Pittsburgh Pirates: Prospect to Watch at Every Position in 2021

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 22: Ji-hwan Bae #72 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 22: Ji-hwan Bae #72 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 22: Ji-hwan Bae #72 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – JULY 22: Ji-hwan Bae #72 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians at PNC Park on July 22, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Second Base: Ji-Hwan Bae

Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-round pick Nick Gonzales would have fit here too, but since he’s a consensus top 100 prospect already and doesn’t really significantly lack skill in any part of the game, I decided to put Ji-Hwan Bae here.

Bae was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates after the Atlanta Braves were forced to release him in the scandal that involved the permanent suspension of former general manager John Coppoella. The Korean prospect hit the ball well at the Low-A level during 2019. Through 380 plate appearances Bae hit .323/.403/.430. He’s one of the fastest players in the Pirate organization. His 65 future speed grade on FanGraphs ties him with 2018 first-round pick Travis Swaggerty for the third highest grade among Pirate prospects. Bae also used his speed to swipe 31 bags.

Bae’s season was fueled by a .417 batting average on balls in play and his 85 average exit velocity does not pair well with a 51.2% ground ball rate. But Bae played in the Australian Baseball League after the season and showed some promising steps forward. While it was just 77 plate appearances, Bae hit his first two home runs of his career in Australia. Despite his BAbip dropping to .354, he remained a strong hitter, posting a .297/.416/.469 line.

Bae has seen time at both shortstop and second base throughout his career where is seen as an average defender (50 future fielding grade) with a strong arm (55 future throw grade). Given his athleticism and arm, he can probably move to an outfield spot given the Pittsburgh Pirates have a crowded middle infield situation. Bae will look to play a full season in 2021 after his 2019 season was cut short by a domestic violence suspension.

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