Prospect Roundtable: Which Pirates Prospects Would You Protect From the Rule 5 Draft?

Last week, Ethan Hullihen had an early breakdown of the Pirates prospects who are Rule 5 eligible this offseason.

For this week's Prospect Roundtable, we looked through the list and picked the players who we would protect, along with thoughts on some players on the fringe.

Who would you protect this year? Leave your picks in the comments below.
The Pirates have a lot of prospects who will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, but I don't think there are many "must protect" guys. My list is four deep and three of them are obvious -- and two of them could be added before the year if over. Ji-hwan Bae would likely be in the majors right now if he didn't get hurt. He was the best hitter at Indianapolis at the time. He has a nice approach at the plate and ability to mak...



Pirates Prospects has been independently covering the Pittsburgh Pirates and their farm system since 2009. All of our content on this site -- a site that features no advertisements and only our content -- is made possible from subscriptions. Your support allows this unique media company to continue doing what we do best -- and as an added bonus, you'll get to read the rest of this article. Learn more about a Pirates Prospects subscription.

If you're already a member, you can log in below. If you think you're receiving this message in error, please check your account page to verify your subscription status.

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Here’s a challenge: Name the teams that could easily afford spending $100 million on two top free agents. Easy-peasy for the Bucs. Who else?


Can Malcom Nunez fake it in right field? I could see him being this next year’s Suwinski, both in protection and opportunity. Both could combine to be a nifty above average platoon.


Obviously a very SSS (36 PAs) but Nunez is showing that his stats from the Texas League weren’t only due to playing in a hitters’ ballpark–.231/.389/.462 with 7 BBs vs. 8 Ks since joining Altoona. If he continues hitting like this, I can’t imagine Cherington not protecting him. It would be one thing to lose a guy you just traded for who struggled after the trade and Littlefied-esque to lose a guy you just traded for who raked after the trade.

Again, I don’t want to overreact to a SSS, but the plate discipline he’s showing makes me more confident that he’s not far from being ready for the majors.


Nunez is 2 for 2 so far tonight, and Endy Rod already has 2 doubles and 2 HR in 7 games? That kid may be on a fast track to MLB.


How about Cutch or JD Martinez instead?


I think Gorski could be that player, but then I ask myself why am I putting so much stock on a player that has only been good ( ok way more than good) for 3 months mostly at a level that he was a bit old for.


You and me both brother.


Couldn’t agree more. The pandemic was Gorski’s fault. He shut down the minors in 2020. Damn, where’s the irony font when you need it?

OK, that was uncalled for.


Bad teams(teams not dissimilar to us) will take a flyer on an arm, hence guys like Bolton
& Thomas will be picked. So a AA infielder should not be protected over a good arm. They
are very hard to find & develop

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I think this year is different in that one should first look at the 40 man, remove the impending FA’s, then go through all the remaining 40 man names deciding who to keep before even thinking about who to protect.

Cause a pitcher like Kranick, I’m not protecting. Cederlind, even though I REALLY want to see him pitch again, I’m not protecting.

I’m looking at a list of 32, that I’m even still having to reason with keeping certain players. There’s players I’d also quickly remove upon signing a FA. I took Bligh off. If they added Gorski and signed a better FA OF, I’d consider taking Allen off.

I mentioned it to PirateRican below, but only INFs I’d have as “safe” from being removed are Castillo, Hayes, Newman, Peguero, and Cruz.

Would we expect Padlo or Park to be claimed? If they were would it really be much of a loss that couldn’t be replaced with a minor league signing or such?

Pitching is a whole other monster in that it’s mostly a handful of arm tagged with intriguing but have limited to no track record of success.

I think there’s at least 10-12+ easily improved upon 40 man spots that can be filled by Rule 5 additions and FA/trade acquisitions.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Castro’s not safe? For me, Castro ranks only behind Hayes, Cruz, and Peguero as IFs currently on the 40-man that I’d keep. I’d also keep Marcano on the 40-man and probably Castillo, but could part with the rest of the IFs to add Bae, Triolo, and possibly Lopez.


I’m keeping Castro, Castillo and Peguero, and adding Bae. Definitely letting Park go. Marcano’s on the fence for me, but I’m inclined to keep him. I know he can’t do much damage on contact and he’s not cut out for SS, but still young and the contact rates are pretty damn good. I do think he’s useful as a higher floor/low ceiling utility/bench dude who is somewhat BABIP-dependent. The bloop part of the bloop-and-blast tandem.


Ro Castro has been up for 11 games in August and is carrying a .947 OPS. In his 39 AB he has 1 double 2 triples, and 2 HR, 3 BB, 8 K, 1 SB, and plays 2B, 3B, and SS. He and Bae are our best 2B/Utility guys, but Ro has the edge as a Switchhitter and hits for average and power from both sides. Don’t sleep on Castillo or Marcano either – one of them should be getting some looks at 1B over the next 40 games.

These are kids who are ready to be regulars and Bae Castro, Marcano, and Castillo will not reach a year of MLB Service this year, so all have at least 6 years of control. Why are guys like Newman, VanMeter, Chavis, and Park still on the 40? Can we be worse than a 390 winning percentage?


Newman is useful for defense and Chavis for power – and both have been around a little while and aren’t as likely to be caught on the field with their cell phones in their back pockets. There’s something to be said for maturity (not to be confused with “veteranosity”).

But VanMeter has been pointless since the day he was acquired, and Park is just redundant.

I did a little exercise for kicks and giggles to take a swag at the 40-man and 26-man. I still have Chavis on the bench as a right-handed multi-position guy with some pahr. All of Castro, Castillo, Bae and Newman are on the 26-man. Marcano at Indy as the Swiss army knife, likely first guy recalled in case of injury.

The assumptions are that Cherington goes shopping for a starting C, 1B and corner OF.


Agree wholeheartedly with your first para. Clear the deadwood and people who are not part of a build/re-build. agree with your take on pitchers Kranick, Cedarlind.

Newman, Allen, Chavis, VanMeter, Gamel should be DFA’d by the end of this home stand, Madris back to AAA, but he and Park should not be on the 40. The DFA for Newman and Chavis is to give them a chance to be picked up by a contender by Aug 31.

Position players Delay, Hayes, Reynolds, Marcano, Cruz, Castro, Suwinski, Mitchell, Swagg’s, Martin, Heineman. Padlo is No. 12. Keep it at that number until after Aug 31.


They will add 3-4 legit free agents this offseason so we can’t sweat the Gorski’s and Triolo’s who probably won’t get picked anyways. Potential All stars like Endy and Bae – yes. Guys that will get picked like Bolton – yes. Not every person or it prevents adding another Bednar level guy in the bullpen or another starting caliber OF.


Who is going to pay for those legit free agents? Certainly not Scrooge McNutt!


How is Sabol’s defense behind the plate? Relatedly, is he a better prospect than Delay? If his defense is solid and he’s the better prospect, isn’t he an easy guy to roster as a ’23 backup? This season we’ve often (and currently) have three catchers on the 40-man and I’m thinking we start ’23 with Heineman, Delay, and Sabol with Sabol in AAA as the emergency catcher which is almost always needed. If they sign Roberto Perez, then you drop Delay who is three years older than Sabol and hope he passes through waivers.

It’s not that Sabol is a better prospect than others on the Rule 5 list, but I agree with Wilbur in the importance of catching depth (again, assuming his defense is major league quality). OTOH, since Rodriguez will be rostered anyway, he could be the emergency catcher. I’d just hate to see them shuttle Endy between Pittsburgh and the minors when he’s one of our top prospects.


Delay is really good. Sabol is OK and will be totally fine if there are robots umps but his bat is only backup level with Davis and Endy on team.


From what I’ve seen of Delay, I think his framing isn’t great–too much glove movement to buy strikes. But, he has had a few very good throws to 2nd and seems to have a good presence back there. The big question is his game calling and I don’t know enough to comment on that.


So 1-20 who are the players who should be removed from the 40 man rooster?


Endy, Burrows, and Bae are simple decisions. I’d add Gorski and Bolton, too.

I predict Pirates lose Triolo if left unprotected.


I don’t think Triolo hits enough to get pick, good defensive light bat players are not hard to find.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

But what’s “hits enough”? He has a 277 batting average. A 370 OBP which isn’t out of ordinary for him as he had a 369 OBP in Greensboro. Consistent K% under 20%. Walk rate above 10%. All three professional seasons he’s had above average offense (per wRC+). Not to mention, he had 25 SB’s last season, and is currently only 2 shy of that with 23 right now. 51 of 63 in SB’s over 3 years.

He hits. He gets on base. He’s very successful at stealing bags. He’s above average defensively and able to play anywhere. He’s even played SS and CF. The only real question would be future power.


Sounds a lot like Ke’Bryan Hayes. Good Defense, light bat.


So what do you think that projects to, average big leaguer? A versatile utility player, is he worth rule 5 protection is basically what I’m asking? I think that even on this team he will have a hard time filling that role over the players currently ahead of him.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I think he projects as a utility bench bat, at this point. The biggest question mark again would be his power, which I think could raise his ceiling. Could say at this point he’s probably the poor man’s Key (another area where I wish we had batted ball data).

This is also why I previously have stated in threads, somewhere, that I’d protect him over Marcano. Triolo is average to above average across the board and all Marcano really has over him is aggressiveness. Triolo is well-rounded to the point I’d protect him over a lot of those ahead of him that don’t project to be more than bench bats themselves cause their upsides are limited unless they completely 180 in certain areas.

I’m actually going through the 40 right now, and of INF’s that NEED protected ahead of him, I’d put Hayes, Cruz, Newman, Peguero, and Bae ahead of him, with Castillo maybe being ever so slightly ahead of Triolo due to present power. (If I’m not missing any names lol)


Do we really see many clubs taking R5 chances on future bench bats?

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Not really. At same time I could see someone taking a chance on Triolo because he’s so well rounded and versatile as opposed to a D-Lo who would be severely limited at this juncture.


My point!


Tag me in next time, bro. 😉


Figuring out who they’ll protect in a vacuum is kinda tough; it’s all going to depend on how they address their obvious holes at C, 1B, corner OF, back of the rotation and late inning bullpen. If BC goes on a shopping spree, I could see there being room for only 4-5 new adds. If he’s going to VanMeter it, there could be 10, but that’s hardly enviable.

They’re going to want to have some ML-ready depth at AAA in case of injuries too, which makes me think they’ll be conservative, especially with the younger guys like Nuñez, Lopez and Jimenez.

I’d add Bae, Gorski, Endy, Burrows and Bolton, the guys most likely to be useful in 2023.


Do you think that Endy and Gorski will be up in 2023? They’re not even in AAA yet?


Endy more than Gorski, but I think they’ll both see time in Pittsburgh – at the very least because Cherington’s roster management is so bad they’ll almost have to be called up in an emergency at some point. More than that, though – we’ve seen BC’s approach to the backup catcher role, how low the bar is. Endy’s as good defensively as anyone above him in the system and certainly couldn’t do worse at the plate than Godoy, Knapp, Perez, Heineman…Gorski’s a little more of a longshot but I would have made the same bet about Matt Fraizer had he been R5 eligible last winter. You put on a show like that at AA, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to stick for good, but you can certainly fill in, a la Jack Suwinski.


I agree about Endy. I want to se another good year from Gorski, not unlike Fraizer. Do it two years in a row. I hope e for real, tho.


If they are going to protect any that needs to be done right now, otherwise just let the bunch available, that way maybe some team will actually help the Pirates out much like how the Pirates helped SD, ARI, HOU, and even NYY alleviate their 40 man issues…

Most Voted Comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x