Through The Prospect Porthole: Pirates Rule 5 Logjam Could Continue

1-26-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Earlier in the week when I wrote about the Power Bats in the Pirates Farm System, the topic of Rule 5 Eligibility was briefly mentioned at the end of the post; which really got me thinking about next crop of prospects that will join the ranks of those needing to be protected from the Major League Portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Obviously this doesn’t just include first time eligible players, as I can think of several prospects that may need to be added in what would be at least their second go-around in the process; if everything goes well, and/or they are not selected to the 40-Man in season.

At the top of my list is soon to be 21 year-old Dariel Lopez. Last season in Greensboro Lopez slashed .286/.329/.476 with 19 homers.

Closely behind in the second spot would have to be Matt Gorski. Had it not been for his hamstring injury we could have seen a lot more of Gorski; still, his .280/.358/.598 slash line with 24 homers is pretty impressive.

Magic number three is Malcom Nunez. Between Double-A in the Cardinals and Pirates Farm System-with a sprinkle of Triple-A-he slashed .262/.367/.466 with 23 homers.

Coming in at four-even though there are two catching prospects ahead of him-you find Abrahan Guiterrez. Guiterrez was Endy’s fellow catcher in Greensboro, before the now -near consensus-top back stop in the system rocketed through Altoona to Indianapolis. Left behind in Greensboro the former Philadelphia Phillies Prospect slashed .257/.356/.411 with 12 homers, while providing above average defense at catcher and 1st Base.

Rounding out the top 5-because I always seem to make groups of 5-i ended up landing on Tahnaj Thomas slightly ahead of JC Flowers. Thomas-a former Top 100 Prospect-has moved to the bullpen, but still has his 100 mph fastball, which is the only thing that keeps him ahead of Flowers at the moment. For comparison’s sake, Thomas posted a 3.02 ERA with a 1.263 WHIP and 52 strikeouts in 50.2 innings, versus a 2.88 ERA with a 1.180 WHIP and 62 strikeouts in 68.2 innings for Flowers; both in Double-A Altoona.

The wildcard is Cody Bolton; who after two years off the mound, put up a respectable 3.09 ERA with a 1.282 WHIP and 82 strikeouts across 75.2 innings of work with the Indianapolis Indians.

Then, you pile on the 50+ guys that become eligible in December of 2023; headlined by Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, Carmen Mlodzinski and a couple of my personal favorites in Jase Bowen and Tsung-Che Cheng.

And it won’t stop there. Each year the number of prospects seem to multiply, either by sheer volume or based on the highly touted players the Pirates will have to make decisions on.

As I’ve always said, for me the Rule 5 Draft is more about who the Pirates choose to protect, rather than who is left off the 40-Man. It obviously doesn’t mean that these players won’t get their opportunity, or in some cases be successful; but, it has shown us who the next man up will be.

Throw out the 2019-20 off-season even though Cody Ponce, Will Craig and Blake Cederlind made cameo appearances; while Ke’Bryan Hayes played like Ted Williams for a month. At the time of these decision(s), Cherington was maybe on the job for a week at most.

Moving ahead to 2021, Max Kranick and Rodolfo Castro were protected, with the later getting the call-up from Altoona more than once over some other players in Triple. When, it comes to Kranick his debut-at the end of June-was fairly memorable, as he carried a no-hitter through five innings.

Then just last year, Jack Suwinski jumped over Triple-A, Diego Castillo was on the Opening Day Roster and Canaan Smith-Njigba seemed to be in position to get a longer look, until he broke his wrist.

Sure other players have gotten looks or emerged, but those guys usually got the first crack; and for now, things have kind of worked themselves out.

So, at this point I guess my way of thinking comes down to, what do you do when the depth the Pirates have built up is in some ways overflowing?

Well, I would hope that the best option would be to have the cream of the crop rise to the top-House of Pain Style-and then trade off those that still have some shine; which is something I punctuated in a blog post about a month ago, that dealt with Capitalizing On Prospect Depth. Yes, I realize the word trade is pretty taboo in these parts, but, it’s something every other team in MLB does to acquire Major League Talent. Sure other teams are more active on the free agent front, however-as I have already stated countless times-this may never be a viable route for the Pirates.

Obviously, this sentiment doesn’t go over very well with Pirates Fans.

Nevertheless, until something changes in MLB, and/or the Pirates begin to operate differently, this long jam and the way it is addressed will be focused on a lot; each and every year.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

3 thoughts on “Through The Prospect Porthole: Pirates Rule 5 Logjam Could Continue

  1. I’ll be interested to see how often they trade some of the surplus protection-worthy impending 40-man-eligible players for prospects in the lower levels with a longer clock and possibly higher ceiling. Of course trades for MLB talent too, haha.


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