The Pittsburgh Pirates added Clay Holmes to their 40-man roster to protect him from the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. Here are some notable prospects not protected.
As the winter meetings continue to loom on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone through the process of determining who to protect from the Rule 5 draft.
The Rule 5 draft was implemented to protect teams from “hoarding” prospects. It is often a confusing and intricate rule. Anyone not on a team’s 40-man roster by the November 18th deadline are eligible to be “drafted” by another team. This is where the sticky part comes.
If a team drafts a player, that team must keep the player on their 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season. Additionally, they must remain active for at least 90 days during that following season. This addendum prevents teams from taking a rule 5 player and stashing him on the disabled list. There are many more ins and outs of the rule 5 draft, and for further reading please see the Wikipedia entry.
Today, we will focus on several notable prospects who the Pittsburgh Pirates deemed safe enough to leave unprotected.
Third baseman Eric Wood has had an excellent showing in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .330 and posting an .876 OPS. This, on top of a breakout year in Altoona in which he hit 16 home runs, drove in 50, and slugged 20 doubles in 118 games. He showed better plate discipline, lowering his strikeout rate by five percent, and boasted a nearly 40 percent increase in on base percentage.
Despite these strides, it is still relatively certain that Wood will not be selected. Wood has had two full seasons at Double-A at this point, and many teams will likely want to see how he performs after advancing a level. The Pittsburgh Pirates could easily have this exact same conversation at this time next year, should Wood perform similarly for Indianapolis.
Outfielder Barrett Barnes is a name familiar to many Pirates prospect observers, but perhaps not so much to the general public. Barnes was once thought to be a promising major league prospect, but some years in the wilderness due chiefly to injury derailed his track. A rebound year at Altoona in 2016 – Barnes slashed .306/.377/.477 with 47 RBI – has many thinking that he may deliver on his 1st-round draft prestige.
Much like Wood, teams that could potentially draft Barnes may be tempted to hitch their wagon to a player who suddenly “got it” but will ultimately come back to track record. When Barnes was bad, he was really bad. Some of that was due to the numerous injuries he suffered in 2014 and 2015, so his health alone may be enough to scare teams off.
Major League Experience Does Not Mean Much
Jacob Stallings is an interesting case. Stallings is a catcher with solid defensive skills who has major league experience, albeit in an emergency role. That experience may be attractive to some teams who wish to acquire a cheap backup catching option.
However, this will likely not happen. For one, Stallings has all of 15 plate appearances at the major league level. He was also given his outright release earlier this year, and all 30 clubs passed on him then. With the Rule 5 draft requiring teams to roster their choices all year, there is next to zero chance that Stallings will be selected. Expect the Pittsburgh Pirates to stash him at Triple-A for catching depth.
A Bullpen Arm With A Story
Reliever Jared Lakind has a tale to tell. Drafted as a first baseman, Lakind was converted to a reliever after the 2012 season. Despite some bumps in the road, he has acquitted himself well, turning in a 2.59 ERA at Altoona in 2016, where he spent the entire season. The Pittsburgh Pirates thought highly enough of him that he skipped high-A Bradenton after posting a solid-if-not-great performance for the West Virginia Power in 2015. Lakind can hit 94 mph and is left-handed. Those two notes alone can make him intriguing to most teams trying to find a diamond in the Rule 5 rough.
Of the prospects I’ve noted here, Lakind might have the best chance of being selected. It is well known that relievers can make the jump from mid-levels much easier than starters, and Lakind has a solid strikeout rate – 8.3 per nine in 2016 – to go along with an ability to keep the ball in the park. Walks are an issue, as he gives out 3.8 free passes per nine innings, but that can be mitigated with the right pitching coach and role. The Pittsburgh Pirates might not want to lose him, but doing so would not be a devastating blow by any means.
There are other names who are eligible to be selected, but these four represent the most intriguing cases in this year’s Rule 5 crop. With new collective bargaining agreement negotiations ongoing, it is entirely possible that next year’s Rule 5 procedures could see some changes. The Pittsburgh Pirates have navigated it pretty well in recent memory, and that trend should continue despite any significant changes on the horizon.