Who Do the Pirates Need to Protect From the Rule 5 Draft?
It won’t be long before the Pirates face more difficult decisions this offseason as teams will need to add Rule 5-eligible prospects to their 40-man roster by Nov. 19th. The Pirates like many other teams across the league will need to clear room on their rosters in order to add prospects they deem worthy of protecting from losing via December’s Rule 5 draft. The Bucs have some notable prospects who are eligible this year.
Any player signed at the age of 18 or younger who are not added to the team’s 40-man roster within five seasons are eligible for the draft as are players signed at the age of 19 or older who are not on the 40-man within four seasons. Last year during the Rule 5 draft, the Pirates selected right-handed pitcher Jose Soriano (Angels) and acquired fellow righty Luis Oviedo (Indians) from the Mets during the Rule 5 Draft.
Here is a list of the more notable prospects the Pirates have to consider protecting by the 19th. Note: infield prospect Diego Castillo, who was acquired from the Yankees in the deal that sent Clay Holmes to New York, was added to the Bucs’ 40-man roster on Sunday.
RHP Cody Bolton
Bolton missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury but had been one of the Pirates’ better pitching prospects in the three years prior. For his career, Bolton has a 3.36 ERA across 171.2 innings pitched reaching as high as Double-A where he made nine starts.
LHP Omar Cruz
Cruz was acquired last offseason from the Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade. The 22-year-old lefty split time between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona this year. In total, he posted a 3.44 ERA with 98 strikeouts in just shy of 100 innings (21 starts). As a whole, the Pirates are relatively thin on lefty starters in the system and may opt to protect one of their more notable ones.
RHP Yerry De Los Santos
The Pirates re-signed De Los Santos to a minor league deal on Tuesday, according to Alex Stumpf of DKPittsburghSports. Now, the Pirates face the decision of whether or not to protect the reliever. De Los Santos turns 24 next month and reached Triple-A in 2021. With Indianapolis, he pitched six scoreless innings where he allowed just two hits, one walk and picked up six strikeouts. Before the promotion, De Los Santos had a 2.04 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 17.1 innings with the Curve.
1B Mason Martin
One of the top sluggers in Pittsburgh’s system is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year. In 112 games with the Curve, Martin owned a .799 OPS with 22 home runs before appearing in eight games in Triple-A where he mashed three home runs. Strikeouts have been a problem for Martin, but there is legitimate 30-plus home run potential with the lefty slugger. With the DH seemingly coming to the National League in 2022 and beyond, it makes the Pirates’ decision a little bit tougher.
OF Cal Mitchell
Mitchell had a nice season in Double-A Altoona hitting .280 with a .759 OPS and 12 home runs in 108 games with the Curve. He scuffled a bit after getting promoted to Triple-A where he managed just a .586 OPS in 21 plate appearances. Mitchell was a second round pick in 2017.
INF Liover Peguero
Acquired from Arizona in the Starling Marte trade, Peguero has emerged as one of the Pirates better prospects. He offers a unique blend of hitting and speed and offers potential in both the power and fielding departments. Peguero spent the whole season with High-A Greensboro where he slashed .270/.332/.444 with 14 homers and 28 stolen bases. It’s probably safe to assume that he will get added to the 40-man.
OF Canaan Smith-Njigba
In his first season with the Pirates after coming over from the Yankees last offseason, Smith-Njigba spent most of the year in Double-A where he posted a .805 OPS with 13 stolen bases and 45 walks in 66 games. He struggled during a brief stint with Indianapolis but is an intriguing prospect that the Pirates have to seriously consider protecting.
OF Jack Suwinski
Suwinski was a midseason acquisition by the Pirates coming over in the Adam Frazier trade. Between his time with the Padres and the Pirates, Suwinski slashed .262/.383/.485 with 19 homers and 11 steals in 111 games – all at the Double-A level. Like Martin, Suwinski is one of the bigger sources of power potential in the Pirates’ system.
OF Travis Swaggerty
The Pirates probably face the easiest decision of anyone listed with Swaggerty who will almost certainly be protected and added to the 40-man roster. The 2018 first-rounder played in just 12 games in 2021 after he underwent surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder early in the season. Barring any other injuries, Swaggerty is on track to make his debut at some point in 2022 and could even crack the Opening Day roster with a strong spring.
RHP Tahnaj Thomas
Thomas has a big arm as his fastball touches 100 mph and but hasn’t quite been able to harness everything. Thomas posted a 5.19 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 35 walks in 60.2 innings (16 starts) with High-A Greensboro. The potential though will intrigue teams around the league and could be a target for some during the draft.
Other notable prospects who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft include right-handed pitcher Santiago Florez, outfielder Lolo Sanchez, right-hander Eddy Yean.