Top 42 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

Pirates Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Ke’Bryan Hayes 23.1 AAA 3B 2020 55
2 Oneil Cruz 21.4 AA SS 2021 55
3 Mitch Keller 23.9 MLB RHP 2020 55
4 Travis Swaggerty 22.5 A+ CF 2022 50
5 Tahnaj Thomas 20.7 R RHP 2022 50
6 Liover Peguero 19.2 A- SS 2022 50
7 Quinn Priester 19.5 A- RHP 2024 45+
8 Brennan Malone 19.5 A- RHP 2024 45+
9 Jared Oliva 24.3 AA CF 2021 45+
10 Cody Bolton 21.7 AA RHP 2021 45
11 Ji-Hwan Bae 20.6 A SS 2023 45
12 Rodolfo Castro 20.8 A+ 2B 2021 45
13 Nick Mears 23.4 AA RHP 2020 40+
14 Cal Mitchell 21.0 A+ RF 2022 40+
15 Sammy Siani 19.2 R CF 2024 40+
16 Mason Martin 20.7 A+ 1B 2022 40+
17 Rodolfo Nolasco 18.4 R OF 2023 40+
18 Santiago Florez 19.8 R RHP 2021 40+
19 Travis MacGregor 22.4 A RHP 2021 40
20 Kevin Kramer 26.4 MLB 2B 2020 40
21 Michael Burrows 20.3 A- RHP 2022 40
22 Jared Triolo 22.1 A- 3B 2023 40
23 Steven Jennings 21.3 A RHP 2022 40
24 Braxton Ashcraft 20.4 A- RHP 2023 40
25 JT Brubaker 26.3 AAA RHP 2020 40
26 Nick Burdi 27.1 MLB RHP 2020 40
27 Jack Herman 20.4 A RF 2023 40
28 Blake Cederlind 24.1 AAA RHP 2020 40
29 Lolo Sanchez 20.8 A+ CF 2021 40
30 Yerry De Los Santos 22.2 A RHP 2021 40
31 Jason Martin 24.5 MLB RF 2020 40
32 Alexander Mojica 17.6 R 1B 2023 35+
33 Cristopher Cruz 17.1 R RHP 2025 35+
34 Matt Gorski 22.2 A- RF 2023 35+
35 Juan Jerez 18.3 R 2B 2023 35+
36 Luis Tejeda 17.5 R 3B 2023 35+
37 Wilkin Ramos 19.3 R RHP 2022 35+
38 Yordi Rosario 21.1 R RHP 2023 35+
39 Juan Pie 18.9 A- RF 2023 35+
40 Andy Maldonado 17.6 R RHP 2023 35+
41 Sergio Campana 17.9 R CF 2023 35+
42 Osvaldo Gavilan 18.4 R CF 2023 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Concordia Lutheran HS (TX) (PIT)
Age 23.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/55 50/50 35/40 60/55 60/70 60/60

Hayes is perhaps still a swing change away from really breaking out, as he continued to hit the ball hard at Triple-A last year, but often into the ground. He remains a very intriguing prospect not just because the quality of the contact is good but because he’s a plus-plus third base defender with rare speed for the position. It’s possible to attribute what appear to be some plateauing traits to the previous Pirates regime’s issues with player development and perhaps what is in essence a fresh start will unlock something that’s currently lying dormant. At age 23, it’s looking a little less likely now than at this time last year when we 60’d Hayes, with the currently sky-high offensive bar at third base contributing to that sentiment.

2. Oneil Cruz, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (LAD)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/80 30/60 60/45 40/45 80/80

Somehow, over the past year, the ratio of scouts who believe the 6-foot-7 Cruz might actually stay at shortstop has grown. It’s more within the realm of possibility for those who think a lot of issues with lateral agility can be masked through some combination of arm strength (Cruz has a freaking hose) and good defensive positioning. What if this guy, who I’ll once again body-comp to Harold Carmichael and Brandon Ingram before I search for a less instructive baseball avatar, actually stays there and grows into 80-grade raw power? How bad would the contact issues need to be for him not to be a great player if that’s the case?

Indeed there are folks in baseball who are skeptical of Cruz’s hit tool because of his lever length, and those concerns are exacerbated by how often he likes to swing. There are several vastly different ideas as to how his body and game will develop as he fills out, and scouts who think Cruz is destined to slow down and move to right field or first base, and who also have concerns about the contact, don’t even think he belongs on this list. But consider this: At this age Aaron Judge, who is as close as we’re going to get to a physical peer for Cruz, was striking out 21% of the time at Fresno State. Split between Hi- and Double-A, against competition way better than Mountain West Conference pitching, Cruz whiffed 25% of the time. That’s not bad for someone this age and this size. I will concede that the approach is bad and that the swing needs polish if Cruz is going to get to his power in games. I’ll also concede that the Fall League look was bad (he missed several weeks with a foot fracture), and his LIDOM performance was, too. This is one of the — if not the — highest-variance players in the minors, but there aren’t many who have a chance to be what this guy might. Even the outcomes more toward the middle of what is likely — a center fielder with a hit tool in the 35-40 range with huge power, a right fielder or third baseman with the same, a gigantic target at first — are still fine. I’m way, way in on Cruz even though he has clear issues that make him one of baseball’s riskier players.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Xavier HS (IA) (PIT)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 60/60 55/55 40/45 55/60 94-96 / 98

We’ve all been waiting around for Keller and the Pirates to figure things out, and it seems they’ve gotten much closer with the addition of a slider, which has become Keller’s primary out-pitch. (His fastball still has a little less life than would best pair with his curveball, but I don’t have him on the high speed camera yet to see if he’s pronating behind the baseball.) Keller quickly got comfortable locating that slider, which has an awful lot of sweep for a pitch in the upper-80s, to his glove side. He can throw competitively-located changeups against left-handed hitters, but in big spots a well-placed slider is just a nastier option. Aside from the little bit of carry that might be added to his heater, Keller is now a four-pitch strike-thrower with a state-of-the-art repertoire.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from South Alabama (PIT)
Age 22.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 60/60 30/50 65/65 55/60 60/60

Swaggerty is a good defensive player whose offensive performance, specifically his power output, continues to fall a little short of what someone with his physical talent could be doing. Are you noticing a common theme surrounding Pirates hitters on this list? Even if Swaggerty never dials in his swing and actualizes his power, his secondary skills (mostly the defense) should help lift the profile to that of a regular anyway.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Bahamas (CLE)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/70 50/60 40/50 45/55 93-98 / 100

An athletic conversion arm with a big, broad-shouldered, projectable frame and almost no miles on his arm because of the conversion, Thomas has been pitching in relative obscurity to this point because he’s been on backfields and in the Appy League. He may be the most anonymous 100 mph arm in baseball. He snaps off some promising breaking balls and has pretty significant command projection because of his athleticism. There aren’t many young, high-variance arms on this list, but Thomas’ frame, his fresh arm, his elite velo, and how enthused I am about the breaking ball, changeup, and command projection because of how athletic he is gives him a chance to attain some nutty right tail outcomes.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (ARI)
Age 19.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/60 45/50 35/40 60/55 45/55 55/55

Aside from the semi-frequent body comps we issue to give readers a better idea of what a player looks like physically, we tend to shy away from making overall comparisons between prospects and current or former big leaguers unless it’s very apt. We have one here in Liover Peguero, who is a Jean Segura starter kit. His sloped shoulders, short torso, and the high, thick butt and thighs map to a slightly taller version of Segura. More significantly, like Segura, Peguero is remarkably short back to the baseball; his barrel enters the hitting zone in the blink of an eye, giving him an extra beat to decide whether or not to swing. It also makes it hard for pitchers to beat him with velocity, since he’s rarely late on anything and has quick enough hands to get on top of pitches near the top of the strike zone. He’s also remarkably strong in the hands and wrists for a teenager and is already producing average exit velos above the big league average, though Peguero cuts down at the ball and is currently groundball prone. His swing may get longer as his attack angle changes.

Perhaps the place where the Segura and Peguero Venn Diagram does not overlap is on the defensive end of things. Peguero is a plus athlete with above-average hands and arm strength, which could make him an above-average defender at short in time. If his lower half thickens and Peguero slows down, he’ll look more like Segura does now on defense.

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cary-Grove HS (IL) (PIT)
Age 19.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 50/55 45/55 40/55 91-95 / 97

You can take your pick between Priester or the recently-acquired Brennan Malone. Malone’s repertoire is a bit more fully realized but Priester has more room on his frame, better natural ability to spin the ball, and comes from a cold-weather background that often leaves a greater developmental gap between present and future pitchability traits. Pretty early in high school, Priester was firmly on the radar as a big-framed righty with a good breaking ball. His stuff ticked up closer to the draft, when he was consistently in the mid-90s, and he was 91-95, touching 96 after he signed, and his changeup showed late growth, too. It’s a high-variance, mid-rotation profile, similar to most teenage pitchers with this stuff and build.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (ARI)
Age 19.5 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 50/55 40/50 40/50 92-96 / 99

Malone was on the scouting radar for awhile, standing out in North Carolina for his clean, quick arm speed and above-average breaking ball. For his draft year, he transferred to IMG Academy in Florida and took another step forward, reminiscent of how Touki Toussaint added feel elements to his profile in his draft year. Malone switched to a more controllable version of his breaker, a 55-grade slider that flashes 60 for some scouts and that he can dot anywhere. Malone hit 99 mph in his last outing of the spring in front of a lot of heat and sits in the mid-90s for full outings. His curveball and changeup are both about average, giving him a mid-rotation starter look, with the usual injury caveats for a power prep righty.

Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from Arizona (PIT)
Age 24.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 187 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 55/55 40/45 60/60 50/55 50/50

Among the league’s hitters, Oliva had one of the better Arizona Fall League performances and lots of scouts now think he’s got a shot to be a big league regular. He went undrafted as an eligible sophomore at Arizona because he was too raw and inexperienced due to a total lack of reps while in high school. He emerged as a speed/raw power flier as a junior, but slid to the Pirates in the seventh round and signed for slot. His performance in 2018, his first full pro season, exceeded all expectations: in his 172-game college career, Oliva produced nine homers and a .773 OPS, while in 108 games at Hi-A, he hit nine homers with a .778 OPS despite skipping Low-A. He has a flatter swing that doesn’t enable his raw power to play but the on-base ability and speed might enable him to be a center field regular anyway.

45 FV Prospects

10. Cody Bolton, RHP
Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Tracy HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/60 45/50 45/50 92-95 / 97

Bolton had a strong start to his 2018 season before he was shut down in July with a shoulder issue and didn’t pitch for the rest of the summer. While a groin injury interrupted an otherwise healthy 2019, his stuff was wholly intact when he pitched, and his velocity was actually up a tick from the year before. Healthy Bolton touches 97 and will show you a plus slider and average changeup. He sat 86-90 as a rising high school senior but has since altered the timing of his arm swing for the better, and the resulting velo is fairly new, which makes Bolton’s cogent strike-throwing more impressive. Because his delivery is somewhat grotesque and Bolton has had a shoulder problem, there’s apprehension about his health, but he has 50 FV stuff and could reach the big leagues in the next 12 to 18 months.

11. Ji-Hwan Bae, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from South Korea (PIT)
Age 20.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/55 35/45 30/40 65/65 40/50 50/55

Bae’s teenage years were quite tumultuous off the field. He was wrapped up in the Braves’ international 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 assault conviction impacts how teams (and people, in general) view, value, and interact with him, but purely on talent, some clubs think he belonged on my top 100 list. Bae’s arm may prevent him from playing shortstop, but if that’s the case he’ll still fit at second base and he has the speed to play center field. It’s possible his lack of power hurts his on-base skills as he climbs the minors and pitchers attack him without fear of him doing extra-base damage (he has no minor league home runs yet), but Bae’s gotten stronger, his exit velos took a leap last year, and he has premium rotational ability. He should develop enough thump to keep pitchers honest and become a table-setting regular at second or in center field.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 30/50 55/50 45/50 50/50

Switch-hitting middle infielders with power are very rare, and while Castro’s approach makes him a volatile prospect (and may also make him a frustrating, low-OBP big leaguer), his pop and defensive fit give some real ceiling. Castro has a good chance to add strength as he ages without compromising his ability to play second base. His hitting hands are explosive but still pretty uncoordinated, especially from the left side of the plate, though that’s pretty common for switch-hitters this age. Even though it doesn’t always look pretty, Castro’s batted ball results indicate he actually has good feel for consistently hitting the ball hard (43% of his balls in play were hit at 95 mph or above, a 60 on the scale) and in the air. He’ll probably be a low-OBP hitter so he needs to out-slug that deficiency, but he has a chance to do that.

40+ FV Prospects

13. Nick Mears, RHP
Drafted: 0 Round, 2018 from Sacramento JC (CA) (PIT)
Age 23.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
70/70 50/55 45/45 93-98 / 100

Discovered in the Northwoods League after he slipped under draft radars for various reasons (including an early-career TJ), Mears was signed as an undrafted free agent and a year later, has reached the upper levels of the minors. He throws really, really hard, has a vertical slot that creates carry at the top of the zone, and though his curveball lacks huge depth, it does play well with the heater due to its vertical shape.

Because of when he signed, Mears doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man for a couple of years, and the rebuilding Pirates have incentive to slow-play this one. But Mears’ stuff is probably ready right now, and I think he has a shot to be a high-leverage option.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Rancho Bernardo HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 21.0 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 45/50 35/50 40/40 40/50 45/45

Mitchell owns one of the prettiest swings in pro baseball, a Griffey-esque lefty uppercut stroke that enables him to leverage pitches toward the bottom of the strike zone. The lift in Mitchell’s cut enabled him to golf out 15 homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League even though Mitchell doesn’t have much raw power right now. His frame isn’t very big and it’s unlikely he’ll ever grow into impact pop, but whatever power Mitchell ends up with, it’s a fair bet he’ll get to it in games because of his feel for lift. His swing-happy approach is a bit of a problem. Above-average feel for contact has enabled it to this point, but the way his peripherals moved last year is somewhat concerning. Either the raw power or patience need to take a leap, but if one of them does, Mitchell has a good shot to be an every day player.

15. Sammy Siani, CF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from William Penn Charter HS (PA) (PIT)
Age 19.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 45/50 20/45 55/55 45/50 40/40

Siani is the younger brother of Reds prospect Mike Siani, and while Mike’s speed and defensive instincts made him a million dollar prep hitter, Sammy has more of a shot to hit for power. His hands work in a short little loop that creates lift without also creating length. From a tools and body standpoint, Siani has some 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 — they’re simply well-rounded players and good athletes who tend to perform in high school games.

There could be give (power) and take (speed) that pushes Siani to left field, or he may end up with a lighter hitting center field profile. You’re just betting on the swing foundation and athleticism here. Siani’s exit velos look really scary but he has generated very little data on that end, so little that the sample probably isn’t relevant.

16. Mason Martin, 1B
Drafted: 17th Round, 2017 from Southridge HS (WA) (PIT)
Age 20.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 70/70 35/60 40/40 45/50 45/45

Martin hit 35 dingers in 2019 and while his strikeout rates are indeed concerning, his blend of raw power and selectivity is potent, and quite impressive for a hitter his age at his level. Martin hits the ball very hard and hits it in the air regularly. The threat of his power is going to force pitchers to work carefully when he’s in the box, which I think gives his walk rate (career 14%) a good chance to hold water as he climbs the minors. Typically, first base-only profiles, even ones I like, with any sort of blemish get relegated to the 40 FV tier, but Martin’s premium raw power, the lift in his swing, and his approach make me more bullish about him profiling as a three true outcomes first baseman than most players with similarly-shaped skillsets.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/50 50/55 20/55 50/40 40/50 55/55

Many of the international prospects Pittsburgh has signed over the last two years have become of interest to opposing teams, and this is especially true of Nolasco, who has quickly added mass to his frame (his shoulders are huge, as if he’s got cantaloupe halves perched on either side of his neck) and grown into considerable power. His swing is not presently geared for the kind of in-game power you hope for based on Nolasco’s raw juice, but the barrel feel and ball/strike recognition are fairly advanced for a player this age. Corner outfield profiles are tough but the early indicators here are strong.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (PIT)
Age 19.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 222 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 50/60 40/50 30/40 92-94 / 95

His delivery is a little bit clunky, but after experiencing a significant velocity spike last year Florez now has better stuff at a younger age than most of the other prospects in this system. His fastball has grown from the 88-92 range to the 92-95 band in about a year and it has other characteristics that enable it to play in the strike zone. His breaking ball, which has always had length, now has more power and velocity as well. He has some nascent feel for creating sinking movement on a changeup, but he doesn’t often locate it competitively right now. That’s true for most of his offerings at the moment and there’s an awful lot of relief risk here, but the notion that Florez might throw even harder in short bursts combined with a shot to have three major league-quality offerings means that even if he ends up in relief, he could be dominant. His pitch grades assume bullpen projection. Florez is Rule 5 eligible at the end of 2020, which I think increases his chances of being ‘penned and pushed quickly.

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from East Lake HS (FL) (PIT)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 45/50 50/55 40/50 91-94 / 97

The timing of MacGregor’s 2018 Tommy John meant he missed all of 2019 regular season play and was limited to throwing in sim games on the Pirates’ complex in the fall. His velocity spiked late during his high school career and the Pirates jumped on him earlier in the draft than he was expected to go; he was only sitting 90-91 and topping out at 94 at the time. Before the elbow went, he was 90-94, touching 97, and locating a quality breaking ball. He has mid-rotation upside if his stuff comes back after surgery.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from UCLA (PIT)
Age 26.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 45/45 40/45 40/40 40/45 50/50

After he tore through the minors, hitting at every stop, Kramer has now had two bad September cups of coffee and didn’t have a great 2019 at Triple-A Indianapolis. He did, however, begin to branch out defensively and see reps in the outfield. I still like him as a versatile lefty bench bat.

Drafted: 10th Round, 2018 from Waterford HS (CT) (PIT)
Age 20.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 35/45 90-94 / 96

Burrows is a spin rate monster. He has a medium build but is already throwing pretty hard and might throw harder in a relief role, which is what I think is most likely. The variance on the command portion here is a little higher considering how new this arm strength is (Burrows was sitting in the mid-80s during parts of his high school senior season) and while a couple of the prospects behind him on this list have a better chance of starting, he has a better chance to be anything at all because of how good his stuff is right now.

22. Jared Triolo, 3B
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Houston (PIT)
Age 22.1 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 55/55

Triolo hit .317/.406/.447 in college and those numbers include a relatively punchless freshman season. He didn’t hit for power with wood on Cape Cod, nor did he last summer in the Penn League, but his exit velos are above big league average. Triolo has a pretty simple swing. His front foot is down early, he’s short to the ball, and at times he opens his front side up too much and gets beaten by breaking balls down. At third base the very average hit/power combo is a tough profile, but Triolo is a very good defender there, and that will help. He saw some reps at shortstop last summer and may get some at second base this year. He profiles as a multi-positional infield utility guy, much like Kramer, who is several levels ahead of Triolo.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from DeKalb HS (TN) (PIT)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/45 50/55 45/50 35/45 45/60 88-92 / 93

How much velocity can we still hope for Jennings to grow into? He’s 21 now and isn’t especially projectable, but he has had non-arm injuries (an ACL tear in high school, a broken rib) that have cost him reps and compromised his physicality for long stretches. He can still really spin it and his fastball, which was in the 88-92 range last year, has other traits that give it some room to breath at lesser speeds. There’s a small chance more velo arrives, but I’m more inclined to project Jennings as a strike-throwing fifth starter who relies on his secondary stuff quite often.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Robinson HS (TX) (PIT)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
35/45 50/55 45/50 40/45 40/50 88-93 / 95

A two-sport star in high school, Ashcraft kind of got lost amid the many talented prep arms in the 2018 class, but he was in the second tier, wire-to-wire, for the clubs that emphasize athleticism and projection. The Pirates need to find a way to get his fastball to play better than it did last year when it barely induced any swings and misses despite perfectly serviceable velo for the Penn League. Ashcraft remains a premium body/athleticism projection prospect with arm strength, but now that we have some pitch data, it seems that the developmental gap between where Ashcraft is and where he needs to be to be a viable big league arm is pretty wide.

25. JT Brubaker, RHP
Drafted: 6th Round, 2015 from Akron (PIT)
Age 26.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/50 55/55 40/45 40/45 91-95 / 96

Brubaker had been remarkably durable up until a forearm strain interrupted, then ultimately ended, his 2019 season. His fastball was predictably down a tick from the prior season, when he was the Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year after posting a 2.81 ERA over 28 Double- and Triple-A starts. His relatively new curveball is his best secondary pitch and it pairs with a hard slider in the 88-90 mph range. Brubaker’s fastball doesn’t have bat-missing life or ride, but he knows how to attack hitters with his two breaking balls and should fit in the back of a rotation or in a relief role. His health may dictate which.

26. Nick Burdi, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Louisville (MIN)
Age 27.1 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
65/65 55/60 40/40 94-97 / 100

Burdi’s injury history (a Tommy John and surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome) is a concern, but he’s touching 100 mph again, and his lower half is now more involved in his delivery. He’d be in the 40+ tier with Mears if not for his injury rap and age.

27. Jack Herman, RF
Drafted: 30th Round, 2018 from Eastern HS (NJ) (PIT)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 35/55 40/40 40/50 60/60

Herman skipped a couple of levels and kept his head above water at Greensboro in his first full pro season, striking out a lot (he was a 30th rounder out of a New Jersey high school the year before) while hitting for power. His stroke is comically simple and it’s amazing how he’s able to rotate and generate lift and power with such minimal activity before his hands fire. It’s going to be a tough right field profile and some hit tool questions will eventually need to be answered, but the raw and game power look like they’re going to clear the right field bar if Mr. Herman hits.

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Merced JC (CA) (PIT)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 50/50 45/50 35/40 96-98 / 100

Though he’ll occasionally show you an above-average changeup and slider, Cederlind’s bread and butter is his upper-90s sinker. He’s going to work off of that pitch about 70% of the time en route to a middle-relief role. I think he’ll be more of a groundball reliever, like Scott Alexander or Jared Hughes, than one who misses bats.

29. Lolo Sanchez, CF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 150 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 30/45 20/45 60/60 45/55 55/55

Lolo is really tough to evaluate. His swing has changed several times, his 2019 Low-A numbers (he slugged .450) are wholly unsupported by his TrackMan data (82 mph exit velos, a 30 on the scale), and we didn’t see him play much center field after he was promoted to Bradenton because of Travis Swaggerty’s presence. Some of his poor performance there, and historically, needs to be considered with his age (20, young for every level he’s played at) in mind. The pull-heavy approach here doesn’t make sense given the speed and contact rates but I still like that Sanchez is as fast as he is and has displayed precocious feel for the barrel. I think the outcome here is probably that of a bench outfielder but my degree of confidence is lower because Lolo’s development to this point has been so strange.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 35/40 93-96 / 98

Injuries (including a TJ) limited De Los Santos to just 27 innings over a three-year span, and 2019 was his first healthy, full season since 2015. In 2019 he was back, throwing hard, and has a typical middle relief fastball/slider combination. He probably could have used a promotion last year, but keeping De Los Santos at Low-A at his age perhaps successfully hid him from model-driven teams with a Rule 5 spot. Now the Pirates have to hit the gas on his assignment to stress test his stuff for a 40-man addition in the fall.

31. Jason Martin, RF
Drafted: 8th Round, 2013 from Orange Lutheran HS (CA) (HOU)
Age 24.5 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 50/50 40/45 50/50 45/50 50/50

Since a 2016 swing change increased the angle in his swing, Martin had performed at every level until reaching Triple-A in 2018. He’s a tweener defensive outfielder with a collection of average tools, and he profiles in a bench/platoon role.

35+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 17.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 55/60 25/55 20/20 35/40 50/50

He posted bonkers DSL numbers (.351/.468/.580) but, like Cardinals prospect Malcom Nunez before him, Mojica is a husky power hitter who is bigger and stronger than just about everyone he played with in the DSL. He is currently playing third base but profiles as 1B/DH long term. He’s a prospect — his well-balanced leg kick looks a lot like Andrew Vaughn’s, his hands are fast and powerful, his peripherals are strong — but it’s very hard to profile at first.

33. Cristopher Cruz, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 17.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 40/50 45/55 30/50 30/50 88-91 / 92

His delivery is pretty rough around the edges (and, as a result, so is his control) but Cruz is a very young, very projectable righty who can spin a breaking ball. He has a longer arm swing and lower arm slot, both of which may be altered in pro ball.

34. Matt Gorski, RF
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Indiana (PIT)
Age 22.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 50/50 30/45 55/55 45/55 55/55

Gorski runs well and has a long, projectable frame (atypical of college prospects from the Midwest). He hit for power during his final two years at Indiana but his swing, which includes an arm bar and flat bat path, probably need a tweak for him to do it in pro ball. He’s a rare college developmental project with some late-bloomer traits in the body and a mid-tier baseball school background.

35. Juan Jerez, 2B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/55 45/50 25/45 45/45 45/50 50/50

Jerez is a compact young infielder with advanced feel to hit. Both he and Luis Tejeda are bigger teenage infielders who might end up as shift-aided 2B/3B with power, or they might remain medium build players with more defensive range, which will put more pressure on them hitting for contact. They both hit the ball hard for players their age, though they’re also a little more physical than most of their DSL peers. Jerez is the more athletic defensive player and is hitting the ball harder right now.

36. Luis Tejeda, 3B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 17.5 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 45/55 25/50 40/40 40/45 50/55

Tejeda is a strong, square-shouldered teenage infielder who may grow into sizable power. He’s a slower-twitch athlete but is loose and rotates gracefully, giving him more power potential than his semi-mature frame might indicate.

37. Wilkin Ramos, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (OAK)
Age 19.3 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 165 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/60 40/45 45/55 35/45 89-93 / 95

In his fall Instructional League outings with Oakland, before he was traded to Pittsburgh for Tanner Anderson, the Gumby-like Ramos was sitting in the 87-89 range with some curveball feel, entirely a frame-based lottery ticket. He threw just 12 innings for Pittsburgh last year because of elbow soreness, but during those 12 innings he was sitting in the low-90s and touching 95. If healthy, he’s a 2020 breakout candidate.

38. Yordi Rosario, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (CHW)
Age 21.1 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 45/50 45/50 45/55 87-90 / 92

Rosario was acquired for Iván Nova during the 2019 Winter Meetings. He’s an advanced strike-thrower with a fastball in the 88-93 range and an average curveball, both of which could improve as Rosario grows into his body. Realistically he profiles as a future No. 4/5 starter.

39. Juan Pie, RF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.9 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/55 25/55 55/50 40/50 55/60

The free-spirited Pie spent 2019 in the GCL where he took a lot of wild swings and didn’t perform as well as he did in his 2018 pro debut. He remains a traditional right field body/power projection lottery ticket.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 17.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 40/45 45/55 35/50 89-93 / 95

Maldonado will serve a 72-game suspension for testing positive for Stanozolol last year, so he’ll barely pitch in 2020. He didn’t turn 17 until last July and, at a broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, was already sitting 89-93. Obviously the drug suspension lends doubt to the arm strength.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from null (PIT)
Age 17.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 40/50 20/45 80/80 45/60 45/50

Campana is an 80-grade runner with a frame and crude feel for contact. His speed gives him a shot to be a special center field defender and it’s possible that his frame fills out and gives Campana the requisite physicality to generate hard contact.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.4 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 40/45 20/45 50/50 45/50 50/50

Gavilan was the Pirates’ top July 2 signee from 2018 at $700,000. He’s an average runner (he ran a 7.1 60-yard-dash in workouts) with good instincts in center field, and he’ll stay there if he speeds up as he matures as an athlete. His current swing is somewhat long but again, Gavilan has advanced feel to hit, enough to compensate for his mechanical maladies right now.

Other Prospects of Note

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

More Semi-Projectable Youngsters
Jase Bowen, 2B
Jesus Valdez, 3B
Dariel Lopez, 3B
Solomon Maguire, CF
Jauri Custodio, CF
Enmanuel Terrero, CF
Yoyner Fajardo, 2B
Jasiah Dixon, CF

The Pirates international approach under new Director Junior Vizcaino has been one of high-volume, with lots of mid-six figure types rather than huge bonus babies. Assume these are all medium-frame types unless otherwise noted. Bowen was the team’s 2019 11th rounder. He signed for $400,000 in lieu of a multi-sport career at Michigan State. His bat is quite raw but he has about average raw power and is going to try to play second base. He’s a dev project. Valdez, 22, is a lanky infielder who projects to 3B or the outfield corners. He already has at least average raw power and he looks physically projectable, but players this age are sometimes done growing. Lopez had a big year in the DSL but I’m not sure he stays on the dirt. If I’m wrong, then he belongs in the 35+ tier this year. Maguire was signed out of Australia a few weeks ago with money acquired via trade. He’s a 16-year-old outfielder with surprising bat control. Custodio, 18, has the best feel for contact in this group and a good shot to stay in center field. Terrero signed for $600,000 last July. He’s a compact, contact-oriented center fielder. Fajardo is much like Jerez and Tejeda on the main list but he’s more physically mature, and tougher to dream on. Dixon is a raw swinger but he’s a good-framed 70 runner.

College-Age Pitchers
Noe Toribio, RHP
Cristofer Melendez, RHP
Felipe Mezquita, RHP
Colin Selby, RHP
Luis Gonzalez, RHP

Toribio, 20, is a pitchability righty with an average curveball and changeup, heater up to 95, sitting 92-94. Melendez was a 2018 minor league Rule 5 pick and is now on his third org at age 22. He sits 92-96 from a three-quarters slot and his slider is plus when it’s located correctly. Mezquita, 18, has a giant frame and is sitting 90-93, touching 95, but with little idea where it’s going. Gonzalez, too, but he’s less projectable. Selby, 22, has a longer arm action but he’s thrown strikes for two years. He’s up to 96 and has an above-average slider.

Potential Role Players
Braeden Ogle, LHP
Stephen Alemais, SS
Brandon Waddell, LHP
Blake Weiman, LHP
Max Kranick, RHP
Mitchell Tolman, 2B
Matt Fraizer, OF
Grant Koch, C

Ogle is up to 96 and will show you a 55 breaking ball. He’s 22 and has had some injuries. Alemais missed almost all of 2019 due to shoulder surgery. He’s a plus defensive shortstop when healthy and might end up having Nick Ahmed’s career. Waddell is a sinker/slider/changeup lefty up to 95. He has starter experience and could be a viable long man. Weiman throws a ton of strikes out of the bullpen and is perfectly viable injury depth right now. He’ll need to perform if he’s given a big league opportunity because he doesn’t throw very hard. Kranick is a fastball-heavy relief prospect who’s up to 96 as a starter, sitting 92-94. It may play better in relief. Tolman is a lefty stick without much power who can play second base, a lesser version of Kevin Kramer. Fraizer didn’t play much at U of A due to a broken hand but he tweaked his swing and hit .400 over the 19 games he did play. He looked like a fourth outfielder type in my looks but they were limited during his junior year. Koch has 40-man catcher upside.

System Overview

I mentioned last year that I thought the core of the next competitive Pirates team was in place. Cole Tucker still has a chance to grow into impact power late, and he’s almost certainly going to play great defense. Bryan Reynolds‘ debut was excellent, Josh Bell’s 2019 first half offered a look at his capabilities, and several of the top prospects on this list are going to arrive pretty quickly. The club’s more evenly allocated approach to amateur talent acquisition (several over slot high schoolers on Day Three of the draft, lots of $400,000-$800,000 bonus types internationally) is juxtaposed with their pro department’s big game (and frame) hunting tendencies (Tahnaj Thomas, Lliover Peguero, Brennan Malone, Yordi Rosario, Wilkin Ramos); they seem hellbent on acquiring upside that the org’s ownership wouldn’t be willing to pay for on the open market. This club has to home grow stars and is clearly looking for them as they ship big league pieces off in the short-term.

Pittsburgh’s new front office now has seeds from the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer tree (Ben Cherington, the new GM), the Red Sox’s more recent leadership (Vizcaino comes from Boston), Houston’s operation (Oz Ocampo), and the Twins’ and Rays’ field staff (new manager Derek Shelton). It’s a lot of new ideas from some of the more successful orgs in baseball. This is one of the game’s better systems with both high-end talent up top and real depth created by the last couple years of focus on farm building.

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 Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Cave Dameron
4 years ago

Can’t wait to see the Pirates trade Oneil Cruz to the Rays for Kiermaier.

Pirates Hurdles
4 years ago
Reply to  Cave Dameron

Yeah stupid Pirates, its almost as if the got Cruz from a “smart” team for a middle reliever. oh wait…