The Pittsburgh Pirates set their 40-man roster today, adding Clay Holmes as their only move, and protecting him from the upcoming Rule 5 draft on December 8th. 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 2017 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 2018 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 in 2013 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.
The Pirates do have two guys who were left unprotected and have upsides bigger than relievers or bench players — Eric Wood and Barrett Barnes. I’ll go over them specifically below, along with the other notable players who were left unprotected. The full list of unprotected players is at the bottom of the article. I want to add the disclaimer that I don’t think all of the following guys are at risk of being drafted in a few weeks. In fact, I think the strongest candidates are Barnes and Wood, and you could make the argument that neither of them has a good chance of being drafted. Others are just mentioned for their chance to make the majors one day, their former prospect status, or because they had a noteworthy season this year. Here is the breakdown:
Eric Wood – Wood was eligible for the draft last year, and it’s no surprise that he wasn’t selected, after putting up a .237/.303/.305 line in his first go through Altoona. He showed some big strides this year on both sides of the ball, hitting for a lot more power, showing much improved defense at third base, and crushing the ball during the Arizona Fall League. It might be alarming that the Pirates didn’t protect him, although maybe not as much when you consider that third basemen rarely get drafted and protected in the Rule 5 draft. We’ll see if Wood is the exception this year, although my guess would be that he’d need similar numbers in Triple-A in order to be considered for the Rule 5 draft, or a 40-man spot.
Barrett Barnes – Barnes was eligible last year, but wasn’t drafted. That’s not a surprise, since he didn’t show a lot of power, and didn’t hit for average in his jump to Double-A. He showed improved numbers this time around, with better power, and the ability to hit for average and get on base. He’s got the ability to play all three outfield spots, but profiles best at a corner spot as a regular. His upside at this point would be a good fourth outfielder, and maybe an average starter at best if his power production carries over to Triple-A and the majors. He looks to be a better candidate to be drafted this year, due to the improved numbers, but his age (25) and injury history could chase other teams away.
Jin-De Jhang – Jhang has the chance to catch in the majors one day, especially now that he’s going to be seeing more playing time with Reese McGuire no longer in the system. He’s unlikely to be drafted in his second year of eligibility, mostly due to the lack of experience in the upper levels. He has just 53 games behind the plate above A-ball, and only five in Triple-A, all of which came this year. He could be an option next year, after getting a full season of work in Altoona as the starter and showing how he holds up. But if he does show improvements, I’d expect the Pirates to protect him, as they’ve been pretty high on him throughout his career.
Erich Weiss – Weiss is comparable to Dan Gamache, who went unprotected last year, then got lost in the mix in Indianapolis this year. He’s a former third baseman who switched to second base, has the ability to hit for average and get on base, and has some power potential. Overall, he profiles as a utility infielder, but isn’t athletic enough to also play the outfield like Adam Frazier or Alen Hanson. He’s got a chance to reach the majors in a Max Moroff role as depth, and might eventually hit and get on base enough to be a bench player. These players don’t usually get drafted in the Rule 5 draft, so Weiss is safe in the system for now.
Jared Lakind – The Pirates added Jose Osuna and Dovydas Neverauskas to the 40-man roster, preventing them from reaching minor league free agency. They opted to re-sign Lakind to a minor league deal, which accomplished the same thing of keeping him in the system, but leaves him exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He’s shown some improvements as a reliever, hitting 94 MPH from the left side late in the 2016 season, and putting up strong numbers in Altoona. He’s got a chance to pitch in the majors one day, but it’s unlikely it will happen via the Rule 5 draft. If that was the case, another team would have tried to get him on an MLB deal, which would have allowed them to option him to the minors.
Jacob Stallings – He was outrighted off the 40-man roster this off-season, and had the chance to elect free agency, but stuck around with the Pirates. He made the majors in an emergency role in 2016, and his upside is a strong defensive backup, although with the Pirates the best he can hope for is being a depth option out of Indianapolis. He won’t be taken in the Rule 5 draft. Every team passed on him when the price was a waiver claim and the chance to option him to the minors. The Rule 5 draft would require that he remain on the active roster all year, which isn’t as preferred.
First time Eligibles
In Our Mid-Season Top 50
Johan De Jesus
In Our Mid-Season Top 50
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.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.