Tuesday is Major League Baseball’s deadline to add Rule 5 Draft eligible players to 40-man rosters. Let’s take a look at who the Pirates need to add and who may get left exposed.
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After a strong showing in the 2023 World Baseball Classic with Taiwan, Cheng demolished South Atlantic League pitching in Greensboro with a .308/.406/.575 slash line and a 163wRC+ before earning a mid-season promotion to Altoona.
The production didn’t quite follow him to Double-A but reaching that level at age 21 means he is still ahead of schedule. Cheng can play all around the infield and has the glove to play SS, which could make him an interesting addition if left exposed in the Rule 5 Draft.
I’d be extremely surprised if we don’t see Cheng added to the 40-man by Tuesday.
RHP Braxton Ashcraft
Ashcraft was eligible to be picked in last year’s draft, but due to injuries, hadn’t pitched since 2021 when he put up a 5.31 ERA in High-A. Things are different now.
The Pirates were very careful with Ashcraft this past season, pitching just 52 1/3 innings over 19 starts. The results were excellent, though, when he was out there. He didn’t give up a run in 7 of his 8 starts for Altoona where he struck out 23 and walked just 5 over 20 innings. He throws 96-97 with good breaking stuff to go along with it.
Ashcraft has all the makings of a guy who could be stowed away in someone’s bullpen in 2024 and the Pirates are not going to let that happen.
Was Left Off Last Year, Will Likely Be Left Off This Year
Gorski was a hot name last year after breaking out in Greensboro and Altoona. This year, he took a step back with a fairly pedestrian 97 wRC+ in Double-A. I can’t imagine he’s moved up anyone’s boards after going undrafted last season.
Nunez was also left off last year after reaching Triple-A at age 21. He was not picked last year, and this year had a pretty dreadful season with a 69 wRC+ for Indianapolis. If he wasn’t picked last year, I don’t see it happening now.
Newly Eligible, Probably Not Getting Protected
Jase Bowen is the headliner here. He broke out this year for Greensboro, posting a 20/20 season and a 117 wRC+. He followed that up with a really good performance in the Arizona Fall League (.855 OPS). Something Bowen has going for him in his favor is his defensive versatility and his ability to play CF. But in my mind, if the Pirates didn’t protect Matt Gorski last year, they aren’t going to protect Jase Bowen this year.
Enmanuel Terrero is another new name here. He had a red-hot first half for Bradenton before an injury stalled his season. He has certainly put his name on the radar as far as prospect talk goes, but he’s just way too far off to consider adding to a roster.