The Pittsburgh Pirates set their 40-man roster today, adding Austin Meadows, Luis Escobar, and Dario Agrazal, while also trading Gift Ngoepe. Meadows, Escobar, and Agrazal were protected 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 $100,000 to the former team. The drafting team has to protect that player by placing him on the 25-man roster for the entire 2018 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 $50,000. 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 2019 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 a few guys who were left unprotected and have upsides bigger than relievers or bench players. 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. I think the strongest candidate is Tyler Eppler. 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:
Eduardo Vera – For everyone else on the “Previously Eligible” list, my answer to “Will they get drafted?” is to point to the fact that they weren’t drafted in previous years, and didn’t improve their stock enough in 2017 to see a change. That’s different for Vera. He went from a non-prospect to a guy hitting 97 MPH with strong control in the lower levels. He’s turned into a legit pitching prospect, although his upside isn’t clear since he’s so far from the majors. That could be what keeps him from being drafted as well.
Adrian Valerio – Valerio is another prospect in the lower levels who probably won’t be drafted due to his proximity to the majors. He did show some of his promise at the plate this year, while also showing his smooth fielding skills on a more consistent basis. Assuming he doesn’t get selected, it is a good move to leave him off the 40-man roster right now, since his move through the minors will be slow, being stuck behind Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, and challenging Stephen Alemais for playing time.
Tyler Eppler – Eppler might be the biggest risk of being selected. The Pirates have plenty of similar depth in the upper levels, so losing him wouldn’t be a big loss. However, you never want to see depth going for nothing. He’s a hard thrower who hasn’t found an out pitch, although he has shown some progress with his cutter/slider hybrid. He could help a team in the majors this year as a bullpen depth option, or help a weaker team as rotation depth.
Yeudy Garcia – Garcia made the transition to the bullpen this year after struggling the last two years in the rotation. He saw his velocity return at the end of the season, after that also struggled the last two years. The problem is that his struggles the last two years came due to injury issues, particularly with his shoulder. If that is no longer an issue, he could be a strong bullpen option in the future. But he hasn’t shown that the injury issues are behind him, which makes it less likely that he would be drafted.
In Our Mid-Season Top 50
Johan De Jesus
First Time Eligible in 2017
In Our Mid-Season Top 50
Michael De La Cruz
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.