Rule 5 season is upon us! Yes, the seminal event that, for lack of genuine interest at the major league level, has traditionally captivated Pirate fans. An event that traditionally has been fraught with peril and charged with expectation, sometimes of tragicomic proportions, even accompanied at times by a laugh track.
Except this year’s draft figures to be pretty humdrum. The Pirates currently have six open spots on their 40-man roster, so I doubt they’ll have to remove anybody tomorrow in order to clear space for players who need to be added. They also don’t have many real decisions to make on draft-eligible players, because they have few strong prospects who fall into that category. The Pirates aren’t terribly likely to select anybody interesting in the draft, either, especially if last year’s puzzling selection of Gustavo Nunez is any indication. The changes in the eligibility rules a few years ago have resulted in very weak draft pools and the Pirates don’t have an early pick this time. Still, it’s Vlad’s job to figure out which players appear interesting, so I’ll leave that to him.
There’s no lack of players who could be removed from the roster if necessary. The list of possibles probably includes the following:
Jeff Karstens, RHP – Grrrrr.
Charlie Morton, RHP – He won’t be able to pitch until mid-season at the earliest and has no options, so it’ll be difficult for them to manage his return from Tommy John surgery.
Chris Resop, RHP – He could be a non-tender candidate.
Rick van den Hurk, RHP – He didn’t do much in his brief 2012 opportunity.
Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, Yamaico Navarro, UT – I can’t see them keeping all these utility infielders, especially when they also have Brock Holt and Josh Harrison, neither of whom is likely in any danger. One or two of these guys is likely to go.
Matt Hague, 1B – With Gaby Sanchez around, Hague has no role, plus he’s coming off a weak season and is already 27.
As I said, I doubt any of these players is going anywhere just yet. Decisions on Karstens, Morton and Resop should come at the November 30 non-tender deadline. The rest will be candidates to come off the roster if and when the Pirates need room for free agents they’ve signed.
The following, in my view, are the candidates to be added to the roster. Please note that it’s not clear whether Zack Dodson and Gift Ngoepe are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Tim Williams of piratesprospects.com believes they are, although I don’t know his reasoning. An article at the official team site also listed Ngoepe as eligible. Vlad has explained why he believes they are not and his explanation made sense to me. This probably only affects Ngoepe, as Dodson is not a realistic candidate to be added or selected.
Gift Ngoepe, SS – If he’s eligible, I think the Pirates will probably add him. They seem to prefer always having a good-glove, no-hit middle infielder on the roster and at least there’s some possibility his bat will develop.
Jarek Cunningham, 2B – There’s very little likelihood he’ll be added, nor should there be after a poor 2012 season in which AA pitchers exploited his long-standing flaws at the plate.
Jeff Inman, RHP – He throws hard but hasn’t developed a secondary pitch and as a result doesn’t miss bats.
Nate Baker, LHP – He hasn’t developed well and has control problems.
Phil Irwin, RHP – This is a tough choice, because his stuff isn’t impressive, but he got very good results this year and even managed to miss some bats.
Ramon Cabrera, C – Catchers aren’t good candidates for the Rule 5 draft, but Cabrera came on with the bat late in the 2012 season and improved defensively.
Tony Sanchez, C – He’s a lock to be added.
Vic Black, RHP – Also a lock.
Andrew Lambo, OF – He didn’t get selected last year, so he’s certainly not going to be after missing almost all of 2012.
Kyle Kaminska, RHP – He’s struggled in the upper minors, but a strong AFL showing may have gotten him on the map.
Mike Colla, RHP – He looks more like upper level depth.
Tim Alderson, RHP – It’s just not happening.
Quincy Latimore, OF – Career .310 OBP for a corner outfielder doesn’t cut it.
My prediction is that nobody gets dropped from the roster just yet, and that Black, Sanchez, Ngoepe (if Rule 5 eligible), Cabrera and Irwin get added. What are your predictions?