Baseball America has posted their first look (sub. req’d) at the possibilities in the 2021 Rule 5 draft. Of course, it may be premature or even moot, as all the rich guys haven’t decided yet whether to let us peons have baseball in 2022. But it’s something.
Specifically, BA has a list of 15 unprotected “names to know.” The good news is that there are no Pirates on the list. Or is that bad news? All but three of the names come from the Rays, Dodgers, Yankees, Guardians and Blue Jays. The list is pretty diverse, position-wise; in fact, it’s actually short on the usual live-armed reliever types. The Nuke LaLoosh camp seems to be limited to Cleveland’s Manuel Alvarez.
There’s even a catcher: Blake Hunt of the Rays, who already have four of those on their 40-man roster. He was a second-round pick of the Padres who came in the Blake Snell trade. He’s spent a little time in AA and is supposed to be good defensively. He hasn’t hit as hoped because of swing-and-miss issues, but he does have some power. The Pirates need a backup catcher and their wave of catching prospects is at least a year away. And somebody might overwhelm them with a Stallings offer.
There are a couple of outfielders who look interesting, especially to a team that supposedly is still thinking about playing Cole Tucker there. The Rays’ Ruben Cardenas hit 25 home runs this year between High A and AA, but got squeezed out in Tampa Bay’s loaded system. The Guardians’ Oscar Gonzalez has already been passed over in the draft twice, but he had his best year this year, with 31 dingerz between AA and AAA. He swings at everything, but doing that and hitting with power beats doing that and not hitting with power, which has been a popular template with the Pirates in recent years.
The list also has some utility players who can hit, for power even. Imagine a guy on the Pirates’ bench with power — What would that look like? Maybe the most interesting guy on the list, imo, is the Dodgers’ Ryan Noda. He’s left-handed, so he’d be strictly an OF/1B guy. He draws tons of walks and hit 29 bombs this year in AA. The Dodgers have had a ton of success with guys who hit for power and don’t chase. It’d be nice to tap into that, although I should point out that Noda just came to the Dodgers in a trade last February. He was drafted by the Jays while Ben Cherington was there. The Jays’ Samad Taylor would be more of an all-around UT guy; in fact, his main position appears to be second base. Taylor draws walks and started hitting for good power in AA this year. He also runs well, but he strikes out a ton. And the Jays traded for him while Cherington was there, so another connection.
The most interesting-looking pitcher on the list, at least to me, is the Yankees’ Jhony Brito. His big pitch is a change, which has never exactly been a staple in the Pirates’ organization.
The most ominous guy on the list is the Rays’ Miles Mastrobuoni. BA considers him one of the most likely players to be selected, but not due to his ceiling. He’s a contact-oriented infielder with little power who plays all over, including the outfield. Hopefully, somebody will grab him before the Pirates get a shot.