The Pittsburgh Pirates set their 40-man roster today, adding four players and protecting those players from the upcoming Rule 5 draft on December 12th. The players on the lists below are eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
When a player is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, that means any team can select him in the draft, paying $50,000 to the former team. The drafting team has to protect that player by placing him on the 25-man roster for the entire 2014 season. If a team can’t keep the player on the 25-man roster, they must place the player on waivers. If the player is claimed, the new team has to keep the player on the 25-man roster or waive him. If the player clears waivers, they have to be offered back to their original team for $25,000. Rule 5 picks can be placed on the disabled list, but they must spend at least 90 days on the active roster. Otherwise their Rule 5 restrictions carry over to the 2015 season until they’ve reached 90 days total on the active roster.
A player getting picked doesn’t mean that player will be totally lost. The odds of players sticking in the majors for the entire season are very slim. It’s not impossible, as we saw with Nate Adcock a few years ago. But most players exposed to the Rule 5 draft these days amount to waiver claims. You’re not really risking a potential impact player, and the worst that usually happens is that you lose a good middle reliever or a bench player.
With that said, here are the notable players who were left unprotected, with the full list below.
Stetson Allie, 1B – I don’t see Allie getting drafted, even though he’s the biggest name that was left off the list. He probably won’t be drafted because his name and former draft position/bonus is bigger than his current prospect status. He’s a first base/DH option only in the future, with some amazing power potential. However, he currently has alarming plate patience in A-ball, which means there’s no chance he could be stashed in the majors for a full season.
Gift Ngoepe, SS – 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. It might be easier to protect Ngoepe. 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. His upside is a backup middle infielder, and that’s only if the bat improves. I don’t see teams taking a risk on him as a poor backup, only to get a slightly better backup in the long-run.
Carlos Paulino, C – He’s got some of the best defense in the system behind the plate, and could be a depth option for the Pirates if they suffer any injuries with Russell Martin or Tony Sanchez. That said, he’s got a very weak bat in Double-A, and would be horrible in the majors. He’s basically the catching version of Ngoepe. A team would have to use Paulino as their backup catcher, and the upside there is limited, as Paulino doesn’t look better than a third catcher in the long-run. He wasn’t drafted last year, and didn’t do much to improve his game this year. I could see him serving as depth for the Pirates, but I can’t see him getting drafted by another team.
Mel Rojas, OF – His upside is 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, although there could be a team that gambles on his upside while drafting him for his immediate abilities (defense and some speed) off the bench.
Zack Thornton, RHP – I think Thornton is the most likely to be drafted from this group, and the most likely to be protected. He doesn’t have the most dominating stuff on paper. His fastball sits 90-91 MPH, and he pairs that with a low 80s changeup and a 77-78 MPH slider. He did put up dominating numbers in 2013, with a 2.63 ERA, a 10.8 K/9, and a 1.4 BB/9 ratio between the top three levels of the minors. He had 25.1 innings in Triple-A, where he posted an 11.0 K/9 and a 1.4 BB/9. He’s another sinkerball pitcher, with a 61.6% ground ball ratio in 2013. Unlike Casey Sadler, Thornton gets a ton of strikeouts. He’s got the advantage pitching in relief, since he only has to worry about one inning, while Sadler has to focus on going 6+ innings each appearance as a starter. Thornton gets a lot of his strikeouts with his slider, but also can be effective against lefties with his changeup and a sinker-heavy approach. If he doesn’t get drafted, then he should start the 2014 season in Indianapolis, and could be pitching out of the Pirates’ bullpen by the end of the year as a depth option.
First time Eligibles
Zack Von Rosenberg
Emmanuel De Leon
As an addition to the above list, any minor league free agents who are signed before the Rule 5 draft are eligible to be drafted by other teams.