Pittsburgh Pirates: Looking At Potential FanGraphs Top Prospects

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

FanGraphs has started their top prospect rankings for 2021. What could the future hold for the Pittsburgh Pirates in their top 100 list?

FanGraphs recently started their team prospect rankings for the start of the 2021 season starting with the World Series winning Los Angeles Dodgers. This means we should get the top 100 list soon, as well as who they rate as the top prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

FanGraphs has been much kinder to the Pirate farm system than other prospect lists have. Currently, FanGraphs ranks the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 4th best farm system in all of baseball. They also give the Bucs six top 100 prospects.

In comparison, MLB Pipeline ranked the Bucs with an average farm system coming in at number 16 with just three top 100 prospects at their mid-season rankings. Going into 2020, Baseball Prospectus also gave the Pittsburgh Pirates three top 100 prospects.

Among MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs rankings they seem to agree the Pittsburgh Pirates have at least three unanimous top 100 prospects. The defensively gifted third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes is considered the 15th best prospect on FanGraphs and 37th best prospect on Pipeline. Slugging shortstop Oneil Cruz is next. On FanGraphs, he ranks 27th while on Pipeline, they have him at 59. Then there’s 2020 first-round selection Nick Gonzales. The second baseman ranks much higher on Pipeline (32) than he does on FanGraphs (80). However, that seems to be the case for all the 2020 first-round picks. The number one overall selection, Spencer Torkelson, ranks 4th in Pipeline’s rankings but 16th on FanGraphs’ list.

One prospect you will probably see on FanGraphs’ top 100 list is outfielder Travis Swaggerty. Despite not ranking in the top 100 on a handful of other lists, Swaggerty ended 2020 as the Bucs’ 3rd best prospect and the 54th best in baseball, according to FanGraphs.

Although Swaggerty only had a .728 OPS at High-A ball, advanced stats love him. He had a solid .341 wOBA and 120 wRC+ through his 524 plate appearances. To go with that he has great speed and an elite glove in the outfield with just as good of an arm. During their rankings at the beginning of the year, Eric Longehagen cites that they use raw power data over game power data which led to Swaggerty ranking so highly. Swaggerty posted an 89 MPH exit velocity and has a 60 raw power grade which helped him get to where he is on their list.

Another prospect that may appear on FanGraphs’ next top 100 list is the hard throwing Tahnaj Thomas. Thomas seems to be slept on by many sources despite the amount of talent he has. He also showed a great deal of improvement once he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2019.

Thomas ended 2020 as the 71st best prospect in baseball, according to FanGraphs. Longenhagen said that the only argument against ranking him back-to-back with 2017 second overall pick Hunter Greene was that “it’s early [to rank Thomas that high],” in the same chat as to why the Pittsburgh Pirates had so many prospects including Swaggerty.

The last prospect that currently ranks on the top 100 board for FanGraphs from the Pittsburgh Pirates that a handful of other lists do not include is shortstop Liover Peguero. Peguero comes in at 97, one spot up from where he ranked at the beginning of 2020. His best tool is his hit tool with a 60 future grade, but he doesn’t have any bad tools overall aside from his game power. Peguero had an average 90 MPH exit velocity in 2019 showing he had the raw power to put him on their top 100 list.

Among other prospects that might have a small chance of making it onto FanGraphs top 100 board to start the year are pitchers Quinn Priester and Brennan Malone. The two were first-round picks in the 2019 draft. Priester was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the 18th overall selection and Malone was picked by the Diamondbacks with the 33rd overall pick.

Malone, along with Peguero, were sent to the Bucs in the Starling Marte trade. However in Malone’s case, both Pipeline and FanGraphs ranked him as a top 25 draft prospect but was picked much later than when he was selected due to signing bonus concerns coming out of high school.

FanGraphs gives all four of Malone’s pitches a future grade of at least 50 (average) along with his command. Meanwhile, Priester has at least 55 grades for all three of his pitches and command. Both have 45+ FV grades on FanGraphs and rank as the 151st and 152nd best prospects in baseball so they would have to jump a fair amount of players to get to the top 100. However, if minor league baseball is played, they might reach the top 100 up throughout the season and on FanGraphs’ updated 2021 list.

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While some experts have cited FanGraphs for having some of the most realistic gradings and overall evaluations in terms of future value, it’s best to look at more than just their list. Regardless, FanGraphs seems to rank the Pittsburgh Pirates pretty high and I expect a handful of their current top 100 prospects to be on their next list based on how they’ve graded out the Pirate farm in  the past few years.