Just like the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009 to 2012, the current Pirates are building toward something good within the next few seasons.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently in rebuilding mode. This offseason they have traded away pieces like Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon to really bulk up their farm system. There could be more trades throughout the season as well. While the Pittsburgh Pirates do have a plan in place, their current situation draws similarities of the late-2000s and early 2010s Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2009, the Pirates started to see a few of their top prospects make their debuts. 2009 was Andrew McCutchen’s rookie campaign. He ended up finishing 4th in National League Rookie of the Year voting and ended up becoming the face of the franchise for a better part of a decade.
This could be a similar career path to third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes. Like Cutch, Hayes is seen as a top-flight prospect. Recently, MLB Pipeline ranked him as the 9th best prospect in all of Major League Baseball. Hayes also looked outstanding in his first taste of big league action, swatting five home runs and hitting .376/.442/.682 in his first 95 plate appearances. He could be the team’s next big MVP-caliber player, similar to how McCutchen was.
The Pittsburgh Pirates saw many more players become key pieces to their core in 2010. Despite losing 105 games, they got the first-round draft pick, like the 2020 Pirates just did, while promoting a handful more of their prospects.
The Bucs got a good look at Neil Walker as he batted .296/.349/.462 with a dozen home runs and a 121 wRC+ in 469 plate appearances. This led to him finishing 5th in NL Rookie of the Year voting and locking down the keystone for the Bucs. Before his promotion, Walker was a consensus top 100 prospect.
Walker wasn’t the only Pirate player who received ROY votes in 2010 as outfielder Jose Tabata finished 8th in voting. Tabata put up a .299/.346/.400 line and 106 wRC+ through his first 441 career plate appearances. Another player worth mentioning who got his first taste of big league action in 2010 was Pedro Alvarez who hit .256/.326/.461 with a 114 wRC+ in 386 plate appearances. This trio were key players in the Pirates’ first postseason run in 2013.
Like the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 2021-2022 Pirates should see a handful of their potential core pieces make their debuts this upcoming season. Cody Bolton could lock down a rotation spot going into 2022 as well Miguel Yajure and Rosnay Contreras. Slugger Oneil Cruz may get his first taste of big league action.
Then in 2022, the Bucs will get to see shortstop Liover Peguero, first baseman Mason Martin, outfielders Travis Swaggerty and Canaan Smith-Njigba and starting pitcher Tahnaj Thomas potentially lock down long term roles. They may even see the debuts of first round picks like Nick Gonzales, Quinn Priester and Carmen Mlodzinski.
In 2011 and 2012 the Pittsburgh Pirates started to see improvement going from just 56 wins in 2010, to 70 in 2011 and 79 in 2012 as many of their core pieces started to produce and breakout. This could be a similar situation the Pirates see in the next few seasons. When Hayes, Oneil Cruz, Bolton, Yajrue, Conteras, Tahnaj Thomas,Smith-Njigba, Swaggerty and Peguero eventually join together with Bryan Reynolds, Mitch Keller, Jacob Stallings and Colin Moran, they’ll form a formidable, young and upcoming core.
The future is bright for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have many young players in the minors ready to eventually take over a regular role and form a new, competition ready core. Right now, they’re in a situation like the late-2000s and early 2010s Pittsburgh Pirates. However they, like those teams, are building toward something big.