Coming off of a second straight 100-loss season, the Pittsburgh Pirates figure to be quite busy this offseason to try and fill out the roster in hopes of improving the team for 2023.
In the offseason, there are multiple avenues to address needs. There are the obvious ones such as free agency as trades. The Pirates already executed a trade when they acquired first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the Rays.
Then there are the not so obvious ones.
For a rebuilding club especially, the Rule 5 draft presents an interesting option to acquire the services of a potentially high-upside player.
Any player selected in the Rule 5 draft has to remain on the big league roster throughout the season, so there’s not an extremely high success rate.
With that being said, it’s possible to find a diamond in the rough.
All-time Pirates’ great Roberto Clemente was a Rule 5 selection by Pittsburgh back in 1954 from the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Will the Pirates find another Clemente this year? That will be just about impossible, but there are still plenty of available players who are intriguing.
OF Jake Mangum (Mets)
It was a bit of a surprise when the Mets left Mangum unprotected after not adding him to their 40-man roster. Mangum turns 27 in March, so he’s on the older side but he possesses some upside.
After a midseason promotion to Triple-A last season, Mangum hit .333 with an .836 OPS in 33 games.
Mangum is a switch hitter and could be a viable fourth outfield option for the Pirates if they choose to explore this route.
LHP Erik Miller (Phillies)
Miller makes sense for a couple reasons for the Pirates. For one, he’s talented. He ranks as the Phillies’ seventh-best prospect by MLB Pipeline.
In 36.1 innings in Double-A last season, Miller posted an impressive 2.23 ERA/2.56 FIP with 44 strikeouts.
Miller, 24, does have some command issues as is the case with a lot of young players, but he still might be worth a gamble for the Bucs.
Additionally, with no left-handed pitchers on their 40-man roster, Miller would fill a major need for the Pirates.
RHP Mason Englert (Rangers)
Englert, who turned 23 earlier this month, spent most of last season in High-A before finishing off the year in Double-A.
In all, he went 8-6 with a 3.64 ERA with 136 strikeouts/31 walks in 118.2 innings across 24 starts.
The Pirates could try and stash him in the bullpen for the year and occasionally give him spot starts in 2023. Then if they choose, they can stretch him out as a starter again in the minor leagues.
RHP Nic Enright (Guardians)
Enright’s 2022 season was split pretty evenly between Double-A and Triple-A and he was equally as impressive in both levels. He posted a 3.14 ERA/2.68 FIP in 28.2 innings in Double-A before posting a 2.68 ERA/3.08 FIP in 37 Triple-A innings.
He struck out a total of 87 batters between the two levels.
The reliever has enough experience at the upper levels of the minor leagues where it may prove to be easier to keep him on the major league roster for the entire season.
LHP Jose Lopez (Rays)
Lopez transitioned to a full-time relief role in the Rays’ system this season and it seems to have paid off.
The 23-year-old spent the bulk of the season in Double-A where he went 8-3 with a 2.60 ERA/2.70 FIP with 91 strikeouts in 55.1 innings.
Like Miller, he would fill a major need for the Pirates as a lefty relief option.
1B/OF Heriberto Hernandez (Rays)
Another option from the Rays, Hernandez may have the most upside of anyone on this list, but also comes with the most risk.
Hernandez spent the entire season in High-A, and posted an .867 OPS (136 wRC+). He slugged 24 homers but also struck out at a high clip (31.4%). On the flip side, Hernandez did walk in 13.6% of his plate appearances.
If the Pirates decide Hernandez’s upside is worth the gamble, he could be a right-handed first base complement to Choi while also getting reps in the outfield and at designated hitter.