The Winter Meetings have been pretty quiet this year across baseball, with a few rumors going around, and a few trades starting to happen today. The action for the Pirates has been limited to rumors, mostly involving players they might trade away, but without knowledge of whether they would actually be sellers.

Unless things heat up in the next 24 hours, it seems the only moves the Pirates will make during these Winter Meetings will involve tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft. Here’s a look at whether the Pirates might make a pick, and who they’re at risk of losing to other teams, with one player in specific leading the way.

Will the Pirates Make a Pick?

It’s hard to say if the Pirates will make a selection in the MLB portion of the draft. They made a pick in each of their first five years under Neal Huntington, but once they started getting competitive, they stopped making picks. They didn’t make a pick from 2012-2015, but returned to the process this past year when they selected left-hander Tyler Webb from the Yankees.

Webb didn’t stick, and was sent back to the Yankees at the end of Spring Training. That’s unlike the previous picks where the Pirates gave those players a shot out of Spring Training. The procedure was different because the teams up until 2012 didn’t have much to play for, and were in the middle of a rebuild.

The Pirates do have an open spot, eligible to make a pick. The Rule 5 draft doesn’t provide as much upside as it did up until ten years ago. You’re not getting a future star, and the hope is that you can get a good bench or bullpen piece. So I don’t know if the Pirates taking someone will tell us anything about their approach in 2018. If they’re contending, they could look to add to their roster depth. If they’re not contending, it’s a way to add talent in a rebuild.

Who Could They Lose?

I posted the list of eligible Rule 5 players last month, after the Pirates protected Austin Meadows, Luis Escobar, and Dario Agrazal. I highlighted a few guys of note, with Adrian Valerio and Eduardo Vera being the top prospects. However, those two are too far away from the majors to be a risk to be taken and protected.

Tyler Eppler and Yeudy Garcia are two guys closer to the majors who seem like they would be candidates to be drafted. However, their names haven’t come up in any previews. JJ Cooper does the best Rule 5 preview, and didn’t have either of these guys mentioned. He did have Jake Brentz, Eric Wood, and Pablo Reyes as possibilities.

The fourth player that Cooper had was Montana DuRapau. That’s not surprising at all to me. Since the rosters were set, I’ve had scouts from other teams asking me about different players, and the guy who has been the most asked about was DuRapau.

The Pirates haven’t been consistent in the way they’ve treated DuRapau. They gave him an aggressive push from West Virginia to Altoona in the span of the 2015 season. He was the Altoona closer in 2016, which isn’t an assignment you give to actual prospects. But then he went to the Arizona Fall League that offseason. He had been spending a lot of time as an MLB extra in Spring Training prior to the 2016 season, which is a move the team usually makes with guys who would be released at the end of camp. He returned to Altoona in 2017, and eventually made it up to Indianapolis.

DuRapau doesn’t have the best stuff, topping out with a 91-93 MPH fastball. He’s a small player, at 5′ 11″, 175 pounds, so that’s probably his max. He does have a good cutter, which led to his emergence in 2015, and allows him to put up a strikeout per inning in the upper levels. I could see him making it to the majors as a middle reliever one day. He might even be ready for a shot now. So it’s not a surprise that teams are asking about him, or that he’s getting attention as a potential Rule 5 pick.

This doesn’t mean he’ll be selected. But for his sake, I think the best route to the majors would be getting picked by another team tomorrow, since it doesn’t seem like he’s very high on the Pirates’ depth chart right now.

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  1. There are some backup catchers available in Rule 5. Grayson Greiner is MLB backup ready. If the Bucs move Cervelli and Diaz starts they can use Greiner and keep Stallings in AAA

  2. The Pirates won’t do anything meaningful; their struggle is to be mediocre, not to excel. In some circles, they would be called cheap.

  3. If the Pirates lose Valerio, it will be another reason (among many) to fire NH. How he could protect Agrazal over one of their best SS prospects is mind numbing. I get it that Valerio is not likely to get picked because he’s very young and hasn’t played above A level, but why take the chance with a good prospect at a premium position?

    • Why not complain about Eric Wood being left unprotected? You threw the same cry baby fit about him last year.

      Do you think Valerio will be ready in three years? Or is acknowledging him being young and not playing over A Ball not something you’re actually serious about?

  4. I am a Die Hard Pirate fan and will be to the day I die, but disappointed that DuRapau is not high on their depth chart. I really feel and hope that another team takes a chance on him. At least I get to follow him in the majors all season. I have followed this dude’s story from Bethune Cookman and hoping this 32nd round long shot gets a shot at the majors!! Good Luck Montana, God has ordered your steps!!

    • I agree – he may not look like much, stuff wise, but he seems to have the right mental makeup and pitching smarts. You can’t help but root for a kid like him.

      The Pirates waste and squander so much young talent…either by never giving them real opportunities or by blocking them with overpaid, veteran retreads…very frustrating.

  5. The plan has to be to blow it up. No way do they compete in this division now. Too many ifs in this current scenario.

  6. The plan has to be to blow it up. No way do they compete in this division now. Too many ifs in this current scenario.

  7. I’m with Mike Carlini (see below). Is the Rule 5 draft going to be the high point of the winter meetings for the Pirates? Good Lord, help us!

    Here’s my “blow it up” trade idea. Gerrit Cole and Josh Harrison to the Yankees for Estevan Florial (#3 prospect), Thairo Estrada (#10) and either catching prospect Donny Sands or Gustavo Campero (or one of the Yanks current overload of OF’s).. Of course, as many have said, if something like this happens, then Cutch has to go, too, for the best deal we can get for him.

    I’m only offering this idea because I’m bored of rehashing Rule 5 possibilities and want some meat to chew on.

  8. Cubs are signing pitching depth, Cardinals just made a blockbuster trade and here we sit discussing Rule 5!

    • I’m with you Mike, but to make you comfortable, I’ll start a fireworks and bobblehead post!

      Hey, can anyone else not wait for the first Zambelli fireworks show or the Milt May/ Jackie Hernandez bobbleheads?

      They be on a common base, which makes them less expensive.

      I understand the PBC will set off a lone firework whenever a Bucco gets a hot to move a runner over a base.

    • and reading articles about Nik Turley, as if that is supposed to be worth getting excited about…..

      As of now, Pirates are weakest team in the division…..

  9. I’m putting my nickel down on Eppler being taken.

    He’s a young but unspectacular innings eater and I’ve got a feeling some down in the dumps team will use him as a cheap backend starter or longman.

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