The Pittsburgh Pirates have many prospects set to graduate with others rising. What could the farm system look like by the end of the year?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have brought in a ton of prospects since the Ben Cherington era started in November 2019. This past offseason alone Cherington acquired 11 new prospects in the Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove trades. The farm system got a complete face lift and looks completely different than it did a year and a half ago.
Many of the prospects the top prospects that the Pittsburgh Pirates have are set to graduate at some point during the 2021 season. So, what could the farm system look like by the end of the 2021 season?
First, let’s take a look at what prospects could graduate from prospect status in 2021.
As long as he stays healthy, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes will be a National League Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s a consensus top 10-15 prospect by many sources and ranks as high as #7 by both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. His small sample size last year and outstanding Spring Training have earned him every right to get regular playing time in 2021.
Miguel Yajure will also likely graduate from prospect status. The 22-year-old, who will turn 23 on the first day of May, has pitched very well throughout his minor league career and is a borderline top 100 prospect. He has a four pitch mix with all four offerings grading as average or better. While he may start the season at Triple-A, he’ll likely find himself in a regular rotation spot by mid-season.
Another pitching prospect that could reach rookie status is Wil Crowe. The 26-year-old was acquired in the Bell trade and given his age and performance in Spring Training, he’s gunning for a MLB roster spot. Relief pitching prospects Nick Mears, Luis Oviedo and David Bednar should also graduate prospect status.
While they may not graduate prospect status in 2021, the Pittsburgh Pirates could also see a handful of players make their debuts and get at least some playing time in the Majors if they’re healthy. This is the case for right-handed pitchers Roansy Contreras and Cody Bolton.
Contreras has yet to reach Double-A yet and Bolton struggled heavily at Altoona in 2019. However, Contreras has pitched very well throughout Spring Training and both have an ETA of 2021, per FanGraphs.
Another relief pitching prospect who could make his debut is Yerry De Los Santos. The right-hander pitched extremely well at High-A in 2019 and should open the year as Altoona’s closer. If he pitches well there, he could be a late season call-up. Two other names worth mentioning as prospects who could see the majors but not graduate prospect status include Max Kranick and Rodolfo Castro.
Two prospects that definitely could reach elite prospect status are first-round picks Quinn Priester and Nick Gonzales.
Priester, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, shot up prospect boards this year. After ending 2020 unranked, FanGraphs placed him at #45 and MLB Pipeline had him at the #52 spots in their top 100 prospect lists. Priester pitched extremely well at instructionals and the time he spent at the alternative site last year. He has a four pitch mix, all of which are average or better and both his fastball and curveball are considered elite.
Then there’s Gonzales. The second baseman was taken with the 7th overall pick in last year’s draft after he put up a wOBA well above .500 with his college team and a wOBA approaching .500 in the Cape Cod League in 2019. Considered one of if not the best pure hitter in the draft last season because of his elite ability to make hard contact and plate discipline, Gonzales has the chance to reach top 20 prospect status if he can hit anything like he did in his amature career. He’s also put in a ton of work to improve his defense at second base which only can help him rise through the ranks.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of players looking to breakout in 2021. The team selected Carmen Mlodzinski with their compensation pick in the 2020 draft. Although he didn’t put up the best of numbers in college, the right-hander is still a very worthwhile prospect considering he was a first round pick. Both Jared Jones and Nick Garcia, their second and third-round picks in 2020, will also be names to keep an eye on. Liover Peguero is considered a borderline top 100 prospect by FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline.
Given a full season under the Pirates’ new development team, he could be one of baseball’s most notable shortstop prospects by the end of the season. Hudson Head and Endy Rodriguez will look to continue the success they had with their former team’s minor league organizations with the Pirates, however neither have played a full season in the minors yet. There’s also a ton of pitchers that could climb the rankings like Tahnaj Thomas, Brennan Malone, Eddy Yean, Austin Robers, and a handful more.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of players graduating prospect status, but also have a boatload of prospects on the rise. They could have at least 2 elite level prospects with Nick Gonzales and Quinn Priester on the rise, and possibly even more with many other prospects looking to make a name for themselves next season. I think the farm system will be in an even better position than it is now by the end of the 2021 season. Not only should we see some prospects breakout, but the team has the first overall pick in this upcoming draft and they could add even more depth to the system at the trade deadline. This definitely sets them up for long term, sustained success.