Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost a large number of organizational filler players in the Rule 5 Draft. Here is an early look at players Ben Cherington may have to make a decision on this offseason.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lost a lot of players during the 2022-2023 Rule 5 draft. They lost a dozen players, though most are only minor league depth, with the only noteworthy loss being catcher/outfielder Blake Sabol. However, they also got Jose Hernandez and Josh Palacios, both of whom have been fairly solid this year for the Pirates.
We still have a long way to go until the next Rule 5 Draft, typically at the end of the Winter Meetings. But I want to take an early look at some potential Rule 5 decisions the Pirates will have to make regarding whom they will either have to protect or risk losing in the 2023-2024 Rule 5 Draft.
Before we get into our first players, I do want to discuss what players are eligible for the Rule 5 draft and how they are protected from being selected. Players who were signed at 18 or younger must be protected within their first five years. Players who signed at 19 or older have four years of Rule 5 ineligibility. Teams protect players by placing them on their 40-man roster, and only teams with room on their 26-man roster can select a player. If they do select a player, said player has to remain on their active roster all year, assuming they are not injured for the entirety of the next season.
Currently, the Pirates’ best Rule 5 eligible prospect is Malcolm Nuñez. However, it is possible that Nuñez not only gets added to the 40-man roster but will make his Major League debut sometime this season. Acquired in the José Quintana trade, the Pirates have already snuck Nuñez through the Rule 5 Draft once after he was left unprotected last year.
The infielder is currently batting .270/.362/.413 with a .356 wOBA and 100 wRC+. Nuñez missed about two months but has been on fire recently. Over his last 127 plate appearances, Nunez has a 161 wRC+. Right now, given the shallow depth at first base and just how good Nuñez has been playing recently, it's not hard to imagine he doesn't get added to the 40-man and make his big league debut later this year.