Today is the Deadline to Protect Rule 5 Players

Today is the day for teams to protect players for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Teams have until midnight to add players to the 40-man roster, or risk those players being exposed in the draft this December. The first time eligible players this year are high school players from the 2008 draft and college players from the 2009 draft.  The Pirates currently have six open spots on the 40-man roster. They could clear more spots if needed. Other teams will be clearing spots to protect their prospects, which means the Pirates could also use a spot to claim players on waivers. That happened last year when they claimed Brian Jerolomann and Jeremy Hefner.

Below is the list of eligible players, and my thoughts on who should be protected tomorrow. Teams have until midnight tonight to add players to the roster.

First time Eligibles

Ashley Ponce, SS
Benjamin Gonzalez, SS
Carlos Paulino, C
Elevys Gonzalez, 3B
Elias Diaz, C
Evan Chambers, CF
Francisco Aponte, 1B
Gavi Nivar, P
Gift Ngoepe, SS
Jarek Cunningham, 2B
Jeffrey Inman, P
Joan Montero, P
Jodaneli Carvajal, 2B
Jorge Bishop, 2B
Junior Sosa, OF
Nathan Baker, P
Phillip Irwin, P
Porfirio Lopez, P
Quinton Miller, P
Ramon Cabrera, C
Rinku Singh, P
Ryan Beckman, P
Samuel Gonzalez, C
Tony Sanchez, C
Victor Black, P
Yhonathan Barrios, SS
Zachary Fuesser, P

Previously Eligible

BOLD = Eligible for minor league free agency

Aaron Poreda, P
Aaron Pribanic, P
Anderson Hernandez, 2B
Andrew Lambo, RF
Andy Vasquez, LF
Charles Cutler, C
Eliecer Navarro, P
Emmanuel De Leon, P
Eric Avila, 3B
Erik Turgeon, P
Francisco Diaz,  C
Hunter Strickland, P
Jeff Larish, OF
Jeremy Farrell, 3B
Jhonatan Ramos, P
Kenn Kasparek, P
Kris Johnson, P
Kyle Kaminska, P
Michael Colla, P
Quincy Latimore, LF
Stefan Welch, 3B
Tim Alderson, P
Zachary Foster, P

Rule 5 Analysis

This is a slow year for the Pirates and the Rule 5 eligibles. The players who are eligible this year are the high school players from the 2008 draft and the college players from the 2009 draft. The Pirates went heavy on college players in the top rounds of the 2008 draft, with the notable high school picks in the top 20 being Robbie Grossman, Quinton Miller, Jarek Cunningham, and Wes Freeman. In 2009 the Pirates went heavy on high school talent in the middle rounds. First rounder Tony Sanchez will be eligible, as will first round compensation pick Victor Black. But the combination of a college heavy draft in 2008 and a high school heavy draft in 2009 leaves the list a little short this year.

The players I would consider protecting are as follows:

Gift Ngoepe – He’s the best defensive infielder in the system, and might be the fastest in the system. It’s been surprising how well he has developed, and that development should continue. He’s shown some ability with the bat, although not in a consistent manner. He wouldn’t be the first speedy, plus defense shortstop with a weak bat to be added to the 40-man roster.

Phil Irwin – Irwin really stepped up this year, putting up strong numbers in Double-A and Triple-A. He could be ready for the majors next year. He’s more a depth option, with his upside being a back of the rotation starter. The Pirates would be better going with him than signing a free agent for the same role.

Ramon Cabrera – His hitting picked up in the second half, and he looked good defensively behind the plate this year. His upside is probably a backup catcher. The Pirates are thin at the position in the upper levels, and shouldn’t risk losing a guy like Cabrera.

Tony Sanchez – His defense is strong, but his bat has limited his potential upside. He did see a power increase in Triple-A, which is encouraging, although it was a small sample size and came without hitting for average. He’ll definitely be protected.

Victor Black – He’s got the stuff to be a late inning reliever, touching 99 MPH with his fastball and complimenting that with a hard slider, which gets a lot of strikeouts.

Kyle Kaminska – The Pirates added him in the Gorkys Hernandez/Gaby Sanchez trade, and he showed some promise in his limited time in the rotation between high-A and Double-A.


Borderline Players:

Jarek Cunningham – A lot of pop for a middle infielder, but poor defense and poor plate patience could limit his upside. It would also make it less likely that he gets picked, since he doesn’t play a premium defensive position.

Jeff Inman – He’s got a great arm, touching 98 MPH in instructs last year. He didn’t have success this year in Double-A from a numbers standpoint.

Nathan Baker – As a starter he struggled with control. As a reliever he looked dominant. A left-handed reliever might not have the upside to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.

Eric Avila – There’s probably no chance that he gets taken, since he’s only played in low-A. I just thought I’d point him out since he had a great second half with West Virginia, finally showing his power potential by hitting for a .291/.328/.564 line and 11 homers in 165 at-bats after the break.

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hmm no Gift. hope he sticks around.

also interesting that they still have an open spot.


Per Biertempfel its these 5 – Black, Cabrera, Irwin, Sanchez & Strickland


Strickland is a head scratcher:

“He’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this fall but he’s very unlikely to be selected.”


Not really. He’s a big pitcher with a solid fastball and a decent slider. That’s pretty much a Neil Huntington template for a reliever, as I mentioned this morning when I said he was a dark horse to be added.


Whoever wrote the player page for Strickland disagrees.

I thought the Huntington template for a reliever was Chad Qualls?


Is the lack of rule 5 eligible talent this year an indictment of the 2008/2009 drafts? Really, there are two guys on the list that need to be protected – Sanchez and Black. It will be interesting to see who else teh front office values from the long list of maybes. Last year Duke Welker got protected as a surprise, in 2010 it was Kyle McPherson.

Blue Bomber

What team would be desperate enough at catcher to carry Sanchez on their MLB roster all year? You can’t really hide a catcher. The Pirates probably have the weakest catching depth in all of baseball and I don’t think they want to put him on their 25 man. I hope they don’t add him just so we can see if anyone else would.


Any team in baseball would be able to “hide” a highly skilled defensive catcher on their roster. Even if Sanchez doesn’t hit, he has enough glove to make up for his shortcomings. If he doesn’t hit, he will make for a very good defensive replacement/spot start guy. Don’t know of a whole lot of teams that would love for a guy like him to, at the very least, be a backup.


I would say Tony Sanchez, Phil Irwin, and Victor Black are definites. Kaminska with his showing since being acquired is a near definite. Ngeope is interesting because of how raw he is — would someone take him and hide him for a whole year? He’s probably a 65% chance.

I would actually protect Carlos Paulino over Ramon Cabrera, as Paulino has an absolute laser for a throwing arm and can hit a little bit, too. I’m also a “sizeist” and don’t think Cabrera’s frame can sustain being a major league catcher.

My darkhorse pick for 40-man is Hunter Strickland. Big frame and throws hard in relief — that’s an NH pitcher right there.

Lee Young

Interesting point on Paulino/Cabrera.

John Dreker

Not much of a problem this year with prospects vs spaces on the roster. The way Cabrera is playing in Winter Ball, they might consider leaving him available, he has been bad, plus some defensive hiccups recently.

I personally wouldn’t be worried about Ngoepe, he is going to need full seasons at AA and AAA. I’d hate to protect him now and use up two options before there is any chance he will be ready.

Irwin and Sanchez seem like the must have guys, probably Inman and Black will both be protected. You figure since both have injury problems in the past, neither can be considered a sure bet, so if you have the space, keep both.

Cunningham can be left off, someone takes him it is an easy $25k. Can’t hit breaking balls, no plate patience, no defensive tools, average speed. He needs another full season at AA.

My biggest fear is what the Pirates will do with the pick. They seem to be getting worse each year at it, despite having high picks. You may not always have a chance to get something good in the Rule V every year, but you really cut those chances with bad picks and Raynor/Rodriguez/Nunez were all head-scratchers that did not come close to working out.

I’d rather they took no one, as opposed to forcing a bad player on the roster in a limited role


Yeah since MLB added the extra year of control (4 years for college, 5 for HS/latin) the odds of players slipping through decreased significantly. The Rule 5 draft is really just a place to get bullpen arms these days.

It is curious why NH keeps going for bats.


It would be interesting if they didn’t protect Ngoepe as he is the exact type of player the Pirates seem to claim every year


Is it possible that opposing GMs have placed good defensive SS on their 40 man roster to create a false sense of actual value for those players that they then used to lure NH into an ill-fated trade?

Lee Young

I would hate to see us leave off a 95 MPH FB guy, esp since we seem to be fond of picking them up ourselves.

I wonder if Gift would get taken just like we’ve taken guys like Gustavo Nunez.

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