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.