By Jason Shetler
On November 20th, all MLB clubs will have to set their 40-man rosters. With that comes players who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in December. Pirates top prospect Austin Meadows is eligible, but is obviously a lock to be placed on the roster. Here are some other notable players who will need to be protected from the draft.
Eric Wood: The Pirates selected Eric Wood as a sixth rounder out of Blinn College in the 2012 MLB Draft. A native of Ontario, Canada, Wood had a career year in 2016, as he posted a .782 OPS and hit 16 home runs for AA Altoona. He had been left unprotected for the Rule 5 last offseason, but was not chosen. Up until the Arizona Fall League last year, he was exclusively a third baseman. In 2017, Wood put up an OPS of .749, while hitting 16 homers again, this time with AAA Indianapolis. In addition to third base, he also played first base, left field and right field.
Luis Escobar: Since joining the Pirates out of Colombia in 2013, Luis Escobar has been one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the organization. Escobar is currently the 16th best Pirates prospect according to MLB Pipeline. His fastball sits consistently mid-90’s. Escobar had a 3.83 ERA for the Low A West Virginia Power in 2017. While his K/9 was strong at 11.5, he did have trouble with the free passes, posting a 4.1 BB/9. Escobar was the Pirates representative in this year’s MLB Futures Game.
Montana DuRapau: Perhaps the biggest diamond in the rough for the Pirates in the 2014 MLB Draft is Montana DuRapau. A 32nd round pick out of Bethune-Cookman University, DuRapau has emerged as one of the better homegrown relievers in the Pirates system. Although he’s not a hard-thrower, he makes up for it with plenty of deception and movement on his pitches. DuRapau began 2017 with Altoona and was promoted to Indianapolis in mid-July. Combined with both affiliates, he posted an ERA of 2.04, along with a 1.04 WHIP and a 10.5 K/9.
Tyler Eppler: In 2014, the Pirates drafted Tyler Eppler as a sixth round selection out of Sam Houston State. The 24-year-old right-hander is one of the best control pitchers among Pirates prospects, and this year was no exception, as he registered a 2.2 BB/9 for Indianapolis. He had a 4.89 ERA, while opponents hit .292 against him. Eppler’s fastball is mostly low-90’s, but he can top out at 95 mph.
Yeudy Garcia: Yeudy Garcia signed with the Pirates out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 at age 20, which is considered “old” for an amateur. Garcia’s fastball is mid-to upper-90’s, which he compliments with a sharp slider. In 2015, he had a breakout season, and followed that up with another strong year in 2016. Garcia began this past season with Altoona, and struggled in their rotation, posting an ERA of 6.50 and a .298 batting average against. He was sent to the Curve bullpen in late June, performing much better, with a 3.25 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .230 average. MLB Pipeline currently has Garcia ranked as the 19th best prospect in the Pirates system.