JJ Cooper from Baseball America posted a list of the top Rule 5 candidates, along with players who fit the mold of the type who get selected in the Rule 5 draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates added Austin Meadows, Luis Escobar and Dario Agrazal to their 40-man roster this off-season. That was to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, which takes place next Thursday morning. Last month, Tim Williams commented on the prospects for the Pirates who are available in the draft.

I’ll start with the names included on the BA list, which also offers potential names for the Pirates, who have three open spots on their 40-man roster. There weren’t any among the top choices available, but Cooper still included three Pirates on his long list of 70+ names. He has Montana DuRapau, Eric Wood and Pablo Reyes on his list. That’s an interesting group, but wouldn’t be names to worry about losing for the $100,000 price tag attached to Rule 5 picks.

DuRapau has minimal Triple-A experience and doesn’t have overpowering stuff or strong command of his pitches, so his upside is middle reliever and he will be 26 in March. Reyes has no Triple-A experience, and while he has tools and versatility, his upside is a bench player and he’s not ready for the majors.

Wood has power and some defense, but he didn’t have a great first run at Triple-A this year. Third basemen usually aren’t selected in the Rule 5 draft, which was one of the reasons that leaving him unprotected last year wasn’t a huge gamble. While he now has a full season of Triple-A, his stock took a hit this year. The strikeouts went up, the defense wasn’t as good as 2016, although I think that last part has more to do with him learning new positions and not putting in as much time at third base.

They all fit the mold of players who could be selected, but none of them offer the upside or immediate help that teams look for in the draft. If you’re going to keep someone on your 25-man roster all season, you either want to be able to use them, or the risk should be worth the future reward.

The BA list didn’t have Tyler Eppler, who was ranked as one of the top ten available players by MLB Pipeline recently. If I had to guess, I’d say Eppler is the most likely player to be selected from the Pirates. He has a workhorse frame and can get his fastball up to 96 MPH as a starter, plus he throws strikes. His 2017 season was not a strong one, but the potential is there for him to be better.

His biggest flaw is learning how to pitch. When our live coverage from Altoona or Indianapolis covered some of his worst outings, he said the same thing over and over. He would try to get ahead in the count with his fastball and he went to the pitch too often. The other team would know an 0-0 fastball is coming and Eppler is going to be in the strike zone. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 6’6″ pitcher sitting 92-95 MPH with your fastball, a Triple-A hitter is going to hit that pitch if he knows it’s coming. Seems like an easy fix, but it’s been an issue he has know about for two years. Throwing too many strikes isn’t the worst flaw to have though, and if he learns to pitch to hitters better, then he has the stuff be a better prospect.

Eppler’s tools fit the profile of a Rule 5 pick. He might only offer a team an innings eater out of the bullpen this year, but he’s a big arm with a potential velocity increase in shorter outings.

Eduardo Vera and Adrian Valerio fit the upside mold better than anyone else available for the Pirates. Their flaws are experience-related, which is what the Pirates hope will keep them from being selected. Vera’s top level of experience at this time last year was the GCL, and Valerio had a season in Bristol to his credit.

Both of them played for West Virginia this year, with Valerio playing just 81 games due to three separate injuries. Two of the injuries were from thrown balls and the third was a minor one on a play at second base, so durability isn’t the concern. A team selecting him would be advancing a young player over three levels, where he would be seeing pitching far advanced over what he has faced to this point. He doesn’t have the best plate patience, which would be an issue against pitchers able to expose that flaw. His defense at shortstop could be intriguing, but his bench value this upcoming season in the majors would be strictly as a defensive replacement, who has decent speed.

Vera would be closer to the majors at this point, though it’s still a huge jump. He has above average control over three pitches that all improved this year. His fastball got up to 97 MPH this season as a starter and his curve showed signs of being a strikeout pitch. A pitcher with control over three pitches with that type of velocity offers upside down the road and the potential to not be an unusable bullpen piece in the majors. I wouldn’t predict success, but I also don’t think he would be like Wei-Chung Wang, who the Pirates lost to the Brewers in 2014. He was making the jump from the GCL and was a disaster for the Brewers, who used him just 14 times all season, which included numerous one-sided losses.

As far as the BA list, those aren’t players you should worry about losing. As with any Rule 5 pick, there is a slim chance they get selected. The average draft has between 12-20 players total selected and then not all of them stick with their new team. You worry more about losing potential upside down the line, rather than a middle reliever or a bench piece. Tyler Eppler still seems like the most likely to be selected, while Adrian Valerio and Eduardo Vera look to have the biggest potential down the line, but their lack of experience could keep them from being chosen.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. I would seriously consider taking Barrett Barnes. I think he has the talent to be a 4th OF at this point, possibly slightly more. His injury wouldn’t scare me off because he only has to stay healthy for 90 of the 180 days to satisfy the “keep him in the majors the whole year” clause.

    • Also, I don’t think there is anyone worth taking for us. We don’t need more relievers or back up infielders. We need a top of the rotation pitcher, starting 3B, SS, and/or legit 4th OF.
      Our best hope would be the OF but my guess is we could do better in free agency or via a trade.

    • I don’t think teams will be lining up for an injury-prone corner outfielder with average speed, limited power and no arm. He was more intriguing when he stayed healthy in 2016 and finally started to hit, but add in two more injuries and lackluster results when he did play, and he could easily lose his starting OF spot in Triple-A next year with a poor spring. He didn’t leave the bench during the playoffs this year and he was healthy.

  2. Eppler vs. DuRapau feels like a case study in modern scouting.

    The “workhorse frame” vs the “undersized righty”. Break it down any further, though, and one can only justify Eppler as having better “stuff” solely by relying on radar gun readings, and with an *average* MLB reliever fastball now sitting at almost 95mph, you gotta really light it up to get by without movement. Nothing about Eppler really stands out in today’s game.

    On the other hand, while DuRapau has a few less ticks on the gun he’s consistently missed bats at every level. As a short reliever with a dead-nuts overhand delivery and fourseam fastball, you’re literally talking about the kind of profile that produces high-spin, high-rise fastballs when hit with measurements devices. Combine that with a deceptive delivery and average or better cutter and you have the type who could “surprise” his way to middle reliever success. I’d love to see him get the opportunity.

    • Exactly. Epplers velocity is barely interesting in today’s game relative to the rest of MLB when you factor in the lack of swing and miss. Another pitch to contact guy…

      • FWIW, I wrote that comment before realizing Brooks has seven games of AFL data on DuRapau from 2016.

        Measured an average 4seamer of 94mph, Cutter (classified as slider) at 90mph with 11.1″ of vertical movement on the 4seamer. That would tie for 9th most vertical movement in baseball last year (min. 200 pitches).

        Also, his average fastball vertical release point was measured at 6.2′. Tyler Glasnow, he of the 6’8″ frame, had an average vertical release point of 5.83′ last year. It’s not *exactly* this simple, but “plane” – or angle, if you prefer – largely is a matter of geometry. Height of release, height of contact, distance traveled.

        DuRapau arguably gets more plane on his fastball than Glasnow despite a 9″ height disadvantage due to the difference in their mechanics.

        • Fascinating! Unfortunately I think Montana will be picked, and will have a good career with another team. I would have protected him and Valerio (on the too much upside argument).

          • I could also be just be looking for signs of life in the ether. You’re talking to the guy who talked himself into Gaby Sanchez once upon a time.

            I just think DuRapau is interesting and different and maybe something new we could learn from. We’ll see!

    • Any team selecting Eppler would probably be hoping he would become an “average MLB reliever”. If they think he can eat some innings this year they just might take him.

      • Sure. I’d also argue that every team has a Tyler Eppler in their system already, and the extremely limited upside that comes with him doesn’t make carrying him particularly attractive.

        • He wouldn’t be a passenger. He’d be participant or else be returned to his original team. He’s not a high upside guy that you carry for future reward. If he’s taken he’ll be expected to contribute right away.

  3. The bigger question is does anyone see the Pirates participating in the Rule 5 Draft. Maybe they can find an outfielder, catcher or a reliever. The Pirates have open spots on the 40 man roster. I know it is really hard for many teams to hide these types of players on their rosters and plenty of “injuries’ occur to help keep players.

    It appears the current management is reluctant to participate in the draft based on their previous record. If management does not feel the roster can contend in 2018 then it might be time to participate.

    Maybe they will draft then sell or trade a selection.

    I just don’t understand why the draft is not moved to Monday at the
    Winter meetings. I think it would promote more player transactions.

  4. Johnathan Mayo mentions Eppler as one we could lose-but has an Atlanta
    infielder + Kohl Stewart as a pitcher.
    Spend some money damn it!

    • stewart seems kinda broken.

      Demeritte, the braves IF, is at least kinda interesting. Sounds like he has some pop and some high quality defense.

      i’ll probably lean toward hoping they don’t pick anybody though, unless the direction is clearly “rebuild”

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