The deadline for teams to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft is November 20. The Pirates currently have four spots open on the roster. I doubt they’re going to need to clear many, if any, spots to add prospects. They added Edgar Santana, Jordan Luplow and Angel Sanchez during the season, leaving fewer decisions to make this fall. Even if they don’t need to remove anybody now, they’ll undoubtedly need to make some moves when they add players (hopefully more than just utility players and replacement level middle relievers), whether through free agency or waiver claims.
What follows are some players they may consider removing and then some players they may need to add.
CANDIDATES FOR REMOVAL
I’m not sure any of these players will have to be removed now, but they could all be candidates as the Pirates add players they like better. Who gets removed could depend in part on who gets added.
Jacob Stallings, C: I don’t see him getting removed unless the Pirates find a depth-type catcher they like a lot better. Stallings is very good defensively and seemingly made a lot of strides at the plate this year. He also has two options left.
Gift Ngoepe, SS: I think Ngoepe will be one of the primary candidates once the Pirates need a space. he can play defensively at the major league level, but his bat doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and he’ll turn 27 before the season starts. The Pirates seem comfortable with Max Moroff playing short, they also have Sean Rodriguez, and they have Kevin Newman and probably soon Cole Tucker in AAA.
Chris Bostick, UT: Bostick had a good year in 2017, but the Pirates didn’t show much interest in him when they needed callups. They also seem to see him as an outfielder, as that’s where he mostly played in AAA, and his bat doesn’t play nearly as well there as at second base. He also has Rodriguez, Adam Frazier and Moroff ahead of him on the utility depth chart.
Relievers (Johnny Barbato, Dovydas Neverauskas, Angel Sanchez, Edgar Santana and A.J. Schugel, RHPs, and Jack Leathersich and Nik Turley, LHPs): The Pirates will probably claim a reliever or two off waivers and they badly need to add a veteran or two to pitch in the late innings. At least one or two of these guys will likely lose his spot at some point, with the Pirates probably hoping to get them through waivers. Turley and Barbato strike me as the most likely candidates, although Schugel really didn’t pitch well in the majors this year.
Austin Meadows, OF
Luis Escobar, RHP
Meadows is easy, but the Pirates have three good candidates who played in low class A this year. It’s a tough call with a player so far from the majors. Assuming they’re all in Bradenton next year, they’ll be three steps away with three options. Of the three, Escobar is the easiest. He throws 94-97 with a potentially above-average slider and change. His command has a long ways to go, but he has the upside of a mid-rotation starter or, if the command doesn’t come around, a late-inning reliever.
Dario Agrazal, RHP
Jake Brentz, LHP
Tyler Eppler, RHP
Adrian Valerio, SS
Eduardo Vera, RHP
Valerio and Vera are the other two prospects from West Virginia who merit consideration for the roster. Valerio should be able to stay at short and made a lot of strides with the bat this year, hitting for pretty good power. He’s still OBP-challenged, though, as he won’t take walks, and the Pirates have a lot of depth at short. Vera came out of nowhere this year after returning from Tommy John surgery, showing a fastball that got as high as 97 and a good curve, as well as good control. He finished the season with three outstanding starts as the Pirates increased his workload.
Eppler and Brentz are upper-level players with some performance issues. The Pirates like Eppler quite a bit, no doubt due to his 6’6” height, mid-90s fastball and good control. He had a rough year in AAA, though, as opponents slugged an alarming .514 against him, with left-handers really blasting him. He’s a flyball pitcher and lacks an out pitch. Brentz is a reliever who regularly hits 100 mph, which as a left-hander makes him valuable. He had a lot of trouble throwing strikes once he got to AA at mid-season, though, and Altoona didn’t use him much during their championship run. The Pirates could gamble that he won’t be able to stick in the majors for a year.
Agrazal had a good half-year for Bradenton, regularly going deep into games with a low pitch count. He throws in the mid-90s with good control, but lacks a swing-and-miss pitch. He went out with an oblique injury immediately after a late-June promotion to Altoona. I doubt he has the upside or track record to get drafted, but a team could see him as a potential innings-eater who could survive a Rule 5 season in long relief roles.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY ELIGIBLES
Barrett Barnes, OF
Austin Coley, RHP
Montana DuRapau, RHP
Yeudy Garcia, RHP
Kevin Krause, OF
Edison Lantigua, OF
Wyatt Mathisen, 3B
Alex McRae, RHP
Pablo Reyes, UT
Jerrick Suiter, 1B
Erich Weiss, 2B
Eric Wood, 3B
There are close to 50 players in the organization who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. These are some of the more familiar names. It’s hard to see anybody not listed higher up getting selected in the draft.