The deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 draft is 11/20 at 5 PM and the Pirates have some work to do. As new general manager, Ben Cherington, works out who to protect, let's go over some options.

For those of you who don't know, I'll first go over the basic rules of the Rule 5 draft. Players that meet the following criteria are eligible for the draft.

  • Signed by the team at 18 years of age and has five years of experience.
  • Signed by the team at 19 years of age and has four years of experience.

To protect those players from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, the team must place them on the 40-man roster. That is the deadline we're talking about. The caveat to that is, if a player is taken, they must be put on the active roster for the entire season, or they are offered back to the original team.

With that said, I'm going to go over some players the Pirates MUST protect, and some they might want to so that they are not plucked from their system.

MUST Protect

Ke'Bryan Hayes, Will Craig, Cody Ponce, James Marvel, Oniel Cruz, Blake Cederlind

Now, when I say "must" protect, I'm not necessarily making a case that that any of the six players above are too talented to lose. I'm mostly saying that, if those six players are not on the 40-man roster by the end of the day, they will be taken in the Rule 5 draft. I also believe they should protect those six. Considering where the Pirates' are right now, losing young talent would be quite frustrating.

Inside of that list, Hayes, Craig, and Cruz are the most obvious locks. Cederlind could be a borderline guy, but I would think a team out there would feel fine with him being in their bullpen this season, and the Pirates cannot afford to lose pitchers.

MIGHT Protect

Lolo Sanchez, Ike Schlabach, Hunter Owen

This list is could be much longer. These would be guys who probably are not ready for the majors, but an opportunistic, rebuilding team might be willing to sacrifice an active roster spot in favor of their potential.

Lolo Sanchez is the name on here that I'd hate to see go. He has elite speed and defensive skills and his bat has been coming along. He's at least two, probably three, years away from being ready to contribute at the major league level, but his potential is real and could be enticing to a cellar-dweller.

One name to watch as someone I would be surprised to see the Pirates protect, but should be an intriguing target for teams looking to bolster their bullpen is Cam Vieaux. He's been pretty solid through each stop in the minors.

For context, the Pirates currently have 39 of the 40 roster spots accounted for. So, in order to protect more than one of the players mentioned, corresponding moves will need to be made. I'd expect guys like Dorvydas Neverauskas, Williams Jerez, and Yacksel Rios to be among those in consideration to make room.

We will keep you updated as moves are made.

Follow Jared on Twitter: @a_piratelife