Who is Remaining For the Pirates to Protect From the 2016 Rule 5 Draft?

In most years, the Rule 5 draft is one of the biggest single off-season events for the Pirates, specifically when it comes to protecting players. It doesn’t have a bigger impact than signing free agents or making trades. The Pirates aren’t making tough choices by adding guys like Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon to the 40-man roster. But it does give an indication of the talent coming through the system, and shows the next prospects who could be ready to make the jump to the majors.

This year, that won’t be the case. In my mid-season article, when I first looked at the Rule 5 eligible players, I detailed five players who needed to be protected. Two of those players — Steven Brault and Trevor Williams — have already been added to the 40-man roster, thus protecting them from the draft. Two more — Stephen Tarpley and Tito Polo — were traded for Ivan Nova. The Pirates also added Chad Kuhl, Adam Frazier, and Jacob Stallings to the 40-man this year, taking away three more players who would have been eligible.

That leaves a short list this off-season, with most of the work to protect the best players already completed. This could open the door for some additional players to be protected, who otherwise would have missed the cut due to the numbers game. Here is the list of eligible players, with my notes at the bottom of each section on who should be protected this November.

Previously Eligible

In Our Mid-Season Top 50

Barrett Barnes

Edwin Espinal

Clay Holmes

Dovydas Neverauskas

Jose Osuna

Eric Wood


Stetson Allie

Danny Arribas

Colten Brewer

Jake Burnette

Jason Creasy

Chris Diaz

Elvis Escobar

Adrian Grullon

Luis Heredia

Delvin Hiciano

Jin-De Jhang

Sam Kennelly

John Kuchno

Jared Lakind

Jhondaniel Medina

Yunior Montero

Tomas Morales

Carlos Munoz

Cesilio Pimentel

Jose Regalado

Alfredo Reyes

Francis Rodriguez

Henrry Rosario

Casey Sadler

Angel Sanchez

Sandy Santos

Jon Schwind

Rinku Singh

Josh Smith

Julio Vivas

Notes: When I looked at this list mid-season, Clay Holmes was the guy who stood out. That hasn’t really changed, especially after a strong second half from the right-hander coming off Tommy John surgery. I think with the strong season that Barrett Barnes had in Altoona, plus his ability to avoid major injuries the last two years, he now becomes a second player to protect. There were other players who looked like options, but might have missed the cut due to the high amount of players who needed to be protected. With fewer options to protect now, the Pirates could add some of those weaker options this November.

The guy who stands out the most is Dovydas Neverauskas. He made headlines for the wrong reasons at the end of the year, due to his arrest in Toledo. However, before that, he was consistently working in the upper 90s with his fastball, and looking like a great relief option. He is also a free agent at the end of the year, so the Pirates risk losing him if they don’t protect him. He was punished for the Toledo arrest by being suspended the final week of the Indianapolis season. And then, rather than going to the majors in September — where he would have made about $50-75 K extra for the year — he was sent to instructs, which involved a lot of sunblock and still miserable humidity.

The arrest for Neverauskas was bad, but he’s been punished enough for that. Extending that punishment to getting rid of him for good would be excessive, and foolish.

At the time of the mid-season update, Eric Wood was having a decent season. He had a strong finish, and was invited to the Arizona Fall League by the Pirates, which raised the chances that he’ll be protected. Usually, third basemen aren’t a risk to be taken, since it’s harder to stash them on the 25-man roster all year. But Wood has good defense at the position, and the Pirates are spending the AFL giving him work in the outfield, which could make him a bigger risk to be taken than most third basemen.

Jose Osuna would be a free agent at the end of the year, and while first basemen rarely get taken and rarely stick, adding him to the 40-man roster would be about keeping him around, just like with Neverauskas. He improved his stock in the second half, putting up an .815 OPS in Indianapolis, which was the first time he had an OPS over .800 at a level in a year since his second run through High-A in 2014.

Jared Lakind and Jin-De Jhang are two interesting prospects who just missed our mid-season top 50 list. Lakind is a lefty reliever with some velocity, although they could opt to try and bring him back on a minor league deal. Jhang has improved defensively, and has some offensive upside, but there is little risk he gets drafted.

Casey Sadler and Angel Sanchez are on the list, although both are eligible for free agency, and it’s more likely the Pirates try to bring them back as minor league depth options.

First Time Eligible in 2016

In Our Mid-Season Top 50

Erich Weiss


Luis Benitez

Johan De Jesus

Cody Dickson

Rudy Guzman

Jhoan Herrera

Henry Hirsch

Justin Maffei

Wyatt Mathisen

Brett McKinney

Luis Perez

Pablo Reyes

Miguel Rosario

Justin Topa

Eduardo Vera

Julian Villamar

David Whitehead

Notes: This list had a lot of options at the start of the season. Chad Kuhl and Adam Frazier were on the list, but were added by mid-season. Steven Brault and Trevor Williams were on the mid-season list, and joined the Pirates in the second half. Stephen Tarpley and Tito Polo were traded for Ivan Nova. The other notable player, Jacob Stallings, is currently on the 40-man roster.

That leaves Erich Weiss, who isn’t a strong candidate to be protected, and plays a position of strong depth in the upper levels as a middle infielder who profiles as a utility infielder in the long-term. Other notable players here are Wyatt Mathisen, Pablo Reyes, and Cody Dickson, although none are at risk of being taken in the draft.

No Need to Wait For November

Typically, the Rule 5 additions are a big day in November, and very predictable on who the Pirates will add. This year, they’ve already added the top options, and traded the others. This article before the season would have been about Chad Kuhl, Adam Frazier, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, Stephen Tarpley, Tito Polo, and then talking about how guys like Clay Holmes, Barrett Barnes, Dovydas Neverauskas, and Eric Wood might get squeezed out for space.

The Pirates already added the first four guys above, and traded the other two. That leaves Holmes and Barnes as the guys who they should obviously protect. I think it makes sense to protect Neverauskas and Osuna, just to keep them around in the system. And Eric Wood had a good enough season and improved his stock enough that they could protect him and avoid potentially losing him.

That would give the Pirates up to five players to protect, with Holmes and Barnes having the highest upside, and the other three not being strong enough options in most years.

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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Blaine Huff

Whitehead’s eligible?

Uh-oh, definitely gotta cut someone off the 40-man…


Osuna still has upside IMO.


Seems like this is clear cut at this time, depending on what happens before the names are given. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, first thought is that we seem to have a good Milb system in place and not that much concern on getting anyone plucked away…. then again, not sure how often something significant gets plucked away and sticks, regardless, interesting…..

Bill W

I knew this has been said before but Clay looks like Jeff Locke.

Steve Zielinski

He has better stuff than Locke.

Joe S

It’s also notable to mention that Polo and Tarpley will be eligible for the RULE 5 Draft if not protected by the Yankees. Not familiar with their situation as it pertains to the 40 man but they face the same situation with those two that the Pirates would have.


Ok so would you add one to the roster? Tarpley isn’t ready but how ready do you need to be to toss an inning at 96mph… just saying he has that.


Here is, I think, the correct link to the P2 survey.


dr dng

Well done.
Very interesting results.
I found my answers to be quite different
than the typical responder in the survey.

Bill Harvey

In reference to questions 1 and 2, 33% of respondents believe we will resign Nova, but only 23% believe he will be one of the 2 starters. Come on Pirates fans, you are better than that. If we sign him, it would be as a starter, if 33% say we sign him, then 33% should have him as 1 of the 2 starters.

Bill W

Yes I noticed that. The Hurdle firing was interesting. A lot of angst. Mr. Foo is the Chris Stirewalt of PP. Which is interesting in that Chris started working for the Nuttings early in his career.


Jin de Jhang is interesting only because of the post-McGuire trade discussion about how much the Pirates thought of Jin. It would almost be awkward to risk losing him also …


Sounds like great choices. Thanks for the update.


We did not lose anyone last year and really can’t see someone biting unless it’s a lower club wanting to take a chance on Osuna.

John Dreker

I doubt Osuna will be Rule 5 draft eligible. He will either be on the Pirates 40-man, on someone else’s 40-man, or a free agent. Very rarely do minor league free agents get drafted (Deolis Guerra last year was a very rare example). The reason is quite simple. If you want someone bad enough, just sign them. Why pay $50,000 and be forced to keep them on the MLB roster all year.


Yes that makes sense.

Bruce Humbert

Is there a deadline for adding Osuna – or put another way, when can he sign with the Yankees to audition for the first base job or the Red Sox to replace Big Papi



Stephen Brooks

The first part of your question deserves an answer.

Osuna and Neverauskas (and Lakind, and any others who are heading for minor league free agency) will need to be offered a spot on the 40-man within 5 days after the World Series ends, which will be sometime between Nov 3-7, in order to avoid losing them to minor league free agency.

The Rule 5 eligibles who have not yet qualified for minor league free agency (Barnes, Wood, Holmes) need to be added by November 18.

Bruce Humbert

Thanks – I thought that was the case – but the minor league free agency wrinkle had me wondering…


The smartest guy I know who lives in his Moms basement.

Bruce Humbert

My mother died 23 years ago and ass holes like you should not be allowed on this site.

I would love to meet you and see how brave you are in person – I will be 70 on my next birthday – but you should be very scared of ever meeting me in person


Easy Internet tough guy…


So, if we want to protect those 5, who can we delete from the 40 man?

I wouldn’t mind adding Jin De Jhang, but if unprotected, I doubt anyone would take him as he is more of an offensive catcher.

Do you think anyone would take Whitehead? 🙂

Bruce Humbert

You will lose this site if you don’t stop personal crap like above and off topic comments.

We should be talking baseball – not talking about people personally or their mothers.

Too much noise – not enough substance – stop the madness now!


don’t project. besides tim williams will never ever let his
supporters down.

Bruce Humbert

Please take this in the spirit it is intended – I am sooooo
pissed off at Biagios comment I may not be totally rational – but are you suggesting that Tim Williams wants that kind of crap on his site – or am I over reaching?


Many overreact at a Moms joke. It’s past let it go.


sorry bad political joke


Good to see you projecting a projection. 🙂


I am encouraged that the Nova trade involved two who were eligible for the draft.

On a side note, any opinions on what Mark M. Will sign for? And does anyone think that the Pirates might make an offer for their former closer?


I believe that H. Ram was eligible as well. Did I missed reading how many spot are available?

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