Three Arguments for Alberto Tirado to be Rule 5 Protected

The Philadelphia Phillies’ impending Rule 5 roster crunch is going to receive a lot of attention in the coming weeks and months. With a large number of young prospects to fit on the 40-man roster, the Phillies have several difficult decisions to make and even still may lose a player of value this December. We will certainly provide more comprehensive coverage in the future, but for now, I’d like to present three separate arguments for the protection of one young pitcher in particular – Alberto Tirado.

These three separate arguments can be seen in the fuzzy frames of the below video, from the 17 second mark to the 21 second mark.

The 21 year old righty from the Dominican Republic was originally signed by the Blue Jays in 2011 and has always been known as a live-armed prospect without much in the way of command (he has a 14.5 percent career Minor League walk rate). That lack of command is why a pitcher capable of the above wipeout slider and fastball combination (two potential plus-plus pitches) was one of two pieces included in the Ben Revere trade of 2015. A completely reasonable person could argue that the walk rate, combined with zero experience above the high-A level, makes him an unappealing Rule 5 candidate.

However, in his final six starts of the season, Tirado turned a corner. After copious work on his mechanics, struggling in the bullpen, and a brief stint in Clearwater, Tirado returned to the Lakewood starting rotation for the final months of season. Despite struggling badly for four months, his August (and technically, September 1) formed what is probably the strongest single month of performance for any Phillies prospect this season.

IP RA/9 K% BB% K-BB% Strike %
 April-July 32.2 7.44 27.7% 18.7% 9.0% 60%
 August-September 32.0 1.41 44.8% 8.8% 36.0% 66%

The change in K-BB% is monumental, but the 6 percentage point increase in strike rate is really what excites here – it went from almost unusable as a reliever to what would probably be above-average as a starting pitcher. It’s still only six starts, but he got hot at the end of the season, and these six starts are the last impressions on the minds of the Phillies’ front office (and more significantly, opposing scouts).

As far as his lack of experience goes, if he has two potential 70 grade pitches, and even moderately improved command, the level of the batter striking out at the plate doesn’t really matter. There is a recent precedent of young, raw arms succeeding at the Major League level with little or no Double-A experience. Jose Fernandez is probably the most obvious example of this, but I would look at two of Tirado’s former teammates from the same 2011 Blue Jays international signing class as stronger comparable prospects.

Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro were both a little bit ahead of Tirado based on command, but each was a starting pitching prospect in 2014, limited to relief in 2015 Spring Training, and debuted at age 20 that season. Combined, both Osuna and Castro had less than half as many innings at the high-A level as Tirado currently possesses, and neither had advanced to double-A. Osuna immediately became one of the best closers in the Majors, and Castro was a competent reliever before being traded to Colorado (everyone can imagine how that’s gone).

This isn’t to say Tirado’s success is guaranteed at all, but if a team believes in what was seen at the end of the season, it isn’t too hard to talk yourself into seeing a potentially free impact reliever. If that team believes Tirado can develop a passing changeup, that’s a pretty exciting prospect as a starter as well. At minimum, he’s a high ceiling arm who has the potential to contribute and even develop while stashed in the Majors. Luis Perdomo was a Cardinals’ starting pitching prospect acquired by the Padres in last year’s Rule 5 draft. He was a similarly high ceiling arm, was stashed early in the bullpen, and has actually contributed as a starter over the last couple months. Perdomo had spent no time at double-A, and struggled during the only time he spent in high-A.

Teams, especially those who don’t expect to compete in 2017, will take a risk on a guy like Tirado. If he wasn’t already a member of the Phillies, they might select him in the Rule 5 draft. However, that’s enough analysis – I consider all of the arguments I’ve laid out above to be incidental.

Let’s take one more look at the truly important reasons to add Alberto Tirado to the roster, this time in convenient GIF format.



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  1. Romus

    September 13, 2016 08:55 AM

    The following Latin arms the Phillies have under contract have outstanding stuff…from high velo FBs to good breaking stuff. The one flaw may be their height…all 6′ and under.
    Alberto Tirado….Sixto Sanchez…..Ricardo Pinto….Elniery Garcia…..Mauricio Llovera….Ranger Suarez. eventually may end up as a reliever of some sort. In any case, the Phillies should protect Tirado,

  2. Dave

    September 13, 2016 12:52 PM

    How much space do we need on the 40-man for next season? (I have no idea how its determined when players are required to be added, or how many will meet requirement(s))

    Meanwhile, lets look at a list of current players, age 27+, on the 40-man roster right now (per roster resource):
    Ryan Howard 36.8
    Cameron Rupp 28.0
    Peter Bourjos 29.5
    AJ Ellis 35.4
    Darin Ruf 30.1
    Andres Blanco 32.4
    Emmanuel Burris 31.7
    Jimmy Paredes 27.8
    Jeremy Hellickson 29.4
    Jeanmar Gomez 28.6
    Hector Neris 27.2
    David Hernandez 31.3
    Frank Herrmann 32.3
    Michael Mariot 27.9
    Luis Garcia 29.6
    Phil Klein 27.4
    David Buchanan 27.3
    Dalier Hinojosa 30.6

    Thats 18 players. Almost half the 40-man roster (!). The only ones I’d worry about keeping are Rupp, Hellickson (QO), Gomez, Neris. Maybe Blanco? The rest are fringe/filler guys. That’s 13 potential roster spots.

    Do we have 13 players we need to add to the 40-man? (seriously, I have no clue)

    • Dave

      September 13, 2016 12:55 PM

      Oh… if we needed a 14th roster spot… move/release Asche (he’s “only” 26.2).

    • Dave

      September 13, 2016 01:12 PM

      Also, that little exercise shows me how well the Phils have “scrubbed the deck” clear of the aging veteran core. No horrible long term commitments in that group any more. But there also isn’t much in the way of (even ) mid-level MLB talent there… and I would expect that most clubs have much more talent in that 27+ age group… and likely a few “star-level” players in that age group also. We have:

      Rupp-Hellboy (FA)-2 decent relievers, and a 32yo Utility guy.

      Thats pathetic.

      They talk about maybe adding a couple free agent position players for next year… they absolutely NEED to do that.

    • Romus

      September 13, 2016 02:54 PM

      …no need to add Jeremy H., a FA with a QO. Same with David Hernandez..also a FA.
      Do you want to draft in the Rule 5 again like last year?
      If yes…then if you want to only select one Rule 5 guy…..then you can only protect 39.
      If you want to select two….like they did last year in Goeddel and Stumpf….then you can only protect 38. And so on down the line.
      But agree…..of your list above…most are left unprotected.

    • Pete

      September 13, 2016 10:49 PM

      I’m looking forward to Spencer’s piece on the Rule 5 roster crunch. If the Phillies have so many prospects that it creates difficult decisions in constructing the 40-man roster, it’s a good problem to have I guess. Right now, my impression is similar to Dave’s. We seen enough from quite a few players on the current 40-man, so there should be plenty of space.

    • Eddie

      September 13, 2016 11:52 PM


      – Players who have been in the minors for six years need to be added to the 40 man or they become FAs. (DSL and VSL do not count.)

      – Players not on the 40 man are eligible for the Rule 5 draft 5 years after their 18th birthday.

      That covers 80% of cases. The rest is very complicated.

      • JonCheddar

        September 14, 2016 11:56 AM

        Players are exempt from Rule 5 for 5 seasons when signed before their 19th birthday, or 4 seasons if signed on or after their 19th birthday.

        So, 2013 college draft choices need protection after this year, as well as 2012 high school draft choices. As most IFAs are signed at age 16, the 2012 class of IFAs will require protection too.

        However, since those IFAs are only 20 if they signed at age 16, all but the most elite IFA signings can be snuck through Rule 5 at least once (e.g., Tocci and Tirado last year).

  3. boomerbubba

    September 13, 2016 11:41 PM

    Stiffs of the Night:

    Howard 1B 3 0 0 1 0 1 10 .191 .244 .429
    c-Ruf PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 .164 .203 .192
    Altherr RF 3 0 0 0 0 2 17 .197 .298 .306
    Alfaro C 4 0 0 0 0 2 12 .200 .200 .200
    a-Rupp PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 4 .259 .313 .459
    a-struck out swinging for J Rodriguez in the 7th
    c-struck out swinging for O Herrera in the 8th
    Phillies RISP: 0-7 (Franco 0-2, Herrera 0-1, Howard 0-2, Altherr 0-1, Ruf 0-1)

    (L, 3-4; B, 5) 0.0 2 3 3 1 0 1 13-7 3.70

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