SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Nate Adcock #47 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
I wasn't a fan of the Pirates' November decision to not to protect Nathan Adcock from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to the 40-man roster, but Dejan Kovacevic's take on the possibility that Adcock will make the Royals out of Spring Training seems a bit overboard to me. My disagreement probably mostly boils down to some subtle differences in tone, but maybe they're worth exploring here.
All this can change, of course, but it looks terrible for the Pirates right now. And not just because of Adcock, either.
You might recall that the Pirates left Adcock off the 40-man roster in large part so they could have vacancies to make their own selections in the Rule 5. Well, even in the days leading up to the Rule 5, Neal Huntington was telling us in Orlando that neither he nor his staff were all that excited about their options with the first overall pick ...
And now that Josh Rodriguez, the player the Pirates took with that pick, probably will not make the 25-man out of spring training -- Pedro Ciriaco looks much stronger for the middle-infield bench role -- it could look even worse in about a week.
This isn't to suggest Adcock is all that. In doing my prospect research over the offseason, he rated no better than the 25-30 range in the Pirates' system ...
But be really sure that the Pirates aren't in position to give away big guys with heavy sinkers who profile as major-league starters.
A couple of things here:
1. The idea that the Pirates left Adcock off the roster primarily so that they could take players in the Rule 5 is a little confusing. There were several roster changes after the Bucs had to select which players to protect, but before the Rule 5 draft itself. And as far as I can tell, there were several roster spots available then, which were used shortly after to grab Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz. At the time of the Rule 5 draft, there were also players on the roster like Wil Ledezma and Joe Martinez who the Pirates obviously didn't care much about, because they dropped them in late December. The ability to select a Rule 5 player might have played some role in the decision not to protect Adcock, but at best it was one factor among many.
I'm not sure what the Pirates' real reason for not protecting Adcock was, but probably the best explanation is that they thought Adcock's current ability and upside were marginal enough to risk the possibility that some team would select him and have him stick on their team the whole year. And they're quite a long way from being proven wrong about that.
2. The number of backup infield spots available might be something Kovacevic has more direct knowledge of than I do, and this article seems to back up his claim that it looks like it will be either Ciriaco or Rodriguez, but not both. But I see no reason why Rodriguez and Ciriaco can't both make the team, given that the Pirates have often carried two backup infielders to start the season. In 2009, for example, it was Ramon Vazquez and Luis Cruz. In 2010 they carried Bobby Crosby and Delwyn Young, although I suppose it's debatable whether or not you'd count Young as an infielder. While I agree that Ciriaco appears to be in, I'm not sure that means that Rodriguez is out. And frankly, I think Rodriguez should make the team, since he can hit and Ciriaco can't.
None of this is to say, obviously, that the decision here was either Adcock or Rodriguez. The Pirates could have had both, and if I were GM, I would have protected Adcock and taken a Rule 5 pick. The focus on Adcock vs. Rodriguez seems like a red herring. But if you want to focus on Adcock vs. Rodriguez, it's far from clear to me that Rodriguez won't make the team, and that he won't turn out to be just as useful as or more useful than Adcock. Rodriguez at least has a fair amount of experience in the upper minors, and appears to be much better prepared for the leap up to the big leagues.
3. Maybe I'm just being oversensitive to the word "terrible," because I didn't really agree with the Bucs' decision either, but on what grounds is it terrible? That the Royals, master evaluators of major-league talent that they are, appear close to deciding that Adcock is good enough to make the team? Leaving Adcock off the roster does appear to have been a mistake, but it doesn't look likely that it will have major consequences. In the end, I think it's still pretty likely that Adcock will be offered back to the Bucs at some point, whether that's in a week or in a couple of months.