Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Potential Rule 5 Draft Picks To Consider

Let's look at some Rule 5 prospects the Pirates should consider in this year's draft.

Mar 1, 2021; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals Asa Lacy #33 poses during media day at Surprise
Mar 1, 2021; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals Asa Lacy #33 poses during media day at Surprise / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Austin Pope

The National League pennant winners, the Arizona Diamondbacks, left right-handed relief prospect Austin Pope open for the taking. Pope is coming off a relatively strong season for the D-Backs’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates and has stuff that would play out of a Major League bullpen as soon as 2024.

Pope pitched a total of 65 innings, working to a 3.65 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 1.38 WHIP. He had a strong 29.3% strikeout rate, along with a walk rate of only 8%. Pope also only allowed long balls at a 0.81-per-9 rate. However, some of these numbers are inflated by a .368 batting average on balls in play.

The thing that makes Austin Pope really stand out to me is his numbers in the Pacific Coast League. In 22 innings, he had a 2.45 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 29.2% striekout rate, 8.3% walk rate, and 0.41 HR/9. The league average ERA in the Pacific Coast League was 5.70. Walks were about as rare as chocolate on Halloween night, with the average walk rate being 12.3%. Home runs were also commonplace, with a 1.31 average HR/9.

Pope’s fastball sits around 94 MPH, with two breaking balls. That includes a slider and curveball. His slider comes in around the mid-80s, while his curveball is in the low-80s. Both have above-average spin, albeit not elite level.

Usually, I don’t take numbers in the PCL too seriously. It’s such an extremely hitter-friendly league, where having an ERA of 5.00 makes you a top-ten pitcher and an OPS of .850 makes a slightly above-average hitter, that it’s hard to credit any numbers. However, in extreme cases, like Pope’s case, where he has an ERA below 3.00, I think you need to at least give him a second look.