By Dave Finoli
As the Pirates farm system improves, the decisions that Ben Cherington must make in regard to what prospects needed protected on the 40-man roster becomes more difficult. After the trade for first baseman Ji-Man Choi, the 40-man roster was full of several minor league players potentially needing to be protected on it. That means several players potentially needed to be DFA’d (the dreaded designated for assignment). Below is a list of potentials prospects the Pirates needed to protect.
-Malcom Nunez (the future first baseman, secured from the Cardinals)
-Mike Burrows (who struggled with Indy after an impressive start in Altoona, but is a Pitcher who is climbing up the charts)
-Endy Rodriguez (the catching prospect who went from “hey neat name” to a top 50 prospect in the game. He was the organizations player of the year)
-Tahnaj Thomas (Picked up from the Indians and shows flashes of incredible talent)
-Matt Fraizer (last year’s player of the year who struggled this season)
-Matt Gorski (the number 2 pick in 2019 who had a decent season last year showing flashes of power with 24 homers in 2022)
I thought the first four would be automatic choices for the 40-man roster with Gorski having a decent chance to be secured on it. While Rodriguez and Burrows were in fact kept, Cherington surprised many by keeping pitcher Colin Selby and Jared Tirolo. Tirolo had a decent season in Altoona leading off for the Curve. He hit .282 with a .799 OPS and had below average power. He is a plus defensively at third base but isn’t good enough for Cherington ever to consider replacing Hayes with Tirolo. It is doubtful he would have been picked in the draft so I am confused why they would hang on to him.
If Selby was considered a surprise to be on this list, he probably shouldn’t have been. Drafted in the 16th round of the 2018 draft Selby came into his own in 2022 out of the pen with a combined 2.27 ERA for Indy and Altoona. While he had somewhat of a high BB per 9 innings at 3.9, he only gave up 7.3 hits per nine innings and a low 0.5 HR per nine innings. His WHIP was a decent 1.206 and he continued his impressive season pitching very well in Arizona.
The other thing about Selby, which is why I am surprised they didn’t keep Thomas, is it’s much easier in the 21st century of the game to choose a pitcher in the Rule V draft and hide him on a 13-man pitching staff for the year. Now odds are the Pirates will lose only one or two players at best that they didn’t protect, in my eyes Thomas being the most likely choice, but it’s not impossible that power hitters such as Gorski or Nunez possibly could be taken.
To make room the Bucs DFAd catcher Tyler Heineman as well as pitchers Jeremy Beasley, Junior Fernendez and Manny Banuelos.