Pirates Prospects Who Are Eligible For the 2013 Rule 5 Draft

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 is the most likely Pirates prospect to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.
Zack Thornton is the most likely Pirates prospect to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.

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

Adalberto Santos
Clario Perez
Dovydas Neverauskas
Drew Maggi
Elias Diaz
Gift Ngoepe
Jason Townsend
Jimy Hernandez
Justin Howard
Kawika Emsley-Pai
Kelson Brown
Luis Campos
Matt Curry
Mel Rojas
Raul Fortunato
Rinku Singh
Stetson Allie
Tyler Waldron
Walker Gourley
Zachary Fuesser
Zack Dodson
Zack Thornton
Zack Von Rosenberg

Previously Eligible

Aaron Pribanic
Andy Vasquez
Ashley Ponce
Benjamin Gonzalez
Carlos Paulino
Charles Cutler
Eliecer Navarro
Emmanuel De Leon
Ethan Hollingsworth
Francisco Aponte
Francisco Diaz
Jarek Cunningham
Jeffrey Inman
Jhonathan Ramos
Joan Montero
Junior Sosa
Kenn Kasparek
Matt Hague
Nathan Baker
Oscar Tejeda
Quinton Miller
Roberto Espinosa
Ryan Beckman
Samuel Gonzalez
Yhonathan Barrios

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.

  • Two things to note:
    – Tim; I found it interesting that you did an alphabetical list – but with first names. ITunes junkie ?
    – odds are favorite that the guy taken has a first name of Zach ( spelling varies)

  • I think Runku gets drafted so that some team can steal our claim to have the first player from India in the major leagues

  • Tim or anyone else,

    Saw some of Matt Curry was he was coming up.
    I know the injury put him far behind. Does he
    have any future? His start seemed pretty
    bright early in his pro career.

  • Who is eligible for the minor league phase of the draft? I know we got Cutler and F Diaz in the past.

  • Zack Von Rosenberg, talk about a guy that fell off the face of the Earth.

  • I wonder if anyone will grab Hague, just for a Steve Pearce-like role. No big loss, but…

    I’d hate to lose Thornton and I agree that I think someone could grab him.

    As for Ngoepe, if only we could combine his glove with DeJesus’ defense.

    • If they didn’t want to lose Thornton, and the consensus is that he’s likely to be taken, then they should have DFA’d Andy Oliver today and rostered Thornton.

      • You’re missing a key word. I said “most” likely. That means of all of the players the Pirates left unprotected, I think he’s got the best chance of being taken. That doesn’t mean he will be taken. In fact, there’s a stronger chance that he won’t be taken. Thornton profiles as a future major league reliever, but other teams have relievers like him in their system.

        The only way the Pirates lose him is if he’s drafted and sticks in the majors all year. That’s not a guarantee.

    • I don’t know much about this stuff, but I would guess that Hague is hoping he gets selected. I liked what he produced as he advanced up through the minors and thought he would make it. Obviously if the Pirates do not have him on the 40 man, they do not see him in their future and how many years can a player spend in AAA. If he gets picked, he knows someone believes in him, if not, what more can he prove in AAA?

      • I also hope Hague gets a chance somewhere else, as I feel he deserves it from what he has done in AAA.

  • I don’t fully understand the decision to keep Oliver on the 40-man and leave Thornton unprotected. Oliver is out of options, yet extremely unlikely to make the parent club out of Spring Training, which makes him an eventual DFA candidate. The FO thought so little of his ability to contribute that he wasn’t even recalled when rosters expanded. His inability to exhibit any kind of control at AAA suggests to me that he wouldn’t even fetch much in a trade.

    Tim, do you have any idea what NH and company might be thinking here?

    • They might be thinking that they’re going to need that 40-man spot later in the off-season. If they add someone like Thornton, then need space later, they have to DFA him. That means a team can claim him, put him on the 40-man, and stash him in the minors. If they risk him in the Rule 5 draft, then he could get taken, but there’s a chance they get him back in that situation.

      I don’t think Oliver will be on the 40-man roster a month from now, as they’ll need his spot eventually for free agent additions.

      • But it should be much simpler than that. Is Thornton better than Oliver? If yes, and if you’re right that Oliver will be gone shortly anyway (you are), then they should have DFA’d Oliver today, and kept the better pitcher in the system for now.

        • That’s extreme short-term planning though. You have to plan ahead for how many free agents you project to sign, how many NRI players could make it out of camp, etc.

      • Great explanation Tim. I hadn’t thought about it that way and was going to ask a question very similar to Stephen. But the chances of him getting claimed after a DFA in a month or two are much greater than him sticking in the majors all season.

  • “I think Thornton is the most likely to be drafted from this group, and the most likely to be protected.”

    Most likely to be protected by the Pirates? But I thought today was the deadline to protect players?