It is well-known that the Pittsburgh Pirates currently have a bit of a log jam in the middle infield entering the 2021 season and the team will have more decisions to make in the future with two of their top prospects
With the 7th overall pick in the 2020 draft the Pittsburgh Pirates selected infielder Nick Gonzales out of New Mexico State. Former Pirate shosrtstop Jack Wilson, who has been working out with the young second baseman, feels this was a steal. Wilson told TribLIVE’s Kevin Gorman, “he’s going to be really, really, really good..” HE added, “this guy has a chance to be an impact player in the next year-and-a-half.” You can read the entire interview here.
In his freshman season at New Mexico State, Gonzales posted a batting average of .347 with nine home runs and an on-base percentage of .425 through 55 games. Gonzales broke out in a major way, however, in his sophomore year, batting .432 with 16 home runs and an OBP of .532. These are certainly eye-popping numbers and it appears the Bucs were truly fortunate to have him available with that seventh pick.
MLB Pipeline ranked Gonzales as the #2 overall second base prospect behind only Nick Madrigal of the Chicago White Sox. Madrigal burst his way onto the scene last year in his abbreviated rookie season, slashing .340/.376/.745 through his first 109 plate appearances.
With that being said, this leaves Gonzales as the top-ranked second base prospect that has not reached the Major Leagues yet and it will be exciting to watch his development throughout Spring Training.
The other highly-ranked Pirate prospect on that list is Ji-Hwan Bae. MLB Pipeline lists Bae as the #9 overall second base prospect, although the versatile South Korean prospect has seen action at shortstop and also in left field.
Bae originally signed with the Atlanta Braves in 2017. However, Major League Baseball voided the contract as a result of fraudulent contract negotiations. Allegedly Bae agreed to sign for $300,000, however the Braves planned to pay him nearly $600,000 by reallocating promised money to other signees. MLB required Atlanta to release multiple international prospects, including Bae, allowing the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign him in 2018.
Bae has seen most of his professional work come from Low-A Greensboro in 2019 where he slashed .323/.403/.430 with 31 stolen bases. The speed is his biggest weapon and he surely put it on display during that 2019 season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates certainly have many decisions to make in terms of middle infield options and we have seen other players willing to showcase their versatility by moving to the outfield because of this. Both Cole Tucker and Oneil Cruz came up through the organization primarily as shortstops, however both have been given work in right field due to the current log jam within the middle infield. Tucker played both right and center field in the shortened 2020 season and Cruz’s 6’7″ frame may have something to do with his potential transition to the outfield.