The Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to see one of their prospects land on a top 10 prospect by position list. Today, that changed with the second base list being released.
At the beginning of last week, MLB Pipeline started to release their top 10 prospect lists by position. MLB Pipeline released their right-handed and left-handed starting pitching lists, along with their catcher and first baseman lists. The Pittsburgh Pirates did not have a single prospect to make any of those lists.
Today the team at MLB Pipeline released their top 10-second base list and the Pittsburgh Pirates finally have a prospect be recognized. Ji-Hwan Bae, a 20-year-old from Korea, ranks as the number nine overall second base prospect in baseball. Bae originally was signed as a shortstop, but he projects to be a second baseman down the road. Bae is tied for the second youngest prospect on the list at 20 years of age.
Bae originally signed as an international free agent by the Atlanta Braves in 2017. However, the Braves’ front office faced sanctions after trying to back-door money to prospects for them to sign with them. Bae was one of the prospects who they promised to pay more money to later. The Braves were forced to release many of the prospects they had signed. The Pittsburgh Pirates took the opportunity to sign the middle infielder.
Bae played all of last season for the Low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. He started off the 2019 year there but was quickly suspended by Major League Baseball for assaulting his girlfriend back in Korea. The Pittsburgh Pirates started Bae at Single-A and not Rookie Ball so that he could serve out his suspension right away.
When Bae returned he showed why he was viewed as one of the top international free agents. The left-handed hitter posted some really impressive numbers for being one of the youngest prospects in the South Atlantic League (19 years old). Bae posted a slash line of .323/.403/.430 to go along with 31 stolen bases in 86 games.
His metrics were just as strong. He struck out at a relatively average rate of 20 percent but still walked at a solid 11 percent clip. His weighted runs created plus (wRC+) was well above average at 145. Now one thing Bae will not provide a lot of is power. His ISO (measuring raw power) sat at just .107. Furthermore, he did not hit a single home run but did post 25 doubles and five triples. Some of those doubles could turn into home runs as he continues to mature.
Ji-hwan Bae received a signing bonus of $1,250,000 from the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of their biggest international signings bonuses in franchise history. While he had a troubled past, Major League Baseball suspended him and he now has an opportunity to prove that he made a mistake. Hopefully, he can stay on the field and not have any issues going forward. If so, Bae could be a very intriguing leadoff type hitting prospect.