Through The Prospect Porthole: The Rule 5 Guys

5-4-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Every since Ben Cherington and Company took over Baseball Operations at 115 Federal Street, each move the Pirates make ultimately finds itself under the proverbial microscope. Whether it’s a trade, draft selection, Minor League addition, waiver claim, international signing or Rule 5 pick, Cherington is constantly placed on a cover-slip; in order to be examined.

Obviously as a General Manager, this is part of the job; especially for a team with such focus on it, as he guides them through a rebuild.

Pirates Fans and media members alike analyze individuals as they either arrive or leave the Pirates Organization; trying to figure out if the Pirates had found or lost something during these transactions.

For me trades, the MLB Draft and the International Signing Period are in the top tier when it comes to these decisions. In a distant second are Minor League signings, that can be used as depth in Triple and Double-A; or in some cases, trying to give players a second chance to prove themselves. Even further down the list in an A/B situation would be waiver claims and the Rule 5 Draft.

So, why am I choosing to focus on what is usually the bottom of the lineup when it comes to ways to acquire-or give up-talent?

Well, even though there may be some recency bias, this past year’s Rule 5 Draft just feels a little bit different. And, based on the results thus far it would be hard to argue against this perception.

Even prior to the start of the season, I saw Ben Cherington possible diverging from the norm, as far as how lefty reliever Jose Hernandez would be deployed.

Sure, some of this was forced by the injury to Jarlin Garcia, and Rob Zastryzny subsequently ending up on the IL as well; yet, even his acquisition was a break from the standard.

So far it has worked out; and not just at the Majors.

On the season Jose Hernandez-who Pittsburgh selected 3rd Overall-has a 1.98 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 14 strikeouts and 2 walks over 13.2 innings; and just allowed his first homer last night, with another solo shot today.

Otherwise, he’s been pretty stellar.

Meanwhile, in the Minors, Josh Palacios has been on an absolute tear in Indianapolis since his promotion from Altoona almost two weeks ago.

Across 9 games and 40 plate appearances, Palacios has slashed .412/.500/.912 with 4 homers, 3 doubles and a triple; on his way to being named the International League Player of the Week.

Now, if we are going to talk about the positives, there is always another side of the coin that I know is on some Pirates Fans minds.

Exactly one pick after Hernandez came off the board to the Pirates, Blake Sabol went out the door to the Cincinnati Reds. Shortly, after being selected the San Francisco Giants traded for Sabol; giving the Reds cash considerations; along with a player to be named later.

To the hardcore Pirates Prospect Junkies, Sabol was one of their darlings; after he hit .284 with an .859 OPS and 19 homers across Altoona and Indianapolis, while filling in at catcher in Henry David’ absence, and roaming the outfield.

Seen as a player that probably would be selected-following the Arizona Fall League-Sabol somewhat surprisingly made the Giants Opening Day Roster; contributing in big spots on occasion.

For the year he is batting .235 with a .758 OPS and homers; good for a positive WAR both on Baseball Reference (0.2) and Fangraphs (0.4).

Undoubtedly it is early in the season, and things can quickly change. However for now, it has been a pretty eventful year as far as the Rule 5 Draft and the Pirates are concerned.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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