On the surface, it seems silly to be discussing the Rule 5 draft at the start of July. The event is in December, and players don’t need to be protected until mid-November. The event previously got a lot of hype because of the players the Pirates could potentially add at the top of the draft, although those players didn’t amount to much (Evan Meek was the best of the group), and the last two years the Pirates haven’t even taken a player.
There’s also the aspect of potentially losing prospects, which hasn’t been an issue for the Pirates either in recent years. They left Clay Holmes and Barrett Barnes exposed last year, although neither were drafted by another team. So there hasn’t been much risk of losing guys either.
A big part of that latter point is due to the fact that the Pirates have handled some of their Rule 5 decisions early in the season in previous years. Last year, the Pirates made a few trades and roster moves, sending out Yhonathan Barrios and Adrian Sampson, who both would have been eligible for the draft that off-season. They also added a few players to the 40-man during the season, such as Keon Broxton and Gift Ngoepe. This is where the talk becomes relevant in July.
The Pirates are in an interesting situation this year, in that they might not be buyers. What complicates this more is that they should be buyers in the off-season, as they’d only be out of the mix for one year if they don’t turn this season around. So at some point, we might see them deal some prospects away, although that might not be in the next month, as it was in previous years.
Here are the list of eligible players, with my notes at the bottom of each section.
In Our Pre-Season Top 50
Notes: Out of the pre-season top 50 group, Clay Holmes is the only player who would be worthy of consideration. I said that last year, but he was coming off Tommy John, and didn’t have many innings, with none above A-ball. He’s starting to perform better lately, and if he continues this, he’ll work himself into the picture.
Jose Osuna just got promoted, although I still don’t see him as an option for the draft, since first basemen rarely get drafted and rarely stick all year when they do get drafted. I’d say the same thing for Edwin Espinal. Even though he’s having a good season in Altoona, he’s unlikely to even be considered here.
There are some relievers having interesting seasons. Jared Lakind is having a great year in Altoona, although I’m not sure he’d be a candidate to be drafted either. Dovydas Neverauskas is now in Triple-A and will pitch in the Future’s Game. In this case, he’s eligible for free agency at the end of the year. Therefore, I could see him actually getting the call to Pittsburgh at some point this season, just to see what they have in him. Either that, or he could be a trade chip, just like they did with Barrios last year, in a similar situation.
Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez are on the list, although both are eligible for free agency at the end of the year.
First Time Eligible in 2016
In Our Pre-Season Top 50
Johan De Jesus
UPDATE: We previously listed Yeudy Garcia and Edgar Santana on this list, but due to corrected signing dates, each player is eligible in 2017.
Notes: Steven Brault and Trevor Williams are obvious choices in the upper levels, and could be added to the 40-man before the season is over. Stephen Tarpley is a high upside lefty who should be protected as well.
The Pirates already added Chad Kuhl and Adam Frazier to the 40-man in recent weeks. They also added Jacob Stallings, who otherwise would have appeared in the “Previously Eligible” section. So this group has already been trimmed down.
The remaining prospect to watch in the lower levels is Tito Polo, who should get protected due to his five tool potential.
The Top Prospects and How to Handle Them
I think the remaining “Must Protect” guys are Brault, Williams, Tarpley, Polo, and Holmes. Those five will almost certainly be in our mid-season top 30 in a few weeks. There are some other interesting names here, such as Dovydas Neverauskas, and so on, but the numbers game might impact their chances of being protected.
One thing to consider is that if the Pirates are sellers this year, they might end up adding some prospects to this list, complicating the situation even more. But I think that they’d eventually deal some prospects in the off-season, since they’ll have some needs at the MLB level, will be in a mode where they can’t have too many prospects blocking the 40-man spots for those off-season additions, and most importantly, they have enough prospects that they can make some moves for short-term help.
For now, we might see some in-season movement with some of these prospects who need to be protected. Some guys might get looks at higher levels to make a better off-season decision. Some guys could get traded. Some could get added to the MLB roster this year, just like Frazier and Kuhl. The Rule 5 status definitely plays a part in these decisions, as we saw with some of the moves last year. Giving an early look at the topic gives us an idea of what to expect in terms of upcoming roster moves, which will most likely be bigger moves than the actual Rule 5 results.
**Prospect Watch: Brault Throws Five Shutout Innings in Second Start Back with Indianapolis. Good to see Brault returning well. It would be nice to see him joining Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl later this season in the majors, even if it’s a smaller role at first like a reliever. Also, big days for Josh Bell and Austin Meadows.
**Giles: Looking at the Effectiveness of Chad Kuhl’s Fastball. Ed Giles takes a detailed look at Chad Kuhl’s sinker, and how it compares to other Pirates pitchers and other starters in the majors.
**Minor Moves: Ed Easley and Jeff Roy Released, Osuna Promotion Made Official. John Dreker breaks down the moves across the system. Not originally in the article since it was announced later, Jorge Rondon has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Indianapolis.
**Four Altoona Curve Named to Eastern League All-Star Game. Two Rule 5 eligible guys on this list in Edwin Espinal and Jared Lakind.
**Morning Report: What to Expect from the Pirates on July 2nd. John Dreker breaks down the upcoming International Signing Period for the Pirates. Players can officially be signed at 12:00 AM Friday night/Saturday morning.