The Pirates have started making room on their 40-man roster for this Friday’s deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 draft. Their current 40-man roster is now at 37, and there’s a chance that number could go down further.
Right now, with three open spots, the Pirates can protect Liover Peguero, Travis Swaggerty, and one of Tahnaj Thomas or Canaan Smith-Njigba. Those are the guys who I think are most likely to be protected, and the Pirates would have to clear one more spot to protect them all.
Beyond that list, the Pirates have Jack Suwinski, Cal Mitchell, Lolo Sanchez, Omar Cruz, Mason Martin, Eddy Yean, and a few other players of interest. There’s a chance that none of these guys could get protected, or selected in the draft. The more players the Pirates protect from this list, the more roster spots they’ll need to clear.
It’s not that the Pirates will have a difficult time clearing roster space. The better question is how many prospects do they want on the roster?
Swaggerty could be up in the majors by the end of 2022, but he’ll need some time in the minors after a very long layoff. Peguero will be opening the season in Altoona. Smith-Njigba is another guy who could be up by the end of the 2022 season. Thomas might open the season in Altoona.
Looking at the current 40-man roster, I don’t see anyone who won’t be up in 2022. Roansy Contreras and Oneil Cruz have already been up in the majors, and you can expect both to return at some point next year. Every other player has either spent time in the majors with the Pirates, with another organization, or will be in the same position as Swaggerty and Smith-Njigba — likely up in 2022.
My concern with protecting so many players would normally be that there wouldn’t be enough roster space for depth throughout the season. However, I could see the Pirates protect 5-7 guys on Friday, and only have two players on the 40-man roster who are unlikely for the majors in 2022: Peguero and Thomas.
I think what we’re about to see is a much younger Pirates team in Pittsburgh next year.