The Pirates added RHPs Victor Black, Hunter Strickland and Phil Irwin along with Cs Ramon Cabrera and Tony Sanchez to the 40-man roster today, bringing it to 39 players (yes, they can dive into the Rule 5 pool again!). The team can still make moves on the 40-man roster, but only those players added today are protected from the December 6th Rule 5 draft.
Sanchez, 24, was the Bucs top pick in 2009 and the fourth overall. His glove is considered MLB quality, but his minor league BA is .268. He hit .277 at Altoona, but with no long balls and some gap power, then was moved up to Indy where he batted .233 but with 8 HR in 236 PA.
Black, 24, was a sandwich pick in the 2009 draft and the 49th overall pick. He
has a career 3.28 ERA in four seasons He closed for Altoona last year and went 2-3-1.65 with 85 K in 60 outings. Black had a couple of god-awful appearances in Arizona, but overall was effective; it was all feast or famine for him. He'll probably start at Indy next season, with an outside shot at a roster spot, depending how the off season shakes out.
Irwin, 25, was a 21st-round draft pick in 2009, the 625th overall selection. He came out of the woodwork this year, going 4-7 with a 2.93 ERA in 16 starts for Altoona for Altoona and 3-0/2.57 ERA in four starts with Indy. Irwin K'ed 111 in 135-1/3 frames, and has a career 3.02 ERA and 1.100 WHIP lifetime. Like most of the upper level Buc starters, he has stuff that's considered average but with excellent control. He should start 2013 at Indy.
Those were the automatic picks. Cabrera was borderline, and Strickland was more or less out of the blue.
Cabrera, 23, was signed out of Venezuela in 2008. He spent the year at Altoona, where he hit .276 but without much extra base thunder. The 5'7" fireplug was sent to Indy for the playoffs and went 2-for-5 in his only game. He does have a good stick, with a career BA of .292 and a .360 OBP. Cabrera is a decent receiver, but doesn't excel in throwing out runners (20% in 2012), and that combined with his lack of power limits his upside. He should be Sanchez's caddy at Indy.
Strickland, 24, was part of the 2009 Adam LaRoche trade with the Red Sox, which took him in the 18th round in 2007 from high school. He missed all of the 2011 season, eventually having rotator cuff surgery in August. Strickland did well at Bradenton, going 2-2 with a 2.58 ERA but with poor peripherals, then went to Altoona, where he was converted to the pen. The he was 2-2-2 with a 4.36 ERA, and his strikeout ratio improved some to 33 K in 42-1/3 IP, featuring a low nineties fastball. Still, he was a surprise selection; the Pirates must see some upside since his injury.
That leaves RHP Kyle Kaminska, received in a deadline deal with the Fish, and IF Gift Ngoepe on the outside looking in.
Kaminska, 24, has had a spotty minor league record, so either the Bucs gambled that would keep him from being claimed in the draft or determined he wasn't worth tying up a spot. Either way, he was one of the iffy keepers. But his strong performance in the Arizona Fall League may have put him on a couple of radar screens, and the Pirates did send Miami a couple of assets - particularly the comp pick - that would seem to indicate that the FO saw something in him. So we're surprised some that he's off the roster and Strickland is on it.
As Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects notes, "Ngoepe signed with the Pirates in late-2008 at the age of 18. This would have been his fifth Rule 5 draft since he signed, which is the first
draft an 18-year-old signee would be eligible for. However, because he didn’t play in 2008, the 2008 season and the 2008 draft don’t count. He would still be eligible for his fifth Rule 5 draft, but that count begins with the 2009 draft, not the 2008 draft." In essence, he signed a contract that started in 2009, so the 22-year old shortstop isn't, as we had thought, eligible for this year's draft.
And now we're set for the official start of the hot stove league, the December 3rd baseball meetings.