Looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates Updated Prospect List
By Noah Wright
The Pittsburgh Pirates have steadily over the few months significantly strengthened their farm system. So let’s take a look at the newly updated FanGraphs list.
The MLB Draft can produce some top tier players. Many of which start out as top prospects. FanGraphs has since updated their top prospect rankings to incorporate the best players selected in the MLB draft. They’ve also updated the individual team’s lists including the Pittsburgh Pirates. So, let’s go through and see the updated changes made to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ list, as well as where some of their prospects rank now.
First, let’s go over the prospects who’s rankings haven’t changed. That includes three prospects, those being Mitch Keller, Oneil Cruz and Ke’Bryan Hayes. All three rank within the top 40 of the MLB. Defensively gifted third baseman Hayes ranks as the Pirates’ best prospect, and the 30th best in baseball. The powerful and strong armed Cruz is next at 32. Last, but certainly not least, the exciting young Keller doesn’t fall far behind, coming in at 34.
Travis Swaggerty is the first of the three Pittsburgh Pirates prospects that were on the original top 100 list to get moved down a few pegs. After starting out the season as the 61st best prospect, Swaggerty now comes in at the 64th spot. Spencer Tolkerson, Asa Lacey and Austin Martin have since bumped him down three spots, but still, 64th is a solid spot for the athletic outfielder.
The Pirates second best pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas was also moved down. Thomas started out the season as the 78th best prospect in baseball, but is now the 82nd best prospect. As with Swaggerty, the three other aforementioned first round picks bumped down Thomas, as well as Seattle Mariners’ first round selection Emmerson Hancock.
The last of the top 100 prospects’ status to be affected by the newly updated list is shortstop Liover Peguero.
Peguero, who was acquired alongside pitcher Brennan Malone in the Starling Marte deal, has been pushed right outside the top 100. FanGraphs placed Peguero as the 98th best prospect in baseball, but now stands as the 104th best prospect. Peguero was even pushed out by the Pirates’ first-round pick, Nick Gonzalez, but the middle infielder could easily find his way back into the top 100 once the season starts. A handful of players such Gavin Lux, Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Luis Robert, Dustin May, and Sean Murphy just to name a few are likely going to graduate from prospect status this year. This opens the door for Peguero to make his way back to the top 100. If he were to make it back, it would give the Pittsburgh Pirates seven top 100 prospects per FanGraphs’s rankings.
As for the Pirates’ first-round pick, and the 7th overall selection in the draft, Nick Gonzalez now ranks as the team’s 6th best prospect behind Hayes, Cruz, Keller, Swaggerty, and Thomas. Currently, FanGraphs has him at 92, but like with Peguero, he could easily move his way up the rankings, and possibly make it to the top 80, or even top 70 depending on what prospects lose their status with them becoming full time MLB players.
Gonzalez was drafted after his great numbers in New Mexico State. Through his 596 plate appearances at the NCAA level, Gonzalez hit for video game numbers, including a .399/.502/.747 line, 37 home runs, and 39 doubles. He also showed some speed with 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts. He also walked more often than he struck out with a 15% walk rate and 13.3% strikeout rate.
Gonzalez doing outstanding in 2020 before the college season was cut short might be an understatement. In just 16 games and 82 plate appearances, Gonzalez had 26 hits. 16 of which were for extra bases including a dozen long balls. Now, yes, he was playing in a hitter friendly environment, but it’s not like he isn’t talented. You don’t just consistently put up the numbers he has with just favorable conditions alone. Plus, considering his walk rate, he has a great eye at the plate, and outstanding plate discipline which will help him adjust in the long run. He was also the MVP of the Cape Cod League last summer. Although he was drafted as a shortstop, Gonzalez’s long term position is likely second base.
Gonzalez is the only draft pick to be a top 100 prospect off the bat by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that doesn’t mean that the others are far off. Carmen Mlodzinski ranks as the team’s 14th best prospect. He was selected 31st overall by the Bucs. Nick Garcia and Jared Jones are close in rankings at 23 and 25.
Since the end of 2019, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made great strides in making a better farm system. At the beginning of 2019, they ranked as the 10th best farm system. Not bad, but still far off from being in the top five like they were years ago. However, since then, Ben Cherington has put in work and now the team ranks as the 5th best farm system, and could get even better.
Trading Josh Bell and/or Adam Frazier could bring back pieces that further improve the farm. Right now, they have an extremely deep prospect list as Quinn Priester, Brennan Malone, Cody Bolton, and Carmen Mlodzinski are all intriguing pitching prospects. Jared Oliva, Mason Martin, and Jack Herman are three other prospects on the other side of the ball worth keeping an eye on. Long term wise, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set-up for success. The franchise seems to be in very good hands with Ben Cherington. After all, he was the guy that put together most of the Red Sox World Series winning core in 2018, and was responsible for most of the Blue Jays’ talented core, being there for the development of Vlad Guerrero Jr., drafting Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Nate Pearson, and helping to acquire a good package deal for Marcus Stroman.