Pirates Rule 5 Pick Jose Soriano Has Additional Elbow Damage

Jose Soriano, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Rule 5 Draft

The Pirates selected right-hander Jose Soriano out of the Angels organization with the top pick in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, knowing at the time he still required several months of rehab following 2020 Tommy John surgery. The hope was to get some innings out of Soriano at some point this summer, but Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomcyzk told reporters yesterday that Soriano has new damage in his pitching elbow (Twitter link via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike Persak). Another surgery is now possible.

It’s a discouraging outcome for the 22-year-old Soriano, who is now nearly 16 months removed from that 2020 Tommy John procedure. He’d progressed his rehab to the point where he’d been cleared to pitch in minor league games as a ramp-up to his MLB debut, but based on his results, it’s clear that something was amiss. Soriano appeared in two games, the first of which included three shutout innings with one hit, no walks and five punchouts. In his second outing, Soriano faced 10 batters but was clobbered for seven runs on five hits and three walks while only recording two outs.

[Related: 2020 Rule 5 Draft Results | April Update On Rule 5 Draftees]

Entering the season, Soriano was ranked as the Pirates’ No. 18 prospect at Baseball America, No. 22 at FanGraphs and No. 24 at MLB.com. He’s praised as a hard-throwing righty with potential closer upside thanks to an upper-90s heater that can touch triple digits and a power curveball. His 2019 season in A-ball showed off plenty of that upside (2.55 ERA, 26 percent strikeout rate, 52.8 percent grounder rate) but also underscored one of the most pressing red flags in the righty’s outlook (15 percent walk rate).

The new injury casts doubt on whether Soriano will pitch for the Pirates in 2021 — or at all. He’s already on the 60-day injured list, so the Bucs can keep him there until season’s end without any ramification, even if he undergoes another surgery. When the offseason rolls around, however, they’d need to determine whether they want to carry Soriano throughout the winter in hopes of getting some innings from him in 2022. Soriano would retain his Rule 5 status into next season, meaning he still couldn’t be optioned to the minors until spending at least 90 days on the active roster.

If at any point the Pirates decide to cut bait, Soriano would be placed on waivers before being offered back to the Angels, who would not need to carry him on the 40-man roster.

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