Pirates Unlikely to Make Rule 5 Pick; Could Lose Zack Thornton

The Rule 5 draft caps off the 2013 Winter Meetings tomorrow afternoon. Last year was the first year under Neal Huntington that the Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t make a pick. Their 40-man roster is full, and Rob Biertempfel reports that Huntington says they aren’t likely to make a pick again this year.

Zack Thornton is the most likely Pirates prospect to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.
Zack Thornton is the most likely Pirates prospect to be taken in the Rule 5 draft.

That makes sense, as there aren’t many players who you would want to remove from the 40-man to make room for a Rule 5 guy. The guys you would remove will either eventually be removed for free agents, or are just as good as the Rule 5 options.

On the flip side of things, the Pirates look very likely to lose right-handed pitcher Zack Thornton in the Rule 5 draft. Baseball America released their Rule 5 preview today, listing Thornton second in the list of players who can help teams now. They note that he gets a lot of ground balls and has excellent control, which has been pointed out many times in the past. In my list of Pirates who are available for the draft, I mentioned that Thornton was the most likely to be drafted. Baseball America didn’t mention any other Pirates in their preview.

Thornton would profile as a depth option for the bullpen, working out of Triple-A in 2014. He could start the season in the majors for a weaker team with pitching needs. Long-term he has the upside of a strong middle reliever. If he does get drafted there could still be a chance that he could return to the Pirates. The team drafting him would have to keep him on the active roster the entire season, or put him through waivers and offer him back to Pittsburgh.