Top 51 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

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. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

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 Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.

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 24.1 MLB 3B 2021 60
2 Quinn Priester 20.4 A- SP 2024 55
3 Nick Gonzales 21.7 R 2B 2023 50
4 Tahnaj Thomas 21.7 R SP 2022 50
5 Oneil Cruz 22.4 AA SS 2022 50
6 Liover Peguero 20.2 A- SS 2022 50
7 Miguel Yajure 22.8 MLB SP 2021 50
8 Travis Swaggerty 23.5 A+ CF 2022 50
9 Brennan Malone 20.5 A- SP 2024 45+
10 Ji-Hwan Bae 21.6 A SS 2023 45
11 Hudson Head 19.9 R CF 2023 45
12 Cody Bolton 22.7 AA SP 2021 45
13 Maikol Escotto 18.7 R 2B 2023 40+
14 Carmen Mlodzinski 22.0 R SP 2023 40+
15 Roansy Contreras 21.3 A SP 2021 40+
16 Canaan Smith-Njigba 21.8 A LF 2022 40+
17 Jared Jones 19.6 R SIRP 2025 40+
18 Rodolfo Nolasco 19.4 R OF 2023 40+
19 Jared Oliva 25.2 MLB CF 2021 40+
20 Endy Rodriguez 20.8 R C 2023 40+
21 Mason Martin 21.7 A+ 1B 2022 40+
22 José Soriano 22.3 A SIRP 2021 40+
23 Luis Oviedo 21.8 A MIRP 2021 40+
24 Cal Mitchell 22.0 A+ RF 2022 40+
25 Eddy Yean 19.7 A- SP 2022 40+
26 Sammy Siani 20.2 R CF 2024 40+
27 Nick Mears 24.4 MLB SIRP 2021 40+
28 Michael Burrows 21.3 A- SIRP 2022 40
29 Nick Garcia 21.8 R SP 2024 40
30 Wil Crowe 26.5 MLB MIRP 2021 40
31 Steven Jennings 22.3 A SP 2022 40
32 David Bednar 26.4 MLB SIRP 2021 40
33 Austin Roberts 22.6 A- SP 2023 40
34 Rodolfo Castro 21.8 A+ 2B 2022 40
35 Blake Cederlind 25.1 MLB SIRP 2021 40
36 Santiago Florez 20.8 R SIRP 2021 40
37 Sergio Campana 18.9 R CF 2023 40
38 Max Kranick 23.6 A+ SP 2021 40
39 Jared Triolo 23.0 A- 3B 2023 40
40 Jack Herman 21.4 A RF 2023 40
41 Lolo Sanchez 21.8 A+ CF 2022 40
42 Shalin Polanco 16.4 R CF 2025 40
43 Po-Yu Chen 19.4 R SP 2025 35+
44 Braxton Ashcraft 21.4 A- SIRP 2023 35+
45 Alexander Mojica 18.6 R 1B 2023 35+
46 Yerry De Los Santos 23.2 A SIRP 2021 35+
47 Matt Gorski 23.2 A- RF 2023 35+
48 Luis Tejeda 18.5 R 3B 2023 35+
49 Wilkin Ramos 20.3 R SP 2022 35+
50 Andy Maldonado 18.6 R SP 2023 35+
51 Osvaldo Gavilan 19.4 R CF 2023 35+
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60 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Concordia Lutheran HS (TX) (PIT)
Age 24.1 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 60
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 50/50 45/50 60/55 70/70 60

We now have a reasonably-sized big league sample with which to help us answer the question of whether Hayes will be merely very good, or will hit for enough in-game power to have a Scott Rolen-ish career. The data does some pushing and pulling. In about a month, Hayes hit a whopping .376/.442/.682, ranked fourth among all hitters with a 195 wRC+, and led all NL rookies with 1.7 WAR even though he only played in 24 games. And Hayes was hitting the ball hard. His big league average exit velocity (just shy of 93 mph) and HardHit% (55%) were both above what he posted in the 2019 minors (91 mph, 48%) when he only hit 10 homers over a 100 games. But his .450 BABIP is unsustainable and, per Statcast, his xwOBA (.356) came in well below his actual wOBA (.464), indicating that he was also the beneficiary of some luck. There’s no accounting for how big league pitching might expose a weakness and begin to adjust to Hayes, even if it’s just to limit his power output rather than get him out. But his approach is responsive enough that I think he’ll target pitches he can drive and do enough damage to, when coupled with his world-class defense at third base, make him a multi-time All-Star. (Alternate Site, MLB)

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Cary-Grove HS (IL) (PIT)
Age 20.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 70/80 40/50 30/45 94-97 / 99

Priester looked so incredible during instructs that his name was often brought up unprompted during my early-offseason name-gathering for the Top 100. He showed up in Bradenton sitting 94-97, continuing the climbing velocity trend he began to exhibit throughout his senior spring in 2019. He went from showing a lot of 91-94 during his pre-draft summer to sitting comfortably in the mid-90s, then settled back into the 91-95 range the summer after Pittsburgh made him the first high school arm selected in 2019.

He added a considerable amount of strength over the last year and a half, and has also made some subtle mechanical changes. His glove has migrated north during his gather, his arm swing isn’t as long, he’s clearing his front side better, and he lands with more control and balance in his blocking leg. I’d understand some hesitancy to alter one’s evaluation of someone like this based on the context of the look, since Priester had most of the year off and came out throwing just a few innings at a time in a very controlled environment, but because the uptick in velocity has been coupled with physical and mechanical changes, I’m more inclined to believe it’s real. And perhaps I’ve buried the lede here: Priester has one of the nastier curveballs in the minors, and maybe in all of baseball. He had feel for creating shape on his breaking ball in high school but it wasn’t nearly as hard as it is now, nor was its movement as sharp, vertical, and vicious. It comes out of his hand high and then crests and drops with the curvature and angle of a waterfall of seams and leather. It has Adam Wainwright‘s curveball’s shape but is harder, and Priester is going to use it to embarrass a lot of big league hitters. He had some changeup feel in high school and now that he’s wielding huge arm strength, that has backed up a little bit. I’m betting that will improve as he gets starter’s innings in 2021. His delivery is still somewhat violent and arm-y but it’s better now than in high school, and he has less command-based reliever risk than other pitchers toward the back of the Top 100. Those who read these lists consistently know that what I’m about to say is not often seen on these electronic pages: Priester has top-of-the-rotation ceiling. (Fall Instructional League)

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from New Mexico State (PIT)
Age 21.7 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 55/55 35/50 50/50 40/45 45

Scouts and executives who really liked Gonzales pre-draft compared his profile to that of pre-draft Keston Hiura. They have similar builds, their hitting hands work in a similar, aesthetically-pleasing loop, and like Hiura, Gonzales also faced questions about his ultimate defensive fit, albeit for different reasons. The altitude at New Mexico State (Las Cruces is 3,900 feet above sea level) aided his offensive output there (he had a .399/.502/.747 career line), but his 2019 Cape Cod line (.351/.451/.630 with wood bats against great pitching) carried a ton of weight in draft rooms, and it certainly didn’t hurt that in the weeks leading up to the COVID shutdown, Gonzales went on an epic heater and homered 12 times in 16 games.

Despite the huge power output, Gonzales’ offensive skill set is more well-rounded, and he’s also been described to me as “a good hitter with some power” rather than a middle-of-the order force of some kind. I don’t think he has the barrel accuracy or striking power of Hiura, but Gonzales is really difficult to beat with velocity in the strike zone and has the strength and plate coverage to drive fastballs the opposite way. He’ll also scoop and yank hanging breaking balls toward the left field seats, but the home run pop here is more mistake-dependent than it is a constant worry for opposing pitchers. He’ll need to become more fundamentally sound around the bag at second to stay there (I think he’ll initially play shortstop in pro ball but move to the keystone relatively soon), but if he can then Gonzales pretty comfortably profiles as a solid everyday player. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Bahamas (CLE)
Age 21.7 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/80 45/55 30/40 35/60 93-98 / 100

Acquired from Cleveland for Jordan Luplow, Thomas is a converted infielder with the Vitruvian Pitcher’s build at a strapping 6-foot-4. His arm action is very similar to Shane Bieber‘s, and it’s very short for a pitcher with Thomas’ shooting guard build. While his frame, athleticism and arm strength all remain elite, Thomas’ breaking stuff remains inconsistent and unremarkable, and he still lacks any modicum of changeup feel. I’m still confident Thomas will end up with a good breaking ball, even if it only gets there because of either his ability to command it so consistently or through sheer velocity if he ends up in the bullpen, which will happen if he can’t find a third pitch. He may need to experiment with a split if there’s going to be one since the action changeup grip and release didn’t seem to suit him in the Fall. A bullpen projection means Thomas would need to slide south on the top 100 closer to Brailyn Marquez, who’s closer to the big leagues. There remains huge upside here, in part because Thomas still hasn’t pitched all that much, and the pandemic prevented him from doing so. At one point Jacob deGrom was also nothing but arm strength and an elite pitcher’s frame, but Tahnaj has been hovering in that area for a little over a year now. (Fall Instructional League)

5. Oneil Cruz, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (LAD)
Age 22.4 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 70/80 40/60 60/45 40/45 80

Cruz was at the wheel during a fatal car accident in the Dominican Republic last fall and was subsequently arrested for suspicion of drunk driving and released on bail. Cruz’s legal representation and the Pirates have denied that alcohol was involved. Reporting from Jason Mackey at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette indicates, “According to a spokeswoman at the district attorney’s office in the Dominican Republic, Oneil Cruz smelled of alcohol. However, due to what she described as a ‘procedural error,’ no on-site sobriety test was performed.” It’s a tragic and murky situation hanging over one of the more interesting prospects in the sport. Cruz slides from last year’s ranking because his approach remains a real problem. He has elite raw power and arm strength, and unusual athleticism for someone his size, but he won’t hit unless he makes better swing decisions than he has for the last 18 months. Cruz is among the most gifted players in the sport, and has a penthouse ceiling but a subterranean floor. He could be Aaron Judge or Jairo Beras. (Alternate site, LIDOM)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (ARI)
Age 20.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 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’s profile is driven largely by his defense and feel for contact. He 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 someone his age, and in 2019 produced exit velos above the big league average. Peguero cuts down at the ball and is currently groundball prone. His swing may get longer as his attack angle changes. I think he’ll end up a 55 bat with mostly doubles power. The physicality for more than that is here, I just can’t see teasing it out of the swing. At shortstop, that should be fine. Peguero is a plus athlete with above-average hands and arm strength, and projects as an above-average defender at short. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Venezuela (NYY)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
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 looked like a pitchability backend starter until he enjoyed a 2019 velo spike and bumped some 97s late in the summer as he climbed all the way to Double-A. He throws one more pitch than I had evaluated last year and deploys a five-pitch mix (fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball, slider) even though he’s barely 22. Yajure’s fastball rests in the 90-95 range with cut and carry, a velocity band he only began working in as he built strength during rehab from a 2017 Tommy John surgery. His best secondary pitch is his changeup, which Yajure did not have great feel for out of the bullpen during his brief 2020 big league debut, but which was his best bat-missing weapon during his 2019 breakout. He also has a nasty-looking 12-to-6 curveball that has serious bite and depth, but I’m not sure if big league hitters will be flummoxed by it since it comes out of his hand with such a big arc and might be easy to identify. The slider and cutter are fine, but rely on Yajure’s ability to execute them to his glove side consistently, and while he’s been able to do that in the minors, he just could not find release consistency during his big league outings. I’m chalking up his initial major league struggles to age and relative inexperience coming out of the bullpen, and still have Yajure projected as a big league-ready, 2-ish WAR starter. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from South Alabama (PIT)
Age 23.5 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 30/45 65/65 55/60 60

Swaggerty remains in the 50 FV tier largely thanks to his center field defense, which is easily plus. He does hit the ball hard but not with relevant angle, and this has been the case for him since he was a college underclassman. If the swing ever gets dialed in, Swaggerty will be an impact player; if not, then I expect he’ll produce more like Manuel Margot or a less-erratic Leonys Martin. Those guys are 45 FV types, but Swaggerty’s handedness and the possibility of him developing power during the latter years of team control (kind of like Lorenzo Cain did) have me holding onto him as a 50 FV prospect. (Alternate site)

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from IMG Academy HS (FL) (ARI)
Age 20.5 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 35/50 92-96 / 99

Malone has been on the scouting radar for awhile, standing out as an underclassman in North Carolina for his frame, his clean, quick arm, and an 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, and he hit 99 mph in his last outing of the spring in front of a lot of heat. His curveball and changeup are both about average, and his fastball sits in the mid-90s for full outings, giving him a mid-rotation starter look, with the usual injury caveats for a power prep righty. After the Diamondbacks drafted him, he was a little less consistent during his first pro summer, and he was later part of a trade for Starling Marte. His frame is a little less projectable than most other pitchers his age, so rather than watching to see if Malone’s velocity climbs, I’m watching to see if it can hold it throughout a whole season. (Fall Instructional League)

45 FV Prospects

10. Ji-Hwan Bae, SS
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from South Korea (PIT)
Age 21.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 35/40 30/35 65/60 40/50 55

No change to Bae’s report as he was sequestered at the alt site all year: 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 in 2019, 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. (Alternate site)

11. Hudson Head, CF
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2019 from Churchill HS (TX) (SDP)
Age 19.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/60 45/55 20/45 60/60 45/55 55

The big prospect acquired in the Joe Musgrove deal with San Diego, Head’s pro experience consists of 32 AZL games the summer after he was drafted in 2019, and two Fall Instructional League camps in ’19 and ’20. If you’ve been following both the prospect lists and the site’s analysis of the recent Padres deals, you’ll know the Friars have a penchant for taking expensive gambles on pop-up high school prospects. Head, who signed for a record-setting bonus ($3 million, basically slot at 22nd overall) in the third round, was one of their 2019 selections of this ilk. A two-sport athlete whose football exploits (he was in a QB timeshare at a 6A school) cut into his time on the showcase circuit (though he was known in Texas), Head eschewed his commitment to Oklahoma to turn pro.

Sometimes prospects who’ve never faced the upper echelon of high school pitching require a prolonged adjustment period upon first entering affiliated ball due to the leap in stuff quality from varsity high school ball, even if that prospect comes from a talent-rich area like Texas or Southern California. But that was not an issue for Head against pro pitching in the 2019 AZL. Despite some clear mechanical flaws, he sprayed hard contact all over the field and hit .283/.383/.417 against the best pitching he’d ever seen in his life. Then we had the long 2020 layoff, and my look at Head in fall instructs after he hadn’t faced live pitching for nearly a year was not as good. He wasn’t tracking pitches as well, he was late on some pretty average fastballs, he lacked balance at the plate, and his pitch recognition backed up. His swing does have an arm bar, but that was also true in 2019 when he was letting the ball travel deep and hitting it hard the other way. He added a footwork component that wasn’t there in 2019, an extra toe-tap before his stride. I can’t outright declare this to have been detrimental, it just wasn’t there when he was successful. During the Padres’ final day of intrasquads, he (ironically) half-swung at an Omar Cruz fastball that was way inside, which hit Head on the hands (sorry if that’s confusing), causing him to leave the game.

None of this is enough for me to move off of where I had Head evaluated last year, though. Because of the lack of minor league season, the 2020 Instructional League was full of pitching that was typically more advanced than what Head would have seen during a normal instructs, and he was dropped into that environment after not playing all year. And let’s not forget that Head has some unique athletic traits. He’s ambidextrous, and swings and throws a baseball with his left hand though he quarterbacked primarily with his right, occasionally using his left when he rolled out that way. I still think he’s a potential traditional big league leadoff hitter, but while some others young kids really blew up on the backfields last Fall, Head struggled. The context for those struggles is important, though. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

12. Cody Bolton, SP
Drafted: 6th Round, 2017 from Tracy HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 22.7 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 55/55 50/50 50/50 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. He touched 97. 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. He will also show you a plus slider and average changeup. Bolton’s stuff was down a tick at the alt site where he was maxing out at 95, 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, there’s apprehension about his health, but his ability to execute his sweeping breaking ball and tumbling changeup give him a No. 4/5 starter shot, and probably soon. (Alternate site)

40+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 18.7 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 50/40 40/50 60

Acquired as part of the return for Jameson Taillon, Escotto hit a robust .315/.429/.552 in the 2019 DSL. He isn’t maxed out, but he is stronger and more muscular than your typical DSL teenager and that physicality helped him generate one of the higher average exit velocities among teenagers in pro ball in 2019. He’ll likely be developed as a shortstop with Pittsburgh, which would have been more difficult for the Yankees to do because they have so many other same-aged players at the position.

Evaluating Escotto last year was pretty simple. 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 shows during infield drills. Fold in his BP and you can easily make apples-to-apples comparisons between him and domestic amateur infielders eligible for the draft, giving you a pretty good idea of where Escotto fits in among them. Add the stats generated by Escotto in the DSL to the data I source and make available on The Board, and you get a clear idea that he has a chance to make a well-rounded offensive impact and that perhaps the visual eval should be rounded up based on the strength of the data. Escotto was on last year’s Picks to Click list but I couldn’t justify moving him onto the Top 100 with literally no new information (the Yankees had no Instructional League) beyond the fact that Pittsburgh clearly also likes him, so he’ll stay in the 40+ FV tier, which means the Pirates have added the equivalent of a second round high school shortstop to their system. (At-home dev)

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from South Carolina (PIT)
Age 22.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 230 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Cutter Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/50 40/45 50/55 35/50 93-97 / 98

Mlodzinski missed almost the entire 2019 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 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, when his slider wasn’t as crisp and his fastball very liftable. His start to last year scared me enough that I rounded his FV down even though he was great on the Cape, where he looked like a mid-rotation starter, someone who’d go in the middle of the first round. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/55 50/55 45/50 92-95 / 96

There’s no change to Contreras’ report since he was not at the Yankees’ alt site, nor did they have instructs, before he was traded to Pittsburgh for Taillon: Not only did Contreras hold his stuff over a longer 2019 season (he threw more than twice as many affiliated innings in ’19 as he did in ’18), but his velo was actually up a tick, and his walk rate came down, too. We’re not talking about premium arm strength, but Contreras should end up with three quality offerings (intentionally or not, he can vary the shape of his breaking ball enough that he functionally has four) and plenty of strike-throwing ability to start. Barring continued development of his changeup, which already looks better than I projected a year ago, he won’t have a plus pitch and therefore fits in the No. 4/5 starter area rather than as a plus, mid-rotation type. (At-home dev)

Drafted: 4th Round, 2017 from Rockwall Heath HS (TX) (NYY)
Age 21.8 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 35/55 40/40 40/45 45

Another of the many prospects acquired for Jameson Taillon, the barrel-chested Smith-Njigba has huge strength-driven power and a really great approach. He’s only 21 but his frame is maxed out and may be difficult for him to maintain into his mid-to-late-20s. His size creates some stiffness and imbalance during his swing, but Smith-Njigba is explosive, picks great pitches to swing at, and runs pretty well underway. I won’t go so far as to call him deceptively athletic but he does have a sibling with elite athleticism, underclass Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. While you can just watch Smith-Njigba swing and know he has big power, his exit velo data reinforces the visual evaluation in a big way. He averaged 91 mph off the bat in 2019 and hit just shy of 50% of his balls in play at 95 mph or above. Both of those are comfortably plus if we’re mapping them to the big league 20-80 scale. This data was generated in 2019 at Low-A Charleston where Smith-Njigba, despite being age-appropriate for the level, was more physically mature than most of the other players in the league. You could discount his Statcast-type production for this reason, but I think he has a shot to be a corner outfield regular based on his approach and power. (At-home dev)

17. Jared Jones, SIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2020 from La Mirada HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 19.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
60/60 50/60 55/55 40/50 20/35 93-97 / 99

Jones has been a famous prospect since his high school underclass days because he was a premium athlete (he also played third base and just based on watching him hit, he’d have been a prospect there, too) with premium arm strength, pairing mid-90s cheddar with a hammer curveball since his sophomore year of high school. He lacks what is traditionally considered ideal size, but more concerningly has really struggled to throw strikes at big events (during most of my in-person looks at him) for several years leading up to the 2020 Draft. I think he’s likely to end up in a bullpen as a result, but he does have the foundation of a starter’s repertoire. In addition to the breaking ball proclivity, he’s got some changeup feel, and I like to project on the command of high-end athletes like this. He has more upside than several of the pitchers ahead of him on this list but is one of the riskier teenagers in the minors. He spent the summer throwing live BP in California before heading to instructs. (At-home dev, Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 19.4 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

There’s no change to Nolasco’s blurb. He was at instructs, but I can’t find anyone who saw enough of him to have a strong opinion, which may be due to reasons I address in the System Overview: 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 his 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. (Fall Instructional League)

19. Jared Oliva, CF
Drafted: 7th Round, 2017 from Arizona (PIT)
Age 25.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 187 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. I don’t think there’s much to take away from just six big league games in 2020. I’m still hoping for some late growth in center field or a swing change that improves the game power. 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. (Alternate site, MLB)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (NYM)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 35/45 20/40 45/40 45/60 50

Rodriguez is the second-best prospect the Pirates received in the multi-team Musgrove swap. He’s a switch-hitting catcher with good feel to hit, a rare combination. Despite that rare skill set, scouts are most excited about his defense. He’s solid across the board at catcher — receiving, moving laterally, and throwing — but he’s athletic enough that the Mets had given him time at every position other than shortstop before dealing him. His profile likely needs a little more power at some point, and he compares to Rafael Marchan and Gabriel Moreno at similar developmental stages. As an added bonus, Rodriguez’s Trackman data shows great bat-to-ball skills; despite his lack of top-end power, his 2019 90 mph average exit velocity was excellent for a teenager. If he grows into a little more oomph, that skill will play up. (Fall Instructional League)

21. Mason Martin, 1B
Drafted: 17th Round, 2017 from Southridge HS (WA) (PIT)
Age 21.7 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 45/45 35/45 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 the levels where the Pirates have assigned him. 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 (and in this case, maybe DH-only), 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 skill sets. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

22. José Soriano, SIRP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (LAA)
Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 168 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 50/55 30/40 30/40 93-97 / 99

Soriano had Tommy John in February of 2020 and rehabbed all year, then Pittsburgh made him the first pick in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft knowing he’d likely be on the shelf for most of 2021; they’ve already put him on the 60-day IL. It was already pretty clear that his future would be in the bullpen, but the surgery and what it does to his developmental timeline make it even more likely. He experienced another velo bump in 2019 (not as huge as the jump from ’17 to ’18), and was touching 99 as a starter at Low-A Burlington. His velocity and breaking ball quality give him a late-inning shot but the strikes need to be more consistent. (TJ Rehab)

23. Luis Oviedo, MIRP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Venezuela (CLE)
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 55/55 45/55 30/40 94-96 / 98

In a span of two years, Oviedo went from being asked about in several of Cleveland’s trade discussions, to being passed over in the 2019 Rule 5, to being picked by the Mets in the ’20 Rule 5; he was later traded to Pittsburgh. Oviedo’s velocity was all over the place in 2019. Depending on when scouts saw him, he was either up to 96 or sitting in the mid-80s, and he was eventually shut down with lower back soreness. In the spring of 2020, he was parked at 94 and up to 98 and utilizing a much shorter arm action, one that looks like Shane Bieber’s and several other Cleveland prospects who the org has successfully developed. He held that level of velocity through instructs and during a dominant winter stint with Cardenales de Lara in Venezuela. His command is still not good, and Oviedo is very likely to work in a bullpen role both in the short- and long-term, but he has power stuff and sizable upside even in relief. (Fall Instructional League, Venezuelan Winter League)

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Rancho Bernardo HS (CA) (PIT)
Age 22.0 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

There may be something to be gleaned from Mitchell’s 2020 Instructional League data if you can access it, but the boots-on-the-ground scouts I spoke with as I worked on this list didn’t have more to offer than I already have in Mitchell’s 2020 blurb. Namely, his profile is still driven by an excellent feel to hit but his power and approach are questions that were unanswerable in 2020 due to the lack of a minor league season. So here’s last year’s writeup: 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 in 2019 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 does end up with, it’s a fair bet that 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 in 2019 is somewhat concerning. Either the raw power or patience needs to take a leap, but if one of them does, Mitchell has a good shot to be an everyday player. (Fall Instructional League)

25. Eddy Yean, SP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (WSN)
Age 19.7 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/60 50/55 45/55 25/50 91-94 / 96

Yean is much more advanced than most teenage pitching prospects in terms of velocity, command, and body maturity. He’s a thicker young guy who arguably has reverse projection and might experience a velocity spike (not that he needs to) with improved conditioning; he just lacks typical teenage frame projection. He was up to 97 in 2019 then sat a little below that when a source outside the Nationals and Pirates orgs saw him during 2020 instructs. He also rarely worked with his breaking ball in the Fall, which seems to be the point of development Pittsburgh wants to emphasize now that they acquired him from Washington for Josh Bell. If they can add more sweep to his slider, Yean will turn into a pretty stable 45/50 FV sort of prospect. (Fall Instructional League)

26. Sammy Siani, CF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from William Penn Charter HS (PA) (PIT)
Age 20.2 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/50 45/50 20/45 55/55 45/50 40

The younger Siani has a chance to hit for some pop despite lacking physicality, something that seems more obvious now that he’s on a field with other pro athletes. His hands work in a short little loop that creates lift without also creating length, though Sammy’s power is a pull-side feature only. 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 in fact that the sample probably isn’t relevant and 2021 will tell us more. (Fall Instructional League)

27. Nick Mears, SIRP
Drafted: 0 Round, 2018 from Sacramento JC (CA) (PIT)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
70/70 50/55 20/35 94-97 / 98

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 just a year later reached the upper levels of the minors. He throws really, really hard, and 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. His release inconsistency created serious control issues during his brief 2020 call-up that need to be remedied for Mears to play a regular seventh or eighth inning role. He certainly has the fastball for it, but the other components are not yet there. He’s 24, but the developmental track might allow for late growth. (Alternate site, MLB)

40 FV Prospects

28. Michael Burrows, SIRP
Drafted: 10th Round, 2018 from Waterford HS (CT) (PIT)
Age 21.3 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 183 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command Sits/Tops
50/55 55/60 30/40 90-94 / 96

I was tempted to move Burrows into the 40+ FV tier after he exhibited a velocity spike in the Fall. After sitting 90-94 in 2019, he was a few ticks higher and pumping 93-plus at instructs. Last year, I told you that he is a spin rate monster, and that remains true, it’s just that now after the velo spike there’s a 15-18 mph difference between his curveball and fastball, and I wonder if big league hitters will be able to parse them midair. Based on the effort and violence in his delivery, I think a relief role is the likely outcome for Burrows. 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, so he’s had year-over-year velo increases for a while now), but we need to see a deeper repertoire for me to project him as a starter. (Fall Instructional League)

29. Nick Garcia, SP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2020 from Chapman (PIT)
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
45/50 45/50 40/45 40/50 30/50 91-94 / 98

Garcia is one of several guys who 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 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 I saw at Tucson’s Kino Sports Complex. His season was over shortly after that. It’s possible the Pirates are getting in on the ground floor of something since Garcia quickly grew into feel for a bevy of average pitches in just the year after he converted. (Fall Instructional League)

30. Wil Crowe, MIRP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from South Carolina (WSN)
Age 26.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 240 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 50/50 50/55 55/55 40/45 91-94 / 96

Crowe got rocked during his 2020 debut as he struggled to find any kind of feel for his four-seamer. I know when the Josh Bell trade occurred that the corresponding article mentioned that Crowe would be a 40+ on this list, but he works with below-average velo, he’s a below-average athlete, he’s had health issues (there were knee and elbow concerns coming out of high school, then he blew out about halfway through his sophomore year at South Carolina) and has now struggled during his first big league trial, at age 25/26. I wonder if his fastball will gain a few tick in relief, and I think it needs to based on how loose his location of it was in 2020. He’s now a lower-leverage multi-inning reliever for me. Maybe 2020 was an anomaly (we can only hope) and he rebounds. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from DeKalb HS (TN) (PIT)
Age 22.3 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 35/60 88-92 / 93

Jennings did remote work all year and wasn’t seen, so there’s no change to his report: How much velocity can we still hope for Jennings to grow into? He’s 22 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 in 2019, 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. (At-home dev)

32. David Bednar, SIRP
Drafted: 35th Round, 2016 from Lafayette (SDP)
Age 26.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Splitter Command Sits/Tops
60/60 60/60 50/55 35/40 92-95 / 97

Part of the Joe Musgrove return, the barrel-chested Bednar has developed a good split in pro ball, making him an excellent three-pitch option out of the bullpen, probably one who will be rostered all year rather than being constantly optioned. He throws in the mid-90s (he was 89-92 as a starter in college) and has a snappy, 12-6 curveball. The curveball is probably what got him drafted, while the fastball/split development are driving a modern relief profile. (Alternate site, MLB)

Drafted: 8th Round, 2019 from Sacramento State (PIT)
Age 22.6 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/55 50/50 55/60 30/40 92-95 / 96

Roberts worked 90-92 with sink when I saw him 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 now has a four-seam/curveball combo to go with the changeup. His arrow is pointing way up for 2021 so long as he holds that velo in games. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 21.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 200 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/55 30/50 55/50 45/50 50

I’m starting to move off of Castro, as his ability to recognize backfoot breaking stuff is still undercooked and he got worked by breakers at the alt site and in instructs. Still, switch-hitting middle infielders with power (over 40% of his 2019 balls in play were hit at 95 mph or above, which is a 60 on the scale) are very rare, and while Castro’s approach makes him a volatile prospect and he’s likely to be a frustrating, low-OBP big leaguer if he even makes it, his pop and growing defensive versatility (he played all over the infield in 2020) give him some ceiling if he can hit enough. (Alternate site, Fall Instructional League)

35. Blake Cederlind, SIRP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Merced JC (CA) (PIT)
Age 25.1 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
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. I have him as throwing a changeup in past years but he did not throw one during his big league stint, and I confirmed with an independent source that he didn’t throw one at the 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. I think 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. (Alternate site, MLB)

36. Santiago Florez, SIRP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (PIT)
Age 20.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 222 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
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 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. He was seen in the Fall and pitched a little bit in the Venezuelan Winter League and looked very much the same as he did in 2020. He’ll likely pitch in 2021 as a starter to develop his command and secondaries, but Florez has long-term relief projection. (Fall Instructional League, Venezuelan Winter League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/45 45/50 20/45 80/80 45/60 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 him the requisite physicality to generate hard contact. He moves up out of the 35+ FV tier (where he was last year) due to my sources’ reports of increased oppo power during 2020 instructs, and it sounds like he’s starting to fill out. Campana is tee’d up for a potential 2021 rise if that physicality manifests as in-game power. (Fall Instructional League)

38. Max Kranick, SP
Drafted: 11th Round, 2016 from Valley View HS (PIT)
Age 23.6 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 215 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

Kranick has kicked around the prospect lists here at FanGraphs for a while, since he was in that low-90s projection bucket in high school and had my attention immediately as an Eastern PA high schooler. Shoulder issues kept him toward the bottom of the last four Pirates lists, but he has now had velo spikes in each of the last two years (he was up to 98 at the alt site in Altoona) and was added to Pittsburgh’s 40-man this offseason. He works with four pitches, all of which flash average, but are consistently below. He’ll work a hard cutter/slider and slurvy breaker to his glove side, while his changeup has enough tail to induce some weak contact. I’ll have him in the up/down bucket until a bat-missing secondary emerges, which still might happen since Kranick has been dinged a bunch. (Alternate site)

39. Jared Triolo, 3B
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Houston (PIT)
Age 23.0 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

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 or in the Penn League during the summer of 2019, but his exit velos are above big league average. Triolo has a really 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 in 2019 and may get some at second base this year. He profiles as a multi-positional infield utility guy. The year off hurts him on paper since he’s 23 and hasn’t yet reached the upper levels of the minors. (Fall Instructional League)

40. Jack Herman, RF
Drafted: 30th Round, 2018 from Eastern HS (NJ) (PIT)
Age 21.4 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

There’s no change to Herman’s report since he was not part of the instructs contingent in Bradenton: 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. (At-home dev)

41. Lolo Sanchez, CF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 21.8 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

There’s no change to Sanchez’s blurb since he spent all year taking live BP in the DR: 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 (21, young for every level he’s played at) in mind. The pull-heavy approach 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. (At-home dev)

42. Shalin Polanco, CF
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2021 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 16.4 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 170 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding
20/50 40/50 20/50 40/40 40/50

Polanco was the Pirates’ big recent amateur signee, earning a $2.5 million bonus. He’s a big-framed, lefty-hitting outfield prospect with loose hitting actions and precocious barrel control. The reports I sourced from international personnel in advance of the 2021 signing period led to mixed reports on Polanco, with some considering him a low-ceiling corner outfield prospect with a profile driven by his hit tool, while others see a big frame and power projection with swing-and-miss risk. (International free agent signee)

35+ FV Prospects

43. Po-Yu Chen, SP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2019 from Pei-Ke High School (PIT)
Age 19.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 198 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
40/50 40/45 45/50 40/50 25/55 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 and touching 93 with an average curveball. He’s relatively advanced for being what is in essence a high school prospect, but not as projectable. (International free agent signee)

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2018 from Robinson HS (TX) (PIT)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / R FV 35+
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 in 2019 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 he is and where he needs to be in order to be a viable big league arm is pretty wide. Some of that may have been caused by an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, which required surgery. He sat 91-94 during 2020 instructs. Now 21, Ashcraft’s stuff is similar to a college starter taken in the fourth or fifth round. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.6 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

There are no changes here, as this guy needs to perform on paper and he wasn’t given that opportunity in 2020: He posted bonkers 2019 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, and his peripherals are strong — but it’s very hard to profile at first. (Fall Instructional League)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 160 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
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; 2019 was his first healthy, full season since ’15. In 2019 he was back throwing hard and showing a typical middle relief fastball/slider combination. He’s less procedurally advanced than the typical 23-year-old (as evidenced by his back-to-back balks in LIDOM this winter), which is perhaps unsurprising given his lack of reps. I have him in as an up/down reliever. (Fall Instructional League, LIDOM)

47. Matt Gorski, RF
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2019 from Indiana (PIT)
Age 23.2 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 50/50 30/50 55/55 45/55 55

Gorski runs well and has a long, projectable frame (atypical of college prospects from the Midwest) and a really athletic swing. 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. (Fall Instructional League)

48. Luis Tejeda, 3B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.5 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 55

There’s nothing new here as Tejeda was not part of the instructs group, which is a yellow flag: 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. (At-home dev)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (OAK)
Age 20.3 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

There’s no change here, as Ramos wasn’t at instructs. He remains a frame-projection flier: In his 2018 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 in 2019 because of elbow soreness, but during those 12 innings he was sitting in the low-90s and touching 95. If the velo keeps trending upward, Ramos could break out. (At-home dev)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 18.6 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

There’s no change to Maldonado’s report, pending how he looks coming off a drug suspension: Eighteen-year-olds who touch 95 don’t exactly grow on trees. Maldonado was handed a 72-game suspension for testing positive for Stanozolol in December of 2019, so he didn’t pitch in 2020. He didn’t turn 17 until July of 2019 and, at a broad-shouldered 6-foot-4, was already sitting 89-93. Obviously the drug suspension lends doubt to the arm strength. (At-home dev)

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (PIT)
Age 19.4 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

There’s no change here as Gavilan was not at instructs: 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. (At-home dev)

Other Prospects of Note

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

Projectable Youngsters
Jase Bowen, 2B
Dariel Lopez, 3B
Solomon Maguire, CF
Brandon Bidois, RHP
Jesus Valdez, 3B
Jasiah Dixon, CF

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. He’s an athletic dev project. Last I wrote about Valdez, he was a lanky 22-year-old who already had at least average raw power. Well, now he’s a really buff 23-year-old, so he might come out with way more power in 2021. He’s way behind from an age/level standpoint, though. Lopez had a big 2019 in the DSL but I’m not sure he stays on the dirt. There’s support for him to be in the main section of the list, but I lack enough info to move him up from last year’s ranking. Maguire and Bidois were each signed out of Australia. Maguire is an athletic 17-year-old outfielder with crude but surprising bat control. Bidois, 19, is a lanky 6-foot-2, up to 95. He pitched for Brisbane over the winter. Dixon is a raw swinger but he’s a good-framed 70 runner.

Advanced Youngsters
Carlos Arroyo, 2B
Geovanny Planchart, C
Jauri Custodio, CF
Tsung-Che Cheng, 2B
Enmanuel Terrero, CF

Arroyo is a 5-foot-7 Colombian spark plug who impressed me on tape in the Colombian Winter League. He’s 19 and looked very comfortable against much older players. He’s a middle infield fit with bat control. Planchart is a 19-year-old Venezuelan catcher who spent all of 2020 in Bradenton and hit the weight room hard, adding 20 pounds of muscle during the summer. He’s a slow bat power hitter. Cheng, 19, is another recent Taiwanese signee. He isn’t explosive but has great breaking ball recognition and bat control. Custodio, 19, has the best feel for contact in this group and a good shot to stay in center field. He originally signed with Colorado and soon after signed with Pittsburgh. I’m not sure what transpired there. Terrero signed for $600,000 in July 2019. He’s a stocky, contact-oriented center fielder.

College-Age Pitchers
Omar Cruz, LHP
Noe Toribio, RHP
Cristofer Melendez, RHP
Colin Selby, RHP
Luis Gonzalez, RHP

There’s a ton on Cruz here. Toribio, 21, is a pitchability righty with an average curveball and changeup; the heater is up to 95, and he’s sitting 92-94. Melendez was a 2018 minor league Rule 5 pick and is now on his third org at age 23. He sits 92-96 from a three-quarters slot and his slider is plus when it’s located correctly. 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.

Developmental Pitching
Cristopher Cruz, RHP
Felipe Mezquita, RHP
Wilber Dotel, RHP
Christian Charle, RHP

I used to be pretty high on Cruz but I’m scared of his delivery, even though it has gotten a little better since last year. He’s a very projectable teenager in the low-90s, and the fastball has tail. Mezquita, 19, has a giant frame and is sitting 90-93, touching 95, but with little idea where it’s going. Dotel signed near the end of the 2020 signing period. He’s a frame projection bet who’s up to 94. Charle, 20, has a plus changeup.

27th Man Types
Cody Ponce, RHP
Braeden Ogle, LHP
Shea Spitzbarth, RHP
Stephen Alemais, SS
Blake Weiman, LHP
Grant Koch, C

Ponce can cut it, sink it, and he has a good curveball. He also has two option years left, which could make him a real trade chip this year. Ogle is up to 96 and will show you a 55 breaking ball. He’s 23 and has had some injuries. Minor League Rule 5 pick Shea Spitzbarth has a plus changeup. Poor Stephen Alemais has now had four shoulder surgeries. He sustained the injury that resulted in the most recent one while making a great defensive play for Escogido over the winter. He’s been one of the best defenders in the minors for the last half decade and there’s an alternate universe where he has a bunch of Gold Gloves. Weiman throws a ton of strikes out of the bullpen and is perfectly viable injury depth right now. Koch has 40-man catcher upside.

System Overview

Pirates fans will want to turn their attention toward both the 2021 and 2022 Draft Boards and familiarize themselves with the names at the top. It has come as the big league roster has been gutted, but between the large number of upside-y 40+ FV or better prospects acquired during the most focused rebuild of the last several years and those upcoming top picks, this will likely be one of the top farm systems in baseball very soon, and then for quite a while. There will be attrition, especially among the pitching, which all Pirates fans know, but the sheer volume of higher-upside players acquired recently will likely result in a handful of foundational big leaguers and important role players.

Fourteen of the top 25 prospects in this system were originally signed by another organization, which further highlights the extreme nature of the rebuild. While these young players test their mettle in the minors, it’s likely the big league club will start cycling through post-hype guys, as we’ve seen the Giants do the last couple of seasons. It’s already begun: Anthony Alford, Erik González, Michael Perez, Troy Stokes Jr., Carson Fulmer… There’s opportunity in Pittsburgh and they should see if they can run into a Mike Yastrzemski of their own.

I expect the Pirates to be very transactional over the next several months. There’s going to be pressure put on their 40-man next offseason. Mason Martin, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Cal Mitchell, Travis Swaggerty, Liover Peguero, Cody Bolton, Tahnaj Thomas, Michael Burrows and Eddy Yean are all Rule 5 eligible in 2021. That not only makes it important for the Pirates to clear space but also limits the kinds of prospects they can ask for in trade to lower-level sorts far from the 40-man. The club has clearly made an effort to scout the backfields over the last few years and it has worked out well (Tahnaj, etc.), and they should be leveraging teams whose executives are under new or upcoming pressure to show big league results (Seattle, Detroit, Toronto) or seem trigger happy in this regard (Kansas City, Philadelphia).

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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3 years ago

This is an awesome list. I like the guys all the way down to either Endy Rodriguez or Mason Martin a lot more than the Rule 5 guys that come immediately after them (and much more than Cal Mitchell, who is pretty solidly a 40 for me). Basically everyone in the top half of that FV40+ tier looks like they have the upside of a first division regular except for Oliva (who is major league ready right now). Sure, the bust rates for teenage catchers are high (Rodriguez) and guys with defensive questions have to really rake to profile as first division regulars (Smith-Njigba, Martin) but when you have those three plus Head and Escotto, your chances of having one of them pan out is a lot better.