Pittsburgh Pirates Top 61 Prospects

© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here.

Pirates Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Oneil Cruz 23.3 MLB SS 2022 60
2 Henry Davis 22.4 A+ C 2024 55
3 Roansy Contreras 22.2 MLB SP 2022 50
4 Liover Peguero 21.1 A+ SS 2023 50
5 Quinn Priester 21.4 A+ SP 2024 50
6 Nick Gonzales 22.7 A+ 2B 2023 50
7 Endy Rodriguez 21.7 A C 2023 45+
8 Matt Fraizer 24.1 AA CF 2023 45+
9 Jared Jones 20.5 A SP 2025 45
10 Bubba Chandler 19.4 R SP 2026 45
11 Ji-hwan Bae 22.5 AA 2B 2023 45
12 Michael Burrows 22.2 A+ SIRP 2022 45
13 Travis Swaggerty 24.5 AAA CF 2023 45
14 Miguel Yajure 23.8 MLB SP 2022 45
15 Anthony Solometo 19.2 R SP 2026 40+
16 Kyle Nicolas 23.0 AA SIRP 2024 40+
17 Diego Castillo 24.3 AAA 2B 2022 40+
18 Maikol Escotto 19.7 A 2B 2025 40+
19 Dariel Lopez 20.0 A 3B 2024 40+
20 Rodolfo Nolasco 20.4 R RF 2024 40+
21 J.C. Flowers 23.7 A+ SIRP 2023 40+
22 Ricky DeVito 23.5 A+ SIRP 2023 40+
23 Luis Ortiz 23.0 A SIRP 2024 40+
24 Lonnie White Jr. 19.1 R CF 2026 40+
25 Po-Yu Chen 20.3 A SP 2025 40
26 Yordany De Los Santos 17.0 R 3B 2027 40
27 Jared Triolo 24.0 A+ 3B 2023 40
28 Cody Bolton 23.6 AA SIRP 2023 40
29 Tony Blanco Jr. 16.7 R RF 2027 40
30 Jack Suwinski 23.5 AA DH 2022 40
31 Carmen Mlodzinski 23.0 AAA MIRP 2024 40
32 Canaan Smith-Njigba 22.8 AAA LF 2022 40
33 Abrahan Gutierrez 22.3 A C 2023 40
34 Jared Oliva 26.2 MLB CF 2022 40
35 Rodolfo Castro 22.7 MLB 2B 2022 40
36 Nick Garcia 22.8 A SP 2024 40
37 Cal Mitchell 22.9 AAA RF 2023 40
38 Mason Martin 22.7 AAA 1B 2023 40
39 Sergio Campana 19.8 A CF 2023 40
40 Joaquin Tejada 18.6 R SP 2025 40
41 Hudson Head 20.8 A CF 2023 40
42 Sammy Siani 21.1 A LF 2024 40
43 Connor Scott 22.3 A+ RF 2024 40
44 Max Kranick 24.5 MLB SP 2022 40
45 Shalin Polanco 18.0 R CF 2025 40
46 Carter Bins 23.7 AA C 2024 40
47 Austin Roberts 23.5 AAA MIRP 2023 40
48 Blake Cederlind 26.1 MLB SIRP 2023 35+
49 Owen Kellington 19.0 R SP 2026 35+
50 Omar Cruz 23.0 AA SP 2023 35+
51 Santiago Florez 21.7 A+ SIRP 2023 35+
52 Tahnaj Thomas 22.6 A+ SIRP 2023 35+
53 Eddy Yean 20.6 A SP 2023 35+
54 Lolo Sanchez 22.8 A+ CF 2023 35+
55 Tucupita Marcano 22.4 MLB 2B 2022 35+
56 Brennan Malone 21.4 A SP 2025 35+
57 Blake Sabol 24.1 A+ C 2024 35+
58 Hunter Stratton 25.2 AAA SIRP 2023 35+
59 Trey McGough 23.8 AA SP 2024 35+
60 Tsung-Che Cheng 20.6 R SS 2025 35+
61 Jackson Glenn 24.3 A 2B 2025 35+
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60 FV Prospects

1. Oneil Cruz, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (LAD)
Age 23.3 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 80/80 40/70 60/45 40/45 80

Our discussions about Pittsburgh’s top prospect boiled down to a simple question: If he’d been eligible, would Cruz have gone 1:1 in the 2021 draft? It’s a slightly banal rephrasing of “who ya got?” between Cruz and the player the Pirates actually selected, Henry Davis, but framing it this way also helps illustrate Cruz’s unique profile. Would a club really have spent the top pick of the draft on a 6-foot-7, 210-pound infielder? A player with a history of sub-70% contact rates? A guy who may or may not stick at shortstop? In this risk averse industry?

Hell yes, they would. Or at least they should, in our view, given Cruz’s jaw dropping blend of skills, tools, and upside. It’s very rare to find a player with 80 raw, an 80 arm, and plus wheels. Cruz brings all of that to the table while playing a passable shortstop, which is remarkable even without accounting for his size. About that stature: obviously it’s tough to be quick to the ball when your levers look like windmill blades. There is precedent for guys Cruz’s height being able to hit, though, and he’s significantly more athletic than Aaron Judge, Richie Sexson, and Nate Freiman. He’s an explosive player and his wrists are strong as hell. He can impact the ball all over the zone and he actually had a below league-average strikeout rate in Double-A as a 22-year-old. And as Mychal Givens can attest, you can get Cruz off balance with a well-placed offspeed pitch out of the zone, and he still might send it to the Alleghany. He’ll probably strikeout a fair amount due to an expansive approach, and we wouldn’t be shocked if he moves to a different position as he heads into his late 20s, but if everything clicks that won’t matter too much. Is there risk here? Yes. Cruz’s approach can be reckless and immature. If he slides down the defensive spectrum and that never improves, he’ll be on thin ice. He’s also one of the few players in the minors with a feasible chance to become an 80, or at least have some 80-grade seasons amid season-to-season variance in performance due to his swing decisions.

55 FV Prospects

2. Henry Davis, C

Drafted: 1st Round, 2021 from Louisville (PIT)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 70/70 35/70 40/40 20/40 70

Davis offers a rare blend of premium-position defensive utility and impact raw power without contact red flags. It’s both a safe and potentially impactful profile, which is why the Pirates made him the first pick of the 2021 draft. As we’ve talked about many times on the site, teams are not universally sold on his ability to catch, as his size makes it hard for him to crouch like most catchers, and he’s not able to get in a super-low position ideal for strike-stealing. He also has issues with lateral mobility, ball-blocking, and throwing accuracy. Those all need considerable polish, though the framing could become moot soon if the league adopts an automated strike zone and his arm strength compensates somewhat for a lack of accuracy. If his receiving comes around at all, Davis has All-Star upside because he offers a lot more at the plate than most backstops. He has titanic, strength-driven power and has hit some epic, arching dingers off of scoreboards, and some lasers that get out on a line. According to Synergy Sports, Davis swung and missed just 63 times on film his junior year at Louisville, which is a 7.6% swinging strike rate, comfortably better than the big league average of 11.5%. There’s probably enough bat here to profile as a 1B/DH even if the Bucs decide he can’t catch, which is why Davis has a top-of-the-draft blend of ceiling and floor.

50 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/55 60/60 30/40 50/50 94-97 / 99

Part of the Jameson Taillon deal with New York, Contreras arrived to Pirates camp in 2021 with much more velocity than even Pittsburgh had anticipated, and he sat 95-98 mph throughout May and June, up about three ticks from his ’19 velocity with the Yankees. Then Contreras missed two months with a forearm strain. His velocity was back upon his return (though he only went about three innings at a time after the injury) and Contreras pitched well at Double-A before making a pitstop in Indianapolis for one Triple-A start, then his big league debut towards the end of the regular season. He picked up more innings in the Arizona Fall League, where he had settled into the 94-96 range in our look, down a tick from the regular season. Contreras looked more like a low-variance fourth starter as a Yankees prospect, but this new velocity adds some ceiling to his projection. His fastball command is not as precise now as it looked before the new heat arrived, but Contreras still fills the strike zone up at an above-average rate and his fastball can generate whiffs in there.

His two breaking balls — a mid-80s slider and low-80s curveball — are both consistently plus, have distinct shape from one another, and tend to be located more consistently than Contreras’ fastball. Is there a weapon against lefties here? Contreras has a changeup but he barely uses it and it’s below-average in quality. The angle of his breaking stuff may not be suited for backfoot swings and misses against lefties, and he didn’t garner a single swing-and-miss from a left-handed hitter in his Triple-A or major league starts, nor in the AFL outings seen by FG staff. His splits aren’t damning, but the sample is too small to be meaningful, in part because of his injury. It stops us short of projecting Contreras to be a star, but he’s still a mid-rotation starter who is ready to roll right now, and belongs close to 50th overall on the Top 100 list.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (ARI)
Age 21.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/50 35/45 60/55 45/55 55

Peguero is a well-rounded player with no major weaknesses in his game. Defensively, he’s a plus runner who moves well to either side, with a good first step, clean hands, and above-average arm strength. Neither his range nor his arm are top of the scale for the position, so while he won’t have to move down the defensive spectrum, we anticipate he’s more of an average or above-average defender than a Gold Glover. At the plate, Peguero’s game is already mature. He notched a 108 wRC+ as a 20-year-old in High-A, and projects to have a plus hit tool on the strength of his bat-to-ball skills and line-to-line approach. His swing is a little funky and a fair bit of his contact in the air went up the middle or the other way in 2021. He’s also prone to getting out in front of offspeed pitches, and good sequencing can get him unbalanced. Barring a change in his stroke, we see him as more of a doubles hitter than a regular home run threat. Perhaps he’ll tease more out of the bat with time: He’s reportedly a good makeup guy and plays the game with an infectious enthusiasm. Ultimately, Peguero projects as a good defensive shortstop with a competent stick. He may not be the star of the show, but he has the chops to be an important cog in Pittsburgh’s next playoff team.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cary-Grove HS (IL) (PIT)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 70/70 30/35 50/60 30/45 92-95 / 99

Priester has one of the best-looking breaking balls on the planet, an absolute hammer in the 78-82 mph range. But in the same way that Aaron Sanchez’s curveball never quite played quite as well as it looked like it should, Priester’s curve suffers from how identifiable it is out of his hand, in part because it has so much arc and also because neither his fastball’s angle nor shape complements it particularly well. In an effort to mitigate this, Priester has begun to mix in a two-seamer and a cutter to complement the curveball and a below-average changeup. The upper-80s cutter, though not a bat-misser unless precisely located, is pretty nasty, especially for a relatively new pitch. Having a two-seam variant gives Priester a less-hittable in-zone option while he can still use the four-seamer to get chases atop the zone. This entire repertoire comes via a big, prototypical 6-foot-3 frame. Priester’s delivery is a little bit violent but he’s a huge, athletic, strong 21-year-old who has developed and maintained a few extra ticks of velocity over the course of the last few years. He’s performed on paper while incorporating new pitches into his repertoire, and done so as a young-for-the-level prospect — Priester was 20 all year at High-A and threw 97 innings across 20 starts while posting a 3.04 ERA with a 9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 — with huge arm strength and a visually remarkable pitch. He’s tracking like a mid-rotation starter.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from New Mexico State (PIT)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 55/55 35/55 60/60 40/50 45

The contrast between Gonzales’ visual evaluation and on-paper production in pro ball presents an interesting dichotomy. The ultra-compact, short-levered Gonzales looks tough to beat with fastballs and seems particularly adept at getting on top of heaters at the letters. His terse, punchy swing generates loud all-fields contact, but this isn’t a guy taking epic, full-body hacks with big upper-body rotation like Marcell Ozuna or Javier Báez, and the visual evaluation of his raw power puts it close to average, making him appear to be a well-rounded, hit-over-power middle infield prospect.

On paper, though, he’s the opposite. He struck out nearly 30% of the time at High-A in 2021, hit 18 tanks, and slugged .565, while his peak exit velocities were comfortably above-average. A 16% swinging strike rate (four percentage points worse than big league average, again, from a college hitter in A-ball) rounds out an on-paper profile that makes Gonzales look much more like a thumper with swing-and-miss issues. Note that the way Gonzales’ hands work throughout his swing bears a striking resemblance to the swings of Keston Hiura and Carter Kieboom. Obviously those hitters turned out to have other issues, and Gonzales has shorter levers than Kieboom and more simplistic footwork than Hiura, which may turn out to be meaningful differences, but both of those guys struggled to adjust to big league velocity. To this point, Gonzales has done nothing but rake. He hit .399/.502/.747 throughout his college career while facing WAC pitching and playing home games on the surface of the moon, and his surface-level performance during his first official pro season was also terrific. Even if some of our concerns come to bear, Gonzales still has the talent to be a good everyday second baseman. We’re just not comfortable projecting him as an All-Star at this juncture.

45+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYM)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/70 30/40 30/35 45/40 45/55 50

Rodriguez’s defensive chops headline his profile, as he’s universally praised for his work behind the plate. He’s very athletic, and blocks and throws well, but it’s his intangibles — instincts, work with the pitching staff, game calling — that draw particularly rave reviews. As an example, one evaluator recalled a time when Rodriguez gunned a guy out at second, but skipped his throw in a way that looked intentional. When asked about it, he confirmed that he meant to bounce the throw “because he saw the shortstop get a late break” and wanted to give him an extra beat to reach the bag — you can’t teach that sort of thing. You can teach framing, however, which is good because it’s the element in Rodriguez’s game that needs the most refinement. He’s not a butcher back there, but his hands are noisy and have room for growth.

At the plate, Rodriguez is a contact-over-power hitter at present. His strikeout, walk, and contact rates were excellent last season, and from both sides of the plate. Be careful not to scout the statline on the power: Bradenton gets windy and Rodriguez wasn’t particularly young for the level. He needs to get stronger to have a shot at even average pop down the line. Still, this is the rare bird who projects as a plus hitter and a rock solid defensive catcher. He’s a Pick to Click in 2022 and if he gets stronger or keeps on raking, he’ll be on the next edition of the 101.

8. Matt Fraizer, CF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Arizona (PIT)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 217 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 50/50 40/50 55/55 40/45 45

Fraizer only really played consistently as a sophomore at Arizona, pencilled into the starting lineup just 23 times combined between his freshman and junior years. The latter was shortened by a broken hamate, but after posting a vanilla sophomore line, Fraizer went bonkers during his shortened 2019 and had an OPS over 1.000 in about five weeks of play. Several teams had him stuffed based on the pre-injury look, and he ended up going in the third round even though his career line was commensurate with that of a traditional fourth outfielder. His post-draft performance (.221/.287/.266 in the Penn League) was in that vein, too, though remember Fraizer was dealing with the backend of a hamate break, which can sap power output for months. Further obscured from evaluation by the pandemic and the loss of the 2020 season, Fraizer made his full-season debut as a 23-year-old at High-A Greensboro in 2021 and obliterated the level, slashing .314/.401/.578 with 20 homers before a month-long promotion to Altoona to finish the year. There’s been a swing change here, too. Fraizer’s stance has opened up, and his top hand seems to be more involved with a swing that now has more consistent lift and intent to do damage than before. Twenty pumps from a potential center fielder will get your attention, especially when they’re climbing the minor league ladder as fast as Fraizer. His numbers against lefties are troubling, as is Fraizer’s rather expansive, chase-prone approach, which is at least in danger of diluting his quality of contact. Staying in center field (it’s going to be close — he’s tightly-wound and has above-average speed but isn’t a true burner and he’s rapidly filling out) gives Fraizer a shot to be a regular, while settling into a corner gives him more of a platoon projection.

45 FV Prospects

9. Jared Jones, SP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from La Mirada HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 20.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 55/60 55/55 40/50 30/45 93-97 / 99

Jones has the best stuff in the system. Out of the rotation, he sits 94-96 mph and touches 98 with a high-spinning (around 2600 rpm) four-seamer. Despite a three-quarters arm slot, the attack angle, spin, and velocity suggest he’ll continue to miss bats up in the zone. That’s unfair, because both of his breaking balls project as plus pitches. The slider in particular is a doozy, a mid-to-upper-80s boomerang that he already spots well to both sides of the plate. He’ll show you a plus fading change as well, though this offering needs refinement, as it’s often firm and he can lose feel for it.

While “just throw(ing) it down the middle” is understandably in vogue these days, we think Jones’s command needs to take a step forward if he’s to start. His walk totals are actually just fine adjusting for age and the experimental ABS system, but he’s loose within the zone and prone to missing badly. We also think he’s got a good chance to iron that out, as he’s an athletic kid with several promising ingredients in his delivery — clean arm swing, straight stride to the plate, no major head whack. If he does need to move to relief, it’s closer stuff with a personality to match.

10. Bubba Chandler, SP

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from North Oconee HS (PIT)
Age 19.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
35/55 45/55 35/50 25/55 88-91 / 92

Chandler is nominally a two-way player, and the Bucs gave him a few dozen PAs on the complex after signing. It’s very tough to get meaningful reps at both positions, however, so even though Chandler’s the kind of elite athlete who could potentially make it work (Pittsburgh bought him out of a commitment to play quarterback at Clemson), the safe bet is that he’ll focus on pitching, where he’s more advanced and where most scouts think he’ll wind up. On the bump, he’s got plus-plus arm strength. He sits comfortably in the mid-90s and will show you 98 mph occasionally, with plenty of spin to boot. He’s also got a power curve that flashes plus, a viable changeup, and an improving slider that he dusted off for high school ball last spring. Like many inexperienced pitchers who have spent their lives dominating overmatched competition, he will probably be a little wild at the start of his career. Scouts noted that his presence on the mound is immature, and he’ll have to adjust his approach against hitters who have the ability to be more selective than the guys he’s accustomed to facing. Long-term, though, he has all the ingredients to throw strikes. He projects as a mid-rotation arm; we’re holding him down in this tier given the lack of experience and long developmental road ahead.

11. Ji-hwan Bae, 2B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from South Korea (PIT)
Age 22.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 35/40 20/30 65/60 40/50 40

Bae’s teenage years were quite tumultuous off the field. He was wrapped up in the Braves’ international signing indiscretions and had his deal with the club voided by MLB. (The New York Times reported that although Bae had agreed to sign for $300,000, the Braves planned to pay him an additional $600,000 by reallocating money promised to other signees to him.) Because he had skipped the KBO’s draft to sign with an MLB team, the KBO barred him from signing with any South Korean pro team for two years. When he hit the market again, Bae signed with Pittsburgh for $1.25 million. He was found guilty of and later suspended for assaulting his former girlfriend in an incident that occurred on New Year’s Eve 2017. After the suspension and a treatment/education program, Bae returned to the field, and was skipped over two levels and sent to full-season ball at age 19, where he hit .323/.403/.430.

His domestic violence conviction impacts how teams (and people, in general) view, value, and interact with him, but purely on talent, some clubs thought Bae belonged on the top 100 list entering the 2021 season thanks to his contact ability and game-changing speed. While he’s gotten stronger, Bae still has very limited raw power and his swing is geared for choppers and grounders. His ability to put the bat on the ball and haul ass to first base helped him post a .278/.359/.413 line as a 21-year-old at Double-A while moving off of shortstop (he doesn’t have the arm for it, and mostly played second base in 2021) and getting his feet wet in center field, with nine games there during the summer and 10 during Fall League. Scouts’ (and Eric’s) looks at Bae in center were scattered during the Fall and there were games when he saw little to no action out there, so it may be that he’s a natural and we just don’t know it yet. For now, it’s an important developmental endeavor since Bae doesn’t have the thump to play second base every day and needs defensive versatility to be part of his game if he’s going to be a good utility guy à la Tony Kemp.

12. Michael Burrows, SIRP

Drafted: 10th Round, 2018 from Waterford HS (CT) (PIT)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 70/70 40/45 40/40 94-96 / 97

Burrows’ velocity has climbed nearly 10 ticks since high school and he’s sustained it in the mid-90s when he’s healthy, which he appeared to be during the 2021 Fall League, where he had some of the nastier stuff on the circuit. An oblique injury cost him about two months during the summer, and Burrows came back working three innings at a time. He sat mostly 94-95 mph during the regular season and was pumping lots of 6s during the AFL, but the meal ticket pitch here is Burrows’ curveball, which has devastating bite and depth; he leans on it as a first pitch strike and to finish hitters. He only threw his changeup about 9% of the time during the regular season, and while he flashed the occasional above-average cambio in the Fall League, it’s inconsistent. Burrows’ fastball angle also doesn’t fit his style of vertical attack perfectly, which limits his heater’s utility a bit, and he has pretty violent mechanics. That all pushes him toward the bullpen, though such a move might keep the arrow pointing up on the fastball, and the fact that there are three pitches here perhaps gives him a shot to work more than one inning (which he now officially has experience doing) or in situations of great importance. Either way, he looks like an impact reliever.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from South Alabama (PIT)
Age 24.5 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 60/60 30/50 65/65 55/60 60

2021 was a lost season for Swaggerty. After a surprise promotion to Triple-A and a strong start in Indianapolis, he separated his shoulder diving into first on a pickoff attempt in May, which ended his campaign after just 12 games. He’s essentially lost two years of development now, a huge chunk for anyone but especially a 24-year-old player who had questions to answer at the plate. When last we saw him in regular duty, he played well but not spectacularly at High-A and ran a 50% groundball rate with only nine homers in 120 games.

In large part thanks to his defense, Swaggerty still has a common fourth outfielder skill set. He’s a 60 defender in center, where his plus wheels will be a real asset in Pittsburgh’s cavernous outfield. At the plate, things are murkier but still tantalizing. He has obvious strength and explosiveness, and he posted some of the best exit velo numbers in the system in limited action. The catch here has always been the swing, which was noisy and groundball-oriented when the Pirates drafted him. There were fewer groundballs in last year’s teeny-tiny sample, when he elevated the ball far more often than he did in High-A, and Swaggerty’s swing looked a little bit different on tape with Indianapolis (narrower stance and hands load a little closer to his body, but all that may just be camera angle variation compared to previous looks). Any game power at all could make him a good everyday player, as he does lots of other stuff well. But the long layoff introduces a difficult variable to wrestle with here, as Swaggerty is now a 24-year-old with basically zero experience above A-ball.

14. Miguel Yajure, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (NYY)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/50 50/55 55/60 50/60 91-95 / 97

Yajure had a terrific pitchability foundation and a much deeper repertoire than is typical for a college-aged pitcher as he climbed the minors, debuting in the majors as a 22-year-old during the chaotic 2020 season. His velocity began to climb in 2019 and Yajure was touching some 97s as he ascended to the upper levels of the minors with the Yankees. In 2020, he sat 90-94 mph during his big league outings with New York while spending the rest of the year at the alternate site. Sent to Pittsburgh as part of the Jameson Taillon trade, Yajure’s velocity was down about two ticks in 2021 as he sat more 90-91 and was shut down for a couple of months with a forearm strain. He was still sitting about 91 when he returned and got touched up in a small big league sample. He continued to throw a high rate of strikes at Triple-A and now has six pitches if you make a distinction between Yajure’s four- and two-seamer. His changeup seemed to lose some of its arm-side action in 2021 and his delivery’s pace and timing was more variable, but Yajure goes at hitters with the kitchen sink and seems likely to graduate this year. He looks more like a No. 4/5 starter with his current velocity after falling toward the back of the 50 FV tier when he was throwing harder.

40+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Gloucester Catholic HS (PIT)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
40/50 55/60 25/60 87-90 / 94

Solometo was drafted in the second round but given a bonus commensurate with being the 24th overall pick in the draft, one of several exciting high schoolers who Pittsburgh landed in part because top pick Henry Davis came in under slot. His delivery garners Madison Bumgarner comps because of his long, smooth lefty arm stroke. He only sits in the 87-91 mph range right now (he has been up to 94), but Solometo commands it to his arm side and the pitch has impact tailing action. His delivery also creates tough angle on a sweeping slider, which is really his only secondary pitch right now. It will be a long-term weapon against righties and lefties, though. Solometo’s feel for locating those pitches gives him starter projection even though he needs a third pitch. A great developmental lefty, Solometo is cosmic retribution for the club failing to sign Nick Lodolo a few years ago.

16. Kyle Nicolas, SIRP

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from Ball State (MIA)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 223 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/60 45/45 30/30 30/40 93-5 / 97

The power-armed Nicolas took a big step forward on the 2019 Cape, sitting in the mid-90s, hitting 99 mph, and flashing a plus, mid-80s slider. The effort in his delivery and the fact that he spent most of his sophomore year and summer on the Cape in the bullpen fueled pretty consistent relief projection while he was an amateur, but Nicolas is an average athlete with a sturdy, workhorse build, and came out of a small cold-weather school, so perhaps he has some late growth coming in the control/command realm. While plausible (Nicolas pitched all of 2021 as a starter at Miami’s High-A Beloit affiliate and came over in the Jacob Stallings trade), that’s not what we’re projecting here. Nicolas sits 93-95 as a starter and has riding life up and to his arm side. His two breaking balls — a low-80s curveball and mid-80s slider — have become a more prominent part of his repertoire. After he threw a whopping 85% fastballs at Ball State in 2020, he threw heaters a mere 65% of the time (still a lot) in 2021. His slider, which is really hard and has back-foot utility against lefties, could be plus with time, but Nicolas will still need to develop a third pitch and better control to start. It’s far more likely he just airs it out as a nasty fastball/slider reliever.

17. Diego Castillo, 2B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (NYY)
Age 24.3 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
60/60 40/40 40/40 40/40 40/40 50

Castillo got $750,000 as a skills-over-tools amateur prospect coming out of Venezuela. He hung around the honorable mention section of the Yankees prospect lists for several years before falling off after three seasons of well below-average offensive output at the level to which he was assigned. During that time, though, he was making an awful lot of contact, typically running strikeout rates close to 10%. Despite that impressive stat and Castillo’s ability to (mostly) play a viable second base, he was passed over in the last two Rule 5 drafts. Then he had something of a 2021 breakout, hitting 11 homers (more than he had totaled in his entire career entering the season) in 58 games before the Yankees dealt him to Pittsburgh as part of the Clay Holmes trade. A few analytically-minded team personnel advocated for Castillo’s inclusion in our in-season updates to the Top 100 because he has elite in-zone contact rates, hits the ball in the air a lot, plays the middle infield, and has performed on paper at the upper levels.

The visual evaluation is still that of a skills-over-tools guy without the kind of explosion and athleticism that actually merits that kind of FV, but there are statistical indicators that suggest Castillo is different than he was when teams were passing on him in the Rule 5. His pull rate is up, his groundball rate is down, and Castillo’s swing is naturally well-positioned for the current hitter/pitcher metagame, featuring lots of action toward the top of the strike zone. You can limit the damage he does toward the bottom of the zone. Castillo is a mixed bag on defense, capable of making routine plays all over the infield but lacking in spectacular range and athleticism. He might end up fitting best at third base but he’d be more valuable playing a lot of shift-aided second base — a Keystone Light, if you will. He’s at least a 1 WAR role-player, though the feel for contact gives him a shot to break better than that.

18. Maikol Escotto, 2B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 19.7 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 50/60 25/55 50/50 40/50 60

Another prospect acquired as part of the return for Jameson Taillon, Escotto hit a robust .315/.429/.552 in the 2019 DSL and was generating among the higher average exit velocities among teenagers in pro ball at that time. Just as the domestic amateur side of the industry does during the high school showcase circuit, Escotto was identified as likely to remain at shortstop based on the feet, hands and actions he showed during infield drills, and it became much more likely that he’d be developed there when he left the Yankees org, where shortstop is clogged up and down the system.

In his first season with Pittsburgh, Escotto slashed .234/.354/.347 as a teenager at Low-A Bradenton, good for a 100 wRC+. The caveats surrounding strikeout and walk rates in Low-A Southeast apply here (Escotto K’d 30% of the time), but visible swing-and-miss is part of Escoto’s evaluation, and he’s tracking like a fringe bat. While Escotto has less overt physical projection than most teenage prospects, he’s already very strong and has enough raw power to play an integral middle infield role even if he ends up with a 40 hit tool or so. We thought Escotto might come along very quickly and went so far as to include him in a Picks to Click group a couple of years ago, but instead he’s remained in the 40+ tier as a hitter who has a shot to be an everyday player, rather than one with a shot to be a star.

19. Dariel Lopez, 3B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 20.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 50/60 30/60 40/40 20/45 60

Lopez is a huge-framed, 19-year-old infielder who hit .258/.341/.393 in the old Florida State League (typically a pitcher-friendly environment) while spending time at second base, shortstop and (mostly) third. He has a pretty exciting hit/power combination for a hitter his age, showing proclivity for big contact to dead center and the opposite-field gap. Lopez is a bigger guy but his swing is very well-balanced and athletic. He tracks pitches well and is willing to let pitch location dictate whether he pulls the ball or stays through it to center and right, deriving his power from natural strength rather than swinging with wild effort. The high-waisted Lopez has a wide range of athletic/mobility outcomes that will impact where he ultimately ends up on defense. He is much more likely to wind up on the fringes of 3B/1B than he is to see middle infield time at maturity. That puts pressure on his plate discipline to improve, since right now Lopez is a little too proactive at the plate and might be exposed at the upper levels. If he moves to first base, this will become especially scary. For now, he’s lithe enough for third, where he has a pretty good shot to to be an everyday player based on the hit/power combo alone. Note that Lopez’s 40-man/Rule-5 roster evaluation year is 2022, and that Pittsburgh’s farm system depth, plus their openness to Rule-5 exposure for prospects a great distance from the majors makes him relatively unlikely to be added a year from now, unless he really blows the doors off of High-A.

20. Rodolfo Nolasco, RF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 50/60 35/60 50/40 30/50 55

Nolasco built upon his impressive pro debut with a .284/.409/.552 line on the complex. He has an Adonis-like physique, much more physical than the typical pro ballplayer, let alone one his age. Nolasco has sizable present power without overswinging, and his statistical production and underlying TrackMan/Hawkeye data corroborates enthusiasm regarding his raw power. There aren’t many teenagers who generate this kind of buzz from eyeball scouts and also perform at this level on paper without an obvious red flag, but Nolasco is also about as old (and in some instances a little bit older) than a bunch of the hitters Pittsburgh pushed to full-season ball at some point in 2021. It’s physically exceptional individuals like Nolasco who tend to feast on underdeveloped pitching, and it’s possible that’s what he’s done so far. The 2020 shutdown cost him what would have been his Florida Complex season and he probably should have been in A-ball at some point in 2021, especially if the Pirates wanted to test his hit tool at a pace that better fits with his Rule 5/40-man timeline, which is 2022. Instead it looks like Nolasco will be subject to the slow cooker developmental approach the Pirates seem to be taking with lots of their young players, putting them further away from the big leagues during their Rule 5 year than teams are typically comfortable entertaining with a possible draft pick.

21. J.C. Flowers, SIRP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2019 from Florida State (PIT)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 60/70 40/50 40/45 92-95 / 97

If Flowers isn’t the best athlete in the system, he’s at least in the running. The 23-year-old is very loose on the mound, with a long but whippy arm action out of a three-quarters arm slot. He threw all of 26 innings in college — he was primarily Florida State’s center fielder — but they were electric enough for the Bucs to take him in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. He’s more or less pitched in the rotation ever since, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s and touching 96 mph with a four- and two-seamer. He’s bullying hitters with velo at the moment but in the long run, the two-seamer may play better given his arm slot.The calling card here is the slider, a north-south breaker that sometimes has two-plane shape. The pitch sits in the mid-to-upper-80s and A-ball hitters were utterly helpless against it. As you’d expect from his background, the changeup is under-baked, a fading cambio that all too often doesn’t have much fade on it. Most pitchers his age with this kind of repertoire would get a one-way ticket to the bullpen, but Flowers’ inexperience and athleticism justify at least another year of development as a starter. At the very least, the extra reps can only help him get more consistent with the slider and help determine which of his fastballs to lean on.

22. Ricky DeVito, SIRP

Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Seton Hall (ATL)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/60 45/45 70/70 30/40 92-95 / 97

The Braves parted with DeVito and his incredible splitter when they sent him to Pittsburgh to fortify their bullpen via Richard Rodríguez. He had been sitting 90-94 mph the spring before he became Atlanta’s eighth rounder and started throwing harder while with the Braves. He now sits 94 and has an incredible mid-80s splitter that bottoms out like the elevator on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It’s a dominant weapon against both left- and right-handed hitters and is a ticket to the back of a big league bullpen, where DeVito will likely wind up since he has almost no foundation of innings due to the pandemic and an injury (an ulnar nerve issue) that cost him the back half of 2021.

23. Luis Ortiz, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/70 60/60 30/40 30/50 93-96 / 99

Ortiz’s fastball has real sizzle, humming in at 95 mph on average, with life that bores in on the hands of righty batters. He also has a plus mid-80s slider with late-breaking two-plane wipe. His arm is really fast and his fastball jumps on hitters more quickly than they anticipate, and they struggle to see the slider out of his hand and often swing inside of it. Diving to the outer third of the plate to try to hit Ortiz’s slider means leaving yourself vulnerable to his fastball running in on the handle, and this nightmare kept hitters at bay at Low-A Bradenton to the tune of a 30% strikeout rate and 7% walk rate. That latter metric is especially impressive considering that the automated strike zones at Low-A Southeast seemed to inflate walk rates across the entire league. But Ortiz’s body and delivery have a relief look, so while he has a firm, tertiary changeup and has thrown strikes as a starter so far, it’s probably more likely he ends up as a dynamite reliever. While 23, Ortiz signed late for an international free agent (he was 19) and doesn’t have to be put on the 40-man for another couple of years, which means Pittsburgh can still try to develop him as a starter for a while.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Malvern Prep HS (PIT)
Age 19.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/55 20/50 70/70 45/60 50

White was a multi-sport star in high school and after initially making a verbal commitment to Clemson solely for baseball, he eventually became a two-sport commit to Penn State to play wide receiver and center field. White was seen early and often as an underclassman since he went to a Philadelphia high school with University of Virginia outfielder Chris Newell, and would frequently match up against the Siani brothers during varsity play. On the showcase circuit, he was less whiff-prone than is typical for a multi-sport guy from the Northeast, though he was a pull-only hitter and struggled to contact fastballs in the upper/outer quadrant of the zone. As you can probably imagine of a Division-I football commit, White is already very physical, buff to the point where he looked a little bit stiff during his pre-draft summer. Those games were taking place amid weight-lifting and practices for the coming football season and then during the season itself, so White’s balance of strength and flexibility might change as he trains just for baseball. He struck out at a concerning rate during his pro debut, but he was always likely to be the sort of prospect who’d have a rude awakening against pro quality stuff and have to make adjustments, so he stays in the FV tier he occupied before the draft and remains a high upside, high variance prospect.

40 FV Prospects

25. Po-Yu Chen, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Pei-Ke High School (PIT)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
30/40 45/50 55/60 35/60 91-92 / 93

Chen was the 22nd-ranked player on the 2019 International Player section of The Board and was generally seen as the best signable high school prospect in Taiwan. He pitched well at the U-18 World Championships and at a Nike showcase in Asia, sitting 90-92 mph and touching 93 with an average curveball. He signed for about $1.25 million, which is pretty sizable for a late-market signee. While Chen was considered very advanced for a high school pitcher, what he did in pro ball was not anticipated. He didn’t walk anyone during his Complex League stint. Like, anyone: six starts, 26 innings, no walks. The Pirates promoted him to Low-A for the stretch run and he nibbled there, though the ABS system at Low-A probably didn’t help. Scouts were more enthused about his splitter than his curveball and think that’s Chen’s best shot at having an above-average pitch. He’s a relatively low-variance prospect for a 20-year-old, a likely back-of-the-rotation sort.

26. Yordany De Los Santos, 3B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 17.0 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 40/55 20/50 45/45 30/45 50

De Los Santos, who signed for $1.2 million on January 15, has plus bat speed and a projectable frame, as well as a decent chance to stay at short. While we think he’ll move to third eventually, he has the frame to support a power projection that might profile there. There are some concerns about his bat path’s viability, as it is quite pull-centric right now, but it’s far too early to focus on that. The possibility of him moving to a corner kept De Los Santos below the more likely up-the-middle guys from his international class, and puts future importance on a hit tool that we know very little about right now, but he has exciting bat speed and power potential.

27. Jared Triolo, 3B

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Houston (PIT)
Age 24.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 212 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 50/50 30/45 45/45 50/55 55

As a glove-first third baseman who probably fits best in a utility role, Triolo’s an odd deckhand. He’s an excellent defensive third baseman with solid hands and a strong arm. He’s played a handful of games at short, and we suspect he’ll see more time at second as he climbs the ladder. Despite good power production and impressive walk and swing metrics, Triolo doesn’t have much projection at the plate. He’s well built but only has fringy pop, and while he can adjust to and hit breaking stuff in the zone, guys with good spin can also get him to chase pitches down in the dirt. The high-end outcome here is a reserve infielder with less utility at short but more pop off the bench than your typical backup.

28. Cody Bolton, SIRP

Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Tracy HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 50/50 50/50 92-95 / 97

Add a freak knee injury to Bolton’s list of career physical ailments, which also includes a shoulder issue in the distant past and a groin injury in 2019. He tore a meniscus and needed surgery that kept him out all season. While it’s encouraging that this wasn’t an arm injury, it has now been a couple of years since Bolton pitched regularly at an affiliate. After he showed a velo bump in 2019, his velo was actually down at the ’20 alternate site, where he was maxing out at 95 mph and often sitting just 91-92, and his arm action remains concerningly long. Because his delivery is somewhat grotesque and Bolton has had a shoulder problem in the past and been unable to build up any kind of innings foundation that might allow him to start, he’s probably going to be a reliever. He was left vulnerable to the Rule 5 Draft, but unless teams have seen him throw offseason bullpens that look better than he did at the 2020 alt site, it’s hard to see him being selected.

29. Tony Blanco Jr., RF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2022 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 16.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 50/70 25/60 40/30 20/40 45

Blanco is a gigantic corner outfield/1B prospect with arguably the most present raw power in the January 2022 signing group. He absolutely towers over his father, who was twice a Baseball America Top 100 prospect but spent most of his pro career in Japan. The recent track record of hitters this size is not favorable, with only Franmil Reyes really panning out, but it’s exciting to watch Blanco take BP and see how loose and athletic he is for his size. He signed for $900,000 and will be an unmistakable fixture on Pittsburgh’s backfields for the next couple of years.

30. Jack Suwinski, DH

Drafted: 15th Round, 2016 from Taft HS (IL) (SDP)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 206 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 55/55 45/50 30/30 20/20 40

On-paper performance is especially important for a hitter like Suwinski because he’s a positionless defender who needs to rake to have any sort of big league role. Entering 2021, he’d only ever done enough to merit Honorable Mention inclusion on the Padres lists, and we’d often get little support from scouts when he was mentioned during sourcing calls. Suwinski then had his best statistical season to date, slashing .269/.398/.551, and while there’s a 2020 gap, his batted ball profile has shifted more toward pull and lift over the course of his career. The Pirates added him to the 40-man this offseason rather than the similarly-profiled Mason Martin. Because he lacks a true position, Suwinski’s chances of playing a significant role increase with the likely implementation of the universal DH. He could platoon in that role and hit for power off the Pirates’ bench in 2022.

31. Carmen Mlodzinski, MIRP

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from South Carolina (PIT)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 232 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/50 40/45 35/50 93-97 / 98

Mlodzinski missed almost the entire 2019 college season due to a broken foot, then blew up on the Cape, where he was into the mid-90s with two above-average breaking balls. He was 95-98 mph with bat-missing life early in outings, and a 88-91 cutter/slider was his most-used secondary. He got lit up early in 2020, his draft year at South Carolina, when his slider wasn’t as crisp and his fastball very liftable. While he dealt with a couple of stints on the IL, including one for a shoulder injury, Mlodzinski had a solid pro debut at (mostly) High-A, where he struck out more than a batter per inning across 14 starts. He picked up innings in the Arizona Fall League, where he sat 95-96 (harder than during the summer) with an 84-86 mph slider and changeup. His fastball still gets hit more than you might expect given how hard it is. This, plus his command, push him toward the bullpen for us, probably in a middle-inning role.

Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Rockwall Heath HS (TX) (NYY)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/60 35/45 45/45 40/45 45

The older brother of Ohio State freshman wide receiver phenom Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Canaan is another of the many prospects acquired from the Yankees for Jameson Taillon. The barrel-chested Smith-Njigba has huge strength-driven power and a patient approach that borders on passive. He has a career .387 OBP but hasn’t been able to actualize his plus raw power in games, driving the ball into the ground at a whopping 66% clip in 2021. His size creates some stiffness and imbalance during his swing, which can lead to him putting suboptimal contact in play. When Smith-Njigba takes a comfortable, max-effort hack, it’s obvious that he has big power, and his exit velo data reinforces the visual evaluation. There was some support for Smith-Njigba in the 40+ FV tier because he stands a chance to break out if he and the Pirates can find a way to get to more of his power in games, and he arguably has ball/strike recognition that should cause one to round up on his physical skills.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (PHI)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 214 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Throw
35/55 40/40 30/35 20/20 45

Gutierrez is a heavy-bodied catcher with very impressive feel for contact. Despite his size, he gets down low in his crouch and he’s a calm receiver. At the plate, he’s a discerning hitter with an excellent feel for contact: His 81% contact rate would have topped Low-A Southeast if he’d had enough at-bats to qualify. Of course, one evaluator’s patient hitter is another’s passive bat, and Gutierrez will get challenged more in the zone at the higher levels, particularly since he’s a groundball hitter with below average raw power. The feel for contact gives him a backup catcher’s ceiling and he figures to be a year-at-a-time climber for as long as he hits.

34. Jared Oliva, CF

Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from Arizona (PIT)
Age 26.2 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/40 55/55 40/45 60/60 45/50 50

Oliva’s odd developmental trajectory — he barely played in high school due to friction with his coach, went undrafted as an eligible sophomore at Arizona because he was too raw, emerged as a speed/raw power flier as a junior, then performed immediately upon entering pro ball — drives less and less abstract projection on his skills as he gets older. There are a few avenues through which he still becomes more than just a fifth outfielder, though that’s where the industry’s general sense of him has begun to trend.

35. Rodolfo Castro, 2B

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/30 60/60 40/45 55/55 45/45 60

A switch-hitting 2B/3B with power, Castro has exactly 45 days of service time at the big league level and will graduate from rookie status the first day he’s on a major league roster in 2021. Castro’s in-zone swing-and-miss issues and his inability to recognize breaking stuff are barriers to a significant role, but switch-hitting middle infielders with this kind of power are pretty rare. Castro got an extended big league look during the middle of 2021 and showed glimpses of the power (including a two-homer game against Milwaukee that featured a dinger off of Josh Hader) while hitting .198. He struggled to handle hotshots at third base during his time with Toros del Este in LIDOM but he definitely has the arm for the left side of the infield. He’s one of an extremely crowded group of upper-level utility types in this system.

36. Nick Garcia, SP

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Chapman (PIT)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 45/50 40/45 50/55 30/50 91-94 / 98

Garcia is one of several guys the Pirates have drafted or traded for in the last couple of years who were either two-way amateur players or converted infielders. He went from third base to closer at Division III Chapman University, had success, then pitched on Cape Cod. After touching 94 mph during the 2019 Cape Cod League, he was bumping 98 that fall. He came out of the gate in 2020 sitting 92-94 in an outing at Tucson’s Kino Sports Complex but only averaged 91 throughout ’21. Garcia has had to incorporate many new pitches into his repertoire over a very short period of time. While his fastball has much more spin than is typical for a low-90s pitch, that does not extend to his breaking stuff, which is below average. Perhaps some of that will develop a little later since we’re talking about a D-III conversion arm with just one year of pro dev under his belt. Garcia currently has the look of a depth starter with some late-bloomer grace given to his FV at this stage.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Rancho Bernardo HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 22.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 45/50 35/40 40/40 50/55 50

Mitchell has some of the best hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills in the system. He made contact on 82% of his swings last season, finishing second in contact rate and fourth in strikeout rate in Double-A Northeast last season. That should allow most of his average raw power to play in games, particularly since his uppercut swing is geared to lift the ball. The risk here is that he gets exploited by more advanced arms, particularly hurlers who can blow fastballs by him at the top of the zone. Even with his swing plane, he’s been able to foul that pitch off up to this point, but big leaguers have faster gas and better spin; they’ll provide a sterner test than what he saw in Altoona. That test looms large, as Mitchell has few secondary abilities and thus really needs to hit. His swing-happy approach precludes a high OBP, and he’s just okay in right field. This looks like a low-stakes boom/bust profile. He’ll either maintain his contact rates and hit enough to start or he won’t, in which case he’ll get lapped by other talented outfielders in the org.

38. Mason Martin, 1B

Drafted: 17th Round, 2017 from Southridge HS (WA) (PIT)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 70/70 45/55 40/40 40/45 40

Among Pirates farmhands, only Oneil Cruz hit a ball harder than Martin’s top exit velocity last season. It’s a shame we don’t have better highlight packages for minor leaguers, because Martin’s recent home run collection includes several cartoonishly long jacks that sailed far beyond MiLB.TV’s capacity to track. Just as impressively, the 22-year-old did enough damage to reach Triple-A last season, no small feat for a defensively-challenged righty first baseman. The weaknesses in his game are as apparent as his strength(s). He doesn’t see spin well out of the hand and he’s prone to getting off balance against it and chasing even mediocre curves and sliders in the dirt. His strike zone judgement isn’t bad (he judges fastballs pretty well), but he also misses pitches in the zone and his Double-A contact rate was at 57% last year, firmly in the yikes zone. In short, he’s a mistake hitter; part of the reason he has so many majestic homers is that they’re only coming on grooved fastballs and hanging changeups. That’s okay for now, as he’s young and developing quickly. He’s probably not as advanced as his production indicates, though, and the steady diet of breaking balls he gets at Triple-A this year will present a real challenge for him, though there’s everyday upside here if he can surmount it.

39. Sergio Campana, CF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 19.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/50 20/45 80/80 45/60 50

Campana’s 80-grade speed and quick hands are a great foundation for a center fielder, and some evaluators think that with his frame and quick-twitch, he could develop plus raw power at full maturity. He’s eons away from that, though, and there’s a good chance things won’t come together here. He has big swing-and-miss issues and needs to get much stronger to hit even the average power grade we have on him. We’re still intrigued by the tools, and to be fair, Campana will still be age-appropriate when he repeats Low-A this season. To remain on the list next year, we’ll need to see him put the bat on the ball much more often.

40. Joaquin Tejada, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Panama (SEA)
Age 18.6 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
40/50 25/55 55/60 40/50 20/50 90-92 / 94

Tejada threw just five innings in the DSL before he was traded to the Pirates. He’s an athletic, 5-foot-11 righty with a high three-quarters arm slot. He doesn’t throw especially hard, only sitting in the low-90s right now, but his fastball has considerable movement despite lacking explosive spin. Tejada has real talent for spinning a breaking ball, with his breakers rotating in at around 2900 rpm on average. DSL TrackMan data is a little less reliable but it, plus a little bit of video, is what we have to go on in this instance. Tejada has an athletic delivery and is well-built even though he’s not especially tall. He’s not a lock to throw harder but has a shot to, and it’s the main thing missing from an interesting stuff foundation for such a young arm.

41. Hudson Head, CF

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Churchill HS (TX) (SDP)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 45/50 30/45 60/60 45/55 55

Head came over from the Padres as part of the Joe Musgrove trade and had a rough first season in the Pirates system, at times looking totally lost as he brushed up against full-season pitching for the first time. Especially in August, when he struck out 40% of the time, he had trouble making contact with in-zone fastballs at an alarming rate. He ended up striking out 31% of the time across the entire season but still managed to hit 15 bombs and post a line that was above league average, almost identical to Sammy Siani’s. Head swings hard and has pop despite being a wiry guy with narrow forearms. He doesn’t track pitches well and still has the rather extreme arm bar from his days as a Padre, both of which might be contributing to the whiffs. The overall line was not as rough as some scouts’ visual reports would suggest and Head entered the year having barely played high-level baseball since he was a relatively obscure amateur prospect whose pro experience was limited to the complex level and instructs until 2021. There is officially rather extreme bust risk here because of how the bat seems to be trending, but still plenty of other skills to like.

42. Sammy Siani, LF

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from William Penn Charter HS (PA) (PIT)
Age 21.1 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 45/50 30/45 55/55 30/50 40

Siani’s swing looks freakin’ sweet, but it doesn’t really fit his skill set. His hands work in a short little loop that creates lift without also creating length, though Sammy’s meaningful power is a pull-side only feature and he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough in general to have an approach that sells out for airborne power like this. Instead, he has tweener traits similar to eventual college outfielders Daniel Cabrera, Adam Haseley, and Dominic Fletcher when they were preps. Most of their tools live at or near average and they don’t have obviously projectable builds, but they performed at a high level in high school games. Siani had a weird statistical 2021, hitting just .215, with a strangely low BABIP (.263) for someone as fast as he is. He walked 20% of the time (automated balls and strikes, sure, but that’s two years in a row of walk rates north of 15% for Sammy) and had a line comfortably above league average as a 20-year-old center fielder in full-season ball. It’s possible Siani will end up becoming stronger than we’re anticipating and this approach to hitting will end up working out. He’s 21 and has something close to 30-grade peak exit velos. Even if he develops 45 raw power and is getting to all of it in games, at that point he’s probably a fourth outfielder so long as he can play center field. He only played out there a few times in 2021 due to the presence of Hudson Head, Sergio Campana, and Jase Bowen.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Plant HS (FL) (MIA)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 187 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 50/55 30/40 55/55 30/50 60

Scott spent all of 2021 at High-A Beliot in Miami’s system before coming over in an offseason trade for catcher Jacob Stallings. He shares some swing similarities with fellow Plant High School alum Kyle Tucker, but Scott doesn’t have Tucker’s feel for lift nor his bat control. Still, Scott’s 2021 line was encouraging after scouts were unenthused by his ’20 instructs look. He set a career-high in homers and posted the first above-average batting line of his career, though Scott had been pushed up the minor league ladder very aggressively in 2018 and ’19. This was the 13th overall pick in the 2018 draft and he still has tools (speed, power projection) and a big, broad-shouldered frame. He joins a collection of volatile, high-profile outfielders in the lower levels of this system and either needs to stay viable in center field or develop more consistent in-game power to keep climbing. Scott showed some signs of the latter in 2021.

44. Max Kranick, SP

Drafted: 11th Round, 2016 from Valley View HS (PA) (PIT)
Age 24.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
50/55 45/50 40/45 45/50 45/45 92-96 / 98

Eligible for this list by the slimmest of margins, Kranick gave a fair account of himself in nine starts last season. He maintained last season’s velo gains, and his control and command are better than his walk rates suggest. His fastball doesn’t have the kind of shape that generally misses bats, though, and none of his offspeed pitches move much at all. He’s a serviceable No. 5 starter at present, but we wonder if a shift to relief might be the tonic here, where a velo boost would give him an upper-90s heater and a slider more likely to miss barrels.

45. Shalin Polanco, CF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 40/50 20/50 40/40 40/50 50

A year after inking a $2.5 million bonus with Pittsburgh, Polanco remains all projection. He’s a good athlete with a feel to hit and a frame to add strength. He likes the ball down and in, and on pitches in his wheelhouse, his smooth swing has just the right amount of loft to project an average hit tool and even better power. He is also 17 years old, which means he’s ages away from the Steel City and a myriad of developmental outcomes remain possible. As with all but the very best players his age on a Dominican complex, you can find a scout who thinks the Bucs got a steal here and one who’s comparatively down on Polanco’s toolset. At this point the underlying profile is solid on paper. The next steps are to grow, mature, and hit, and we’re still at least a year or two from having any meaningful progress report there.

46. Carter Bins, C

Drafted: 11th Round, 2019 from Fresno State (SEA)
Age 23.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/55 30/40 45/45 40/50 60

Bins is a twitchy catcher with plus bat speed and better wheels than you usually find in the bucket. He has above-average raw and got to it in games regularly in High-A. His big cut comes up empty a lot, though, and his first 100 PAs in Double-A were pretty ugly. The sample wasn’t large enough for us to move off him entirely, but it did underscore the fragility in the profile. He projects as a power-first backup catcher, but there’s a chance he has a 20 hit tool, in which case he’ll top out right where he is.

47. Austin Roberts, MIRP

Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Sacramento State (PIT)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/50 50/50 40/40 93-96 / 98

Roberts worked 90-92 mph with sink at the 2019 WAC tournament. His changeup was really good, but the rest of what he had to offer was below average. He showed up to 2020 instructs with way more velocity, and held the velo throughout 2021, averaging 95 mph during the season. His changeup seems to have regressed and has become a distant third pitch while an average curveball has come to the forefront. He worked in multi-inning relief at High-A all year and looks like a multi-inning reliever on the fast track.

35+ FV Prospects

48. Blake Cederlind, SIRP

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Merced JC (CA) (PIT)
Age 26.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/50 30/35 96-98 / 100

Cederlind made his big league debut in 2020 but had Tommy John in March of ’21 and missed the entire year. We have him as throwing a changeup in past years, but he did not throw one during his big league stint or at the 2020 alternate site. So Cederlind’s two-pitch mix is an upper-90s sinker and slider/cutter thing close to 90 mph. Those cutters only have bat-missing length when they’re off the plate. He’ll work heavily with the sinker and be more of a groundball reliever, like Scott Alexander or Jared Hughes, than one who misses bats.

49. Owen Kellington, SP

Drafted: 4th Round, 2021 from U-32 HS (PIT)
Age 19.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 193 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
40/50 55/60 20/50 87-90 / 92

Fourth-round high school pitcher Owen Kellington was a participant in the Draft League and combine. He has a delivery similar to Ubaldo Jiménez’s, where his front side flies way open and he tilts out, which helps Kellington get to a vertical arm slot. That creates backspin and carry on his fastball and big depth on his curve. He sits in the high-80s right now but has promising underlying traits and plenty of time to develop.

50. Omar Cruz, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Mexico (SDP)
Age 23.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
30/35 45/45 55/60 50/60 87-91 / 93

Cruz is an athletic lefty who has above-average command of fringy stuff. He’s capable of spotting his low-90s four-seamer up and down, and is adept at placing a fading change right on the border of the arm-side corner. The cambio should miss bats, but he has very little to tempt lefties with, as his curve is slow and big leaguers should read it easily out of the hand. It’s a thin arsenal for someone with below-average arm strength but he throws enough strikes to get auditions in long relief or spot starts.

51. Santiago Florez, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (PIT)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 222 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/60 50/60 30/45 92-94 / 95

Florez showed a pretty significant velocity spike between 2018 and ’19 and was sitting 92-95 mph as a teenager in the Appy League. Because he was so young when he signed, Florez was Rule 5 eligible in 2020, but was passed over because he hasn’t been seen much and is still pretty raw from a strike-throwing standpoint. Still just 20, Florez has mid-90s heat and a prototypical frame, but his slider quality is inconsistent and so is his control. His longer arm action may be the culprit here. After a sterling first half at Low-A Bradenton, Florez was promoted to Greensboro and his peripherals regressed to his career norms. The Pirates didn’t add him to the 40-man this offseason. He could conceivably enjoy a velo spike in relief and be a good middle reliever.

52. Tahnaj Thomas, SIRP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Bahamas (CLE)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/65 45/50 30/40 35/60 93-97 / 99

Acquired from Cleveland for Jordan Luplow, Thomas is a converted infielder with the Vitruvian Pitcher’s build at a strapping 6-foot-4. He quickly developed elite arm strength and we had high hopes for the eventual development of Thomas’ secondary stuff, but as he approaches age 23, it hasn’t gotten much better. He also lost a little bit of velocity in 2021 and was only sitting 95 mph. Thomas’ fastball relies on arm strength to play. At this point, if he can develop one good secondary weapon and become a bullpen piece, that will be a good outcome. His slider, which isn’t all that hard (it sits about 82) for a guy who throws in the mid-90s, is furthest ahead right now.

53. Eddy Yean, SP

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (WSN)
Age 20.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 50/55 45/50 25/50 93-96 / 98

The mature-framed Yean has had notable arm strength for the last several years but his control has regressed while his secondary stuff has remained fringy, and the Pirates chose not to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. He was up to 97 mph in 2019 then sat 94 in ’21. Scouts who saw Yean during 2020 Nationals instructs noted he barely threw his breaking ball there. It was back in 2021 and is an average pitch driven by its velocity. Yean’s heaters don’t have great shape and his control has been trending in the wrong direction over the last couple of seasons. He’s still very young, but other aspects of his craft have yet to develop around his arm strength.

54. Lolo Sanchez, CF

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 22.8 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 168 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 30/45 20/45 60/60 45/55 55

Let’s start with the good: Sanchez knows what he’s doing in the box. He’s a patient hitter, he makes a lot of contact when he does swing, and he can adjust and connect with pitches he isn’t expecting. If anything, he’s a little too good at doing that, as he’s prone to making very weak contact on offerings he’d be better off missing entirely. That’s an issue, particularly considering his lack of pop. Despite posting .450-plus slugging percentages at both levels of A-ball, the 22-year-old’s exit velocity numbers are in the bottom half of Pittsburgh’s full-season minor leaguers, and we have to round up on his max EV to get him to 40 raw. There’s probably not much more coming either, as Sanchez is done growing and any additional mass would drag down his speed grade anyway. Speaking of which: Despite plus wheels, Sanchez saw much more time in the corners than center last season. A multi-positional outfield role was the likely ceiling regardless, but it’s interesting in a not-great way that the Bucs decided those reps were better spent on other outfielders. We still think Sanchez’s feel to hit gives him a chance to carve out a reserve role, but even with center field utility, a righty stick with below average juice is a tricky profile.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Venezuela (SDP)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 30/30 20/30 60/60 50/50 50

Marcano rocketed through the minors by posting single-digit strikeout rates at just about every stop. He made his big league debut with the Padres as a 21-year-old who had jumped right from Low-A to the majors but didn’t really stick the landing, hit just .182, then was sent down to Triple-A, where he performed at a league-average level before being traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Adam Frazier deal. Per a scout, Marcano “looked like he was trying to take a drink from a fire hose” in 2021, perhaps put in a compromising developmental position by some combination of the roster rules that force teams to make 40-man decisions on Latin American players too soon and (in this instance, anyway) an overzealous approach by the Padres. His ceiling capped by a total lack of physicality, Marcano was a skills-over-tools sort with great feel for contact. He often stood out among his same-aged peers for his level of advancement and instincts, but the speed of the game at Triple-A and above was understandably too much for him. The Padres had him playing all over the infield and then added both corner outfield positions to his duties in 2021, and Marcano seemed to regress as a defender everywhere once his time was divided among five positions. His narrow frame has never supported any kind of real power projection. Instead, Marcano looks like a low-end bench infielder

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (ARI)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 50/55 40/50 35/50 92-96 / 99

Malone’s time in pro ball has been marred by extreme inconsistency, which has held the former sandwich rounder, now 21, back at the complex for much of his career. Start-by-start variation was also a part of Malone’s look while he was briefly with Arizona, who drafted him and sent him to Pittsburgh as part of the Starling Marte deal. At his best, Malone operates with four good pitches and sits 93-95 mph, looking like a potential fourth starter. He was still throwing about that hard when he pitched in 2021, and with more spin than we have on record for him from ’19, but walks were an issue and Malone has thrown all of 22 career innings since signing. He’s purely in a bounce-back area at this point.

57. Blake Sabol, C

Drafted: 7th Round, 2019 from USC (PIT)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/50 30/40 30/30 30/45 40

Once a pretty famous high school prospect, Sabol went to USC, where he moved out from behind the plate and to the outfield (including a little bit of time in center) after his freshman year. He slashed .268/.333/.375 in college, not great for what had become a corner outfield prospect. The Pirates moved him back behind the plate, and while he’s not the most polished battery mate, Sabol has a shot to be a viable defender back there. He’s a huge, strapping lad with big, broad shoulders and more raw power than he hit for in games while at SC. His hands look like they’re loading a little lower, which may have helped unlock more in-game pop. It was lower-level performance, but Sabol hit more home runs in 2021 than he did his entire college career. Sabol’s put himself on the map as a developmental late-bloomer, and the catchers who break late tend to be big-framed guys like him.

58. Hunter Stratton, SIRP

Drafted: 16th Round, 2017 from Walters State JC (TN) (PIT)
Age 25.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 55/55 30/35 93-97 / 98

Stratton’s low-to-mid-90s fastball, cutter, and slider combination is a data-friendly pitch mix that plays well against lefties as well as righties. That’s often a Role 40 profile, but we’re rounding down because we think his control issues make him more of an up-and-down arm.

59. Trey McGough, SP

Drafted: 24th Round, 2019 from Mount St. Mary’s (PIT)
Age 23.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 50/55 45/45 45/50 45/50 92-94 / 95

McGough’s a bulldog on the mound, and that, plus good command, helps him get the most out of his Triple-A stuff. He’s just about ready as a No. 6/up-and-down starter but there may also be more impactful relief utility if his slider ticks up a notch in short stints.

60. Tsung-Che Cheng, SS

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Taiwan (PIT)
Age 20.6 Height 5′ 7″ Weight 154 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 20/20 20/20 60/60 40/50 55

The lilliputian Cheng had one of the most interesting years in pro baseball. He had perhaps the most impressive batting line in the entire Florida Complex League, slashing .311/.449/.492 with twice as many walks as he had strikeouts. He then played for Taiwan’s National Team at the WBSC U23 World Cup. The Pirates are more apt to send their young prospects to one of the winter leagues in Latin America, and Cheng was sent to Colombia, where he played for los Caimanes de Barranquilla, the team that won the league and then the Caribbean Series. In the span of a few months, Cheng went from sweating on the obscure Florida backfields to sharing a field with a bunch of big leaguers and chatting up Robinson Canó at second base. Cheng has a slash-and-dash approach to hitting. He is ultra-compact and puts tons of balls in play, mostly on the ground and rarely very hard. It’s an old school approach that’s so far been partially enabled by Cheng’s speed (his swing has natural jailbreak and he put down some run times close to 4.00 for Barranquilla) and the quality of rookie ball defenses, which struggle to throw this guy out.

Cheng can play a fine shortstop. His range and footwork are great, while his actions and arm are fine. He has bottom-of-the-scale raw power and even at this website, where we’ve made an effort to stop overlooking smaller players arguably to the point of overcorrection, he lacks what we consider viable physicality for the majors and doesn’t have the frame to support projecting him as anything more than a bench infielder. But Cheng is a fun little player who performed at an elite level in his only dose of pro ball and he has more high-stakes experience than is typical for a player his age, making him an interesting, advanced sleeper.

61. Jackson Glenn, 2B

Drafted: 5th Round, 2021 from Dallas Baptist (PIT)
Age 24.3 Height 5′ 9″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 45/45 30/40 40/40 40/45 40

Glenn can play second base and clubbed 20 homers as a senior at DBU, while walking as often as he struck out all year. We considered him a high-priority senior sign ahead of the 2021 draft and think he has a chance to hit enough to play a part-time 2B/3B role.

Other Prospects of Note

Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category.

Triple-A Depth
Jamie Ritchie, C
Hunter Owen, 3B/OF
Bligh Madris, RF/LF
Yerry De Los Santos, RHP
Joe Jacques, LHP
Cristofer Melendez, RHP

These guys are all candidates to play for Pittsburgh in 2022; perhaps one of them will ball out for a few weeks and land on the casual fan’s radar, at least briefly. Ritchie is 29 and one of the older prospects we’ll cover. He’s a catcher with good bat-to-ball skills and some late-blooming physical traits. Owen completed an arduous climb from the 25th round to the big leagues last season and could make it back if there’s an infield emergency. Madris is a great makeup guy with pop and a chance at a platoon role in a corner. The Pirates thought enough of De Los Santos to re-sign him to a minor league deal; he has plus arm strength and the usual 95-and-a-slider cocktail you find in this particular lounge. Jacques is a sinker/slider type who could have utility as a slider monster from the left side. Melendez can run it up to the upper-90s and pairs it with a power curve.

Matt Gorski, RF
Jack Herman, RF
Alexander Mojica, 1B
Braxton Ashcraft, RHP
Andy Maldonado, RHP
Wilkin Ramos, RHP
Luis Tejeda, 3B

These guys fell off the main section of the list, but each has a carrying tool that could conceivably help them play their way back onto it. Gorski is athletic and has all kinds of tools. He’s a plus defender in center and has his fans within the org, but he hasn’t hit. Herman has pop but no position and scary swing-and-miss numbers. Mojica is younger and has even more power, but he’s a first baseman with pitch recognition issues and he didn’t perform in Low-A last season. Ashcraft has backend stuff but will miss 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Maldonado has fringy stuff at present and strike-throwing issues; he’s tall and lean and may just need to grow into his frame more. Ramos is tall and thin with a whippy arm action and a puncher’s chance to develop an average secondary or two if he can stay healthy. Tejeda is still a teenager and has power, but he’s not twitchy and he struggled at the club’s stateside complex.

Data Flags
Logan Hofmann, RHP
Will Kobos, RHP
Grant Ford, RHP
Valentin Linarez, RHP
Adrian Florencio, RHP

Hofmann gets great spin on his two breaking balls and throws a lot of strikes, but he’s bulky and only averaged 90 mph on his fastball last year. Kobos misses bats and avoided hard contact; he needs to throw more strikes and if he does, he’ll be a viable reliever. Ford has a carrying fastball in the low-to-mid-90s. The numbers are ugly, but he tightened his arm action last year and perhaps it’ll help him throw more strikes. Linarez sits in the low-to-mid-90s and bullied Complex League hitters with a slider that grades very highly on the pitch data metrics we’ve sourced. Florencio is tall and has succeeded with a shallow arsenal. He throws strikes but his suboptimal fastball shape portends a shift to relief to see if the stuff can tick up in short stints.

Young Bucs on the Bump
Yoldin De La Paz, LHP
Andres Silvera, RHP
Cristian Charle, RHP
Luis Peralta, LHP
Roelmy Garcia, RHP
Carlos Jimenez, RHP
Luigi Hernandez, RHP

De La Paz is an athletic and projectable lefty who sits either side of 90 mph with a good slider and nascent changeup feel. Silvera was just 16 last summer when he shoved against much older competition in the DSL. He threw a ton of strikes and can reliably find the plate with three pitches. He’s touched 93 and obviously has time to add velocity. Charle has a big arm and works primarily fastball-change, which makes him a little different than your typical relief prospect. Peralta is on the small side. He’s a good athlete with a clean arm action and a smooth delivery, which makes his control issues somewhat baffling. Garcia has hit 100 and flashed a good change at the complex; we’ll charitably say that he runs a lot of deep counts. Jimenez is listed at a rail-thin 6-foot-2, 140 pounds. He threw strikes and sat in the low-to-mid-90s as an 18-year-old in a multi-inning role in Florida and is one to watch on MiLB.TV if he reaches Bradenton this year. Hernandez has viable arm strength and is also on the radar.

Complex-level Bats
Geovanny Planchart, C
Enmanuel Terrero, OF
Juan Jerez, IF
Braylon Bishop, RF
Javier Rivas, SS

Planchart raked on the complex and made plenty of contact as a 19-year-old, albeit without much thump. He should reach Low-A this year. Terrero showed a discerning eye in the DSL. Jerez is still growing and already has great bat speed; he’s a sleeper to keep an eye on. The Pirates took Bishop in the 14th round and signed him for $270,000. He may not hit a lick but if he does, all of his other tools should play. Rivas has athleticism and a great frame, and has some buzz within the org despite terrible numbers in the DSL last year. He’s a long-term project.

System Overview

This is a very strong group. It’s perhaps a little shorter on star power at the top than some of the other orgs in the running for the best system in baseball, but the Pirates have enviable depth up and down the ladder and Pick to Click candidates galore. The first wave has already found its way to PNC, where Ke’Bryan Hayes has established himself as the everyday third baseman, while Oneil Cruz, Roansy Contreras, and Miguel Yajure have also clambered ashore. This is when the rebuilding window starts to gain steam. The next contending Pirates team isn’t in place yet, and the club may lose 100 games again in 2022, but you can see the core developing and Bucs fans will have fun players to watch this summer.

In many ways, the Pirates embody the modern approach to building a farm system: Better to collect a lot of talent from as many sources as possible than to place your bets on a small handful of potential impact guys. They took that strategy in the draft, where they grabbed (in our view) the second or third best eligible prospect and then reaped the rewards by snagging three more first-round talents in Bubba Chandler, Anthony Solometo, and Lonnie White Jr. They’ve also done well to get multiple interesting fliers in recent big-ticket trades. The Starling Marte swap, which netted Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone, looks like a real coup, and is a significantly better package than Marte has fetched in subsequent deals.

That depth affords plenty of room for interesting breakout candidates. We don’t know for sure whether Jared Jones’ stuff will play in the rotation, if Matt Fraizer’s tantalizing tools will manifest in the future, or if Travis Swaggerty can put the ball in the air more often and grab the starting job in center. But odds are that at least one of the sub-50 FV guys takes a major step forward over the next six months and there’s no shortage of guys with the underlying athleticism or tools to do so.

Looking for an interesting place to watch this season? Check out High-A Greensboro. There was a stark contrast between the success of the Pirates farmhands in Low-A and a couple high-profile disappointments a rung up, and we’re not quite sure why. Maybe we were just too high on Tahnaj Thomas; perhaps the jump from Low- to High-A is more difficult now with a condensed minor leagues. Regardless, it’s on our radar. Jones and Luis Ortiz should be in Greensboro’s Opening Day rotation, so the stakes are high.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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2 years ago

This might be the best set of writeups on prospects that has ever appeared on this site. The Nick Gonzales one is outstanding, and I feel like I learned a ton about Endy Rodriguez and Roansy Contreras too.

Overall, this was clearly a rough year for the system. They still have a ridiculous amount of talent, but it’s worth noting that a bunch of these guys moved down a whole lot (Swaggerty, Yajure, and especially Tahnaj Thomas, Mason Martin, and Hudson Head–guess this explains why Thomas and Martin were left unprotected). But I think that’s more a function of the fact that they have so many guys to pay attention to. The Pirates have so many minor leaguers that deserve writeups that it’s noticeable how many well regarded prospects got moved down. If they had 35-40 names like some of the other lists, I don’t think it would feel quite so overwhelming.

2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Good points, although I don’t think the system had a rough year at all. Those individual players did sure, (personally I never have been big Martin or Thomas fans though and thought they were a tad inflated). But Frazier, Priester and Jones had solid or better campaigns with tangible improvements. New acquisitions like Peguro, Contreras and Rodriguez did as well, with Contreras poised to contribute to the ML level in 2022. Most significantly, Cruz has looked more and more like a potential impact player. One the franchise desperately needs.
I do agree they’d loaded with all sorts of potential breakouts. The big key will be development of these prospects, the lack of which shipwrecked the previous front office. They’ll have a top 5 pick this year and maybe next year to add to this crew. While the pitching prospects lag behind the position players, I’m tending to think that’s a good thing. Maybe they can cash in the surplus of those position players prospects for impact arms at the big league level when the time is right.

2 years ago
Reply to  gettwobrute79

Yeah, I would not have described it as a rough year either. On the contrary, this system seems to have taken a major step forward. That’s some impressive depth.

2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I think they seem more like creative writing than scouting reports. The sheer volume of absurd statements is impressive.

2 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I was thinking the same thing while reading earlier, started really noticing around Gonzalez too