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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Pirates Business: Who Do The Pirates Need to Protect From the Rule 5 Draft?

Early in the MLB offseason, one deadline begets another.

Several deadlines passed this past week, but two more are right around the corner—the deadline for teams to file their Reserve Lists, as well as to tender contracts for 2023.

We’re going to focus on the former here, as it’s commonly known among fans as protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft.

Whether it’s hope, wanting old players out and new in, a desire to see any kind of moves, or something else entirely, fans love the Rule 5 Draft. This is interesting because, by in large, it’s one of the most overvalued productions in all of baseball—possibly in all of sports.

This may sound funny coming from me, the guy who calculates and tracks the Rule 5 date for every player in the system, but that’s just because it’s a procedural quirk that I enjoy. I recognize its outweighed importance, even if some fans can’t seem to.

Every offseason, a portion of any fanbase wants to protect any and all prospects that may be eligible, fearing that another team will swoop them up as they become the next Josh Hamilton or Johan Santana.

The thing is this just isn’t the case.

Relative to players left unprotected, very few players get selected and fewer still last the season in the majors required for a team to lose said prospect. Even for the rare prospect that gets lost, it’s likely it wouldn’t be hard for a team to find a relatively close facsimile from another farm system, whether it be in the Rule 5 Draft or elsewhere.

Rule changes several years back—adding an additional year before Rule 5 eligibility—made the process more secure, ensuring teams felt better about who they did and didn’t want to keep. If a team leaves a player eligible, it’s much more likely because they feel comfortable doing so, not because they don’t have the space.

So, don’t fret when your favorite prospect isn’t protected Tuesday; more than likely, it’s going to be just fine.

On that note, let’s look at who actually does need protected, along with some other players who are on the bubble.

Locks

Mike Burrows

Endy Rodriguez

Not much to say here. These players were here when I did this exercise in August, and not much has changed since. If anything, Endy Rodriguez is more of a lock than he was before.

Possibilities

Malcom Nuñez

Blake Sabol

Dariel Lopez

Matt Gorski

Cody Bolton (previously eligible)

Jared Triolo

Tahnaj Thomas (previously eligible)

J.C. Flowers

This list is players who I could at least see possibly being protected, listed by most to least likely, in my opinion.

I first thought Malcom Nuñez had zero chance when he initially came over from St. Louis in the Jose Quintana trade, but the more he continued to hit in Altoona before being promoted to Indianapolis to end the season, the more unsure I became on the likelihood that he gets rostered. Add that to the potential embarrassment of losing one of two pieces in the aforementioned trade—coupled with Ben Cherington’s track record of protecting prospects he acquired during this rebuild—and it may be even more likely that a protection comes to pass, even though that’s not exactly the best way to make a decision.

Maybe I was allowing the crowd to sway me, as I’ve been back and forth on Blake Sabol lately, after being strongly against him before, but DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Alex Stumpf finally converted me Friday:

“Talking to [Sabol] Tuesday, he thinks he’ll get added, and I’ve heard league buzz that if the Pirates do not add him, there’s a good chance he’ll be taken in the draft.”

I’d rather be correct than stick to an original position I think has more chance being wrong at this point, so I’ve moved Sabol up in my personal rankings, and we’ll see what happens.

Dariel Lopez is a bit of a wildcard—a very talented performer achieving success at a young age at advanced levels. However, he still is young, and how worried are the Pirates that another team will select him, jumping him three levels to the majors for his age 21 season? He profiles similar to Liover Peguero, who was protected last offseason, but Peguero was also a higher ranked prospect at that point.

I could go either way right now, but I’m just not sure he should be a lock at this point.

Matt Gorski is tricky, as he outperformed all expectations this season, playing across three different levels and showcasing his power in two of them. A late season injury kept him from displaying it in Indianapolis and in the Arizona Fall League. Between that and his lofty strikeout totals, is he a player that could stick in the majors a whole season? The team also has a lot of outfield options right now, and Gorski would only crowd that group even more, so for now, I’m projecting a no on protecting Gorski.

As for Cody Bolton, back when I did this the first time, I assumed he wouldn’t have to worry, as he would make his major league debut in 2022. That never happened, and now I’m not as sure on his standing internally as I would have been otherwise.

Bolton performed well, especially considering he hadn’t pitched in over two years. While it’s possible he gets selected and hidden in another team’s bullpen all year, I just think the Pirates would have already selected him if they were worried about that, as they did with Luis Ortiz in late September. It’s because of that I would lean towards him not being protected, but we’ll see.

As for the rest of the names, I have them listed because I view it as at least a possibility the team protects them, but ultimately, I don’t think it will happen.

If I’m concerned about anyone, it would probably be Jared Triolo. He’s not the third basemen of the future for the Pirates at this point, but he could be a utility player as soon as this season. Maybe another team with a more open long-term outlook at third likes him enough to snag him and can utilize him all over the diamond for a season, but do other teams value a third basemen without much power? It’s an intriguing situation, and I’m interested to see how it plays out for him.

Finally, it also bears mentioning—with this group, especially players towards the end—that perspective is important. A common refrain among many fans may be “how can they choose Player X over Player Y?!?”. For example, Eric Hanhold last offseason over someone like Bolton.

The thing is, the Pirates may not have liked Hanhold more than Bolton; rather, they just may have thought the chances of losing Bolton weren’t that high. If they tie up that roster spot with Bolton unnecessarily, it can’t be used later for anyone else. However, if they take the small chance of risking losing Bolton, they can use that spot later for another player they like more—Adonis Medina, as it turned out—while likely keeping Bolton in the process (and in this example, Hanhold as well). Basically, it was three for the price of one roster spot, whereas if they had protected Bolton, it would have been one for one.

It’s these intricacies that sometimes seem to get lost in the Rule 5 Draft that are just as interesting to me.

Of Note

Ricky DeVito

Carlos Jimenez

Colin Selby (previously eligible)

Rodolfo Nolasco

If I were ranking another group, this would be it. These are names that may work themselves into contention next year, but just won’t need considered this time around, for whatever reason.

Names Names Names

Cam Alldred (previously eligible)

Andres Alvarez

Osvaldo Bido (previously eligible)

Sergio Campana

Blake Cederlind

Christian Charle

Omar Cruz (previously eligible)

Maikol Escotto

Adrian Florencio

Santiago Florez (previously eligible)

Matt Fraizer

Abrahan Gutierrez (previously eligible)

Mason Martin (previously eligible)

Oliver Mateo (previously eligible)

Enmanuel Mejia

Alexander Mojica

Connor Scott

Aaron Shackelford

Aaron Shortridge (previously eligible)

Hunter Stratton (previously eligible)

Noe Toribio (previously eligible)

Eddy Yean (previously eligible)

At some point, whether it was this year or years prior, someone uttered every name on this list as a player who would or will need protected. To me, they are all safe and have little to no chance of being selected. Again, even if for some reason they are, it’s not as if they would stick or the loss would hurt long term.

Everyone Else

Francisco Acuna (previously eligible)

Braxton Ashcraft

Darwin Baez

Angel Basabe (previously eligible)

Franrielis Bastardo

Bear Bellomy

Carter Bins

Josh Bissonette

Josh Broughton

Carlos Campos

Brad Case (previously eligible)

Brendt Citta (previously eligible)

Enmanuel De Los Santos

Joelvis Del Rosario

Jason Delay (previously eligible)

Miguel Diaz

Yoyner Fajardo

Drake Fellows

Claudio Finol (previously eligible)

Grant Ford

Darvin Garcia

Jacob Gonzalez (previously eligible)

Domingo Gonzalez

Jack Herman

Joe Jacques (previously eligible)

Juan Jerez

Cameron Junker

Will Kobos (previously eligible)

Grant Koch (previously eligible)

Valentin Linarez

Fabricio Macias (previously eligible)

Jose Maldonado (previously eligible)

Andy Maldonado

Norkis Marcos (previously eligible)

Will Matthiessen

Trey McGough

Cristofer Melendez

Dante Mendoza (previously eligible)

Michell Miliano (previously eligible)

Johan Montero

Deivis Nadal

Jared Oliva (previously eligible)

Ernny Ordonez

John O’Reilly (previously eligible)

Jeffrey Passantino (previously eligible)

Luis Peralta (previously eligible)

Jhan Polanco

Wilkin Ramos (previously eligible)

Daniel Rivero (previously eligible)

Austin Roberts

Denny Roman

Rayber Romero

Lolo Sanchez (previously eligible)

Dylan Shockley

Peter Solomon (previously eligible)

Beau Sulser (previously eligible)

Eli Wilson

Final Predictions: Burrows, Nuñez, Rodriguez, Sabol

Offseason Calendar Update

—As I just covered extensively, the Pirates will need to have their Reserve List filed by Tuesday, November 15. They will have to make corresponding moves for as many players as they choose to protect, as their roster is currently full.

—At that point, the deadline to tender players contracts is Friday, November 18 at 8 p.m. A common misconception seems to be that this is only for arbitration eligible players, but every player gets tendered a contract for the next year, pre-arbitration included.

Terms aren’t agreed upon yet—that happens in spring—but teams are basically tying themselves to players at this point. So much so that if they outright a player later in the offseason, they still must come to terms with them before the season starts.

Pirates Payroll Updates

As was every team, the Pirates were busy this past week, and here’s a quick rundown of the moves that were made:

—A spot opened up after Ben Gamel became a free agent. The team quickly filled it, adding Ryan Vilade off waivers from the Colorado Rockies.

Vilade has .016 days of service, meaning he comes with six full years of contractual control. He also has two options remaining after using one this past season.

To make room on my theoretical roster, I dropped Beau Sulser, and payroll went down $6,754 based purely on a small difference in minor league splits.

—Faced with an actual roster crunch, the Tampa Bay Rays were looking to unload a few serviceable players from their roster. The Pirates kindly obliged, acquiring first baseman Ji-Man Choi for reliever Jack Hartman.

I have Choi at 5.076 years of service, meaning he’ll be on his last go around in arbitration before reaching free agency. MLB Trade Rumors projects that salary at $4.5M, and I dropped Zack Collins (more on him soon) from the roster, increasing my projection $3.755M.

Choi is out of options, not that it matters, as he has enough service that he would need to consent to any optional assignment. Speaking of, he now surpasses Robert Stephenson as the most tenured payer in the organization based on service time.

—Finally, on a day we’ve all been waiting for, the team made their first round of cuts to meet the roster limits for the first procedural deadline of the offseason.

Beau Sulser, Peter Solomon, Jason Delay, and Blake Cederlind were all outrighted and will stick around, as none had three years of service or had been previously outrighted, meaning they didn’t have the option to elect free agency. Cederlind technically has been in professional baseball seven seasons, meaning he would have been eligible for minor league free agency had he not been on the IL for the last two years.

I swapped Jeremy Beasley in for Solomon, but payroll wasn’t affected there. A swap of Yohan Ramirez and Cederlind resulted in a drop of $140,199.

Meanwhile, Eric Stout and Zack Collins were also outrighted; however, they had enough minor league service to declare minor league free agency, so they are no longer in the organization at this point.

Collins actually accrued a full year of service in 2021, but that was only after being on option for less than 20 days, meaning he still spent some time in the minors, leaving him eligible the way Cederlind was not.

—For 2023, the payroll estimate stands at $48,087,163 for the Labor Relations Department, while it’s $64,503,830 for CBT purposes.

+ posts

A longtime Pirates Prospects reader, Ethan has been covering payroll, transactions, and rules in-depth since 2018 and dabbling in these topics for as long as he can remember. He started writing about the Pirates at The Point of Pittsburgh before moving over to Pirates Prospects at the start of the 2019 season.

Always a lover of numbers and finding an answer, Ethan much prefers diving into these topics over what’s actually happening on the field. These under and often incorrectly covered topics are truly his passion, and he does his best to educate fans on subjects they may not always understand, but are important nonetheless.

When he’s not updating his beloved spreadsheets, Ethan works full-time as an accountant, while being a dad to two young daughters and watching too many movies and TV shows at night.

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john.benedict

2022 Pirates used 6 catchers, 2 more than the average team
Sabol has been catching since college, nothing new here
He’s solid enough to spell ER 1-2 times a week
Last C to start 150 games? Gary Carter (151) 1982
2022 Only 5 catchers had enough PA to qualify for the batting title
and 3 were because they DH as well
He makes the 26 out of ST

john.benedict

Sabol punched his ticket Saturday night, text book tag out in 9th saved the game, footwork block, crazy good tag as throw was wide right
Moreso it was his blocking of at least 5 wild pitches with runners in scoring position

1979andCounting

I must have been watching a different game. Sabol had great difficulty blocking wild pitches in Championship game. Most went to the backstop or 20 ft away off his glove or shin guards. The throw from Acuna at SS to Home in the 9th was perfect…..all Sabol had to do was catch it and turn into the sliding runner. One or both analysts noted that the catching from one knee was not helping Sabol.

john.benedict

200 Pitches = Only 4 WP and zero PB

9th inn cut down was not a routine play
there is a quick 30 second vid of the play everywhere
freeze vid at 5 second mark
Glad it wasn’t a better toss would have impacted the collision

skliesen

I’m going to go waaaayyyy out on a limb here and predict Pirates will not lose anyone who isn’t easily replaced. Nor will they select anyone who will add positive value to the organization next year.

Ethan is right, Rule 5 draft is a Super Sized Nothing Burger.

Mblee24

I think they protect Rodriguez, burrows, and Nunez. I could see Gorski as well , but don’t think its necessary. I cut Sanchez, park and Stephenson.

jaygray007

flowers is more intriguing than i originally gave him credit for

jaygray007

Definitely nitpicking here, but i’d definitely guess that Triolo gets protected before Gorski does.

I just don’t see another team thinking that things will end well with Gorski, who had very high strikeout numbers while being old for his level. Triolo is also old but i just see the healthier K numbers leading to him being a better MLB player.

Not to mention, Steamer projections have Triolo as being a league-average bat right away. Along with what i understand to be good defense at 3b, i think that’s likely worth protecting.

My guess for protections?

Burrows, Nuñez, Rodriguez, Sabol, Triolo

Really have a feeling that Nunez goes unprotected though. His batting line is as healthy and as exciting as it gets, but it’s impossible to ignore the minimal track record of 1b’s getting taken

Catch_22

You really think Sabol would get selected? K rates are too high for me and he’s a butcher behind the plate in the looks I got…does not look natural back there. He’s getting by on unsustainable babip.

Just my opinion, but I don’t think anyone outside of Burrows and Rodriguez get selected.

john.benedict

Why would a team want to protect a flexible OF with river power,
who hits the ball in play so hard peeps that post can’t believe it so they fade the ;300 hitting emergency backstop and chalk it up to luck of the infamous babip stat all while spreading fake news about his shortcomings
behind the dish because he doesn’t look natural back there
His Defense won them an AFL championship
Saved the game in the 9th not once but twice
First, the crazy good tag play, text book as it gets, never comes to fruition if he didn’t block a wild pitch earlier in the AB

jaygray007

im pretty encouraged by the K rate improvement in AAA, myself.

I hadnt heard that he’s a butcher. thats definitely worth considering!

Steamer has him as a 106 wrc+ player right now, and i think that kind of on-paper production is worth protecting. A 106 wrc+ would represent their 8th best hitter in those projections.

i do think that fans tend to overestimate who MUST be protected I’m absolutely sympathetic to your mindset.. If they go through this and only protect Burrows and Rodriguez, i’ll tip my cap and appreciate it and have only minimal anxiety.

I’ll look forward to what the plan is for those free 40 man spots.

Last edited 23 days ago by jaygray007
jaygray007

If they protect Nunez, i almost wonder if they should just roll with him as the 1b vs LHP (and picking some spots for RHP).

1b vs LHP is a clear need, given Choi’s strengths/weaknesses. There are plenty of mashers of lefties out there in FA, i’m sure, but you only want to commit so many 40 man spots to 1b and DH.

Anthony

Given that there was no Rule 5 last year helps to explain all the dead weight on the current roster. I would expect a decent roster purge today/tomorrow. But how does this affect the ability to add to the roster via FAs between now and the actual Rule 5 draft in December?

Aurorus

A couple of years from now, it may not be the Josh Vanmeters of the world that dismiss the Cherrington era into the rubbish of GM history. It may very well be the blackhole of offense at 3B eating up 10% of a small-budget payroll. The only hope for a solution to this problem may be Triolo and to lose him in the rule 5 would be very dangerous to Cherrington’s future: that is unless Captain Haines can work some magic on Ke Bryan that is the opposite of what he did for guys like Yellich.

ArkyWags

Imagine actually having terrible, horrible, awful, no-good beliefs like this.

Catch_22

I’m not a BC fan, but of all his flaws, he chooses one of the better contracts in baseball as his demise.

ArkyWags

Right. If Hayes never hits more than he did this year, he’s still a three win player. That’s still a bargain!

Catch_22

Dude is trolling. Whenever you type that the VanMeter’s of the world won’t be BC’s demise but signing Hayes to extension will be. It’s trolling 101

ArkyWags

Oh I know. It’s not even good trolling though so I felt it warranted a response.

Catch_22

Captain Haines

Aurorus

I was not trolling. No one wants to talk about Hayes for some taboo that I cannot determine. But Colin Moron was run out of town for having the same bat. We can talk hypothetically about WAR all day, comparing real players to a make believe “replacement,” but the fact of the matter is that good baseball teams are willing to sacrifice some offense to protect the middle of the field- 2B, SS, and CF. It is delusional to think that a .250 single-hitting third baseman is a good tradeoff of offense to protect the third-base line: all the while using a bigger guy with a better arm and bat to play shortstop dubiously. The Pirates are the first team that I can remember who are willing to sacrifice defense up the middle for offense and offense for defense at the corners. You think this is winning baseball?

Last edited 23 days ago by Aurorus
Catch_22

If you’re not trolling, then you’re ignorant and don’t understand the game beyond hitting.

Aurorus

There are 3 solutions to this problem. The first is hope that Triolo pans out and you have a 3rd baseman for entry-level salary for 3 years… covering your loss on Hayes. The second is move Hayes to SS and move Cruz to 3B. The 3rd is hope for some voodoo magic from the hitting instructors or Hayes’ dad that modifies his swing so that he elevates the ball. Hope is not really a plan though.

Catch_22

My God

steve_zielinski

Great Article!

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I can see this going 20 different ways for 20 different reasons.

TNBucs

Based on the reports I’ve read here, I’d protect Jimenez. Maybe Flowers too. With the DH, the three-batter rule, and the 26-man roster, it’s just so easy to stash a quality arm in the bullpen.

bradlej31

concur. he was dominating, then was scuffling. Could easily be that they had him work on his worst pitch.

If other scouts saw him dominate then they might have teams grab him.

PirateRican21

The question is how fast is he gonna burn through his options if selected, one this year while being stashed, another next year when he gets aggressively assign to AA and hope he is up for good by 2025 meanwhile taking up roster space. I know it happens, but selecting anyone lower than Hi A is a huge gamble.

Wilbur Miller

I think he got tired. He was double his 2021 workload after zip in 2020, and he’s still filling out.

PirateRican21

Flowers is someone that could be lost, he supposed to have one of the best sliders in the organization and hi 90s fastball….. this is a guy you could probably carry.

bradlej31

I really only think Endy and Burrows would get picked… maybe Sabol. It’s hard for any team to roster such raw players for an entire year.

There’s a really good chance WE don’t even pick anyone this year.

Wilbur Miller

The Tahr of Pahr needs no protection! He protects himself!!

Wilbur Miller

I think they should remove two for every one they protect.

Wilbur Miller

I’d leave Shelton unprotected.

1979andCounting

No one would pick him anyway. He’s a Milb coach and the league knows it.

Zack

(previously eligible) probably needs a disclaimer that no Rule 5 draft occurred for active MLB rosters last year. Also, Bolton was coming off a major surgery.

rotenjon1

add lopez fools

Todd

Eithan’s list is right on except for Flowers. I think Osvaldo Bido is a better choice. I know he hasn’t much of a fastball he idi look pretty good.

leefieux

We have so much crap on that 40 man. That we should easily be able to protect Endy, Burrow, Gorski, Triolo and Sabol. Maybe even Bolton. What do we need wit this guy (Volade?: we just picked up any way?

bradlej31

beacuse a) Guys like Triolo and Gorski probably don’t get picked AND

b) you still need to have a 25 man roster… and unless Triolo or Gorski is also a MLB relief pitcher on the side they need his spot to build a bullpen

leefieux

You get 26 on your roster. And what bullpen guys are you protecting besides Bednar and maybe deJong? Are you afraid someone will claim one of our RPs? If so, great!

bradlej31

No… but you need 8 relievers during the season. This 40 man is basically a 14 man. 40 man minus 26 man roster. 14 players in the Minors eligible for Rule 5 not on 26 man.

leefieux

I’m pretty sure that we can find relievers as bad as the ones we had last year. 🙂

joesolo6181

I am glad I don’t to ;make the decision as to whom to protect. I guess you have to rely on the experts but last year they left DeLoSantos unprotected and now he seems like a bullpen mainstay.

NMR

Look at it this way…

They assumed Yerry wasn’t ready to slot into a pen on Opening Day and wouldn’t be selected.

Then they tripled his K/BB rate and slashed his FIP in half before parlaying that developmental improvement into some modest big league success.

Brother, that’s how you draw it up.

jon6er

Hopefully they manage his usage better than last season. Granted overall it was a bad bullpen but mismanaging it like Shelton does helps nothing. Even if they get Shelton a decent bp for 2023 he’ll probably do the same things because of their preconceived notions of “scheduling”. If a guy is scheduled for two innings but can’t get any of the first three batters he faces out you need to throw that schedule out and start thinking in the moment.

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