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Pirates add two prospects to 40-man roster before Rule 5 Draft

The 40-man roster currently sits at 39 players.

BASEBALL-ASIAD-2022-2023-HANGZHOU Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates added two players to their 40-man roster by 6 p.m. Tuesday to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

Infielder Tsung-Che Cheng and pitcher Braxton Ashcraft were both selected and kept safe from being picked by any of the other 39 clubs as a Rule 5 pick, needing to spend the entire season with their new club or be offered back to their former team.

Ashcraft, 24, missed all of 2022 with Tommy John surgery and returned with a vengeance. The right-hander totaled a 2.39 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and a .231 batting average against in 52.2 innings. He struck out 63 hitters and allowed 11 free passes. MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 Pirates prospect, the Bucs, mentioned in their announcement that Ashcraft finished with the 14th-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.73) in the minors last season among qualified pitchers (50+ innings).

Cheng, 22, signed with the Pirates as a non-drafted free agent from Taiwan on Nov. 1, 2019. He was named a South Atlantic League All-Star in 2022 and owns a 60-run grade by MLB Pipeline on a scale of 20-80. The lefty-hitting middle infielder notched a 2.78/.352/.546 slash line between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona. Cheng totaled 23 doubles, 10 triples (third most in MiLB), 13 home runs, 56 RBI, and 26 steals in his breakout season. He was named Pirates Baserunner of the Year with the Bradenton Marauders two seasons ago.

Cheng (No. 9) and Ashcraft (No. 10) were named by Baseball America as top 10 prospects in the Pirates’ system on Tuesday.

The Bucs didn’t have nearly as many choices as last season before the likes of Endy Rodriguez, Jared Triolo, Mike Burrows, and Colin Selby were selected to the 40-man.

The 40-man roster currently sits at 39 players. This year’s Rule 5 Draft is Wednesday, Dec. 6