Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Pitcher Who Could Be Lost in Rule 5 Draft
By Marty Leap
When MLB’s work stoppage ends and the Rule 5 Draft takes place the Pittsburgh Pirates will have to sweat it out with pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas
Prior to the deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates left a few interesting prospects unprotected. While it is unknown when the Rule 5 Draft will take place due to the current MLB work stoppage, when the work stoppage ends and the draft take places there are a few prospects the team will be at risk of losing.
Earlier this week Noah took a look at one of those prospects, Mason Martin, who is unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. One prospect the team will have to sweat it out with, however, is pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas.
At the end of the 2021 season FanGraphs ranked Thomas as the 7th best prospect in the Pirate organization. Thomas also cracked the top 100 prospects of FanGraphs, coming in as their 90th best prospect in baseball.
Thomas has a plus fastball that is given 70 grade by FanGraphs. His slider, a 45 grade pitch, also projects as a potential plus pitch for Thomas. While he is still working on developing his changeup, FanGraphs gives Thomas a future value of 50. All of this adds up to make it a surprise the Pittsburgh Pirates left the 22-year-old Thomas unprotected.
The big question about Thomas right now is his control. He walked 12.5% of batters faced at the High-A level last season. This was the first time Thomas pitched above rookie-ball. Thomas also saw his strikeout rate dip to 22.1% last season, the lowest of his career since he was an 18-year-old in 2017.
While the Pirates continue to view Thomas as a potential high-end starting pitcher in the future, due to his control issues and current lack of a third pitch his long-term home could be in the bullpen. Odds are the floor for Thomas is that of a high-leverage reliever at the Major League level.
Despite his control issues Thomas will be intriguing to teams in the Rule 5 Draft. There is likely to be teams who believe they can stash Thomas away in their bullpen for a season, allowing them to have Thomas work out of the Triple-A rotation in 2023. Similar to what the Pittsburgh Pirates did with Luis Oviedo last season.
Thomas has a power fastball that can reach triple digits. His slider also has plus potential. Out of the bullpen both of these pitches would play up and help offset his current lack of a third reliable pitch. Due to this, even if a team views Thomas as a starting pitcher long-term, they are likely to also view him as someone who can help immediately out of the bullpen.
Teams always believe they can find a way to help a pitcher who has control issues. Combine this with the plus stuff Thomas possesses and his high ceiling, and the Pirates will be at risk of losing Thomas in the Rule 5 Draft.