Pittsburgh Pirates: Three High-Floor/Low-Ceiling Prospects in the Rule 5 Draft

The Pittsburgh Pirates could keep these high-floor/low-ceiling prospects in mind during the Rule 5 Draft.

Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Kristian Robinson during a minor league spring training game on Mar.
Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Kristian Robinson during a minor league spring training game on Mar. / Rob Schumacher/The Republic
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Cole Wilcox

Cole Wilcox looked like a steal from the San Diego Padres a few years ago. Taken in the third round of the 2020 draft, Wilcox was a college right-hander out of the University of Georgia. But Wilcox would never throw a pitch in the Padres’ system. That off-season, he was included in a package deal to acquire left-handed starter Blake Snell. 

Many thought the Blake Snell trade looked like another heist by the Rays in the first year of the trade, and Wilcox was a major reason for that. In 44.1 innings for the Rays’ single-A affiliate, the right-hander had worked to a 2.03 ERA, 2.40 FIP, and 0.86 WHIP. Wilcox’s peripherals were off the charts. He had a walk rate of just 2.9%, a ground ball rate over 60% at 61.1%, and a strikeout rate just a shade below 30% at 29.9%. He had a strikeout to walk ratio over 10, clocking in at 10.4.

But Wilcox’s season was cut short in late-June. He would sit on the IL until mid-September when he underwent Tommy John surgery. Wilcox recovered extremely quickly, as he would be back on the mound in August of 2022. He would only pitch 16 innings in ‘22, but struck out 24 batters, only allowing four to reach via free pass, and just one home run.

Wilcox spent the 2023 season at the Rays’ Double-A affiliate, but after a handful of strong outings to start his career, the 2023 season wouldn’t be nearly as kind to him. He pitched 106.2 innings, but had just a 5.23 ERA, 4.92 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. Wilcox did not strike out very many batters with a 21.8% strikeout rate and his walk rate rose to 9.8%. Although he was still great at limiting flyballs with a 54% ground ball rate, he still only managed to post a 1.18 HR/9.

Wilcox sat low-90s with his fastball, but his upper-80s slider and mid-80s change-up looked sharp. You may see a slight uptick in velocity if he comes out of the bullpen. Wilcox’s delivery has a lot of moving parts, which has led to some questions about his long term command. Wilcox is still only 24, and turns 25 in mid-July.

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