Rule 5 Draft Decisions Loom For The Pittsburgh Pirates

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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With a deadline looming on Tuesday, roster decisions are on the horizon for the Pittsburgh Pirates

Tuesday is the deadline for Major League Baseball teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the yearly Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft is part of MLB’s Winter Meetings every year, always taking place on the final day of the meetings.

This year’s Winter Meetings are set to take place in Las Vegas December 10-13 this year. Therefore, this year’s Rule 5 Draft will take place on December 13th.

As Tuesday’s deadline looms, the Pittsburgh Pirates will have decisions to make. Currently, their 40-man roster has just 37 players on it. This means the team can add three players without having to clear a roster spot.

There are a few no brainer decisions for the Pirates. Top pitching prospect Mitch Keller is a lock to be added to the roster. After a slow start at the Triple-A level last year, Keller finished the year strong. In his final five starts of the season Keller posted a 2.20 ERA and struck out 27 batters in 28 2/3 innings pitched. He will enter the 2019 season on the doorstep of the MLB level.

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Another lock is shortstop Cole Tucker. Tucker posted just a .315 wOBA and a wRC+ of 93 at the Double-A level last season, but, like Keller, the former first-round draft pick finished his season strong. Also, as you can read more about here, he appears to have turned a corner as a hitter in the AFL.

Another lock, in my opinion, is J.T. Brubaker. The 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year posted a 3.10 ERA and a 3.59 FIP in 22 starts at the Triple-A level after pitching to the tune of a 1.80 ERA and a2.64 FIP in six starts in Double-A.

It was somewhat surprising that Brubaker did not see the MLB level at all in 2018, and he appears to be a big part of the team’s pitching depth for 2019. If Brubaker were to be left unprotected, odds are, he would get selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Another possibility to be added to the 40-man roster is outfielder Jason Martin. After being acquired in the Gerrit Cole trade last offseason, Martin slugged .522 with a .403 wOBA and a 152 wRC+ for Double-A Altoona. However, after advancing to the Triple-A level Martin struggled mightily. He slashed just .211/.270/.319 with a .268 wOBA and a wRC+ of 65 in 234 plate appearances.

His struggles at Triple-A may allow him to slip through the Rule 5 Draft cracks and remain with the organization. He also went undrafted in last year’s Rule 5 Draft after the Astros left him unprotected.

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Left-handed pitcher Brandon Waddell is a possibility as well. The former College World Series Champion posted a 4.19 ERA and a 3.64 FIP in 81 2/3 innings pitched (15 starts) in his first taste of the Triple-A level in 2018. With starting pitching depth always being at the premium, my guess is Waddell will be protected.

So, if the Pirates protect more than four players, what do they do with the 40-man roster? Well, there are some obvious candidates to be removed from the roster. Pitchers Tanner Anderson, Jesus Liranzo, and Alex McRae are all DFA candidates. Catcher Jacob Stallings and pitcher Nick Kingham could be players to watch as well due to being out of minor league options.