This is a big week for transactions across baseball, with the deadline to set 40-man rosters and protect players from the Rule 5 draft coming on Friday. Teams must protect eligible prospects from the draft by this date, and anyone not added to the roster by this point would be eligible to be selected by another team in December’s draft.
The players who are eligible are as follows:
**Anyone who signed at the age of 18 or younger in 2011 or earlier.
**Anyone who signed at the age of 19 or over in 2012 or earlier.
That means there’s a new class of eligible players this year, and a returning class of players who didn’t get taken last year, or fell off the 40-man roster at some point during the season. The first-time eligible players are the ones who generally get protected, although players can always have a late breakout season to make them more appealing the second time around.
The Pirates have a little bit of both. They’ve got a great group of players who are eligible for the first time, and that’s even after trading one of those players — Adrian Sampson — for J.A. Happ at the trade deadline. This year’s group is strong because the Pirates had a great prep group in the 2011 draft, and a few strong older players from 2012. They also had a busy year on the international side in 2011, which leads to one of the must-protect players.
Here is a breakdown of the newly eligible players, and the previously eligible players, with analysis on who might be protected on Friday.
Newly Eligible in 2015
Analysis: The guys in bold are the guys who are most likely to be protected. Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell are obvious. Harold Ramirez had a big year in Bradenton, and has emerged as one of the top prospects in the system. He doesn’t get the same national recognition as Glasnow and Bell, and he’s slightly below them on the prospect list, but he’s also a must protect.
Max Moroff had a big breakout season, and the Pirates named him their Player of the Year. They’re not going to do that and then risk him getting drafted. He also has the upside to be a utility infielder, and possibly a starting second baseman, with the chance to arrive in the majors in the second half of the 2016 season. All of that points to him being protected as well.
The two question marks are Barrett Barnes and Clay Holmes. In a normal year, they would be no brainers. However, the Pirates have a shortage of roster spots, and a lot of top prospects to protect. Despite this, I still think they add Barnes and Holmes. Barnes has dealt with a lot of injuries in his pro career, but was finally healthy in 2015 and showed off his power potential. Holmes is coming off Tommy John surgery, and showed low-to-mid 90s stuff with improved command.
If Barnes was drafted right now, he’d easily be protected for his speed and his defense at all three outfield spots. Holmes would be easily protected as a hard throwing reliever out of the bullpen who can go multiple innings. There isn’t much upside in those roles in the short-term, but there would be a lot of long-term upside, which makes them worth a gamble. It also makes them worth protecting, even with an expanded year.
There are some interesting names beyond those six players who could be at risk of being selected by another team. However, I’d be surprised if the Pirates protected anyone beyond those six guys. Here are some of the remaining interesting names:
**Jason Creasy is a hard thrower who struggled with his command most of the season last year.
**Jin-De Jhang is a great pure hitting catcher with some good defensive skills behind the plate, although he does have questions about future defensive value and his ability to stick at the position due to his size.
**Jacob Stallings is a strong defensive catcher who is more of a singles hitter, and looks like a Chris Stewart clone in the future.
**John Kuchno is an extreme ground ball pitcher, with the highest ratio in the league, and the potential to be a Jared Hughes type middle reliever in the future.
**I’ll mention Carlos Munoz, who had a great season in Bristol, but is unlikely to be drafted and protected, as teams rarely take and protect first basemen.
**Luis Heredia isn’t a risk to be taken, and his career is so far off track at this point that it wouldn’t hurt the Pirates if he was taken. But he’s a big name, and pointing him out made sense.
Christopher De Leon
Mel Rojas Jr.
Analysis: The Pirates already protected two guys from this group, adding Keon Broxton and Gift Ngoepe to the 40-man roster to prevent both from being lost to minor league free agency. They also traded Yhonathan Barrios at the deadline, with the combined moves removing three of the most interesting names from this list.
I’d say that an outside the box approach for another team would be to draft someone like Casey Sadler, Brandon Cumpton, or Angel Sanchez, who are all recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, any team who would have wanted to wait on Sadler or Cumpton would have been better off claiming them off waivers, without the Rule 5 restrictions. So I don’t see either player getting added.
The two prospects with the biggest chance of getting drafted from this group are Dan Gamache and Jose Osuna. I don’t see either getting protected, due to the amount of guys the Pirates have to add to the roster. Gamache and Osuna both put up big numbers in the upper levels, although the upsides are limited here. They weren’t picked in previous drafts, and I don’t think the results in the upper levels changed their upsides to the point where they’d be stronger options than the guys left unprotected above.