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Rule 5 Review: Pipeline Implications

The Diamondbacks lost their #5 prospect

Arkansas Travelers v Amarillo Sod Poodles Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

As the winter meetings came to a conclusion in Nashville today, teams made their selections in the Rule 5 draft. Most attention is focused on the major league portion of the draft, in which teams can select from the unprotected players, but must keep the player on their 26-man active roster for the entirety of the season, except in the case of injury.

There was some outcry here when the Diamondbacks neglected to protect Kristian Robinson prior to the deadline. There was no outcry regarding Deyvison De Los Santos, because some of us (most of us?) did not think that he was eligible at this stage. I wrote that, contrary to what RosterResource said, he was not Rule 5 eligible. Clearly, I was wrong in this instance, but I do not thing I was alone in being wrong. Considering that Steve Gilbert made no mention of potentially protecting De Los Santos prior to the deadline, it seems that plenty of people were unaware.

I am confident that Mike Hazen was fully aware that De Los Santos was eligible. If I had been told that the Diamondbacks lost a player in the Rule 5 (even after I knew he was eligible) he would have been third on my list. That he was the only player lost is either a good thing or a bad thing.

But it is curious. The Guardians seem set at both infield corners. Where they need offensive help, in a big way, is in the outfield. This makes me wonder if the Guardians made the selection for another team that did not have a 40-man spot available and will trade the rights to De Los Santos. Or, perhaps, they are looking ahead to a future without Jose Ramirez and want De Los Santos to spend most of his time on the bench and learn from the veteran. We will see.

The Diamondbacks also lost Seth Beer, meaning that, of the pieces of the Greinke trade, only Corbin Martin remains with the organization. There was no space for Beer moving forward in the organization, particularly when De Los Santos and Ivan Melendez were both going to be pushing for first base sooner rather than later. He now moves on to the Pirates’ organization, where he should get a chance to compete for a roster spot and possibly even a regular role at first base.

But there were also three additions to the Diamondbacks’ system, all in the minor league portion of the draft. (The Diamondbacks’ AAA roster is now full at 38, for those keeping count.)

Darlin Pinales

Pinales has a large, workhorse type body, standing 6’4” and weighing in at 245 now, although he used to weigh more before the Dodgers worked on his conditioning. He’s got a fastball in the mid-90s. He pitched well in his stateside professional debut in 2022, but had a dismal 2023, posting an ERA of 9.16 and a WHIP over 2. He’s got the frame and the potential to become a useful piece, but this is definitely a buy-low move. Here is a YouTube video with some of Pinales pitching in 2022. He will likely start 2024 in Visalia and look to have a more successful run in the California League this time around.

Andy Weber

Weber, taken from the Cubs in the second round, is almost exactly the opposite type of player as Pinales. He’s already 26, and will be 27 in July. He was a teammate of Pavin Smith’s at Virginia, and after an unremarkable 2016 and 2017, posted a .951 OPS in 2018. The Cubs selected him in the fifth round of the draft that year, and he spent some time in the complex and at Eugene (then in low-A) demonstrating little pop in his bat or even much in the way of hitting for average, but drawing walks. His first full season in 2019 saw a better average but also 110 strikeouts. After the lost 2020 season, he got his first taste of AA in 2021, and has basically been there ever since. He’s coming off of his worst professional season ever, posting an OPS of just .668.

The interest the Diamondbacks have in Weber is simple to explain. He plays second base and shortstop, and has occasionally played third base. He’s likely to be in a Cam Duzenack role in the minor league system. as well as providing some measure of middle infield depth if everything goes south.

John Matthews

Matthews is another older player, about to turn 26. He attended Kent State, where he started as a two-way player, but was moved to the mound basically permanently thereafter. The Rangers drafted him in the 8th round in 2019. He was solid in limited action professionally in 2019, but we all know what happened in 2020.

He’s a native of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and his tenure since must feel a little like Groundhog Day. 2021 saw him in the California League, where he showed enough to be moved along to Hickory of the South Atlantic League to start 2022. He was good enough there to be promoted to Frisco for a few games at the end of the season, and it didn’t go well. He’s stayed there, and it’s not gone well since, either. Walks are the big problem, a main contributor in his 1.813 WHIP at AA.

Conclusion

One would not expect any of these selections to have a role on the major league team in 2024, and likely not ever. But they will all have roles to play providing depth on minor league rosters.

The loss of De Los Santos hurts, but hopefully he will wind up being offered back. We shall see.