Pittsburgh Pirates: Projecting Top 5 Prospects at the End of 2021

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Feb 24, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Oneil Cruz (61) fields the ball during spring training at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Oneil Cruz (61) fields the ball during spring training at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

Honorable Mentions

The Pirate farm system is loaded with high-ceiling/floor prospects. There’s a lot of other names that could easily crack the top 5 Pirate prospects. With so many other players I wanted to put at the number 5 spot, I think it’s worth mentioning a few of those guys.

Oneil Cruz

2021 is a very pivotal year in Oneil Cruz’s development. His power potential is immense. He has an 80-future raw power grade and 60-future game power grade. The only question is what his final position will be and if he can improve his hit tool. However, a big year from the slugger could easily catapult him into the Pittsburgh Pirates top 5 prospects, and possibly even get him back to being a consensus top 50-100 prospect.

Travis Swaggerty

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected center fielder Travis Swaggerty with their first-round pick in 2018. His calling card is his speed and defense, having a 65-speed grade and future 60 fielding and arm grades on FanGraphs. He also has some raw power with a 60-future grade there, 89 MPH exit velo and 41% hard hit rate in 2019. He also had a really solid .266/.347 BA/OBP, but he’s yet to translate that raw power into game power. In 2019, his isolated slugging percentage was just .116. If he can continue to hit around .270/.350 while improving his ISO to the .150-.200 range in 2021, combined with his defensive value, he could be one of the Bucs’ top 5 prospects.

Hudson Head

Another center field prospect that could become one of the organization’s best prospects is Hudson Head. He was the headliner among a large prospect package coming back to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Joe Musgrove trade (congrats to him for throwing a no hitter by the way). Head easily has the talent to be a five-tool player and could have went in the first round of the 2019 draft. However, he was picked in the third-round as scouts didn’t get a good look at him playing baseball as he was his high school team’s quarterback. In the very little time he’s played so far, he has a .375 wOBA, 119 wRC+ and has displayed solid plate discipline. Like Swags, he already has the plate discipline and consistent contact part of his game down. If he can translate that raw power into game power, you’re looking at a very valuable prospect.

Tahnaj Thomas

Tahnaj Thoams showed massive improvement to his control when he got to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization in 2019. He has a big fastball, one he can run into triple digits and a plus breaking ball. The only question he has remaining to answer is if he can develop his changeup into a more effective offering. With so much talent and good work ethic, that third offering could come with ease for the flamethrowing right-hander. If he can master that third pitch, look out, the Pittsburgh Pirates could have four pitchers in their inner circle of prospects.

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Carmen Mlodzinski

When I said the Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of notable pitching prospects, I wasn’t joking. Carmen Mlodzinski is a right-handed pitcher the team selected with their competitive balance pick in the 2020 draft. His numbers throughout college weren’t the greatest, but he performed well at the Cape Cod League. He also has three offerings that are projected to be, at the very least, average pitches giving him a good repertoire.