Pittsburgh Pirates: Highlights From New FanGraphs Top 51 Prospects

FanGraphs recently released their top 51 Pittsburgh Pirates prospect lists. So what are some of the highlights from their rankings?

FanGraphs recently released their top 51 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Nick recently did a write up about the released list, but there’s much more to go in depth with the list they released.

One notable thing to come out of the list is that eight of the 11 prospects the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired in the Josh Bell, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon trade were in the top 30. They are Miguel Yajure, who ranks as the 116th best prospect in baseball, Hudson Head (#11), Maikol Escotto (#13), Roansy Contreras (#15), Canaan Smith-Njigba (#16), Endy Rodriguez (#20), Eddy Yean (#25) and Wil Crowe (#30). Relief prospect David Bednar, one of the pieces of the Musgrove trade, just missed out on the top 30 at nymber 32. You can see the entire list here.

The Pittsburgh Pirates did go for a more quantity over quality approach to their three big trades, but it’s pretty clear they didn’t go for full quantity. The only prospects not to make their way into the top 50 who they got in the Bell/Musgrove/Taillon deals were southpaw Omar Cruz and right-hander Drake Fellows, both of which were part of the Musgrove trade. Many of the prospects they got back have very bright futures, especially the likes of Head, Yajure, Rodriguez, Smith-Njigba and Escotto.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of relief pitching prospects. Among them, Nick Mears ranks the highest at #27. The aforementioned Bednar comes next at #32, but flame throwing right-hander Blake Cederlind isn’t far behind at #35. Right-hander Yerry De Los Santos is the last of their high ranking relief prospects at #46. Overall, there’s a good amount of bullpen talent coming up through the system to form a new Shark Tank.

Both of the Pirates’ Rule 5 eligible players made the top 51. Jose Soriano, who the Pittsburgh Pirates selected with the number one overall pick in the draft from the Los Angeles Angels comes in at #22. Right behind him is Luis Oviedo who the New York Mets originally drafted from the Cleveland Indians, but traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash.

Soriano will likely miss a good chunk of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery, but Oviedo will likely slot into a bullpen spot and look to secure a high-leverage role. The Pittsburgh Pirates did pretty well during the Rule 5 Draft considering that both Oviedo and Soriano are top 30 organizational prospects.

Among the graded tools, we’ll start with the position players. Ji-Hwan Bae, the 10th best prospect on their list, has a 70-future hit grade. He outdoes the likes of Ke’Bryan Hayes, Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero, Head and Rodriguez as all tied with 60-future hit tools.

In terms of power, slugger Oneil Cruz is top in that department. The 105th best prospect in baseball has a 60-future game power tool, but his raw power stands at an 80, the highest grade you can possibly get. However, first baseman Mason Martin isn’t far behind with 60-future game power/70-future raw power tools. The fastest prospect in the system is Sergio Campana. Campana was one of the Pirates’ international signings in 2018 and one player I mentioned to keep an eye on throughout this next season. The best fielder is no surprise with Hayes having a 70 current and future fielding grade.

Now moving onto the pitchers, the best fastball in the organization belongs to Tahnaj Thomas. Thomas was acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in what was originally an under the radar deal at the time with the Cleveland Indians. Thomas can get his fastball into the 100 MPH range consistently, which earned it an 80-future grade, an upgrade from his 70-grade the year prior.

The highest grade slider belongs to 2nd round pick Jared Jones. His slider has a 60-future grade and currently sits at a 50. He’s also the 17th best prospect in the org. Thomas doesn’t have the only 80-grade pitch in the organization with Quinn Priester having an 80-future grade curveball.

Priester has gotten a ton of praise recently and has appeared in the top 50 of both FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline. Making his debut on FanGraphs top organization prospect list is Austin Roberts and his 60-future grade change up. That also happens to be the best in the Pirate farm system. Three Pirates pitching prospects have 60-future command grades. The aforementioned Thomas, Yajure and soft tossing right-hander Steven Jennings all have reached elite grades for their future projected command, but Yajure has the highest current grade at 50.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have so much pitching depth moving forward. It’s better to have more than enough pitching depth than not enough. Not only will the Pirates have multiple options for their rotation in the future, but they may also use some of their pieces once they’re closer to contention to acquire some more proven talent.

There are a few prospects making their debuts on FanGraphs top 50 Pirates prospect list. Austin Roberts, who I mentioned had the best change up in the organization, was an 8th round pick by the team in 2019 out of California State University. He’s currently ranked as the team’s 33rd best prospect. The Pirates big international signing this winter, Shalin Polanco, also makes his first appearance at #42. One player returning to the top 50 list that didn’t appear in FanGraphs’ 2020 lists is right-hander Max Kranick at #38.

Most of the Pirate prospects outside of the top 20-25 range did get bumped down a few pegs to no fault of their own and more because of the large influx of talent. For example, corner infielder Alex Mojica went from #36 to #45. A few prospects from their 2020 updated list did get bumped off though, that being outfielders Juan Pie, Anthony Alford, infielders Kevin Kramer and Juan Jerez and pitcher Wilkin Ramos. Jason Martin and Nick Burdi were also prospects on 2020’s updated list, but both are no longer in the organization.

The Pittsburgh Pirates ended the 2020 season with a good amount of young prospects to start with. Now after a very active off season, they’ve add a whole bunch of new faces and potentially long term stability for the organization.

All told, there are 12 new prospects that the Pirates acquired through trades, the Rule 5 Draft or international signings on FanGraphs top 51 Pirate prospect list. 10 of which rank in the top 30. Overall among the 10 total teams they’ve given prospect rankings for, the Bucs have the fewest prospects with a future value grade lower than 40 with eight, which is impressive considering that they’ve already done prospect rankings for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays. This list just goes to show how much improvement the Pirates have made over this past winter.