As far as I can tell, nothing has changed in the rules that govern the Rule 5 process in MLB. Shortly after the playoffs, the Pirates will have to add players eligible for the Rule 5 draft to their 40-man roster or risk losing them.
This shouldn’t be a terribly challenging process, especially not the task of clearing roster space. As a couple of commenters have reminded us, the old Chuck Noll comment about it being hard to stop making cuts clearly applies here. There also aren’t many players just screaming to be added to the roster and the Pirates already added one of them, Jared Oliva. (Nick Mears was added to the roster but wasn’t eligible for Rule 5 yet.) The Pirates have a lot of sort-of interesting players who are eligible for the draft, but the strength of the system right now is in players who haven’t met the requirements yet. There also wasn’t any opportunity, thanks to the pandemic, for anybody to step forward.
So here are the players eligible for Rule 5, in three groups: those who will be minor league free agents if they aren’t added to the roster, those who are eligible for the second time or more, and those who are first-time eligible.
PENDING MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS
Pablo Reyes, UT
Adrian Valerio, SS
Montana DuRapau, RHP
Gage Hinsz, RHP — I don’t have any idea of his status, but I’d think the Pirates would be interested in bringing him back on a minor league deal if his health permits.
–In most years, there’s nobody on this list who’s a good candidate to be added to the roster, and this year is no different.
Christian Kelley, C
Arden Pabst, C
Raul Hernandez, C
Hunter Owen, 3B
Stephen Alemais, SS
Lolo Sanchez, OF — Sanchez already got passed over once. The speed and defense are nice, but scouts don’t like his pull-heavy approach at the plate.
James Marvel, RHP
Cam Vieaux, LHP
Matt Eckelman, RHP
Samuel Reyes, RHP
Ike Schlabach, LHP
Jandel Gustave, RHP — As a refresher, Gustave is a Tommy John survivor whom the Pirates signed to a minor league deal for 2021 after the Giants cut him loose. He’s a little more intriguing than their usual scrap heap reliever pickup because he has a little experience in the majors and didn’t have a 6.00+ ERA. I suppose somebody could claim him, but I can’t see adding him to the roster.
Winston Nicacio, RHP
Oddy Nunez, LHP
Yerry De Los Santos, RHP — De Los Santos seemed like a candidate last year after blowing away SAL hitters, but wasn’t protected or selected. No reason that’d change.
Cristofer Melendez, RHP
Alex Aquino, RHP
–Given that these players already got passed over, you’d only expect anything to change if a player took a big step forward this year. Obviously, nobody got a chance to do that.
Jason Delay, C
Deon Stafford, C
Dylan Busby, 3B
Rodolfo Castro, IF — This should be the easiest decision in this list. He’s still kinda raw, but Castro is an infielder with power from both sides of the plate. ‘Nuf said.
Robbie Glendinning, SS — The pandemic cost Glendinning a chance to show he could keep hitting at the upper levels, which could have made him pretty interesting.
Francisco Acuna, SS
Chris Sharpe, OF
Bligh Madris, OF
Blake Weiman, LHP — This one’s a puzzle. Weiman seems like a guy you’d want to protect: a lefty who’s gotten hitters out consistently. But he wasn’t at Altoona, so maybe he wasn’t healthy.
Beau Sulser, RHP
Max Kranick, RHP — Kranick has always showed promise but never quite taken off, partly due to shoulder problems. He stayed healthy in 2019, although he was shut down early to keep his innings in line. This should have been a key season for him and he reportedly looked good at Altoona. He’s probably got a pretty good chance.
Shea Murray, RHP — Lots of velocity, tons of swing-and-miss, not much control. Murray made a lot of progress last year despite walking too many, and he’s surprisingly inexperienced for a guy who’ll be 27 soon. He’s probably too much of a lottery ticket to be added.
Braeden Ogle, LHP — A lefty with good velocity who did well in brief action in the FSL last year. Seems like he’d be added.
Hunter Stratton, RHP
Travis MacGregor, RHP — MacGregor looked very promising before TJ hit in 2018. Probably not a candidate, thanks to him being unable to get back in action this year.
Noe Toribio, RHP — Toribio is one of several lower-level pitchers who present the Pirates with tough choices because he’s looked good but isn’t very experienced yet. The 2020 season going down the drain really hampers things. He’s made only seven starts above short season ball.
Alex Manasa, RHP
Osvaldo Bido, RHP — Another situation similar to Toribio, with the added complication that Bido signed when he was 21. He’s advanced quickly and did well in a brief trial in the FSL. Scouts like his stuff. Of the pitchers in this situation, he may have the best chance of being added.
Oliver Garcia, RHP
Santiago Florez, RHP — Another pitcher who’d be a lot easier to evaluate if there’d been a season. He throws hard, but has a ways to go with his command and secondary stuff. Despite signing at 16 and staying healthy, he’s had only three seasons; he’d be an illustration of a poorly conceived roster/option system even if it weren’t for the pandemic. With Toribio, Bido and Florez, decisions whether to make the roster addition or (for other teams) to select the player are probably going to turn especially heavily on scouting reports.
(A quick note on Tahnaj Thomas: A PG writer (not Jason Mackey) listed Thomas in a mailbag response as eligible this year. That’s almost certainly wrong. Thomas signed with Cleveland in December 2016 at age 17, so he gets five years starting in 2017. From 2017 through 2020 is four. Also, Roster Resource lists him as eligible in 2021.)
For some reason, this seems less complicated than most years. Castro and Kranick are the easiest choices. I’d put Weiman with them, but I’d like to know why he wasn’t at Altoona. And I’d add Ogle.
The three players I’d put on the borderline would be Bido, Toribio and Florez. The latter two are still a long ways from the majors, long enough that starting to burn options would be a bad idea. Bido could start 2021 at AA and the Pirates aren’t exactly drowning in upper-level starting depth. They aren’t exactly drowning in legitimate major league talent for the 40-man roster, either, so making room for Bido and four others shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.