The Pittsburgh Pirates need some of their younger prospects to take steps forward this year. Here are a couple of prospects to keep an eye on according to a major prospect site.
It is that time of the year when major prospect websites start to release their prospect predictions for the 2020 season. Both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline have started to release their top prospects lists, top prospects by organization, and other various lists. The Pittsburgh Pirates need to be well represented on these lists if they hope to get back into true playoff contention in the coming years.
Today, Baseball America released their prospect breakout predictions for the 2020 season. This list includes three prospects from every team including a “breakout prospect”, “sleeper” and a “top rookie”. Obviously they are defining breakout as a player that they believe could turn into a significant prospect by the end of the season. Meanwhile, sleeper refers to a prospect who has upside but was a late-round draft pick or just relatively unknown. The top rookie refers to what prospect will make the biggest impact on the actual Pittsburgh Pirates.
For the breakout prospect, Baseball America has predicted right-handed pitcher Santiago Florez. Over the last few years Florez has been slowly rising up the Pittsburgh Pirates prospect rankings. He is considered to be a top 30 prospect in their farm system but has the tools to easily become a top 15, if not a top 10, prospect. Florez will likely get his first taste of full-season ball this year at Low-A.
He is a big projectable pitcher standing at 6’5” and weighing around 225 pounds. He has a power fastball that sits consistently in the mid-90s and both his breaking pitch and changeup show to be above-average. The 19-year-old made 10 starts throwing 41.2 innings last season and posting a really promising 3.46 ERA. Like most young, hard-throwing pitchers, Florez has to get better command to take that next step forward, walking 21 batters for a 4.5 BB/9.
The top rookie that Baseball America selected was an obvious choice in Mitch Keller. Keller still holds rookie status for 2020 and is going to be in the rotation to start the season. While he showed some struggles early last season, he did show the stuff of a prospect. His fastball regularly registered around 97 miles per hour, he added a new slider, and his curveball looked as sharp as anyone’s in the league. Hopefully, a new pitching coach and philosophy will get Keller to reach his potential.
The last prospect prediction was for a sleeper prospect to make himself known in 2020. They picked outfielder Deion Walker. Walker was considered a high upside prospect who was going to be a tough sign for whoever drafted him. The Pittsburgh Pirates used their 35th round pick in 2019 to pick up the projectable 6’4” high school outfielder.
The 18-year-old made his professional début playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast Affiliate. He put together a pretty solid season giving the reason for optimism entering 2020. Across his 22 games played, Walker batted .270 with a .789 OPS. He hit five doubles, three triples, and had one home run. Furthermore, he showed decent plate discipline by only striking out 18 times in his 22 games. Obviously, as he matures he will add more power to his frame, but it is good to see him collecting extra-base hits while controlling his strikeouts.
Hopefully, all three of these players take steps forward. Baseball America puts a lot of time and research into these predictions so there are definitely reasons to be optimistic about Florez, Keller, and Walker for 2020. Pittsburgh Pirates fans want to see Keller make a big improvement this year, but it is also will be important for the farm system to have a couple of breakout prospects.