The Pirates set their roster in advance of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft tonight, selecting the contracts of right-handers Blake Cederlind and Cody Ponce as well as infielders Ke’Bryan Hayes, Will Craig and Oneil Cruz. In a corresponding series of moves, the Pirates have designated lefty Williams Jerez and right-handers Dario Agrazal, Montana DuRapau and Luis Escobar for assignment.
Of the four players designated for assignment, Agrazal had the largest workload with the Pirates in 2019, pitching 73 1/3 innings but struggling to a 4.91 ERA, 5.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 39.9 percent grounder rate. Each of the other three posted an ERA north of 7.00, though Escobar and Jerez each threw fewer than six innings. The 27-year-old DuRapau, meanwhile, enjoyed an outstanding season in Triple-A but allowed 18 runs in 17 1/3 innings at the MLB level.
Hayes, 23 in January, is fresh off a .265/.336/.415 season and against much older competition in Triple-A. Regarded as one of baseball’s premier defensive prospects, Hayes is considered to be among the top farmhands not just in the Pirates’ system but in the entire game.
Cruz, too, has generated some top 100 fanfare and just put the finishing touches on a huge but shortened season, hitting a combined .298/.356/.475 in 73 games. The towering 6’7″ Cruz, acquired in the 2017 trade that sent Tony Watson to the Dodgers, received 80 grades in arm strength and raw power from Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs on their midseason rankings, where he checked in at No. 34 in MLB.
Ponce, acquired from the Brewers in this summer’s Jordan Lyles swap, averaged nearly 10 strikeouts per inning out of the bullpen. Cederlind, also 23, had a solid year out of the ’pen and reached the Triple-A level for the first time. Craig had a down season in Triple-A but has long been considered to be among the top 15 prospects in the Pittsburgh farm and will give them some near-term corner infield depth.