Some Unprotected Prospects the Pirates Could Consider Under Rule 5

As I mentioned in the comments the other day, MLB Pipeline posted a list of players from their teams’ top 20 prospects who are now eligible for the Rule 5 draft.  Many of these players fall into familiar categories:  hard-throwing, scattershot relievers; toolsy infielders and outfielders who’ve struggled to make contact; and catchers whose bats have come along slowly.

One definite cautionary note:  A lot of these players are in their teams’ top 20s because they’re in crappy farm systems.  A lot of the best R5 prospects probably aren’t on their teams’ Pipeline lists (which I don’t consider among the better prospect lists anyway).  To take the Pirates as an example, Rodolfo Castro isn’t on their list, yet he’d very likely be selected if the Pirates hadn’t rostered him.

Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP (Hou, age 23):  Rivera is probably one of the more interesting players in this list.  Like many Astros’ pitching prospects, he throws very hard, up to 102 mph.  He also has a promising splitter/change.  He’s gotten pretty good results so far — very high K rates and somewhat high but not disastrous walk rates — and reached low A in 2019.  He’s been a piggyback starter but probably will be a reliever.

Seuly Matias, OF (KC, 22):  Ranked as high as #3 in the system by BA, Matias hit 31 HRs in low A in 2018, but isn’t likely to hit for average.  He had Ks in nearly 40% of his ABs in 2018, then totally collapsed in high A in 2019.  It turned out he was playing with a broken hand.  He also has a RF arm.  He’d be a guy you’d just have to suffer with for a year before sending him back to the minors.

Packy Naughton, LHP (LAA, 24):  The Reds drafted Naughton, then traded him to the Angels in a 2020 deadline deal.  He throws from a 3/4 angle and his best pitch is a change.  His fastball is low-90s.  He’s a starter and pitched pretty well in AA in 2019.  He doesn’t walk many or miss a lot of bats.  Not a high ceiling.

Jose Soriano, RHP (LAA, 22):  Soriano throws mid-90s and has reached 100, and also has a curve with a high spin rate and a decent-ish change.  He still has some projection.  He pitched well as a starter in low A in 2019, with a high K rate but control problems.

Zack Brown, RHP (Mil, almost 26):  Brown being in the Brewers’ top 20 probably has more to do with their bottom-feeding system than anything else.  He had some pretty bad numbers in AAA in 2019, but a lot of that was the crazy offense throughout AAA; his 5.79 ERA was about league average.  He doesn’t miss a lot of bats and walked a lot in AAA.  Pass.

Payton Henry, C (Mil, 23):  Henry has power potential but significant swing-and-miss issues.  In high A in 2019, he hit 242/315/395 with 14 HRs and a 5.5:1 K:BB ratio.  He has a strong arm and good receiving skills.  Given the smoking wasteland that is Pirate catching-prospect-dom, Henry seems interesting.  It’s awfully hard, though, to see the Pirates selecting a class A catcher.

Wander Javier, SS (Minn, almost 22):  Javier got $4M as a five-tool prospect out of the Dominican.  After he missed all of 2018 due to shoulder surgery, though, scouts didn’t see the same tools.  He had .601 OPS in low A in 2019.  He’s still considered a very good defender.

Akil Baddoo, OF (Minn, 22):  A big guy with power potential and the speed to stay in center, Baddoo isn’t considered likely to hit for average.  He hit 243/351/419 in low A in 2018, then missed most of 2019 due to Tommy John.  He’s the sort of guy who might be an interesting pick if you had a chance to scout him.

Jordan Diaz, 3B (Oak, 20):  Diaz has some power potential and scouts think he has a good approach at the plate.  He has the arm to stay at third but his mobility could be an issue.  He hasn’t played above the NYPL, where he hit 264/307/430 in 2019.  It’s very hard to see a guy who’s never played full season ball getting selected.

Enyel De Los Santos, RHP (Phi, almost 25):  De Los Santos originally signed with Seattle, got traded to the Padres, and then went to the Phillies for Real Freddy Galvis.  He reached the majors in 2019 but got outrighted this year.  He’s been a starter and had a big year in AAA in 2018, but wasn’t so good there in 2019.  He has a four-pitch mix, including a fastball that can reach the upper-90s, but his command is poor.  His K rates haven’t been impressive.

Julio Rodriguez, C (StL, 23):  Rodriguez is a good receiver with an average arm.  He’s a contact-oriented hitter who puts the ball in play but doesn’t walk a lot and hasn’t shown more than modest power.  He had a .727 OPS in high A in 2019 and briefly reached AA.

Israel Pineda, C (Wash, 20):  Pineda had just a .583 OPS in low A in 2019, but he was only 19.  Scouts seem to think he has good hitting and power potential.  He’s an average receiver with an above-average arm.

There are probably a lot more potential selections out there beyond this list, so we’ll keep looking.  It’s always hard to get beyond the standard, hard-throwing potential reliever pick.  It also remains to be seen whether the Pirates will start behaving like a rebuilding team.  After the first few years under Neal Huntington, the team seemed to look only for R5 players they felt could contribute right away in the majors rather than needing to be hidden on the bench or in the bullpen.  In most years, of course, that means you don’t make a pick.  And they didn’t make a pick a year ago despite having a 40-man roster overrun with dubious players.  With the first pick this year, they’ll go in knowing they can get any player they want, so maybe they’ll make a move.