity, his command, and his plus curveball from the left side could give him a chance to stick. It’s still a long shot, but not as impossible as you might think. We had Wang rated as the number 30 prospect in the system, with a grade of 5.0, which profiles as a #3-5 starter or a closer candidate in the majors. In the short-term, Milwaukee could stash him as a second lefty in the bullpen. If Mike Zagurski can keep getting picked up by every team in the majors, then I’d say there could be a chance that a young lefty with a 93-94 MPH fastball and a plus curve could be protected.

It’s a tough situation for the Pirates because you don’t want to protect Wang on the 40-man. He would use all of his option years in the lower levels, and would need to eventually be rushed to the majors with no options. They could have rushed him by keeping him as a reliever, but he’s got more upside as a starter. If he doesn’t stick in the majors all year they would get him back, unless they were willing to work out a trade to let Milwaukee keep him.

The Pirates didn’t take anyone in the draft. They also didn’t lose Zack Thornton, who was a popular name in the Rule 5 previews.

In the Triple-A phase, the Pirates lost Charlie Cutler and Roberto Espinosa. Cutler is an organizational catcher in the upper levels who played for Altoona last year. He was selected by the Cubs. Cutler hit for a .298/.397/.420 line in 255 at-bats in his fourth season in Double-A this year. Espinosa is a lower level organizational right-hander who was selected by Toronto. He had a 2.55 ERA in 24.2 innings in the Jamestown bullpen this past year, with good strikeout rates but poor control. We had both players graded as career minor leaguers.

The Pirates took three players in the Triple-A phase. They took Tyler Sample, a right-handed pitcher from Kansas City in the first round. He was a third round pick in the 2008 draft, and was rated the number 14 prospect in the Kansas City system after the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He is 6′ 7″, 245 pounds, so he will fit right in with the other right-handers in the Pirates system. Pinetar Press has a report on him from 2012, saying he throws 91-94 MPH, touching 96 out of the bullpen. They have him graded as an organizational arm who could get a cup of coffee in the majors. He has stalled out in high-A with a 5.43 ERA in 277 innings over the last three seasons.

With their second pick, the Pirates took right-handed pitcher A.J. Morris from the Cubs. Morris was a fourth rounder in 2009, originally drafted by the Washington Nationals. He was traded to the Cubs in 2011 in a deal that sent Tom Gorzelanny to Washington. Morris was rated the number 18 prospect in Washington’s system after the 2010 season. He’s got a 93-95 MPH fastball out of the bullpen with heavy sink and an extreme ground ball rate. In 2013 he had a 62% ground ball ratio. He worked between the rotation and bullpen at the Double-A level in 2013, putting up a 4.75 ERA in 72 innings, with a 6.6 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9.

The Pirates finished the Triple-A phase by taking right-handed pitcher Felipe Gonzalez from the Yankees. He’s a 22-year-old pitcher who has only played as high as the GCL. He had a 2.23 ERA last year in 48.1 innings, with an 8.4 K/9 and a 3.2 BB/9. In my initial search I couldn’t find much information on him, but based on his career progression he looks like a lower level organizational guy.

All three players the Pirates added profile as organizational depth. Sample and Morris have good stuff, but the odds are pretty good they will just end up the next Ethan Hollingsworth, possibly putting up good numbers in Altoona next year. Gonzalez could end up pitching in the lower levels, possibly helping to fill out the new Bristol roster.

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.

Share This Post On
  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Wow! Don’t most Rule V’s end up getting returned these days?

    Doesn’t BA do something on that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Does this mean that my Jhang/Wang battery dream is kaput>

  • http://hiddenvigorish.com Hidden Vigorish

    If Wei-Chung Wang does get returned does is still burn up one of his option years? Got to give the Brewers some credit here. Pretty nice piece of scouting on their part. He looks more advanced than what you’d expect of a pitcher that has not pitched above rookie ball. Only 4 walks allowed in 47 innings.

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

      No. There’s no possible way he could be optioned. He can only be placed on waivers, then offered back to his original team if he clears. The only thing this could impact is that it could get him service time if the starts the season in the majors.

  • leadoff

    Why is it so difficult for major league baseball to up the 40 man to a 50 man roster or just do away with the rule 5 draft all together? Low revenue teams like the Pirates need to be able to protect more of their minor league players because that is their primary source of talent. The Yankees for example could exist without any minor league players below AAA.

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

      They wouldn’t go to a 50 man because of the cost. You’re talking about maybe half a million dollars extra per team in that situation. Also, if you did that, you’d kill the waiver wire.

      In this case, even if they had a 50-man, Wang wouldn’t have been protected. If he’s added to the 40-man, he would have to be in the majors by 2017. That means he would need to jump to High-A this year, Double-A in 2015, and Triple-A/MLB in 2016. Hard for him to develop under that time table. The hope would be that they get him back and send him to one of the full-season A-ball teams (probably WV). Then they could possibly protect him next year if he does well in West Virginia.

      • leadoff

        I realize everything would have to be tweaked and that they could not just go from 40 to 50 man without adjustments, but in the new major league baseball world, the low revenue teams have only one solid way to get and hold talent and as prices rise the need to be able to hold onto talent will come more into play. The Pirates need to get onto the forefront and instead of working the system, they need to actuate changing the system.

      • http://hiddenvigorish.com Hidden Vigorish

        I don’t like expanding the 40 man roster either. I do think baseball could make adjustments where perhaps teams could be penalized one of their 40 man roster spots for going over the luxury tax thresholds and perhaps the bottom 5 revenue clubs can get 1 or 2 exemptions to protect players not on the 40 man that would otherwise would be eligible for the Rule 5.

  • oldballs

    Roenicke gets another weapon. Wang will stick until Boras bullies Attanasio into signing Kendrys Morales.

  • dr dng

    I’m a bit of a Charlie Cutler fan I’ve seen him a number of times in Altoona. The guy can hit and hit for some power. His final line for last year did not necessarily reflect his season as I think his BA was hovering near .350 for a significant part of the season. Definitely, not a great fielding catcher, and I think that is what has kept him in AA. I’d bet he played more than 1/2 of his games last year as a DH. I would have thought that an American League team would have selected him as a potential DH. I think he could make it that way.

  • leadoff

    Brewers taking Wang is a sure sign the Brewers don’t expect to content next year, surely they have a better alternative in AAA for a spot on their roster than a gulf coast Pirate.

  • leadoff

    Wang shows you how much the Pittsburgh media knows about the Pirates, I heard on a radio show that the Pirates only go 5-6 deep in their farm.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      wait…the Pgh media thinks they KNOW the Pirates? Pshaw, I say.

      :)

  • freddylang

    It is what it is. A shame the Bucs have to lose a guy on a quirky rule but jumping from R ball to the majors is monumental regardless of stuff. So many things the kid needs to work on. If the Brewers do keep him all year they are no doubt admitting they will be a bad team and are building for the future…also this hinders Wei-Chung’s development for a year because he will be lucky to throw 20-30 innings.

  • CalipariFan506

    I honestly think they’ll put him on the DL for a while and dilly dally around and then return him late season so he loses a year of development just to sabotage a division rival. They already have Bernie the Brewer send down signals to batter tipping pitches. They would stoop to anything.

  • honus1

    In April the Pirates will be 25,000 dollars richer and this guy will be pitching in West Virginia.

  • https://profiles.google.com/107471995502632447673 Frank Restly

    And the Texas Rangers select in the Rule 5 draft……Russell Wilson – Quarterback for Seattle Seahawks

  • Pie Rat

    Could Thortan have been picked in the AAA phase. I’m not sure how that phase works.

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

      No. There’s a Triple-A reserve list, and he would have been on that list.