Pittsburgh Pirates: Four Prospects in MLB Pipeline Top 100


MLB Pipeline recently released their top 100 prospects list going into the 2021 season. For the last few weeks they have been releasing top 10 prospect lists at every position. The Pittsburgh Pirates saw prospects ranked within the top 10 of their position at second base, first base, shortstop and third base.

On Friday they released their top 100 prospects where the Ptitsburgh Pirates saw four of their best prospects listed. The first is Ke’Bryan Hayes who comes in at number 9. Hayes put on an outstanding display of hitting in his sample size of plate appearances in 2020. Through 95 PAs, the third baseman racked up 32 hits, blasted 5 home runs and recorded 7 doubles while having a 195 wRC+. He’s best known for his outstanding fielding at the hot corner with a 75 grade by MLB Pipeline.

While his fielding tool is his highest ranked by Pipeline, all of his other tools are considered above average. His arm, running ability and hit tool are all sit with a 60-grade. His power sits with a 55-grade. Overall, he showed a lot of raw power having a 92.8 MPH exit velo and 55.4% hard hit rate. This is a big step up from where Hayes ended 2020. Pipeline had him as the 37th best prospect in all of baseball, so jumping 28 spots is pretty impressive and it helped that he had that outstanding September.

The next highest prospect shouldn’t be a major surprise either.

Coming in at  number 43 is 2020 first-round pick Nick Gonzales. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected the second baseman with the 7th overall pick during last year’s draft. Gonzales raked in college posting a .399/.502/.747 line with 37 home runs and a .519 wOBA in 596 plate appearances. Impressively, he walked 14.9% of the time while striking out merely 13.3% in all of his plate appearances. He also showed he can hit outside of the hitter friendly Western Athletic Conference as he hit .351/.451/.630 in 185 plate appearances at the Cape Cod League in 2019.

Gonzales’ best tool per MLB Pipeline is his hit tool which comes in at a 60. He also runs fairly well with a 55 run grade. His arm is seen as average at 50 and his long term defensive home is likely the keystone as he did see a bit of time at shortstop before being drafted. Both of his fielding and power are seen as 45-grade tools, but there’s room to improve both. Gonzales showed a lot of power throughout his entire amature career and he’s athletic enough to grow into an average defender at the very least. Gonzales moved down a few spots from 32 at the end of 2020 to 43, however, its to really no fault of his own.

The Pirates’ next top 100 prospect ranked by MLB Pipeline may surprise some with Quinn Priester being ranked at number 52. Priester has gotten a lot of praise recently by many experts. In one of MLB Pipeline’s recent podcast episodes, Jonathan Mayo stated that had Priester spent the entire season at the alternative site, he would have been the best pitcher there. Many saw Priester take a step forward at the alt-site and it shows with his major step in rankings. Previously, he was unranked in the top 100.

The 20-year-old has a pair of 60-grade pitches in his fastball and curveball. His change up is currently seen as an average pitch, but it’s another offering that could grow into above average. Priester stands at 6’3″, 195 pounds and is seen as very athletic. He still has a few years to go before reaching the majors, but he’s an ace in the making.

The fourth Pirate prospect MLB Pipeline ranked in the top 100 is slugging shortstop Oneil Cruz. Cruz comes in at the 64th spot, which isn’t far off from where he ranked at the end of the 2020 season at 59. The last time Cruz played professionally, he hit for a .298/.356/.475 line, crushed 8 home runs and racked up 15 doubles in an injury limited 292 plate appearances. His power was slowed down by a fractured foot, but he did show improved plate discipline when he was promoted to Double-A Altoona.

Cruz’s best tool is his arm which is seen as a 70-grade weapon. Overall, he has a ton of raw power that he generates from his massive 6’7″, 215 pound frame. Pipeline gives his power a 60 grade. He’s seen as an above average runner with a 55-grade but he may slow down once he starts filling out. His hitting ability is seen as a 50-grade tool, but he’s consistently hit for a good average and saw his strikeout rate decrease and his walk rate increase.

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Overall, this shows that the rebuild has been going very well for Ben Cherington. In comparison to when Cherington first took over the organization, the Pittsburgh Pirates started off with just two top 100 prospects going into 2020 and have doubled that. Throughout the season, we’ll see prospects graduate status, get bumped down and be moved up. By the end of 2021, we could see high-profile prospects like Liover Peguero, Hudson Head, Travis Swaggerty and Brennan Malone be in or near the top 100.