Pirates ready to protect top pitching prospects from Rule 5 draft
The Pirates will tweak their 40-man roster Thursday before the deadline to add minor leaguers and protect them from the Rule 5 draft.
A player is eligible for the Rule 5 draft if he signed when he was 19 or older and has played at least four seasons of professional baseball or if he signed at 18 and has played at least five years.
A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 draft must pay $50,000 to his former club and keep him on its major league roster for the entire ensuing season. The player must spend at least 90 days active (not on the disabled list). A player can be offered back to his original team for $25,000.
As of Wednesday, the Pirates had 38 players on their roster. It would be surprising if those empty spots aren’t filled by top pitcher prospects Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon, who are Rule 5 eligible for the first time.
Taillon, a first-round pick in 2010, missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander probably would have made his big league debut last season if not for the elbow injury.
Kingham, 23, was drafted in the fourth round in 2010.
The right-hander split last season with Double-A Altoona (1-7, 3.04 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in 12 starts) and Triple-A Indianapolis (5-4, 3.58, 1.10 in 14 starts).
Other candidates to join the 40-man roster include catcher Elias Diaz, first baseman Stetson Allie, lefty reliever Andy Oliver and outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. They have been Rule 5 eligible before but were not protected.
Diaz, who will be at least a part-time starter at Indianapolis in 2015, almost certainly will be added to the roster. That means the Pirates will have to remove someone on the list such as Brent Morel, Ramon Cabrera or Bobby LaFromboise.
At Altoona last season, Diaz batted .328 with an .823 OPS and threw out 36 of 74 (32.7 percent) of would-be base-stealers. He played in 10 games with Indy after a late-season promotion.
The Rule 5 draft will be Dec. 11, the final day of the annual Winter Meetings in San Diego.