The Odds of Losing a Player to the Rule 5 Draft

I talked on Wednesday about the Pirates players that are eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft in December.  When talking about who needs to be protected, there needs to be some perspective as to which players are most frequently drafted, and more importantly, which players have the best chance of being protected.

The Rule 5 draft changed in 2006, adding an extra year before players would become eligible, which really cut down the talent field.  In the last five drafts, there have been 93 players selected, with 23 players successfully protected.  Those numbers include the 2010 Rule 5 draft, based on the current rosters in mid-September.  Here is a breakdown of each year:

Out of the 18 players that were selected this year, only five were protected, and now that we’re in the month of September, we can assume that those five players will remain with their new organizations.  One of those players is Nathan Adcock, who was lost by the Pirates to the Kansas City Royals, assuming Adcock remains on the roster for the next 13 days.  Again, that’s not a big assumption.

There’s no strong trend as far as protecting players goes.  Each position presents a small sample size, and they’re all around the same 20-33% range.  You could point out that catchers are the hardest to protect, but if one catcher gets protected next year, that position jumps to the easiest to protect.

One thing that stands out is that you don’t see many catchers or corner infielders drafted.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Matt Hague, for example, is left off the 40-man roster this off-season, and it also wouldn’t surprise me if he goes un-drafted.  Most teams don’t carry a backup first baseman, and no team is drafting Hague as a starter out of the Rule 5 draft.

On that same note, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone like Brett Lorin or Duke Welker was drafted if left unprotected.  It’s easier to stash a right hander on the roster, in theory.  You can put him in the bullpen and use him in blowout situations, initially, until he proves that he can handle the majors.  The same goes for left handers, since it really doesn’t matter what hand you use if you’re working mop-up duty.  For middle infielders, all we need to do is look at how little Pedro Ciriaco played this year to see how easy it could be to stash a middle infielder on the roster.  What’s the difference between what the Pirates did with Ciriaco and what a team could do by drafting Jordy Mercer if he gets left unprotected?  It also makes sense that outfielders get drafted a lot, as they could be stashed on the team as a fifth outfielder.  A speedy, defensive guy would be more likely to be drafted, for pinch running/late inning defensive purposes.

It’s also important to look at the team needs.  The Pirates are going to protect Starling Marte, but if they don’t protect Quincy Latimore and if he gets selected, it’s not a huge deal.  They’ve got depth in the outfield, with Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Alex Presley in the majors, Starling Marte starting off in AAA next year, and Robbie Grossman starting off in AA.  The loss of Latimore, who profiles as a John Bowker type, wouldn’t be that big.  It’s like this year.  The Pirates lost Adcock, although he profiles as a bullpen guy, or a fifth starter at best, and they’ve got plenty of depth in that area.  In fact, they’ve got three of those types eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year in Aaron Pribanic, Michael Colla, and Brett Lorin.

There are definitely some tough decisions to be made.  There’s guys that teams want to keep, but might not want to put on the 40-man roster right away.  I thought Eric Fryer would have been selected last year after the season he had in high-A.  There’s also situations where you don’t take any chances.  I didn’t think Kyle McPherson would have been selected as a 22 year old in low-A, although as we’ve seen by his performance this year, it would have been a much bigger loss if he was taken and protected, rather than Adcock.

There’s still two months before the 40-man rosters have to be finalized, which gives us plenty of time to discuss this topic.  In the mean time, looking at the recent history of the draft gives us a good starting point as to who should be protected when the time comes, and who might be better left off the roster.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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David Kaufman

not sure what you mean by lack of lefties, we have danny moskos, garret olson, aaron thompson, justin wilson, tony watson, no need for another lefty reliever. I would rather go after a position like third base, I have no confidence in Josh harrison as a backup……although it might be a good idea to move Hague or mercer to third.

Brian Bernard

Another great job on the upcoming rule 5 decisions. With all of this depth in the minors and majors, do you see the Pirates actively pursuing another rule 5 pick next year? If you do, what positions might they be considering?
As I look at the roster today, I see depth at every position except for a few – Left handed pitching, 1st base options. As you mentioned it’s unlikely to see any value at first base, so other than a loogy, is there any reason to make a pick?


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