The Pittsburgh Pirates have added a pair of prospects to their 40-man roster, protecting them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
Right-handed pitcher Braxton Ashcraft and infielder Tsung-Che Cheng join the Pirates’ 40-man. On MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Pirates’ prospects list, Ashcraft is considered the organization’s No. 12 prospect while Cheng checks in at No. 18.
The 24-year-old Ashcraft split time this season between Single-A Bradenton, High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander combined for a 2.39 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 52.2 innings across 19 starts.
The Pirates originally selected Ashcraft with the 51st pick (second round) in the 2018 draft.
Cheng, 22, was off to a hot start with Greensboro this past season. In 57 games with the Grasshoppers, Cheng put together a .308/.406/.575 batting line with 12 doubles, nine triples and nine home runs in 57 games.
He scuffled some after a midseason promotion to Altoona, where he hit .251 with a .656 OPS and 13 steals in 66 games. Nonetheless, the Pirates didn’t want to take any chances regarding the possibility of losing Cheng to another team.
Among the notable players left unprotected was outfielder/first baseman Jase Bowen. Bowen is ranked as the Pirates’ No. 27 prospect. The 23-year-old spent the majority of the season in Greensboro, where he hit .257 with an .802 OPS. Bowen enjoyed a 20/20 season with the Grasshoppers with 23 homers and 24 steals. He received a late-season promotion to Altoona where he appeared in eight games.
The Pirates’ 40-man roster now sits at 39 players.