The 2017 Rule 5 draft starts today at 9 AM EST, which essentially marks the end of the Winter Meetings. The Pirates have open spots on the 40-man roster, so they are eligible to make a pick if they choose. Teams must pay $100,000 for each pick in the MLB portion of the draft. If they don’t keep the player, they can offer him back to his original team for half the cost.
I wrote a preview yesterday that included my thoughts on whether the Pirates would make a pick, along with some guys who are at risk of being selected. Here is the list of the players who are eligible to be selected.
We will update this throughout the draft with any results that involve the Pirates selecting or losing a player.
UPDATE 9:18 AM: The Pirates have selected right-handed pitcher Jordan Milbrath from Cleveland with the 10th pick.
UPDATE 9:32 AM: Milbrath had a 3.02 ERA in 56.2 innings of relief between High-A and Double-A last year. He paired that with a combined 10.0 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9. I’m still looking for details that are more recent. The only thing I’ve found is that he had a velocity increase up to 95 MPH at the end of 2016. He switched to a sidearm delivery this year, but maintained his velocity. That led to an increase in his ground ball rate, going all the way up to 74.5%, from 52.5% in 2016.
The Pirates didn’t select anyone else in the MLB portion, and didn’t lose anyone.
UPDATE 9:35 AM: The Pirates took right-handed pitcher Damien Magnifico from the Angels in the Triple-A phase of the draft. JJ Cooper says he’s a hard thrower. More on him soon.
Pirates take Damien Magnifico. Man throws hard. Good milb R5 pick.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 14, 2017
An update on Milbrath: his velocity saw an increase this year, getting up to 98-99 MPH.
Pirates R5 selection Jordan Milbrath got a little buzz when writing up the Cleveland Indians mid-season update. He was up to 98-99 with sink this season, pairs it with a solid breaking ball.
— Justin Perline (@jperline) December 14, 2017
So a right-hander with a fastball that tops out at 98-99 MPH, from a sidearm delivery, leading to a ground ball three out of four times the ball is put in play. Here is some video:
UPDATE 9:43 AM: The Pirates took catcher Rafelin Lorenzo from the Rays with their second pick in the Triple-A phase. If you read my minor league roster previews a few weeks ago, this wouldn’t be a surprise. They need some catchers to fill out the minors, and the initial reaction here is that Lorenzo could be a cheap way to add some of that depth in the middle levels.
UPDATE 9:48 AM: The Pirates didn’t lose anyone in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft. They also didn’t select anyone else.
They did trade international slot money to the Phillies for their Rule 5 pick, Nick Burdi, who is a hard thrower. More to come.
UPDATE 9:51 AM: Burdi is an interesting pickup. He’s had a fastball that sits mid-90s and can reach 100, but had Tommy John surgery in 2017. That means he will open the 2018 season on the DL, and has 30 days of minor league rehab after that. The Pirates could then call him up, and would only need him active for 90 days this year to keep him. If he isn’t active for 90 days, they would need to keep him on the active roster in 2019 for the remaining days. He had an 0.53 ERA in 17 innings in Double-A before his surgery, with a 10.6 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9.
This looks like a solid addition, getting a hard thrower and a promising relief prospect for international money they weren’t using, all while not having to protect him for the entire season. And if the season goes as expected for the Pirates, and they aren’t contending, then it shouldn’t be difficult to protect Burdi from July through the end of the season.
The Pirates traded $500,000 in international pool money in the deal.
Phillies turned a $100,000 Rule 5 pick into $500,000 in international slot money from Pittsburgh. That concludes the winter meetings.
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) December 14, 2017
UPDATE 10:02 AM: Catching up here with the Triple-A phase guys. Damien Magnifico is a hard thrower who has actually pitched in the majors. That is limited to four appearances and 3.1 innings, including 0.1 innings this year. He combined for a 6.24 ERA this year between Double-A and three Triple-A affiliates over 53.1 innings. That comes with a 9.8 K/9 and a 6.8 BB/9. He has hit 100 MPH routinely in the past, but in his brief time in the majors he has topped out at 98-99, averaging 95-97 MPH.
The minor league guys aren’t expected to help the majors, and are just depth options to take a flier on, and to fill out the mid-level bullpens. Magnifico seems like a good flier to take, as he’ll provide Bradenton, Altoona, or Indianapolis with a hard thrower, and obviously has the stuff to reach the majors. If he can work on those control problems, he could become a better option for the big leagues, even if the percentage chance of that happening is small.
Rafelin Lorenzo is a lower-level catcher who has played as high as the New York-Penn League last year. He didn’t have much offense, hitting for a .666 OPS, which is above his .633 OPS in his four-year career. He appears to have a strong arm, throwing out 44% of base stealers last year. I don’t think his addition is anything more than adding a strong defensive catcher to help boost the depth in the lower levels of the minors.
UPDATE 10:13 AM: One last update to say that the 40-man roster is now full. I’ll be writing more about Milbrath and Burdi, but I’m going to combine it in a column about the bullpen.