Pirates Prospects Who Are Eligible For the 2017 Rule 5 Draft

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.

Previously Eligible

In Our Mid-Season Top 50

Eric Wood

Eduardo Vera

Wyatt Mathisen

Barrett Barnes


Todd Cunningham

Johan De Jesus

Cody Dickson

Jhoan Herrera

Braylin Jackson

Brett McKinney

Luis Perez

Pablo Reyes

Miguel Rosario

Elvis Escobar

Jin-De Jhang

Yunior Montero

Richard Rodriguez

Casey Sadler

Erich Weiss

First Time Eligible in 2017

In Our Mid-Season Top 50

Adrian Valerio

Tyler Eppler

Jake Brentz

Alex McRae

Jeremias Portorreal

Yeudy Garcia


Ronny Agustin

Jess Amedee

Trae Arbet

Austin Coley

Michael De La Cruz

Montana DuRapau

Julio Eusebio

Victor Fernandez

Angel German

Yoel Gonzalez

Mikell Granberry

Kevin Krause

Edison Lantigua

Raul Siri

Sam Street

Michael Suchy

Jerrick Suiter

Felix Vinicio

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.

  • Is Valerio being held back simply because of the presence of Newman and Alemais, who are older but not better prospects? Said another way, would Varerio be headed for AA next year absent Newman and Alemais? If so then his risk of being chosen by a rebuilding team is higher. He is young, so what if he loses a year. I wish he was protected.

    • I would think he heads to Bradenton regardless. Not sure if he’s ready for AA yet.

      …though I guess, if Newman’s called up next year sometime and Tucker’s promoted, then it’s either Valerio or Alemais to AA and maybe Valerio’s promoted first. But Alemais was much better with changed approach in Bradenton so can’t be sure if Valerio would be a better hitter than him.

  • I see the rule five as nothing more than passing the trash. There can be some diamonds but usually if you are going heavy or are depending on the rule 5 draft your team is going no where

  • justinblain1996
    November 20, 2017 8:55 pm

    Seriously believe we will lose Eppler. Not the biggest lost but I definitely see him getting selected and also see him sticking in the majors.

    • The Pirates will possibly lose 2 pitchers/1 position player. Vera, Eppler, Valerio. The pitchers have nice stuff, but there are probably 10 others in the system that have the same level of ability. Valerio is another sign that the Bucs are all in on Cole Tucker, and they should be.

      • It’s very unlikely two Low-A players are selected and both stick with their new teams. Last year, 18 players total were selected and seven went back to their original team. The year before, 16 were selected and eight were returned, plus one team didn’t even want their player back and he went to the minors.. So it’s hard to imagine that one team will lose three players, especially when none of them are considered top prospects in a middle of the pack farm system. Losing no players is much more likely than losing three.

      • We’ve seen anywhere from 9 to 19 guys selected in the rule 5 draft going back to 2010….I’d highly doubt that an A ball middle infielder will be one of those selections coming up.

      • Much, much, more likely Pirates neither select or lose a player in the draft than lose 3.

  • In case anyone cares… Mark Appel was DFA’d by the Phillies and Harold Ramirez was outrighted by the Jays.

    • Gee, the Liriano money dump looks better and better as time passes. Liriano was the dud we knew he was, and they over-reached with both McGuire and Ramirez. Was it Meadows we picked after not signing Appel?

      • The entirety of the money saved in the Liriano trade was spent on a 75-win ballclub, and from this point forward there is nothing but downside left for the Pirates.

        This is what “better and better” looks like? Pass whatever you’re smoking.

        • I think the best thing that came out of this was Liriano got a WS ring. Thats something he had no chance of getting here

      • Maguire had a resurgence and was kept on the 40 but then again the Bucs don’t need any catching since we are loaded throughout the system. Liriano brought a nice piece for Toronto at the deadline as well who was up in September hitting a number of HRs. Wait I forgot we got that stud pitcher from Toronto and paid him almost 4 million not to pitch in Pittsburgh and we spent that extra money on Bastardo. Yep that trade keeps looking better and better. Wit I forgot we couldn’t have traded fro Rod. If not for all that extra cash. We are in a better place now!

    • I didn’t look into it because I don’t think the Pirates take either and try to carry them on their 25 man roster all year but I saw somewhere that the Yankees left both Stephen Tarpley and Toto Polo unprotected for the rule 5 draft too.

    • I hope Pirates take a flyer on Appel. He appears to be a perfect candidate for Searage, Meccage, et al to fix his control issues.

      • You’ve gotta *want* to work when Searage, et al get ahold of you, and Appel is your textbook definition of a silver-spoon douchebag who’s been handed everything in life.

        • Maybe this heaping helping of humble pie will change his attitude?

          • To what end?

            He’s financially set for life. Not a care in the world.

            If he actually took pride in his baseball performance he’d have gotten the hint long ago.

    • Can’t say i wouldnt be interested in seeing what Appel could do in short relief pitching outings.

  • Jon,

    How does minor league portion of Rule 5 draft work? Is a guy like Agrazal thought to be more likely to be picked in the MiLB portion of the draft than Eppler in MLB portion of the draft? Is that why you protect a lower level guy over a guy like Eppler? If not aren’t they risking losing a guy closer to MLB than a guy further away that brings similar skill sets? With guys not really sticking in MLB could they be thinking if Eppler is picked that’s a free roster spot until he is possibly returned?

    • The teams protect guys on the AAA side, so most players eligible for the Rule 5 draft aren’t eligible for the minor league draft. A total of 13 players are eligible for the AAA draft. Once teams finish those selections, and very few are actually made, then they have the AA draft. Only three Pirates are eligible for that.

      It’s complicated and nothing interesting usually happens on that side, so you don’t really hear about it. Basically, the guys you don’t want taken on the minor league side are put on the Indianapolis roster, but the off-season roster has nothing to do with the regular season roster.

      For example, you’ll notice Jeremais Portorreal is on the Rule 5 eligible list. He’s also on the AAA roster, which means he can only be taken on the major league side. Once that’s over, he is protected. Sam Street is protected on the Altoona roster. They can lose him in the major league draft or the AAA draft, can’t lose him in the AA draft. Felix Vinicio is on the GCL roster. They can technically lose him in the major league draft, the AAA draft or the AA draft.

      If you’re selected in AAA or AA, the only difference is the cost. Doesn’t matter where your new team eventually sends you, but teams need open spots on those rosters to select players.

      Hope that helps

      • I’m pretty sure the AA phase of the draft was recently eliminated

        • That is true, they won’t have it this year and also the Triple-A picks cost $24,000 this year instead of $12,000 before the CBA last year. So it looks like just 13 players are eligible for the AAA phase. Now I’m wondering why some guys were moved to the AA roster yesterday if it doesn’t help anything. I’ll have to look into that, has to be a reason for it.

      • Thanks.

  • Can someone email me when Buccofaninmd posts his rant? I don’t want to miss it.

  • Leaving Valerio off is a risk. But it’s a risk worth taking. If you add him now, he runs out of options by AAA and turns into Hanson 2.0.

  • If I were a team, I would take a chance on: Eric Wood, Tyler Eppler, and Barrett Barnes.
    – I really believe that Wood could play reasonably well at 3rd right now in the majors. It bothers me that a team like the Pirates that need a 3B, don’t protect him over one of their dime a dozen relievers
    – Speaking of relievers, I think Eppler is better than some of the options we kept – and he could still start. Another puzzling move to me.
    – I wouldn’t have kept Barnes but he is worth the gamble for me. Again, I think he could be a 4th OF in the majors now. Worst case, he gets hurt but he will have chewed up much of the time needed to keep him on the claim8ng team

    • if my scouts thought pablo reyes could play some SS and CF, then id be tempted. for some reason, i have a feeling about Suiter too.

      agreed on barnes.

    • I doubt any of them get taken. I’m pretty certain the list of players similar to these guys in other organizations, who weren’t protected, is a long one.

      • Particularly Eppler.

        Right-handed ML starters *averaged* 94mph with the fastball last year. If Eppler isn’t bumping 99-100 in a pen role then you’re talking about a 25 yo fly ball pitcher with a slightly above-average fastball and no average secondaries with no way to get lefties out and major home run problems *without the Major League ball*.

        There’s honestly nothing about Eppler’s profile that stands out in the least in today’s game, at least not for the better.

        Now watch somebody take him, teach him a real slider, and watch him starting pumping triple digits in the 8th innings.

    • Wood doesn’t hit well enough for the Majors.

  • Is there any good reason to have the empty spots on the 40 man? Why not just fill it up?

    • yes, adding free agents, waiver claims and possibly a rule 5 pick without making another move. It also isn’t the best idea to take up too many spots with inexperienced players. You can get hurt that way if injuries start to pile up.

      • Are you surprised they left TWO
        open spots. Is that unusual?

      • Ohhh I think the thing that my brain was skipping over is that if they add them to the 40 man and then DFA them *later*, then they’ll almost definitely lose the player.

        Whereas with exposing to the rule 5, they only *might* lose the player.

        Thanks for the answer, John.

        • That is what happened with Hunter Strickland. They protected him from the Rule V draft but later removed him from the roster and lost him to the Giants. If they just didn’t add him in the first place they might have been able to keep him.

    • They are looking to pick someone?
      They are looking to sign a free agent?

  • I wonder if some team would take a chance on Barrett Barnes as a 4th Of’er?

    • Do we need a 4th outfielder?

      Oh, that’s right, who is our 4th outfielder.

    • I think that is possible. I do not think Barnes is the kind of guy you stash. He could be a guy some team gives a legit chance to win a job during ST as a fourth OF’er. If doesn’t make the opening day 25 man – send him back and move on.

      • The days of “stashing” position players have gone the way of the 4-man rotation. Larger bullpens make it imperative all bench players are strong contributors.