Unless you’ve been living under a rock since last week, you know that Major League Baseball is currently in a lockout – halting all Major League offseason activity. The Winter Meetings, typically the offseason’s busiest week in terms of activity, were set for this week.
The Rule 5 draft always takes place on Thursday, the last official day of the Winter Meetings. While the Major League phase of the draft has been postponed until after the lockout is over, the minor league phase will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 2:00 PM ET.
Each team is able to protect up to 38 of their minor leaguers on what is called the Triple-A roster. However, if a team chooses to protect the full 38, they cannot select a player in the minor league phase of the draft, meaning that most teams will leave a spot(s) open on the roster to be able to make a selection(s). As opposed to the MLB portion of the draft where players have to fulfill roster requirements during the season, there are no requirements for players selected in this phase.
Even though the player is added to the “Triple-A Roster,” the selected player does not need to play that season in Triple-A, but are allowed to be assigned to any level in the minor leagues. For example, the Pirates took three players in this phase, only one of them played in Indianapolis.
Last year, the Pirates’ three selections were right-handed pitcher Shea Spitzbarth, infielder Claudio Finol and righty Jeffrey Passantino. Of the three, Spitzbarth was the only one to spend time in the Majors, pitching five innings with the Bucs in 2021 and spent most of his time with Indianapolis. Finol, a glove-first player, posted a .648 OPS between four levels in the minors and appeared at five different positions. Passantino spent the year with Double-A Altoona, making 18 appearances (15 starts) and posted a 4.62 ERA/4.49 FIP in 76 innings.
Some of the more notable players selected in the history of the minor league phase include current Brewers’ catcher Omar Narvaez and power-hitting first baseman Justin Bour.
While this particular event won’t generate any headlining news in a normal offseason, it’s refreshing to see some form of offseason activity taking place during the tense labor negotiations. General manager Ben Cherington and the Pirates have another opportunity to add some depth to their minor league system. They are slated for the fourth selection.