2016 Rule 5 Protection: Bubble Candidates

Rule 5 protection continues onward. Yesterday I wrote about 7 locks for the Phillies roster, now we get into the more debateable candidates, who may miss out on the roster, not for a lack of talent, but for a lack of space, coupled with their ability to miss getting picked by another team. To protect any of these players the Phillies will need to give up on someone they already have on their roster, and while that may not same like a big deal given some of the names, they still need to field an opening day lineup.

All ages are as of opening day 2017.

Jesmuel Valentin, 2B, Age 22

Jesmuel Valentin does a lot of things fairly ok. He does not have much power (9 home runs in 2016 was a career high), not much speed (stolen bases have dropped off at higher levels), and he is a pretty good, but not amazing hitter. Valentin works counts, gets on base, and he will occassionally hit for extra bases. What makes Valentin an attractive major leaguer is that he plays a pretty good second base, but also can play any other position on the diamond but catcher and pitcher. It is a bit of a stretch to say that Valentin is an everyday player anywhere on the diamond, but he could be a long time big leaguer as a bench player. That could make him attractive to another team, though he may not provide the upside or consistency that a team may want in that role this year. Verdict: 50-50, but it really depends on what the Phillies are doing with Cesar Hernandez

Andrew Pullin, OF, Age 23

Andrew Pullin remains a mystery of sorts. A former outfielder turned second baseman turned outfielder, Pullin decided to retire to deal with personal matters before then returning to the Phillies early in the season. Pullin immediately showed that the power gains of 2015 might not have been fluky as it appeared. Pullin always flashed average power he has tapped into that by becoming a pull heavy hitter. He was promoted to Reading where he hit .346/.393/.559 over 46 games. Pullin finally started drawing walks again, though at the price of some strikeouts. Overall Pullin has an easy swing from the left side that he has quieted down over the years. He is prone to offspeed like most young hitters, but is a sound hitter overall. Pullin’s arm limits him mostly to left field, but he can play right field if needed. Pullin’s ceiling is fairly low, as he might be a guy that hits .270-.280 with 15-18 home runs and marginal on base upside. That is probably a major league regular, which gives Pullin solid value, and there is room for him to be a bench outfielder. Given his success in AA, he might get a shot to open 2017 in AAA. Verdict: Likely protect, but not 100%

Drew Anderson, RHP, Age 23

Anderson snuck on to prospect lists back in 2013 as an average stuff/feel for pitching right hander after being a 21st round pick in the 2012 draft. After struggling through an injury plagued season in 2014, Anderson had Tommy John surgery in spring 2015. After missing all of the 2015 season, the Phillies eased him back into action with Lakewood where he flashed his old skills, albeit with a bit of rust. His fastball was sitting low 90s (mostly 91-93 T94) with an average curveball, a developing changeup, and a slider/cutter. By the time he reached Clearwater he was sitting more 91-95 touching as high as 97. The secondary pitches still need work and he would do well to just stick to one of them for now. His command came and went as is to be expected by someone in their first year back from Tommy John. Despite flashing a bitter future as a starter in 2016, there is a lot of worry that Anderson’s long term future is in the bullpen. He has good height, but has a small thin frame, which coupled with his injury history has many worried about whether he can handle a full workload. His secondary pitches outside of the curveball are more on an idea than actualized skills, and his curveball is not something to carry his full profile. Anderson only threw 70 innings in 2016 meaning he is likely under an innings restriction next year as well, and he ended the year on the Clearwater disabled list. There is some upside here, but probably not enough to justify a team hiding him in their bullpen all year, making him tough for a team to draft. Verdict:  Not Protected, but they may not risk it, Anderson is hard to get a solid read on

Ricardo Pinto, RHP, Age 23

It would have been difficult for Ricardo Pinto repeat his breakout 2015 season under any circumstances, but his 2016 season was certainly a disappointment. He walked more batters, saw his strikeout rate stay down, and his home run rate balloon. Pinto’s core skills are the same, he throws strikes with a fastball that sits 91-95 and good changeup. He still is struggling to find a consistent breaking ball, which has left him without a good way to miss bats against good hitting. Pinto never seemed to implode this season and was able to battle through rough outings while keeping Reading in the game. This season created more questions about Pinto’s ability to stick in the rotation, but he probably makes for an easy choice for another team in the Rule 5 draft because he has some upside in the bullpen as a fastball/changeup reliever, especially if his velocity increases some in short bursts. Not protecting Pinto means probably losing him. Verdict: Protect

Seranthony Dominguez, RHP, Age 22

After a couple seasons of injury and inability to find the strike zone, Seranthony Dominguez put himself firmly on the prospect map in 2016. A small right handed pitcher, Dominguez boasts big time stuff. He has an electric fastball in the mid 90s and a sharp curveball that will flash plus. On the right day you may even see a changeup with potential. At his peak Dominguez could be a mid rotation starter or dominant reliever. The problem is that he just finished a year with 65.1 innings total of which 48.1 innings were in low-A Lakewood. Additionally, while his stuff looks electric on paper, he is still mostly pitching off his fastball, with the curveball and changeup very much back seat pitches in his arsenal. There is a chance the electric fastball could find him immediate success in a bullpen role at a high level, but it would mean a serious increase in command. The precedent for players with Dominguez’s track record being selected in the Rule 5 draft and sticking with their team is almost non-existent. A team selecting him would need to punt on his development in 2017 and then hope they can build him into something before his option years run out. For the Phillies they face the same ticking clock with option years should they protect him as he is at least 2, maybe 3 years away from contributing to a major league team. In the end he is probably the riskiest player left exposed, but it is probably a risk worth taking. Verdict: Not Protected

Carlos Tocci, CF, Age 21

This is now year 2 of the Carlos Tocci Rule 5 debate. After a difficult first trip to Clearwater, Tocci had a season that was pretty much right at expectations, hitting .284/.331/.362 over 556 plate appearances. The concerns (or concern) is still the same with Tocci, he just is not a large person and many worry about his ability to hit with any impact against upper level pitching. Tocci struggled for the first two months of the season before having a strong end of the year, hitting .302/.344/.386 from June 1 to end of season. Tocci has continued to just hit into the winter as well. Tocci is still an outstanding center field defender due to great instincts and solid speed. His arm is a weapon in center field as well. He has plus speed, but it has year to translate to major league success stealing bases. Overall Tocci is very reminiscent of Ender Inciarte when the Phillies took him the Rule 5 draft. That could be taken to indicate that the Phillies shouldn’t be concerned that a team can keep Tocci, but given Ender’s success there might be some double takes on whether to keep Tocci. Verdict: Probably 30-70 in favor of not protecting, but he has a good case

Alberto Tirado, RHP, Age 22

Tirado is a level below where he was to end the 2015 season when many thought he would be taken in the Rule 5 draft. Tirado was even demoted from Clearwater and spent a lot of time in Extended Spring Training. However, for the first time since 2013 Tirado flashed the ability to really harness his stuff. After moving to the BlueClaws rotation Tirado started 11 regular season games posting a 2.19 ERa with 25 walks and 83 strikeouts in 53.1 innings. He was even better down the stretch with 11 walks to 56 strikeouts in his final 6 games, spanning 32 innings. Tirado still matches a fastball that sits 94-98 touching 100 with a hellacious slider. His lack of changeup along with control that is just merely mediocre make him a better candidate for the bullpen than the rotation. At his best Tirado could be the type of reliever that fans fawned over this postseason, and that type of upside is probably too much for the Phillies to risk losing him for nothing. Verdict: This time protected

Miguel Nunez, RHP, Age 24

Nunez is a success story in the Phillies system. A former high money Latin American signing who missed two seasons before coming back in 2013. This season was the big righties first as a full time reliever and the upside is evident. Nunez is armed with a mid 90s fastball that can top out at 96-97, a decent curveball, and developing splitter. The big problem for Nunez is that in AA his control just fell apart, and that problem has continued into the Arizona Fall League. Nunez was set to be a minor league free agent but chose to re-sign with the Phillies. While Nunez has major league upside, it probably is not as a closer or high end setup man, and that lack of upside coupled with the control problems make him a poor gamble for a team looking for 2017 help or future upside. Verdict: Not Protected

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Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

2 comments

  1. andyb

    Looks like your predictions were largely correct. The player that might be in the most danger of getting selected is Andrew Pullin. My question is whether his offensive upside is more valuable than Tyler Goeddel’s greater range of tools. I know Goeddel deserves to play every day for a few months in AAA to get a fair chance. I just have a feeling that Pullin has fewer offensive holes and might be a better fit on the bench if a large part of the role is pinch hitting. We seem prepared to give our better defensive OFs the starting jobs (Herrera, Altherr, at some point Quinn) meaning we might want someone in the 4th/5th OF roles that can hit a little bit.

    • Matt Winkelman

      When it comes to Goeddel vs Pullin my question is how big is the gap, because you know if you put Goeddel on waivers, you know you will lose him. If you expose Pullin to the draft it is not 100% he is taken and even smaller chance he sticks all year. So do you guarantee a loss or take a chance on keeping both?