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

Danny Arribas

Barrett Barnes

Josh Bell

Colten Brewer

Jake Burnette

Bealyn Chourio

Jason Creasy

Chris Diaz

Elvis Escobar

Edwin Espinal

Tyler Glasnow

Adrian Grullon

Tom Harlan

Luis Heredia

Delvin Hiciano

Clay Holmes

Jin-De Jhang

Sam Kennelly

John Kuchno

Max Moroff

Carlos Munoz

Andy Otamendi

Carlos Ozuna

Jesus Paredes

Cesilio Pimentel

Harold Ramirez

Francis Rodriguez

Henrry Rosario

Sandy Santos

Josh Smith

Jacob Stallings

Dan Urbina

Enyel Vallejo

Julio Vivas

Eric Wood

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.

Previously Eligible

Stetson Allie

Matt Benedict

Kelson Brown

Brandon Cumpton

Christopher De Leon

Dan Gamache

Deybi Garcia

Jared Lakind

Jhondaniel Medina

Yunior Montero

Tomas Morales

Dovydas Neverauskas

Jose Osuna

Jose Regalado

Maximo Rivera

Mel Rojas Jr.

Casey Sadler

Angel Sanchez

Isaac Sanchez

Jonathan Schwind

Rinku Singh

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.

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  1. What about the other half of the equation — I assume the Bucs have their eyes on a handful of guys around the league, at least in the event that a potential target is left unprotected.

  2. I think the most interesting question for Friday is if they offer Pedro arbitration. A 0.0 WAR guy should be replaceable with just about anyone at a much lower cost. And if no one is offering anything for him, it could make sense to cut him. His atrocious defense could improve closer to average which might make him worth the money. Do you make a $10 million bet on him working on and improving his defense this winter?

    • The Hurdle interview with Pompeani on KDKA-TV, which played last night, had one very interesting segment. Hurdle, without prompting, said that the Pirates development of prospects was good not just for the MLB club roster, but it provided assets to obtain what was needed at the big league club. Couple this with his earlier remarks about wanting a traditional cleanup hitter and I am convinced that he wants a trade for an everyday first baseman and cleanup hitter. I just hope we are not headed for a massive rebuild. Burnett, Ramirez, Soria, Happ gone….Alvarez, Melancon and Walker rumored to be on the block. If everybody goes this team will not make the playoffs. Too bad, because in my opinion the Golden State experiment cost us the division. Spare me the 99 wins lecture. I am for keeping all three, and signing Happ. I would consider any and all possibilities, including trading prospects to get Hurdle his cleanup hitter, whether that be a first baseman or other positional player.

      • I think that while we can replace any one of the big three arbitration guys, I agree we can’t and shouldn’t replace all three.
        But what I really struggle with is that I don’t really believe the modern stats. Part of me is old-school and says that Pedro is a 30 HR guy and that is a legitimate ball player. While the new stats guy in me says that the almost 2.0 WAR he provided with his hitting was more than erased by his atrocious defense. Therefore he is worse than a replacement player. This basically says that not only would Morse be better than Pedro but so would just about any $500,000 to $1,000,000 player – cut him!
        I think it would be heartless but the other thing to do would be to trade Walker at the deadline when Kang is healthy and Hanson and Moroff are knocking on the door.

  3. Wouldn’t protect Barnes. Agree about Compton/Sadler Either could step into a bad rotation IF medical reports indicate they should make full recoverys ala Morton. Jhang is my Most Likely loss

    • Yeah, you could lose Barnes because another team could take him realizing he will probably end up on the DL anyways and not have to worry about sending him back

      • X lent point. That was my thought on CumpLer… If they’re still on the DL in spring it’s no hit to the 25man

  4. No clue how this will show up, but I ran 2015 expected BABIP’s over lunch:

    Pedro Alvarez

    Starling Marte

    Jung-ho Kang

    Andrew McCutchen

    Neil Walker

    Aramis Ramirez

    Sean Rodriguez

    Francisco Cervelli

    Gregory Polanco

    Josh Harrison

    Jordy Mercer

    Chris Stewart

  5. Tim/John – do you guys plan to look around the league at possible Pirate targets?

    Lot of spots to fill in the pen, and they can and have done a hell of a lot worse than picking up the equivalent of Bour/Canha to platoon with Morse at 1B until Bell arrives. Odd for a team this good to be considering Rule 5 guys, but seems like there are spots to fill.

    • I tend to look at the positions they need to fill, and then we focus on posting every rumor of players they’re connected to. I don’t like giving a list of guys they can go after, because it’s difficult determining if a player really is available.

      For example, there is so much talk about Freeman lately, and from what I’ve seen, Atlanta is denying that he’s being shopped. That may mean nothing, but it doesn’t say that he’s available.

      Another example would be Profar. You hear online that he’s available, but everyone I asked in the AFL said they’d be shocked if he was traded. It’s one of those internet stories where people look at a move that might make sense on paper, but it totally ignores the difficulties of the deal, and whether the trading team is actually interested in such a deal.

      That last part is why I don’t look around the league for options, outside of free agents. You’re basically just guessing that a guy would be available.

  6. Are you saying Barnes might get drafted because a team could stash him as a 5th OF / pinch runner, defensive replacement?

    Is Ngoepe good enough to risk losing a guy like Jhang or Creasy? He seems like an awfully low ceiling guy.

    • If u look at how much love was spilled over andrelton Simmons this week u can see how valuable transcendent defensive SSs are. He would go to ME. In a heartbeat

      • Simmons has some real hitting talent though, just hasn’t full tapped into it yet. I’ve seen him play…..the ball jumps off his bat.

        • Also, Gift Ngoepe probably isn’t the best defensive shortstop in the NL Central, let alone the entire planet. Nowhere near the level of Simmons.

  7. I agree that I don’t want to lose Jhang. To me, its almost Stewart vs Jhang. If you let Steward walk and bring up Diaz, that opens the theoretical spot for another catcher in Jhang. I like that option more than another year of Stewart and No Jhang

      • It’s assumed that they’re going to have to bring in a minor league veteran, right? Stallings probably won’t be getting pushed to AAA, and Tony Sanchez probably won’t be with the organization at all.

        That guy.

      • I don’t think there is a situation where you let Stewart and Sanchez go before this season unless we get depth back via trade

  8. While the hypothetical Freeman trades have been fun to discuss, I think any possibility is pretty much dead:

    MLB Network Radio‏@MLBNetworkRadio

    Fredi Gonzalez says absolutely Freddie Freeman will be playing 1B for the #Braves on opening day in 2016.

  9. I remember when the best player in the Pirates organization was Chad Hermansen. And they didnt have hardly anyone else in the minors. This shows how much better the Pirates farm system is now.

    • What’s disturbing is I have yet to read anyone (any scout) saying that Hermanson wasn’t a great talent – remember the classic “walks on water” quote from one scout. It should make everyone pause before pencilling Bell or even a Glasnow into the HoF just yet.

      • I could be wrong but wasn’t one of biggest holes in hermannsens game that he couldn’t hit curve balls at mlb level. And he also was jerked around?

    • What? They had a bunch of highly drafted pitching prospects, none of whom could stay healthy.

      Try to explain that to somebody here, they huff and puff and use words like myopic and dogma.

          • A prettier picture of what? The system was awful during that time, its not complex. No painting require to make the current system look far better than at that period, its a clear picture.

            Its not unproven, the system is wholly in a better place now than then. Top end actually has top end talent, and we actually have depth.

            • That’s false on several levels. Baseball America had the Pirates system highly ranked as well other outlets. What happened? Guys stunk, reached their ceilings in AA and AAA, or flat out got injured.

              This is where I think your some young kid that reads entirely too much into potential and prospect lists and has never watched guys like Nunez, Warren Morris, JJ Davis and others flame out.

              Hell, I was disappointed in Al Martin at times.

              • That was about as condescending as can be, much appreciated.

                But im upset you didnt also tell me to get off your lawn. Your age must give you such a wealth of information and hindsight since you loved the system back then so much.

        • Just imagine what a talent Sean Burnett could have been without arm surgery, and John Van Buttscootingontherug……. just makes me dream, how about you? lol

          • In ’98 Aramis Ramirez was their best prospect, ahead of Hermansen no less. And another guy who was ranked in the Top 100 in all of baseball? Abraham Nunez.

            Not everybody makes it.

  10. Tim – doesn’t Frazier need to be protected too?

    I agree with the assessment but I wish the Pirates had managed this better. A team usually has about 20 pitchers and 20 hitters on the 40-man roster. The roster is not just about prospects but also major league depth. The 20 hitters will break down into 13 players from the 25-man roster and Bell, Diaz and Ngoepe – making 16. And then 4 outfielders (assuming either Decker or a free agent 4th outfielder is on the 25-man) – Broxton, Garcia, Ramirez, and Barnes. If Moroff is protected (which he should be) that impacts our pitching depth and still doesn’t leave us much depth at infield or catcher. I would like to have seen us make a deal from that OF strength to give us more position flexibility and depth.

    • I would also love to see the Pirates start to use these kids earlier – like use Ngoepe as the ut and Decker or Broxton as the 4th of. The guys we sign never seem to amount to much and are a waste of our limited dollars. It would free up additional 40-man spots. And if they are worried about the arbitration clock, rotate them. Broxton for a few months, then Garcia. Heck, they could even do that with the pitchers – Taillon for the first few months (until he reaches a pitch/inning count) and then bring up Glasnow mid-year.

      • If they care about the Super 2 status of players who project as back ups, then things are worse than I thought. Avoiding Super 2 should be for above average starters and starting pitchers. By the time back ups hit year 4 of Arb they may not even be around. You hope your minor league systems can generate backs consistently.

      • They are probably going to have to start doing as you suggest. Let’s say they add the six guys Tim mentions. In addition to those 6 they have 5 other players on the 40 man that have never played in the majors, Taillon, Kingham, Hanson, Ngoepe and Garcia. Plus 3 others who have only saw limited action in September, Holdzkom, Diaz and Broxton. Plus one more guy, Kang, who seems like a strongly possible 15 day DL guy.

        Right there are your 15 spots reserved for non 25 man roster players meaning every other slot has to go to someone who made the team.

  11. As rburgh points out there is still some dead weight on this 40 man. Why the hell should Rob Scahill be protected on the 40 man? Below replacement last year and projected below replacement next year. That guy is Quad A material at best.

  12. The funny thing about this is that 4 years ago when we had Barajas catching and everyone else who either was hurt, plugged or had a heartbeat in there we now have at least 4 guys on this list who could of replaced that entire catching core and we would not have missed a beat. Wow what a change.

  13. I think Tim nailed the list. I don’t see anyone of the fringe guys mentioned being protected. Especially since there’s a good chance there will be others acquired in trades and FA signings who will need a spot on 40-man roster.

  14. Looking at your 40-man list, I see some guys that I think it would be silly to protect.

    1. Florimon – crazy to protect both him and Ngoepe.
    2. LaFramboise – I wouldn’t protect him, I doubt he’s any better than a half dozen of the FA LOOGY’s that will be available on the cheap. If a marginal guy like this doesn’t show any bump in performance after two training camps with Ray Searage, it’s on to the next guy IMO.
    3. Scahill – no way are they protecting Holdzkom, Rondon, Knudson, AND Scahill.
    4. Sanchez – Diaz has passed him by.

    • Yes I agree with these names. Everyone get’s caught up with losing a stiff that played at the MLB level but seriously why keep them. Although I like GEEDO’S name.

    • I think that everyone you mentioned needs to make the 25-man roster on opening day or go through waivers. For instance, Sanchez would have to beat out Stewart and Diaz for the mlb backup job but he could not safely be sent to AAA.

    • To be clear, I would KEEP Holdzkom, Rondon, and Knudson and DFA Scahill. Really, DFA’ing guys toward the end of the week is a great time, since teams will already have roster crunches or be looking forward to grabbing Rule 5 guys, particularly after last year when Gilmartin, DeShields Jr., and Odubel Herrera all did very well.

      The Pirates need A 2nd LH reliever for the season, but they don’t need to lock themselves into LaFramboise at the expense of upside guys like Osuna and De Jhang right now.

    • They also probably don’t need to protect Knudson since he made it through 28 teams before the Pirates claimed him, and that was without the restrictions that the Rule V adds that he must be kept on the MLB roster. So unless you think the Cardinals are really hot for him, he can be safely moved off the 40-man.

    • These guys are already protected. I don’t think all of them will remain on the 40-man all off-season though. But the Pirates can keep most of them on for now and still protect the Rule 5 guys.

  15. I’m not so sure about Osuna. Light may be coming on. His WRC+ of 118 at Double A looks pretty good for his age when you go back. Not saying they will protect him but I think he may have more upside than the consensus. Look at the career path and numbers by age/level of Lucas Duda. It will be interesting to see what kind of #s he puts up next year.

    • It’s quite a leap from putting up good #’s in AA to remaining on a ML roster for a whole season. I suppose a rebuilding club could take him and use him as a bench player for the season, and hope he develops into a Duda type player, but I doubt it happens.

  16. I realize the rule 5 draft is to give players an opportunity if they
    are blocked in their progress by their current team, but I really
    think there needs to be one modification. If a player misses
    an entire season (for example because of surgery), that year
    does not count in minor league service time toward being
    eligible for the rule 5 draft.

    I would assume this rule would be real hard to get through
    the players association bargaining, but I think it might help.

    What do you think?

  17. I’m not worried about protecting Kuchno and really not concerned about Heredia. If a team wants to waste a roster spot on a poor mans Jared Hughes with a FIP over 5 in Triple A striking out barely 4 per 9 best of luck to them.

  18. A couple years ago, it looked like Jhang was a guy you’d protect but with the emergence of Diaz and drafting of McGuire, he kinda got lost in the shuffle.

    Speaking of getting lost in the shuffle, I tend to forget about Harold Ramirez. He’s stuck between the talented MLB outfield and the up-and-coming Meadows. Very talented kid though and he could be a crucial trade chip going forward.

    • I wouldn’t trade Ramirez unless it was for a serious haul. I consider him one of most underrated prospects in baseball. I think he probably has more value to us than another team. You never know what the future holds as far as injuries and people not living up to expectations. I hope he stays in the system.

        • But he’s not getting it done himself so the question is how do you/we value him in regard to our other prospects. If a hypothetical trade for Freeman went down it would start with either Josh Bell or Tyler Glasnow, probably both of them and then someone else.

          What I’m saying is I just get the hunch Ramirez may be undervalued within baseball as a prospect and perhaps someone like Reese Mcguire may be a little overvalued. I’m guessing(could be wrong) Reese would be a more valuable trade chip than Ramirez and I may very well consider dealing him before Harold Ramirez.

          • I can’t wrap my head around Freeman netting a top 10 prospect like Glasnow. His salary compare to his worth doesn’t warrant that high of a prospect unless the Braves include upwards of $30mm.
            Anyway to the topic at hand, Jacob Stalling should be protected.

            • Freeman is 26 with a career slash line of .285/.366/.466 and threat to hit 25+ homers with solid defense. He is absolutely worth multiple top 10 prospects. I would not have buyers remorse if Glasnow and Bell were traded for Freeman.

                • Ridiculous.

                  Freddy Freeman is a 26 yo with an already-established 4 WAR baseline. Glasnow, for one, is a pitcher. And one who has yet to even throw a Major League pitch.

                  The risk on Glasnow alone makes Freeman the more valuable player.

            • His production still makes his a likely 40 million in excess value guy.

              You gotta predict some serious decline in that player to see him as not providing good value, great talent, and tons of control. Thats all a top prospect type return.

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