The Pittsburgh Pirates made a selection in the Rule 5 draft for the first time since 2011, drafting left-handed pitcher Tyler Webb with the 13th pick in the draft.
Webb was one of the top prospects named in JJ Cooper’s preview of the Rule 5 draft. He was a tenth round pick in 2013, and has been in Triple-A for parts of the last three seasons. Last year, the 25-year-old had a 3.59 ERA in 72.2 innings, with a 10.2 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9.
Cooper said that Webb could be useful as a lefty specialist. He throws 90-92 MPH with a slider and a changeup, and has held lefties to a sub-.600 OPS in each of the last two seasons. That’s interesting, since the Pirates currently have four left-handed options in the bullpen.
They have Tony Watson, Antonio Bastardo, Felipe Rivero, and Wade LeBlanc. There have been rumors that Watson and/or Bastardo could be shopped, so the addition of Webb adds further depth if that happens. In order to keep Webb, the Pirates would have to keep him on the active roster all year, or try to work out a trade to keep him if he’s offered back to the Yankees. There’s also the possibility that the Pirates could trade him, since the left-handed relief market is thin this off-season.
The Pirates didn’t lose anyone in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft, and that includes Eric Wood. There was concern that they would lose him, especially after Cooper listed him as a top prospect. I explained last night why he was unlikely to be taken, since third basemen rarely get selected.
UPDATE 9:21 AM: The Pirates passed on making a selection in the Triple-A portion of the draft. They lost left-handed pitcher Cesilio Pimentel to the Braves. Pimentel is an organizational guy who could have a shot to reach Double-A. He pitched in West Virginia last year, and had a 2.65 ERA in 51 innings, with an 8.5 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. He can hit 90-91 MPH and has a low-80s 12-to-6 curveball that can get strikeouts. His command of his pitches doesn’t project to get him far beyond Double-A, and he’ll mostly be a bullpen depth option for one of the Braves’ minor league affiliates.
UPDATE 9:35 AM: The Pirates lost two more players in the Triple-A portion before the draft completed. The Yankees selected right-handed pitcher Colten Brewer, and the Red Sox drafted left-handed pitcher Josh Smith.
Brewer is the more notable prospect, getting $240,000 as an over-slot prep pitcher in the 2011 draft. He can hit 96-97 MPH, and has mostly worked as a starter, which was his role in Bradenton this year. There have been some disciplinary issues, with him getting suspended by the team twice this year for short amounts of time. I never received official word on why he was suspended, other than an indication that it was attitude. He also temporarily retired in 2014, before returning in 2015 to give baseball another shot. We had Brewer as a 20 upside, making him a non-prospect. He’d do better in a bullpen role, but would need better command of his fastball in order to become a prospect who can reach the majors.
Smith spent most of the year with Altoona, and had a brief appearance in Indianapolis. He’s an upper level reliever who didn’t have a shot at the majors, due to poor control and a lack of stuff. He can touch 90-91, but mostly sits in the upper 80s. He will probably give the Red Sox some bullpen depth in a similar role between Double-A and Triple-A next year.
All three of the players lost today had 20 upsides in our upcoming Prospect Guide.