Last week, general manager Ben Cherington said that the Pirates would add a “handful” of Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster, but the definition of "handful" was left open to interpretation. Would it be two players? Three? Five? On Tuesday, the answer was four.
To make room for that quartet, catcher Tyler Heineman, right-handers Jeremy Beasley and Junior Fernández and left-hander Manny Bañuelos were designated for assignment. The 40-man roster currently stands at 40.
As noteworthy as the prospects who were added to the 40-man roster are those who were not added. Infielder Malcom Nunez, catcher/outfielder Blake Sabol, outfielder Matt Gorski and right-hander Tahnaj Thomas were among the players not selected who will be eligible to get taken in the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held Dec. 7 at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
The exclusion of Nunez, in particular, comes as a bit of a surprise. The Pirates acquired Nunez, as well as right-hander Johan Oviedo, from the Cardinals at this year’s Trade Deadline in exchange for José Quintana. The 21-year-old Nunez impressed with his bat since joining the organization, hitting .280/.385/.475 with six home runs and a 135 wRC+ in 34 games between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Players who are selected in the Rule 5 Draft must be placed on a team’s 26-man roster. Opposing teams might be intrigued by some of the Pirates’ unprotected players, but they may not be willing to add them to the Major League roster at this time.
The additions of Rodriguez and Burrows were, for the most part, guarantees.
Rodriguez, Pittsburgh’s No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, had one of the best seasons of any top prospect, hitting .323/.407/.590 with 25 home runs across three Minor League levels, earning the organization’s Honus Wagner Player of the Year honor. Rodriguez and Ali Sánchez, who has played only seven Major League games, are the only two catchers on the Bucs' 40-man roster.
Burrows, the Pirates' No. 8 prospect, struck out 111 batters across 94 1/3 innings between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. Excluding his final outing of the year -- one in which he was coming off the injured list -- Burrows had a 3.46 ERA over his first 23 games (21 starts).
Selby and Triolo, on the other hand, were two players whose protection statuses were murkier.
Triolo, the Bucs' No. 24 prospect, was named Altoona’s Team MVP and the organization’s Bill Mazeroski Defender of the Year, hitting .282/.376/.419 with nine home runs and 24 steals. The 24-year-old has primarily played third base and shortstop since being drafted, but he also spent seven games in center field this past season, the first time he has played outfield as a professional.
Selby, 25, impressed in his second season as a full-time reliever, posting a 2.27 ERA with 43 strikeouts across 35 2/3 innings. The right-hander also fared well in the Arizona Fall League, allowing two runs in nine innings (2.00 ERA) with nine strikeouts. Selby sits in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball and can touch triple digits, complementing his heater with a slider and a curveball.