Pirates Need to Protect Players Tomorrow From the Rule 5 Draft; Who Should Be Protected?

Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to protect players from the 2014 Rule 5 draft. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, the basic rundown is that players are eligible to be selected by another team in their fourth or fifth Rule 5 draft (depending on when they signed), unless they are added to the 40-man roster. If a player was 18 or younger in his signing year, he is eligible for his fifth Rule 5 draft. A player who is 19 and older during his signing year becomes eligible for his fourth Rule 5 draft. In most cases, this means high schoolers drafted in 2010 and college players drafted in 2011 are first time eligible this year. Also, international prospects who were signed in 2010, during the DSL season*, are eligible for the first time this year. (*Luis Heredia was officially signed a few days after the DSL season, which is why he isn’t eligible this year, despite signing in 2010. He will be eligible next off-season.)

The Rule 5 draft isn’t until December, taking place on the final day of the Winter Meetings. This year, that date is December 11th. However, tomorrow is the final day for teams to protect players for that draft. For example, if they don’t protect Elias Diaz due to a lack of roster spots (and I think there’s a zero percent chance of that happening), they can’t add him later if a spot opens up.

If a player is drafted in the Rule 5 draft, the team that selected him has to put him on the active roster, and keep him there all year in 2015. If they can’t keep him in the majors, they have to put him on waivers and, if he clears, offer him back to his signing team. The Pirates lost Wei-Chung Wang last year to the Milwaukee Brewers due to this process.

Here are the players who are eligible for the draft this year. The players in bold aren’t necessarily the guys I’d protect. They’re just guys I thought were notable, with those notes below each section. My list of players to protect is at the bottom of the article.

Previously Rule 5 Eligible

Stetson Allie
Nathan Baker
Collin Balester
Yhonathan Barrios
Ryan Beckman
Jeremy Bleich
Kelson Brown
Keon Broxton
Christopher De Leon
Elias Diaz
Zack Dodson
Kawika Emsley-Pai
Raul Fortunato
Felipe Gonzalez
Walker Gourley
Deolis Guerra
Justin Howard
Jeffrey Inman
Brad Lincoln
Drew Maggi
Marek Minarik
Joan Montero
Yunior Montero
A.J. Morris
Dovydas Neverauskas
Gift Ngoepe
Gustavo Nunez
Andy Oliver

Clario Perez
Ashley Ponce
Mel Rojas
Tyler Sample
Rinku Singh
Junior Sosa
Josh Stinson
Jose Tabata
Zack Von Rosenberg
Tyler Waldron
Blake Wood

Out of this list, I’d expect the Pirates to protect up to two players. The thing about this list is that these players have been eligible in previous Rule 5 drafts, and teams have opted against taking them. Some of these players have also been outrighted off the 40-man roster, meaning every team had a chance to claim them at some point in time. Therefore, it would take a massive improvement in value for their market to change. The list also includes recently signed minor league free agents. Another team could add them as a Rule 5 pick, and it has happened before (this happened with Josh Phelps in 2006), but it raises the question as to why that team didn’t offer a Major League deal in the first place.

The player who improved his stock the most on this list was Elias Diaz. He’s certain to be protected. He always had strong defense, being rated as the best defensive catcher in his league in each of the last two years. This year he finally saw things click on the offensive side. That propelled him from a guy who had a chance to be a MLB backup due to his defense, to a guy who will be at least a MLB backup, and might have a chance to be a starter due to his offense. With Russell Martin gone, and with Tony Sanchez looking like no sure thing due to his defense, Diaz looks like the best chance the Pirates have at an internal starter until Reese McGuire arrives.

Mel Rojas also improved his stock on a smaller scale. Like Diaz, he had the defense, and had some good hitting tools, but never put things together. He did just that during the 2014 season in Altoona, then posted decent offensive numbers with Indianapolis. Rojas profiles as a fourth outfielder, with a chance to be an average starter. The Pirates don’t need that, although his value to them could be outfield depth, with speed on the bases and the ability to play all three spots. He’s the second player I could see them protecting.

Stetson Allie has a ton of power, but doesn’t hit for average and hasn’t played above Double-A. First basemen don’t usually get selected, since they’re much harder to protect. Therefore, I don’t see Allie getting protected at this point.

Yhonathan Barrios is a hard thrower with a decent slider. He works in the mid-90s, and routinely hits upper 90s. However, he’s raw due to the fact that he has only been pitching in each of the last two seasons. He also hasn’t played above A-ball. Someone could take the chance on the arm, but that seems unlikely due to his experience.

Keon Broxton showed the same kind of improvements that Mel Rojas showed. However, the Pirates prioritized Rojas, giving him the promotion to Triple-A, while Broxton stayed in Altoona. I’m not sure that Rojas will be protected, which means the chances are much smaller for Broxton.

Gift Ngoepe is a strong defensive shortstop, but that’s about the limit of his upside. The Pirates could add him to the 40-man roster and go with him as a strong defensive backup in the middle infield. However, they just signed Gustavo Nunez to a minor league deal, and he’s basically the same player. Thus, no need to protect Ngoepe.

Finally, there’s Andy Oliver, who put up some strong numbers with Indianapolis as their closer this year. Oliver is a lefty, and the Pirates have a need for lefty relievers. However, he went unclaimed when he was on waivers earlier in the year, making it unlikely that he will be picked up by another team this off-season. I also don’t see the Pirates committing a spot to him, due to the fact that they didn’t use him as a September call-up, and instead went with Bobby LaFromboise. If he goes undrafted, he could be an option for the bullpen in Spring Training.

First Time Rule 5 Eligible

Matt Benedict
Orlando Castro
Jason Creasy
Melvin Del Rosario
Miguel Ferreras
Dan Gamache
Willy Garcia
Deybi Garcia
Ryan Hafner
Nick Kingham
Jared LaKind
Taylor Lewis
Jhondaniel Medina
Ulises Montilla
Edgardo Munoz
Jose Osuna
Jose Regalado
Maximo Rivera
Oderman Rocha
Carlos Ruiz
Isaac Sanchez
Jonathan Schwind
Jameson Taillon
Bryton Trepagnier
Luis Urena

The obvious names on this list are Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham, who will both be protected. Beyond those two, I’d personally protect Willy Garcia and Jason Creasy.

Garcia has had some serious strikeout issues in Altoona. However, he has a ton of raw power and great defense in right field, with an outstanding arm. Garcia could represent a shift in the game. Strikeouts are becoming much more common, and power is becoming more rare. A guy with his raw power and defense could have more value today than a few years ago, even with his strikeouts and lack of average. Depending on how good the power is, he could be a starting right fielder in the majors. For the Pirates, his upside would be more likely as a fourth outfielder with strong defense and power off the bench.

Creasy put up strong numbers in the rotation in Bradenton this year, displaying some of the best control in the entire system. He can hit mid-90s with his fastball, and has the chance to be a back of the rotation starter in the majors, or a strong relief option. I could see the Pirates protecting him, just because starting pitching prospects who might have a shot at being starters in the majors come at a premium.

The one player from this list that I bolded, but don’t see getting protected is Jose Osuna. He showed good numbers in Bradenton this year, and has a lot of power potential at first base. However, the fact that he’s limited to first base, plus his lack of upper level experience will likely make it where he won’t be a risk to be drafted. He should move up to Altoona next year, and could improve his stock with a good season, just like Diaz did this year.

Who Should Be Protected in 2014?

Taillon, Kingham, and Diaz are the obvious guys to protect. I would also protect Garcia and Creasy. Rojas is up in the air, simply because I think his upside is a fourth outfielder. The Pirates would have to clear someone off the 40-man roster like Jaff Decker, who has the same upside. So it becomes a matter of personal preference. I would go with Rojas as the outfielder out of Triple-A, rather than Decker.

The Pirates currently have two open spots on the 40-man roster. They could easily remove a few other players. Brent Morel and Chaz Roe are both out of options, and both unlikely to make the team out of Spring Training. That means eventually they will be waived off the 40-man roster. Decker and Ramon Cabrera are two other players who could probably clear waivers. Cabrera cleared every team in the AL, and most of the NL teams before the Pirates claimed him. They could probably get him through waivers. I’m less optimistic that Decker could clear waivers, although I’d rather see Rojas on the 40-man than Decker.

Other candidates to be removed would be Preston Guilmet, Jake Elmore, and possibly even Bobby LaFromboise. The Pirates will eventually have to remove a lot of these guys, even after protecting players from the Rule 5 draft, just to make space for free agent additions. They’ll also likely get a spot from potential non-tenders to people like Ike Davis or Gaby Sanchez, although I don’t think that’s likely to happen tomorrow. They have other players they can remove from the roster first, giving them more time to consider what to do at first base.

This is one of the better years for the Pirates in terms of Rule 5 eligible talent. I’d expect them to add at least four guys, and possibly six total.

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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R Edwards

Its hard to believe that we would waste spots on the 40 man on the likes of Decker, Elmore, Morel, Guilmet, Roe, Sellers, etc. – all AAAA players at best. Why do we protect these guys – who have zero value – and risk losing some good prospects that would at least have potential trade value in a package deal? This team carries a lot of junk on its 40 man roster.

R Edwards

If the Pirates keep Decker on the 40 man, and risk losing a Rojas or Garcia in the Rule 5 draft, we need a new GM and front office. The upside is not even close – even in comparing Decker and Rojas. It is still mystifying that we traded Alex Dickerson for Decker – what were they thinking??

John Janesko

Here’s a fun chain of events. They traded Dickerson for Decker and Miles Mikolas (who is now a starter for Texas). They traded Mikolas to Texas for Chris McGuiness, who was a better first base prospect than Alex Dickerson. Then, they designated him for assignment to bring up John Holdzkom and he elected free agency. Dickerson turned into Holdzkom.

R Edwards

That sounds like a nice story line, but the signing of Holdzkum had nothing to do with the Dickerson trade. Secondly, I think the notion that McGuiness was/is a better prospect is Dickerson is laughable – unless you mean strictly as a fielder. Finally, I wish we would have kept Mikolas – and traded Decker instead – Mikolas is the better player.

John Janesko

I am aware that signing holdzkom had nothing to do with that trade. Secondly, as evidenced here by one sources first base prospects rankings from a year ago: http://www.scoutingbook.com/prospects/1b, McGuiness was more highly regarded than Dickerson. Finally, Decker is in AAA at the moment while as the fellow below me pointed out, Mikolas got sent to Japan. I’d rather be Decker right now.

R Edwards

I don’t know Mikolas may be making a lot more money than Decker….


Someone remind me again about how adding Tabata on and off the roster works again?

It’s seems so strange to have a player with 2 years remaining (plus 3 team option years) on his contract that keeps coming and going on the 40-man.

Obviously, they can add him to the 40-man. And, if they remove him, each time does he have to pass through waivers and then he can get assigned to AAA? And each time he can declare free agency, if he were crazy enough to do so? Will anything change over time with this?

And now doesn’t he have veteran’s consent (I thought it was after 5 years.) Couldn’t he then refuse the assignment to AAA and ask to be released, but, in this case he still gets paid by the Pirates on the full amount of his contract until he gets picked up by another team, right?

B Thomas

if they remove him, each time does he have to pass through waivers and
then he can get assigned to AAA? Yes

And each time he can declare free
agency, if he were crazy enough to do so? Yes, but he wouldn’t because of the money.

Will anything change over time
with this? Not unless someone wants him in a trade or via Rule 5 draft

I don’t believe he has acquired enough service time to do that, He came up in June of 2011 and was sent down in 2012 i believe and this past year, he maybe has 3 years of service time in the major leagues.

david jung

Per Baseball Ref, came up in 2010 and has 4.031 yrs.


Taillon, Kingham, Oliver, Diaz, and Rojas are the guys I’d protect. To make room I’d dump Roe, Scahill, Guilmet, Cabrera, and Elmore to make room.


Pirates would only have to get rid of 3 players, in that case. The 40-man currently has 2 openings.


Ahhh, thought it was full. Dump Roe, Elmore, and Guilmet then.


It’s not as bad as I thought. I don’t feel like anyone they may lose will be too crushing. Ryan Hafner is still intriguing because of his size ad age but someone would be crazy to take him. I agree on Creasy. He will become valuable AAA depth by next year I think. Anyone with his size and control is worth keeping around to see what develops. I feel like Rojas will take Tabata’s role he had last year…that is unless Tabata is not moved. I hope Osuna gets protected but I don’t think their is room to do it. At 22, they need to see what he can do at AA. I doubt anyone grabs him and hopefully he can put up similar stats to 2014 at AA and become a real prospect.


Awesome breakdown. I remember the days when I had to sit and do all these lists myself while I was at work.


After the Brewers stole Wang from us last year, nobody is safe unless they are protected, that showed me that the Pirates organization is heavily scouted, when they can lose a Gulf Coast level prospect and an organization can keep him for an entire year on the MLB roster.


Really, really well done.


2015 is going to be the year Gift Ngoepe puts it all together!!!!!

The above proclamation is based on nothing more than wishful thinking. I just love the guy and would hate to see him leave the organization.


After watching Garcia all through the past season, his name and the term ” great defense ” seems like that is stretching a bit. Great arm ? No doubt about it. Good routes and instinctive judgement aren’t part of his make up.


I’ve heard the same, and also question whether or not a non-premium defender at a corner position would ever be a regular with an OBP that almost certainly would project to be sub-.300, but I still agree overall that he should be protected.


It’s getting to the point that the Pirates will really need to move quantities of good lower level minor league prospects for a quality higher level prospect or run the risk of leaking quality players with no return.

Ron Loreski

i think Rojas has MUCH more upside than Jaff Decker. I would also consider protecting Stetson Allie. I could see a team like the Tampa Bay Rays taking a shot on him. They are probably going to enter a rebuilding stage, and as far as I know, they have no long-term solution for firstbase. They can limit his AB’s as long as James Loney stays healthy. The Pirates were able to keep Chris McGuinness on the 40man last year, I can’t see why they can’t do it with Allie.


I would say that Rojas and Decker are pretty similar in terms of upside. Both 4th OF types.


FWIW, the JAVIER system likes Decker. I have no idea why. Could be it’s broken 🙂


Great write-up, Tim!!

So, that leaves one question: which player do you think will be most likely to be chosen in the draft from the Pirates (one that the Pirates aren’t likely to add to the 40-man, but just might peak the interest of a team enough for someone to select him)? Or could you identify, say, 5 guys, that might be in danger of being selected from the Pirates?


You mentioned Barrios. I’d be curious about Oliver, since he could possibly help a major league team right away.

Lee Foo Young

If someone selects Oliver, more power to them. I don’t ever see him becoming MLB material. He makes Justin Wilson look like Tommy Glavine.


I guess I would prefer to see what the great Pirate pitching coaches and Spring Training might do to turn Oliver into a viable one inning guy. He has been doing this relief thing for a year – deciding on what two pitches would be best and how to bring down the walk rate would seem to be the kind of thing that coaches try to do with young players – think he is just about to turn 27.


If he was right-handed, I would think there’s 0% chance of him being picked, but you know how teams are about having lefties….


“Ball, outside…the area code.”

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