The Pirates not only will face a lot of difficult decisions in removing players from the 40-man roster, but also in adding them. Two factors contributing to the crunch are the numerous trades in which the team acquired prospects and surprising seasons from several players who’ve been around a while. What follows is a list of the more significant players in the system who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, as well as a few players who’d be eligible for free agency if not placed on the roster.
Eric Fryer – Fryer has had a big season at Bradenton, hitting for power and average, and showing good plate discipline. Unfortunately, he also missed a third of the season when he fell prey to the hit-in-the-face syndrome that’s been sweeping the team’s far system. Fryer’s a good defensive catcher; he’s thrown out over 40% of opposing base stealers in 2010 and 37% in 2009. Although he turned 25 at the end of the season, his performance was good enough, and catching prospects are rare enough, that the Pirates should seriously consider adding him to the roster.
Jim Negrych – Negrych spent some time in AAA due to injuries and got off to a good start, but the Pirates sent him back to AA after he cooled off. He has to rely entirely on his bat and hasn’t put up the kind of numbers he needs to be considered a prospect. He won’t be added.
Jesus Brito – Brito struggled at West Virginia, showing why the Pirates were able to acquire him for Brian Bixler despite his overall .353 BA in 2009. He won’t be added.
Brian Friday – When he hasn’t been struggling with injuries, Friday has hit just enough to stay on the fringes of the radar screen. He projects as a utility player and not a regular, making it doubtful that he’d be selected in the Rule 5 draft if available. My guess is that the Pirates won’t add him to the roster.
Alex Presley – After coming out of nowhere to tear up the Eastern League, Presley continued to hammer the ball in his first five weeks in AAA before slumping in August. The problem is that he’s 25. Like Friday, I don’t think he has the upside that would make him a good candidate to be taken in the draft.
Starling Marte – Marte is eligible for the Rule 5 draft after four years of pro ball because the Pirates signed him at age 19. He’ll be added to the roster.
Brandon Moss – After perhaps resurrecting his career with a strong AAA showing, Moss faces heavy competition for a corner utility spot from some combination of Ryan Doumit, John Bowker, Jeff Clement, Alex Presley and Steve Pearce. Just a guess, but I think the Pirates will let him leave as a free agent.
Rudy Owens – He’ll be added.
Jared Hughes – Hughes has made some strides in AA, especially since moving to the bullpen. For one thing, he’s finally missing some bats. But I can’t see adding him to the roster.
Mike Crotta – Several factors probably make Crotta attractive to the team’s current management: He’s 6’6”, he’s an extreme groundball pitcher, and his fastball sits around 94 mph. He struggled through much of his first two months in AAA, but he’s pitched much better since early July. I’ve wondered for some time how Crotta would do in the bullpen, as he’s sometimes had a pattern of pitching very well early in games but getting hit hard starting around the third inning. It’s conceivable the idea could appeal to some other team enough to lead them to pick him in the Rule 5 draft. The Pirates might send him to the Arizona Fall League to evaluate him for possible addition to the roster.
Tony Watson – Watson was lights-out as a reliever, nearly unhittable against LH batters. He’s generally pitched well since moving to the rotation. Scott Sauerbeck proved to be Cam Bonifay’s best Rule 5 selection, so the possibility of a team taking a prospective LOOGY wouldn’t be anything new. Still, if the Pirates saw Watson in that light they probably would have promoted him to AAA instead of moving him to the rotation. For that reason, I don’t think they’ll add him to the roster, but they should consider it.
Jeff Locke – A lock to be added.
Nate Adcock – Despite having a good season at Bradenton, Adcock doesn’t have great stuff and may only project as a middle reliever. He’s far from being major league ready. There are reasons for the Pirates not to add him to the roster, but I think there’s a good chance they will.
Craig Hansen – Hansen is currently on a minor league contract as he tries to overcome Parsonage-Turner Syndrome. He’s made limited progress. The Pirates might try to bring him back on another minor league deal. It’s very unlikely they’d add him to the 40-man league roster.
Jean Machi – Machi got some attention with a big showing in winter ball and looked like a potential callup, but he’s been mediocre with Indianapolis due to erratic control. The Pirates may try to sign him to another minor league deal, but they won’t add him to the roster.
Dan Moskos – Despite his meltdown in AAA, the Pirates will add Moskos to the roster. Power lefties don’t grow on trees.
Mike Dubee – The Pirates plainly don’t consider Dubee’s stuff sufficient to mark him as a prospect, but he attracts attention because he’s consistently put up excellent numbers at Altoona. He won’t be added.
Diego Moreno – Excluding players who were just drafted, Moreno has the best velocity in the system. He’ll be added to the roster.
Tom Boleska – When he’s been healthy enough to pitch, Boleska has showed some promise. He’s pitched a little better in AA than he did before his promotion from Bradenton. He probably hasn’t been consistent or healthy enough, though, to earn a place on the roster.
Duke Welker – Welker has made a surprising transformation from a low-90s-throwing, very hittable starter to an upper-90s-throwing reliever who misses bats and the plate with great frequency. He’s still too much of a work-in-progress to get added to the roster, but it’d be interesting to see what would happen if he started throwing strikes.
Locks to be Added: Marte, Owens, Locke, Moskos, Moreno.
Possibilities: Fryer, Friday, Presley, Moss, Crotta, Watson, Adcock.