(Photo Credit: David Hague)

It Looks Like the Pirates Have Lost Wei-Chung Wang to the Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers surprised a lot of people during the Rule 5 draft when they selected left-handed pitcher Wei-Chung Wang from the Pittsburgh Pirates, drafting the lefty out of the GCL. Wang was eligible for the draft due to a technicality with his signing. When he originally signed with the Pirates, his contract was voided due to an elbow issue. Wang had Tommy John surgery, then signed a second contract. Players who sign a second contract with an organization are eligible for the Rule 5 draft immediately, even if they haven’t been in the league for 4-5 Rule 5 drafts.

Wang returned from Tommy John surgery in 2013, and had great numbers in the GCL, while flashing a fastball that hit mid-90s, and some good off-speed stuff. He had the look of a potential middle of the rotation lefty, if he could work out as a starter.

When Milwaukee took him in the Rule 5 draft, it seemed unlikely that they would be able to protect him all year. Today it seems like a guarantee that Milwaukee will be able to keep Wang on the roster, despite being in first place.

The Brewers placed Wang on the disabled list today with shoulder tightness, after calling up top prospect Jimmy Nelson for tomorrow’s start. A Rule 5 player can only be kept if he remains on the active roster or the disabled list all season. He must spend at least 90 days on the active roster to remain with the new team. Wang has already spent 90 days on the active roster with Milwaukee. Now they can stash him on the DL until the end of the season, or until rosters expand in September, at which point it won’t matter if he’s on the active roster.

This is a process familiar to the Pirates, as they did the same thing in 2009 with Donnie Veal.

It’s hard to blame the Pirates for this situation. The odds of a guy going from the GCL to the majors, and sticking, are small. The odds of it happening for a contender are even worse. If the Pirates would have protected Wang, then they would have had to speed up his development by starting the process of burning his option years. He could have gone to West Virginia as a starter this year, and he could have had one year at each level (I believe he would have qualified for a fourth option year under this scenario). That leaves no margin for error with his development, and would have made it less likely that he would have realized his upside.

Wang was ranked 30th overall in our prospect rankings prior to the Rule 5 draft.

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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, 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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  • deacs

    This is just borderline crazy. Does he have to remain on the 25 man roster next year too? What level was Veal when the Pirates drafted him? Whatever happened to that guy?

    • DG Lewis

      He doesn’t have to be on the 25-man next year, but has to use an option if he’s not.

      • deacs

        That’s it? If our starters went 7 innings a game like they magically do now I could be on board with this type of move because you wouldn’t need the pen as much. I know he was only in the GCL last year but when he came in against the Pirates I remember him getting lit up.

  • DG Lewis

    Is it petty of me to hope that he goes back to AA next year to develop and never sees the inside of a MLB ballpark again without a ticket?

    Yes, I think it’s petty of me.

    So instead, I’ll hope he goes back to AA next year, ties up a 40-man spot in the Brewers’ organization for three years as he burns through his options, then gets waived out of spring training in 2018 so they can send him back to the minors and gets picked up by someone like San Diego.

  • leadoff

    Shoulder Tightness! For the rest of the year! give me a break, this sounds like a concocted injury. The Brewers did what they could to ruin this kid by letting him get bombed so much, they might have kept nothing in the long run.

    • deacs

      You never called out of work for 3 months with shoulder tightness?

    • rip55

      he only pitched 1 inning in weeks

  • rip55

    can’t the pirates file a grievance?

  • S Brooks

    This is a seriously risky move for the Brewers, particularly if they ever want Wang to start. Good way to burn a prospect.

    • jalcorn427

      Really its only a lost year, they can stick him in A ball in 2015. He’ll then have 3 option years if he does well, so he doesn’t have to be back in MLB until 2018. His 11ish ERA certainly speaks to how unready he is. He’s a huge risk for sure since they will be burning a 40 man spot for years, but with their lack of high minor league talent it was a decent idea.

      • S Brooks

        I’m just thinking of the development path of his cohort. He was in the GCL last year, but he was 21, so age-wise he would fit in with the Jamestown staff from ’13. Now those guys – Borden, Dickson, Carle – are all getting a full season’s worth of starts at West Virginia, whereas Wang is missing out on both innings and developing his arsenal/learning how to pitch. There’s probably some value to his major league experience, but I don’t know if it makes up for the lost time and innings.

        But let’s say it does. So optimistically he would be burning his first option year at High-A next year. What the Brewers are banking on would be the equivalent of expecting Glasnow/Castro/Creasy/Kuhl/Kuchno to make it to Pittsburgh sometime in 2016 and be up for good in ’17. That’s not a bad bet for Glasnow, but Wang isn’t Glasnow. For the other four, it’s much more in doubt. Milwaukee could certainly push him more aggressively than the Pirates push their pitchers, but therein lies the risk.

        Of course, he could always pitch out of the pen, but do you stash a guy on your major league roster just so he can be a decent reliever in 3 years?

      • mysonisnamedafterRoberto

        I think you will see this more. Each team seems to have that bullpen arm that they put in to eat inning only, when things get out of control. You see Gomez filling that role for Pittsburgh. Is it worth picking up a Rule 5 prospect that may have a greater upside down the road for that role over an above average organizational pitcher? Yeah, getting hit around in the major may hurt his confidence, but it is a learning experience that may be far more valuable than a year in High A ball.

  • IC Bob

    Who cares. He has a plus 10 ERA. He gets lit up every time out. If everything went perfect he would be back in the majors in 2018. This actually worked out for the Bucs. The Brewers kept him around when they could have used someone who might have actually helped them win a game. Now he will be on their 40 man roster glumming it up for a bout 4 years.

  • Joe Sweetnich

    He will have to be on the Brewers 40 man roster or he will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft next year.

  • stickyweb

    Yeah the reality is if he turns into any kind of pitcher, it’ll probably be for a team other than MIL or the Bucs. As noted above, he will start burning options next year and be rushed through the minors after completely losing 2014’s development. So he either gets put through waivers if the 40 man issue comes up in the next 3 years (maybe less likely since the Brewers system is pretty barren right now) and gets picked up by another team or he’s rushed to MLB by 2018 not ready for the jump, and then does the waiver thing when he can’t hang on that roster.
    Either way it’s a shame for the kid and doesn’t help him or either organization out.

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