After seeing FanGraphs top 51 prospect list for the Pirates I decided to give you my three underrated prospects on that list.
Earlier this week FanGraphs released their updated top prospects list for the Pittsburgh Pirates. As you can see, Fangraphs gave us their top 51 prospects within the Pirates system, and like most lists, most of us only pay attention to the top of the list. Today, my job is to give you a few prospects I think went under the radar or at least ones that don’t get the attention a Priester or Hayes does.
You all know I’m a big underdog kind of guy, and I think if we are all honest with ourselves, you are too. What better team to root for than these Pittsburgh Pirates? I mean, of course, these guys aren’t your prototypical underdogs, but the prospects I’m going to mention in my eyes have been severely overlooked for a while now.
Enough of the beating around the bush, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this thing.
Checking in at number 36 on this list is Santiago Florez. Florez has been at the rookie-ball level for a little while now, but he is only 20, so he has plenty of time, especially for a pitcher. When you look at his numbers off the bat, you don’t see much, but that is where a closer look is needed.
His walks went down from 23 in 2018 to 21 in 2019, along with an uptick in strikeouts slightly from 35 to 36. His ERA went down from 4.15 to a 3.46, along with fewer hits given up from 37 to 35. All of these aren’t mind-blowing numbers, but improvement is improvement. I will say if he wants to be a starter, the command has to be better, and he has to develop a consistent third pitch and maybe a fourth.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs had this to say about the young Colombian:
"“Florez showed a pretty significant velocity spike between 2018 and ’19 and was sitting 92-95 as a teenager in the Appy League. Because he was so young when he signed, Florez was Rule 5 eligible in 2020, but was passed over because he hasn’t been seen much and is still pretty raw from a strike-throwing standpoint. Still just 20, Florez has mid-90s heat and a prototypical frame but his slider quality is inconsistent, and so is his control. His longer arm action may be the culprit here. He was seen in the Fall and pitched a little bit in the Venezuelan Winter League and looked very much the same as he did in 2020. He’ll likely pitch in 2021 as a starter to develop his command and secondaries, but Florez has long-term relief projection.”"
The next player we’re going to look at is pitcher Austin Roberts. Roberts is an interesting case for me. In 40 innings pitched with short-season West Virginia in 2019 he had a 2.70 ERA, 2.98 xFIP, 38 strikeouts, and 11 walks. Really strong numbers for someone’s first year in pro-ball.
What was interesting for me with Roberts was his time both as a starter and a reliever. The first nine appearances for Roberts came out of the bullpen allowing just two earned runs in 13.2 innings of work. Overall, he performed very well as a reliever and showed promise.
23.1 innings of his 40 were spent starting games, and of those 23.1 innings, he gave up seven earned runs, which gives you a decent 3.3 runs per game. The majority of his troubles as a starter came in his first two appearances going just 7.1 innings combined and giving up five earned runs out of his total of 7ER. The good news is he ended on a strong note. In his final start, he went a strong 6 innings pitched, one earned run, one walk and five strikeouts. In my opinion, this guy can be a starter, but 2021 will be the year where we will get that answer.
Longenhagen said this for Roberts:
"“Roberts worked 90-92 with sink when I saw him at the 2019 WAC tournament. His changeup was really good, but the rest of what he had to offer was below average. He showed up to 2020 instructs with way more velocity, and now has a four-seam/curveball combo to go with the changeup. His arrow is pointing way up for 2021 so long as he holds that velo in games.”"
Let’s finish this list with a position player, and this player was one of the players the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired in the Joe Musgrove trade. That player is catcher Endy Rodriguez, the young 20-year-old catcher from the Dominican. As of right now, his hit tool is a very good 35/60, and his fielding or defense stands at a 45/60. Having both a hitting tool and defensive prowess behind the plate could be just what the Pittsburgh Pirates need in the near future.
In 2019 Rodriguez spent his time in the Mets rookie-ball level hitting for a slash line of .293/.393/.453. His wOBA stood at a .404 level along with a wRC+ of 144. We have to consider that he only had 90 at-bats so we have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. With his size at 6’0″, 170 pounds, I would like to see him fill out a bit more and potentially produce a little more pop in that swing.
Here is Longenhagen’s report on Rodriguez:
"“Rodriguez is the second-best prospect the Pirates received in the multi-team Musgrove swap. He’s a switch-hitting catcher with good feel to hit, a rare combination. Despite that rare skill set, scouts are most excited about his defense. He’s solid across the board at catcher — receiving, moving laterally, and throwing — but he’s athletic enough that the Mets had given him time at every position other than shortstop before dealing him. His profile likely needs a little more power at some point, and he compares to Rafael Marchan and Gabriel Moreno at similar developmental stages. As an added bonus, Rodriguez’s Trackman data shows great bat-to-ball skills; despite his lack of top-end power, his 2019 90 mph average exit velocity was excellent for a teenager. If he grows into a little more oomph, that skill will play up.”"
Although these guys aren’t household names yet for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I think they offer an array of skills and talent. 2021 is going to be a big year for guys like Florez, Roberts, and Rodriguez, and with the worlds longest offseason that just happened, I think they along with others will play with a little extra juice this season.