The Rule 5 draft is today at noon EST, and is usually the last big event of the Winter Meetings. I’m not sure that will be the case this year, since this has been a very active week, and there have been a lot of transactions this morning. Either way, the Dodgers will have to briefly abandon their plan of trading with every single MLB club at noon as all of the teams get together for the draft.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Rule 5 draft process, here is a brief description:

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 2015 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 2016 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 last year with Wei-Chung Wang going to the Milwaukee Brewers. 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.

Here are the players who are eligible from the Pirates’ system. I’ve recently added Angel Sanchez to the list since it was first published, although I don’t think he’ll be drafted.

There are some players who I think the Pirates could lose, and I profiled them in the link above. Several of those players are first basemen and outfielders, with the outfielders projecting for bench roles. On Monday I wrote about how the Pirates have a lot of players at these two positions in the upper levels. If one of these guys is selected, it wouldn’t be a good thing, but it also wouldn’t really impact the Pirates much. The one guy who was left unprotected who I think would be a big loss is Jason Creasy, who was hitting 95 MPH with his fastball this year in Bradenton, working in the low-90s, while showing the best control in the system.

If you’re looking for the odds that a player might be taken, Indians Baseball Insider has a great article looking at the 11-year history of the draft. First basemen represent 2% of the players taken during this time span, which is why I think Stetson Allie and Jose Osuna are fine. Outfielders represent 9%, which means there’s a bigger chance Mel Rojas and/or Keon Broxton get selected, although it’s not huge. Middle infielders combined represent 2%, so Gift Ngoepe should be safe for the second year in a row.

As for Creasy, 72% of players selected were pitchers, with 20% being starters. That makes him the most likely to be taken, although when you look at the levels where players were selected from, the odds get better. Out of the players taken in the last 11 years, 78% were in Double-A or higher. Creasy has only played as high as High-A.

I’ll update this post throughout the draft when/if the Pirates lose anyone, or select anyone. They have one open spot on the 40-man roster, giving them room for a pick. After the draft, expect a few transactions. The first will be the finalization of the Sean Rodriguez trade, with one of the draft-eligible players going to the Rays, if he doesn’t get taken in the draft. The Pirates could start to finalize some of their free agent deals after the draft, such as Francisco Liriano’s signing, and the long-delayed Radhames Liz deal.

UPDATE 11:36 AM: Here is a live stream to follow the Rule 5 draft.

UPDATE 12:08 PM: The Pirates passed on making a pick in the Rule 5 draft.

UPDATE 12:09 PM: Round one is complete and no Pirates were selected. Andy Oliver was taken by the Phillies in round two.

UPDATE 12:10 PM: The major league portion is complete. Oliver is the only player selected from the Pirates, and the Pirates didn’t take anyone. Oliver isn’t a big loss after the trade to acquire Antonio Bastardo. It’s interesting that the Phillies were the ones to select him, since he will probably replace Bastardo in their bullpen. The Pirates could have called him up in September, but went with Bobby LaFromboise as their third lefty. They also added Clayton Richard this off-season, which means they’ve got several lefty options in Triple-A, with Tony Watson and Antonio Bastardo in the majors.

The selection of Oliver was a bit of a surprise, considering he cleared waivers earlier in the year and went un-claimed. His performance in relief with Indianapolis this year must have raised his stock a bit. He had dominant season in Triple-A, with a 2.53 ERA in 64 innings, along with a 12.0 K/9 and a 6.6 BB/9. The walks are still an issue, and are probably what held him back in the Pirates’ system. They didn’t exactly improve as the season went on, walking 13 in 12 innings in August. If he can fix his control, he could be a good lefty in a MLB bullpen, comparable to Justin Wilson.

UPDATE 12:17 PM: JJ Cooper says that Jose Tabata is eligible for the minor league portion of the draft.

I agree that he won’t be taken. But it’s interesting, because a team could draft him and store him in the minors. But the contract will hold him back.

The minor league phase has started.

UPDATE 12:22 PM: The Rays took Luis Urena from the Pirates in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft. Urena was a toolsy outfielder with a lot of raw power and a plus arm, but had horrible plate patience. The Pirates converted him to a reliever last year.

The Pirates passed in the Triple-A phase of the draft.

UPDATE 12:25 PM: The Cardinals took Tyler Waldron in the Triple-A phase. He made it to Triple-A this year, posting a 3.79 ERA in 40.1 innings. He’s got a sinker that averages 90 MPH that has reached higher in shorter outings, and a good curveball. Waldron has dealt with injury problems in the past, including shoulder problems in 2013. His upside is a reliever, with the chance of making the majors. A more conservative projection has him as an upper level organizational guy who can provide pitching depth in Double-A and Triple-A.

UPDATE 12:30 PM: The Triple-A phase of the draft is over.

UPDATE 12:32 PM: The Pirates passed in the Double-A phase of the draft. They didn’t select anyone in the entire draft.

UPDATE 12:33 PM: The roundup of the Rule 5 draft: Pirates don’t take anyone, lose Andy Oliver to the Phillies in the Major League portion of the draft, and lose Luis Urena and Tyler Waldron in the Triple-A portion. There’s a chance that Oliver could return if he doesn’t stick in the majors all year, although that won’t matter much, since he’s still low on the depth charts for the Pirates’ bullpen. He would also be eligible for minor league free agency after the 2015 season. Urena is an organizational guy, although it will be interesting to see if the Rays use him as a hitter or keep him as a pitcher (they announced him as an outfielder). Waldron has a shot at the majors, but isn’t a significant loss.

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51 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe John or Tim can answer this question…..other than having to offer the player back if they are not kept on the major league roster all season, are there any other downsides to drafting players in the Rule 5 draft? Why would a team, like the Pirates who dumpster dive on a regular basis, just take a complete pass if there are available players who may have some upside? What downside or risk would there be to take a player, in the hope that he proves to be good enough to make the major league team?

    I ask, because it is well documented that the Pirates have had a train wreck at first base for 2 years now – and as of now. Alvarez is the man and hie is coming off a horrid 2014 season. Were there not any available first basemen in the Rule 5, that would have been worthy of a look?

  2. Is leaving Andy Oliver off the 40, a gentleman’s agreement not to protect him. Like everyone said, he has more value then some they left on, but not enough value to probably be on the Pirates roster. The Pirates leave him off, and next time someone like him is looking for a job, his agents recommends that Pirates since they do things like this.

    • No, they just had no interest in protecting him. He was on the 40-man before and cleared waivers and hasn’t pitched good since, so no need to add him back.

  3. Can someone explain the how the AAA Rule 5 draft works? Does a player have to stay at AAA the whole season? I note that Luis Urena has never played about low A.

    • Nope. The cost is $12,000 and they can assign him to any level. It’s split up between Majors, AAA and AA because guys are protected at each level. The best players are added to the 40-man and cost $50,000+ they have to stay in the majors. The guys protected at AAA then are not eligible for the minor league portion of the draft. So that means Urena was either on the Altoona roster, or a lower roster. Assuming for a second that he was on the Altoona roster and wasn’t taken in the AAA part of the draft, then he couldn’t be taken in the AA part. Urena can now be assigned to any level next year.

      • So Urena is gone. Not that he seems a huge loss, I just wanted to understand.

        Thanks for the explanation. I don’t think I realized there was a minor league portion to the Rule 5 draft until last year. I searched on line, but I guess my google fu is lacking, as everything I found was about the Major League portion of the draft.

        • Players taken in the minor league portion of the draft are gone. They are basically purchases. Urena is so far from the majors and has so little experience on the mound, that it’s doubtful he makes it past low-A ball. They probably just saw the size and inexperience and wanted to see if there was anything there. The minor league picks very rarely reach the majors and you can count on one hand the amount that made an impact. Mostly, teams are just filling rosters

  4. I will never understand why they let players like Rojas and Oliver be available in the Rule 5, while protecting some of the guys that they did – namely guys like Elmore, Sellers, Decker, etc. I get that Oliver had control issues, but he still was very effective in AAA last year. If nothing else, maybe he could have been a piece to include in a trade. He certainly has more upside than the guys I named above, and there were 2-3 other players on the 40 man who are nothing more than AAAA players. Not a huge loss obviously, but an easily avoidable one in my opinion.

    • Oliver went through waivers last year, so I’m not sure why the Phillies would even take a chance on him now. If they really wanted him, they probably could have purchased him for less than $50,000 and put him in AAA. Now he has to make their team or get offered back to Pirates. Oliver would have been a minor league free agent at the end of 2015 and likely moved on since he is far down the depth chart, so he is no loss at all. If they felt a need to replace him, they could sign some minor league free agent. There are currently 50 LHP’s that are minor league free agents and many have big league experience

      • I get all that John, but didn’t the Pirates trade someone to get Oliver from the Tigers? He was a former #1 pick and supposedly had great stuff, but had control issues. The Pirates invested a couple of years of development into him, and he had a very good year in 2014 and seemed to be knocking on the door to get to Pittsburgh as a LH reliever – kind of like Justin Wilson. To then let him be exposed to the Rule 5 draft after all that, while protecting guys like Sellers, Elmore, Decker, and a couple of others is just a head scratcher to me – none of those guys would have had any prayer of being taken in the Rule 5.

        • The Pirates traded Ramon Cabrera for Andy Oliver in the 2012 offseason. Cabrera was later claimed off waivers by the Pirates last season.

        • As mentioned below, they traded Ramon Cabrera, who is a minor league free agent right now and was picked up on waivers in August. Oliver was in the majors back in 2010-11 before the Pirates got him and he really wasn’t that good last year. He had a stretch where he was good, but he was also awful at times and if the Pirates had any faith in him at all, he would have been up in September. He had no value and the pick is a shock to me just because there was a better option to acquiring him. Your third best AAA lefty reliever is easily replaced, if you replace him at all. He gave up 16 walks in his last 12 innings over 11 appearances, so he finished very poorly. I can’t imagine anyone feeling bad about losing a AAA reliever with four straight years of very poor control.

          Maybe the Phillies find something in him, but he took steps back in the Pirates organization and as mentioned above, he’s not only buried in the system, he is a year away from minor league free agency, so they could have just signed him as a free agent next year and made a much better pick.

          • I guess I was under the impression that he had made great strides last year at Indy and was on the brink of getting a call to the majors.

    • Mullet Decker is definitely a useful guy to have on call because he’s a solid defender at all three OF positions. Not sure if he’s better/equal to Gorkys, since haven’t paid any mind to Gorkys for a couple of years.

      • I cannot imagine anyone taking Decker – he didn’t even play much at Indy until Dickerson and Polanco were gone from there. He can’t hit. I’d rather have Rojas or Tabata as my 4th outfielder.

            • Think you’ll reconsider how much your valuation of players and prospects might be off from the pro’s valuations? Because I seem to recall how certain you were that he was gonna be selected and how big a loss it might be if he were.

              • You are 100% correct – I will swallow the crow on that point…..given that Rojas was a relatively high draft choice, still young, from good pedigree, his obvious physical skills, and his seemingly breakout year in 2014, I thought he was good as gone.

                Given all that, why would a team not take him in the Rule 5 – just to see if he has figured it out and ready to match his potential? I have to think there are teams out there in need of outfielders and who’s farm systems are rather barren. Other than having to offer him back if they don’t keep him on the 25 man roster all year, is there any real downside to taking a chance and taking a Rule 5?

                I noticed that several teams passed completely, including the Pirates….so there must be some other risks or downsides. Any thoughts on that?

                With that all being said, I would have still protected him over a guy like Jaff Decker!

                • Well, my thoughts on it are admittedly guesses, but…

                  All the scouting reports I’ve read about Rojas predict he develops into a good 4th OF. The only conclusion I can draw is that 4th OF’s– even good ones– aren’t all that valuable. Which I think is why the Pirates left him unprotected: they were willing to risk losing him because he’s not irreplaceable. Yeah, you’d rather not lose him, but it’s not the end of the world if you do

                  I think the reason nobody picked him up is due in part to the fact that other teams also see him projecting as a 4th OF. Again, 4th OF must not be super-valuable. But I imagine other parts of the equation might be that any team that took him is stuck with him. A good 4th OF is nice to have around, but most Rule 5 picks tend to be completely outta their depth in MLB; so, the odds of him being a good 4th OF in 2015 at the MLB level are probably pretty low and it’s not like the acquiring team can just send him to AAA if underperforms so much that he’s not worth having on the MLB bench in any capacity. I would think that a team might take a risk like that if they thought there was a good chance that Rojas would exceed his 4th OF projections, but since nobody took that chance, maybe they are all believing what the current scouting reports project.

                  Of course, now that he’s still a Pirate, I hope the Rojas scouting reports are wrong and that he becomes better than McCutchen. Good luck to him.

  5. Mark Canha and Taylor Featherston were the only two I had eyes on and both got taken before the Pirates had a chance. Oh well.

    • I ‘d think the Phils will be in a position where they could certainly keep Oliver if they wanted to. It’s not like the Phils will be playing meaningful games in September. Or August. Or July. Or…

    • Appears O’s are thinking of carrying two as well… and unlike Phils, they are still potential contenders. Odd.

      • O’s have had a couple free agents sign elsewhere while watching the Red Sox and Blue Jays make big signings that should be improvements for them (the Sox & Jays). Maybe they’re hoping to take a year to re-build and compete in 2016.

  6. I would guess that Rojas gets drafted. He is the closest to being major league ready and I think some team might be able to keep him as a fifth OF.

  7. The odds say this won’t happen but of everyone I’m reading about. I’m hoping the Pirates take Mark Canha from the Marlins. Just see what he has in Spring and if he’s nothing then he cost little. Just don’t see a spot for Pitching with what we already have.

  8. Last year’s draft eventually brought the best headline ever: Brewers hang on to Pirates Wang. I’m sorry, but that was funny!! Looking forward to NH’s next move and hoping we don’t lose their wang again

  9. I guess I’m kinda intrigued by deshields. Could be used like the late 2013 billy hamilton. Is that worth a 25 man spot? Probably not. But maybe!

  10. My $1 is on Allie going. Bus load of raw power represented well in AA in only third year as a hitter. If I really stunk (I can smell the Phillies from here) I wouldn’t be afraid to try him in the spring. Bobby Bonilla worked out with the White Sox with less bona fides. Defensively he could work in the OF.

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