A week from today, the Pirates and every other MLB team will make some important moves to set their 40-man rosters for the offseason. The 40-man rosters all across baseball will change on a daily basis, but November 20th marks the final day to add players in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft.

Any player who is eligible for the 2017 Rule 5 draft, and not added to the 40-man roster by next week, would be eligible to be selected in the draft. The players who are eligible for the first time this year are players who signed their first pro contract at the age of 19 or older in 2014, and players who signed at 18 or younger in 2013. That means college draftees and older international signings from 2014 or earlier, and high school draftees and younger international signings from 2013 or earlier are eligible.

I posted this list in July, and the Pirates have already made a few moves. They added Angel Sanchez and Jordan Luplow to the 40-man roster by the end of the season, with both players getting a call to the big leagues. They also traded Connor Joe for Sean Rodriguez in August.

The rest of the list provides some easy decisions, although the Pirates might have one somewhat tough call to make, as they have four roster spots open and five players who could warrant a spot. Here are the lists, with analysis to follow.

Previously Eligible

In Our Mid-Season Top 50

Eric Wood

Eduardo Vera

Wyatt Mathisen

Barrett Barnes

Others

Todd Cunningham

Johan De Jesus

Cody Dickson

Jhoan Herrera

Brett McKinney

Luis Perez

Pablo Reyes

Miguel Rosario

Elvis Escobar

Jin-De Jhang

Yunior Montero

Casey Sadler

Erich Weiss

Notes: The only name on this list who would warrant protection is Eduardo Vera. He had a small breakout season in West Virginia this year, seeing his velocity jump to the mid-to-upper 90s, and hitting 97 on several occasions. Vera pairs that with some promising off-speed stuff, and has become an arm to watch in the lower levels. The only issue is that he hasn’t pitched higher than Low-A, meaning he would have to speed through the system once he’s on the 40-man. I’ll get to that more later.

Casey Sadler and Jin-De Jhang were re-signed as minor league free agents, but can still be drafted by another team. That also applies to any other minor league free agents signed by the Pirates before the Rule 5 draft.

First Time Eligible in 2017

In Our Mid-Season Top 50

Austin Meadows

Luis Escobar

Adrian Valerio

Tyler Eppler

Dario Agrazal

Jake Brentz

Alex McRae

Jeremias Portorreal

Yeudy Garcia

Others

Jess Amedee

Trae Arbet

Austin Coley

Michael De La Cruz

Montana DuRapau

Julio Eusebio

Victor Fernandez

Yoel Gonzalez

Kevin Krause

Edison Lantigua

Raul Siri

Sam Street

Michael Suchy

Jerrick Suiter

Felix Vinicio

Notes: The obvious guy to protect here is Austin Meadows. The other three guys who would warrant protection are Luis Escobar, Adrian Valerio, and Tyler Eppler.

I think Escobar will be protected due to his upside and the fact that he’s been on the radar as a prospect (pitching in the MLB Future’s Game helps). Valerio made some great strides this year with his consistency, showing off some hitting ability along with good defense at shortstop. He’s not big league ready at all, but it wouldn’t take much to protect a strong defensive shortstop in the majors. Eppler is a hard thrower who could serve as rotation depth right now, or a bullpen option in the majors. Adding him would be an easy decision for any team without good pitching depth. The Pirates do have good depth, with a lot of similar options, but they also shouldn’t be in the business of giving pitchers away for free.

Who Should Be Protected?

Austin Meadows is the first clear answer for who should be protected next week. Beyond Meadows, there are four other strong candidates who would all warrant protection. I’d separate Eppler from the other three and say that he should be protected.

As individual choices in a vacuum, there are arguments for protecting Escobar, Valerio, and Vera. The problem is that it might be difficult for the Pirates to add all three players to the 40-man roster at the same time. They would be protecting three players who haven’t spent time above Low-A ball, and who all have things to work on. Vera might be the only one who could be on a fast track from the group.

Even if Valerio plays well, he still has other shortstop prospects blocking him in the upper levels, with Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker holding him back, and Stephen Alemais also providing competition.

Escobar is the best prospect of the group, and while he has some control issues, he also has impressive stuff, with some of the best strikeout ability in the system. If he can get the control figured out, he could be on a faster track, although that isn’t guaranteed.

One thing that could help the Pirates protect all three low-level players is that they aren’t currently protecting any lower level guys. The prospects on the 40-man roster are all in the upper-levels. Those prospects also provide the depth that the Pirates would need, meaning they wouldn’t need a lot of roster spots this offseason, outside of MLB additions. So having three lower level prospects on the 40-man at the same time wouldn’t be a roster issue, but a personal development issue.

I think Meadows and Eppler should be protected, and will be protected. Individually, you can make a case for Escobar, Valerio, and Vera. The only issue is whether the Pirates protect that many players from the lower levels, and whether each of those players would still be able to handle normal development once on the 40-man.

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98 COMMENTS

  1. Meadows is the easiest decision of all. It would just be too easy for teams to stash him on their roster. 2 sixty day DL stints with associated rehab time, plus the requisite 30 days on the active roster would easily get them to September when rosters expand, and nothing really matters.

  2. There is one obvious question – how many players are on the 40-man right now? And then the obvious follow up question – how many of those players merit a DFA?

  3. First, they tend to leave a spot open for a free agent signing so I don’t think they would fill all 40 spots. On the flip side they have a few more AAAA relievers than they need right now so I am hoping someone gets cut from that list.

    Second, I’d expect the three guys in question to remain in HA in 2018 and AA in 2019 because Valerio is blocked and the pitchers have things to work on. That means they wouldn’t be starting in AAA in 2020. Which means they waste a spot in 2018 and 2019 – and then put NH in an awkward position of having to promote them by 2020 or risk losing them.

    That seems like they’d be shooting themselves in the foot. I’d personally protect one of the other AAA guys like Wood most likely but maybe even Barnes or Weiss. If you go young go for Agrazal, he is at least starting AA next year.

  4. I can see some team taking a stab at Montana, Jhang, or Weiss this time around. Jhang and Weiss would make nice bench players.

  5. Should I be happy or sad that the Rule 5 draft is one of the highlights of my off season again? For about three years it had become irrelevant. I feel us drifting back into “old times.” At least we are not looking at a possible starting shortstop in the Rule 5 draft. Remember that guy from the Indians organization? That was the lowest.

  6. Rule 5 draft is the biggest nothing burger in all of MLB. So many fans get all worked up when their personal favorite fringy prospect is left unprotected, and then are miffed when no other team takes him. So certain the Pirates brass is both dumb and lucky.

    • They haven’t always been lucky…and they’ve been much dumber.

      Let’s not forget the Massacre of 2003.

      But, usually, the Rule V is much ado about nothing. I’m fact, I’m of the opinion that, overall, it ends up hurting players when they lose developmental time while being hidden on a ML roster.

      • Massacre of 2003? Is this they year Pirates failed to protect Aramis Ramirez?

        I’m sure these Rule 5 guys will tell you being in The Show was the best year of their life, but you’re right, it certainly is a wasted year for many of them development wise.

        • Nothing to do with Ramirez – that was a trade.

          Blaine is referring to the Rule V draft where we protected nobodies and risked a lot of young talent. The result was 5 of the first 6 players selected were Pirates including catcher/first baseman Chris Shelton who took off hitting early with the Tigers and Bautista who you know…

          • Thanks for clarifying this for me. Seems I remember Pirates brass was forced to deal Ramirez, or lose him for nothing because they failed to protect him.

            • Let’s not forget we also had to toss in Lofton who was having a good year to entice the Cubs to part with Jose Hernandez, Matt Brubeck, and Bobby Hill..

    • Do I recall correctly that the Pirates obtained Clemente on a Rule V pick? If so Rule V is not a ” nothing burger”.

  7. Two questions for Tim
    1) No worry about someone taking our catcher?
    (I can’t say or spell his name)
    2) Any chance we go into the draft with 39 on the roster?

    • I’m not Tim obviously but:
      1. Jhang had a pretty crappy year and fell out of PP’s top 50.
      2. I believe they went with les than 40 last year. NH always makes fringe manuevers and it is safer to not put the player on the 40-man than to put him through waivers later on.

      • Rich, thank you.
        Is Jhang still our #4.
        After that one year, I learned that you can
        never have too much catching.

        Reason I ask about 39 is that would we want to be in
        position to make a pick this year or is that very doubtful.

        • I believe Jhang is currently 4th on the depth chart after Cervelli, Diaz, and Stallings. And I believe he is slated to split time with Stallings in AAA. I personally believe that they would not be comfortable with him on the big league club for more than a day or two if say both Diaz and Cervelli were out. I think they would instead check the waiver wires for a Chris Stewart type of guy before going with Jhang.
          Also, it will be interesting to see where PP rates some of the other catchers to see if Jhang has fallen behind some of the others like Kelley or even Stafford.

          The Pirates won’t have the luxury of knowing who would be available in the Rule V draft prior to locking in their own roster.They may have an idea of the talent that is available at their selection but that player needs to be with the team practically the whole year and they need to help the Pirates compete that’s not very likely after the first couple of picks. I would say if you have a known talent in your org you protect him first – and not leave the option open that a Rule V player will fall to you.

  8. The roster is at 35 (19P, 3C, 5OF, 8INF). Harrison must be protected so he will be
    added from the 60-dat DL. Leaves 4 spots. But they could easily DFA Barbato &
    Ngoepe. Leaves room for Meadows, Eppler, Valerio, Escobar and Vera. And/or
    Garcia if you like

  9. Any risk of losing Agrazal? With his velocity uptick and extremely low walk rates he might be one of the easier bullpen “stashes” without a lot of upper-level time. The injury might’ve helped the Pirates in this case. But he’s a very interesting potential arm if the velocity increase maintains.

  10. I like Weiss a lot – he just needs an opportunity. He has always hit well at all levels –
    and he can play multiple IF positions. He could likely do everything that SeanRod does, but for about $5M less in salary….

  11. Tim, John – Rule V question

    To be returned, a Rule V player must first be DFA’d, and then clear waivers before being returned to his team.

    A player who has been DFA’d once before can refuse an assignment on a subsequent DFA. (i.e. if the Pirates DFA Jacob Stallings, he can become a free agent if he chooses because he’s already been DFA’d.)

    Does this hold for the Rule V DFA? i.e. the Pirates drafted Tyler Webb last year. If he’s DFA’d sometime this year, can he declare free agency like Stallings can?

    • I am not 100% on this but I believe that if the claiming team returns the player to the original team, he does not need to clear waivers (he would burn an option). If the claiming team offers him back to the original team and the original team doesn’t want him (say because of the $25,000 restocking fee), then the claiming team can DFA him to send him to their minor leagues. This is the point where other teams can claim him. Or they can also trade him…I think the latter is what happened to Jose Bautista.

  12. Tyler Eppler would be a fine kid to protect by traditional standards, but I have to wonder if this is really the kind of prospect that will succeed in today’s game. Tick above average RH velo, lack of an out-pitch, and home run issues *in AAA* has disaster written all over it in today’s MLB environment. Strike-throwers just aren’t getting it done.

    Conversely, Yeudy Garcia and much more so Luis Escobar have legit upside as relievers, and could be fast-tracked in that role.

    Garcia was up to 99 in relief late in the year with life and his bat-missing slider returned. Command still is lacking and likely derails his career, but barrier to entry for a reliever in the R5 draft is extremely low. Very little difficulty in stashing him on a roster, particularly if he limits walks to under 10% as he did over his last six weeks of 2017.

    Escobar, however, seems to really be the one of the bunch that has the most chance of coming back to bite them. While it would be too early to give up on him as a starter, the chances of him eventually relieving are high…but he could be a really, really good one. He’ll be 22 next year and will need to start ramping up the speed of his development regardless, so protecting him wouldn’t appear to have much risk.

    Eppler is neither an asset that’s likely to have an impact nor one that is an area of need. If he *is* one other clubs would want, then he’s an easy filler in a trade. Otherwise, protect assets that could have an impact. No more race to mediocrity.

  13. Garcia is a great example of how much prospect status can change. I still hold a glimmer of hope he can turn things around and find his way to MLB.

  14. I think we are overlooking Woods and Weiss. Neither figger to be stars but they could bevgood spring training bets for a team w infield wholes and they are ready for the jump. If we move a Harrison/Mercer etc they are depth.

    • The problem with guys like Weiss and Wood is that the Pirates seem to have specialized in developing players “good enough to fill a role”.

      I’d go so far as to say the Bucs might be World Series champs if all rosters had to be filled using nothing but developed bench players and 4th and 5th starters.

  15. Bucs’ fans always assume that other teams’ 40 mans are like ours. The bad roster decisions other teams make forces their 40 mans to be a lot more full….which gives us more wiggle room.

    We could only protect Meadows and not lose anyone.

  16. I can’t believe the Pirates would risk losing Valerio. I don’t think they will make this decision based on the number of SS prospects ahead of him. A slick fielding SS with a bat that might becoming alive….. This is an asset that NH will protect, IMO.
    This is the type of player that NH would probably try to select from another team. Who was that SS from the Tigers system they took a few years ago (he actually didn’t pan out but had a similar profile)…. Gustavio Nunez???

    • You’re talking about a 21 year old kid who hasn’t played above low ‘A’ ball with a .743 OPS. taking up a spot on a team’s 25 man roster.

      Plus if you add him now, when he’s sent to Bradenton in March, that’s one option already down.

      They’re nuts if the *do* add him.

      • He is a an above average SS which is the most valuable defensive position on the field. He has the potential to be a MLB SS. It would be a shame to lose him. Did I mention he is a SS? That matters.
        The Padres selected and kept SS Allen Cordoba last year.

        • Not saying it doesn’t matter. But at best he’s ML ready by late next year.

          Would you want Gift on the 25 man roster all year – all glove, no bat? Because that’s what he’ll offer a team that would take him in Rule V.

          • Gift Ngoepe is utterly irrelevant.
            A team taking a player like Valerio or Allen Cordoba is betting on their long term future, not what they have to offer next season.

              • Gift Ngoepe is utterly irrelevant.
                A team taking a player like Valerio or Allen Cordoba is betting on their long term future, not what they have to offer next season.

                • Gift Ngoepe is the comparable of what you’ll get from him next year. Totally relevant.

                  So you’re sacrificing a spot on the 25 man for the year, and using an option the next year, with a wasted year (being the year he was on the 25 man but didn’t play much). Betting a 40 man spot for the next three years that his bat that’s somewhat successful in low ‘A’ will eventually play in the majors, especially after a year off?

                  • Gift Ngoepe is not a prospect and is no more relevant to this discussion than Francisco Lindor is.

                    Teams make that bet all of the time like the Padres did with Allen Cordoba last year.
                    The Pirates have made similar bets like this themselves with pitchers like Miguel Bautista, Donnie Veal, and Evan Meek.
                    Baltimore made that bet when they selected Jose Bautista out of A ball and put him on their opening day roster.

                    • How’d that work out with Jose Bautista? He didn’t stick, did he? DFA’d twice, I believe?

                      Cordoba’s results are not encouraging to the experiment, and his offensive numbers in ’16 blow away Valerio’s last year, albeit a level lower. He gave San Diego what they would have gotten from Gift Ngoepe. Solid glove, no bat.

                      Veal made it to AA (two levels above Valerio) and Meek to AAA, I believe. Big difference.

                    • Hmm. I seem to recall that Bautista turned out to be a pretty good ML player. Bautista did stick. He got passed around to four other teams that summer until Littlefield TRADED to get him back.
                      Again, the Padres are were betting on the long term results for Cordoba not 2017.
                      You argument is that teams won’t stash players on the ML roster based on long term projections. The problem with your argument is that you’re demonstrably wrong: Teams stash Rule 5 picks on their ML roster all the time based on long term projections.

                    • But that’s just it. He *DIDN’T* stick with any of those teams. And it was years before he blossomed into the star he became.

                      Let’s ask our mutual friend Lee Foo what the odds on either Cordoba or Valerio having a successful major league career, as neither has experienced success above single ‘A’ ball.

                      I’d be very surprised if a tanking team takes a flyer on a guy with a 7-something OPS in single ‘A’ ball.

                    • No. Bautista did “stick” in the majors. He had value. He was NOT returned to the Pirates. The Pirates had to trade for him.

                      I guess you were surprised last year when the Padres took Cordoba.

                    • Yes, I was surprised by the Padres taking Cordoba, and even more surprised that he stuck. What did he get ? 100 ABs? Where is he going to play this coming year?

                      And, by any measure, Bautista was a disaster as a Rule V selection – Didn’t stick with three teams that year – KC was the fourth. KC got a catcher that never played in the Majors.

                      How many years later until he hit 20 HRs? Sorry, that doesn’t wash.

                    • Bautista was a Rule 5 pick. He was stashed on ML rosters based on long term projections. He was NOT returned to the PIrates.

                      Teams stash Rule 5 picks like Bautista and Cordoba on their ML roster based on long term projections. Why is this so difficult for you to grasp?

                      “How many years later until he hit 20 HRs?” Ummm. LONG TERM PROJECTIONS. You proved my point. Bautista was a Rule 5 pick stashed in the majors based on long term projections. He was not returned to his original team. He had value b/c of LONG TERM PROJECTION. Get it?

                      Bautista early failures and long term success destroys your argument.

                    • But that’s just it. He wasn’t stashed. He was released. He was released by three different teams. A fourth team gave him up for basically nothing.

                      He was returned, ultimately. Even if it was by a trade.

                    • You want to judge a player by what he was traded for? I don’t think you want to go there.

                      “He was returned, ultimately. Even if it was by a trade.”
                      That’s hilarious.

                      You do now realize that teams stash Rule 5 picks on the ML roster based on long term projections including players from A ball. Whether its the next Wei-Chung Wang or the next Jose Bautista, it happens. The futility of your attempts to argue otherwise is amusing.

                    • Whatever. You choose to ignore the fact that he was released by three teams and dumped for nothing by a fourth. All you see are the HRs he hit later.

                      BTW, since you brought him up .. Wei-Chung Wang was actually a disaster for Milwaukee. The team was in first place for a while, but the bulpen wore down as the season went on and, so that they could hold on to him, basically played a reliever short all year. The bull pen wore down and started blowing saves. And they couldn’t bring up a fresh reliever because they wanted to hold on to him. The move to stash him may have cost them the division. A lesson in *not* stashing single A players.

                    • He was traded back to the Pirates. He was DFA’d and acquired by subsequent teams. DFA is different than being released. If he had been released the Pirates would not have needed to trade for him.

                      You might have a point if Bautista was returned to his original team after being a Rule 5 pick. He wasn’t and you don’t.

                      Wang was a disaster. He was selected and kept based on long term projections. He sucked. Some Rule 5 picks work out like Bautista, some don’t like Wang. Wang was a Rule 5 pick and was stashed on the ML roster based on long term projections.

                      The problem with your argument is that you’re demonstrably wrong: Teams stash Rule 5 picks on their ML roster all the time based on long term projections. There is no getting around that fact.

                    • I may be wrong, but the Pirates, I believe, had to trade for Bautista in order to gain more years of control. Had he just been returned, they would have faced the same situation the following season.

                      Then again, I am probably wrong.

                    • “A lesson in *not* stashing single A players.”
                      By admitting that the Brewers did stash Wang, you have conceded the point. Teams often do this. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
                      By extension, that means another team could plausibly claim Valerio and stash him. If Valerio was claimed it would be based on long term projections not what he would offer next season.

                    • One guy??
                      Everth Cabrera is another rule 5 SS plucked from A ball is a decent comp for Valerio.

                      Johan Santanna was taken from A ball. I think he stuck around for a bit too.

                      There are plenty of rule 5 guys selected from A ball that have had ML careers.

                      However, I’ll make my case for protecting Valerio based two recent A-ball SS: Allen Cordoba and Everth Cabrera.

  17. It doesn’t really seem like the Brewers’ selection of Wei-Chung Wang has changed team’s approaches to the Rule 5 draft. I really don’t think you have to worry about guys in low A and below being selected.

      • In which cases did they do that? I certainly didn’t mean to imply that they should never do that, and I can definitely see cases with injury and international players breaking out in low-a requiring protection. But I don’t think there’s anything with Valerio’s situation that would require them putting him on the 40 man roster at this point.

  18. Probably only need to protect Meadows and Escobar. I could see a team snagging Garcia or Eppler and trying to stash them in the bullpen all year. I doubt any team would take Valerio after being pretty good in low a last year.

  19. regardless of my hot takes about Reyes and Brentz, i think this group shows that they can stand to make some trades this offseason.

    whether those trades are current MLB guys, current 40-man prospects, or fringe 40 man guys.

  20. If i was a rebuilding team, i’d be at least a little tempted by Pablo Reyes and Jacob Brentz.

    Reyes because he’s experienced a whole season success in AA and seems relatively versatile and always hits, and Brentz because hardthrowing lefties are probably relatively easy to hide on a MLB roster for a year.

    • The problem with Reyes is his upside. If you’re spending $100,000 and using a 25-man roster spot all year, you want someone who can either help out right away (such as their gamble on Tyler Webb last year) or you want someone with upside. Reyes will likely make the majors at some point, but his ceiling is as a bench player if everything goes right. Granted his versatility and speed would make him a valuable bench player if he reaches that peak, but that’s not really what you’re looking for in the Rule 5 draft. His winter performance hasn’t helped his case either with a .533 OPS and five errors in 20 games.

      Brentz could be selected, but I see no reason not to take that risk because it’s unlikely he could stick. He had 15 walks in 14 innings with Altoona and was taking something off of his fastball to throw more strikes. He made our mid-season top 50, but his stock dropped after that. The Curve used him for one inning over the final nine regular season games and six playoff games combined because they were all big games at that point. That says a lot.

      • I’m probably making the mistake of assuming Reyes’ upside matches his minor league batting lines… .350ish OBPs and .400ish SLGs. You’re probably right that his upside is much lower than that.

        I’m also probably overrating his ability to not look like a fool at SS and in CF.

        That said, i’ve also seen John Raynor and Josh Rodriguez get taken by *this* team, so who knows who will get taken haha.

        I’m looking at him like a potential Odubel Herrera when i should be looking at him like a Josh Rodriguez.

        That said…. him and Odubel have pretty similar AA statlines, and Reyes actually has the better K and BB%s. Odubel just had a better BABIP, basically.

        NO STOP, jaygray007. Don’t talk yourself into saying that Pablo Reyes is Odubel Herrera. stop it. stop. stop. now. Pablo isn’t that good. stop it. now.

        • This team has crap for brains when it comes to MI’s. Reyes has been an excellent utility player (2B, SS, CF) and I would rather have him on the 25 than another Phil Gosselin – or a $5.5 mil Sean Rodriguez, if keeping him means we dedicate part of 3B to him.

          • I’ll get them a pass on Gosselin. he had actually been a pretty useful player for Arizona in limited time. And i guess we’ll see which version of Sean Rod we get.

            I’m in no way suggesting that the Pirates should put Reyes on their 25 man roster to start the year. because they dont have to, and he isn’t ready to play for a team that cares about their W L record in 2018. I am suggesting that i wouldn’t blame a *rebuilding* team for taking him in the Rule 5 and putting him on *their* roster.

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