It certainly seems like a team that has a roster loaded with random, waiver-wire relievers would be a strong candidate to use the first pick in the Rule 5 draft on somebody. We’ll find out whether the Pirates see it that way. Just in case they do, here are a few more of the possibilities out there.
Most of these come from an article at FanGraphs by Erik Longenhagen from back in August, linked by Mad Dog in the comments the other day. Longenhagen looked at some teams that figured to face roster crunches and ran through the players they needed to protect, breaking them down into “must add” and “fringe” prospects. Ultimately, a few of the must adds and most of the fringe guys didn’t get protected.
Among the must adds was reliever Jose Alberto Rivera of the Astros, whom we discussed the other day. He still strikes me as the best candidate for the Pirates that I’ve seen. Most of the fringier prospects seem uninteresting to me, mainly due to a lack of upside. As always, the pool for the draft is heavily comprised of glove-only catchers and shortstops, toolsy outfielders who haven’t hit, hard-throwing relievers with control issues, and a few finesse pitchers who profile as 5th starters at best. I’ll just run through the ones who seem interesting.
Jose Miranda, IF (Twins, age 22): Miranda was a must add for Longenhagen, but not for the Twins apparently. He’s a line drive hitter who doesn’t swing and miss much, but like a lot of hitters of that sort, also doesn’t walk much. The power seemed to be coming around in low A in 2018, but slipped in high A the next year, probably in part thanks to the Florida State League. His .663 OPS there was almost exactly league average and he didn’t turn 21 until mid-season. He’s played second and third; he doesn’t have the range for short and second may or may not work out. Longenhagen still likes him and ranks him #11 in a “very deep system.” BA ranked him #13 before his okay-ish 2019 season. If the power comes around a bit, he seems similar to Phillip Evans, or at least what we’re hoping Evans will be over a full season. Of course, the Pirates already have Phillip Evans, although he’s six years older.
Will Benson, OF (Indians, 22): Benson was the 14th overall pick in 2016. He’s a big (6’5″) left-handed hitter with bat speed that gives him a lot of power potential, but he’s got contact issues. So far, he’s been a three true outcomes hitter, similar to Mason Martin but not as effective. Benson hit 22 bombs in low A in 2018, but batted .180, so Cleveland sent him back there in 2019. He hit 18 homers in less than half a season and batted .272, mainly because his BABIP, which had been flukishly low, went up over 100 points. He spent the second half in high A and struggled. He draws a lot of walks but his K rate hovers close to 30%. He runs pretty well and has a plus arm, so he profiles as a right fielder. Longenhagen ranks him 32nd in the Cleveland system, BA 28th. He might be interesting as a second round pick, but I can’t imagine the Pirates doing that.
Luis Oviedo, RHP (Indians, 21): Oviedo slipped a lot in prospect rankings after 2019, and got passed over in Rule 5 a year ago, because his velocity that year was very erratic. He’s a very projectable 6’4″ who’s reached the upper-90s, but in 2019 he was sometimes in the mid-80s. According to Longenhagen, his velocity sat at 94 this spring. He also throws a good curve and slider, and a change that has potential. Oviedo dominated the New York-Penn League in 2018, including a K/9 of 11.4, but didn’t do well in low A in 2019. Longenhagen still ranks him 11th with the Indians. He has starter potential, so he might be an interesting guy to hide in the bullpen for a year.
Brett De Geus, RHP (Dodgers, 23): A late-round JC pick, De Geus ranks 35th for Longenhagen in a very deep system and was a must add. He had a velocity spike when he moved to relief in 2019, splitting the year between the two class A levels and pitching very well, with high K rates. He throws 92-96 with a curve and slider that both could be at least average pitches.
Jeren Kendall, OF (Dodgers, 24): The 23rd overall pick in 2017, Kendall is another toolsy outfielder who can’t make contact. He’s a bit different from Benson; he has great speed and legit center field defense, and raw power that showed up some in 2019, albeit in the California League. But his K rate was over 35%. Given the speed and defense, he’d probably be an upgrade over J.T. Riddle.
Omar Estevez, IF (Dodgers, 22): The Dodgers signed Estevez out of Cuba. He has a good bat with some power; he hit 291/352/431 in AA in 2019 at age 21, although he missed half the season with a hammy. He’s played second and short, but his range is too poor for short and may be fringy at second. He’s also had throwing problems. Longenhagen ranks him 23rd and BA 18th with the Dodgers.
Marshall Kasowski, RHP (Dodgers, 25): A 13th round pick out of college in 2017, Kasowski is a reliever and has been limited by injuries to 107.2 IP in three years. He has a very funky delivery that makes it hard to pick up his fastball, which sits 91-95, and curve. The result has been a 14.8 K rate and an opponents’ BA of .156. He’s had a lot of walk problems, but got his BB/9 down to 4.9 in 2019 in AA.
Addison Russ, RHP (Yankees, 26): The Phillies drafted Russ in the 19th round in 2017, then traded him to the Yankees in a deadline deal this year. He’s a reliever who throws two pitches: a fastball at 93-96 and a splitter. He pitched very well in AA in 2019, with a 1.18 WHIP and 12.9 K/9.
Eguy Rosario, IF (Padres, 21): The Padres signed Rosario out of the Dominican and pushed him very quickly. He played in high A at just 18 in 2018 and didn’t hit much. San Diego sent him back there in 2019 and he hit pretty well, still at just 19. He’s only 5’9″ but has a lot of strength, so he could develop average power with an above average bat. He’s played everywhere in the infield but probably fits at second or third. Longenhagen rated him 33rd and BA 28th in the loaded Padres’ system.
Rodolfo Duran, C (Phillies, 22): Duran has shown solid all-around tools for catcher, including some power. In low A in 2018, he had 18 home runs in 88 games, and slugged .495. In 2019 at high A, he fell off to 240/273/360, although the FSL accounts for some of that. He has a plus arm and good receiving skills. Considering that the catching landscape in their system resembles the set of a Mad Max movie, they could do worse than try a R5 catcher, but they seem content to go with veteran no-bat types.