Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing Midseason Prospect Rankings

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 28: Boston Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington sits in the dugout prior to Game Five of the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 28, 2013 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 28: Boston Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington sits in the dugout prior to Game Five of the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on October 28, 2013 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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BRADENTON, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: A detail of the 2021 MLB Grapefruit league logo during a spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles on March 22, 2021 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: A detail of the 2021 MLB Grapefruit league logo during a spring training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles on March 22, 2021 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Fast Risers

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of young prospects who are ranked lower in their farm system because they haven’t gotten much professional experience, but are on a quick rise throughout the system. They may not break the top 100 this time around but are definitely on pace to reach top 100 status by the end of the year, or by the beginning of 2022. At the very least, they should move up a noticeable amount from where they are now. One of them is Santiago Florez.

The Colombian-born right-hander just turned 21 in May. So far, he’s been one of the most dominant Pirate farmhands. Through 30.2 innings at Bradenton, Florez has an outstanding 1.17 ERA, 1.88 FIP and 0.78 WHIP. Florez has seen a massive boost in strikeouts with his strikeout rate going from sub-20 in his first 3 pro seasons to approaching 40% at 38.8%. He also has a very good walk rate of 6%. Impressively, he hasn’t let up a long ball yet, owing much of his success to a 50.8% ground ball rate. Just like Contreras, Florez’s overall stuff has looked much sharper compared to last season.

FanGraphs ranks Florez as the Pittsburgh Pirates 36th best prospect. Meanwhile, MLB Pipeline has previously ranked him as one of the team’s best prospects but was one of many prospects pushed off the list after acquiring as many prospects as they did throughout the off-season. Florez should reach top 30 prospect status, but could potentially sneak into the top 25. If he can keep this up, we could be looking at one of the team’s top 10-15 organizational prospects by the end of the season.

Backstop Endy Rodriguez is also a prospect on the rise. A former New York Mets prospect who the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired in the Joe Musgrove trade, the 21-year-old is hitting for a strong .259/.351/.491 line with a .391 wOBA, and 126 wRC+ through 134 trips to the plate. Rodriguez is walking at a healthy 11.9% rate with a solid strikeout rate of 23.1%. But Rodriguez is showing some of that raw power that he was praised for. Nick recently covered his power breakout here, but to put it simply, he has a .233 ISO compared to his .216 mark from 2019.

Rodriguez is currently the team’s 20th best prospect on FanGraphs and 26th best prospect on Pipeline. FanGraphs’ midseason rankings could see him in the top 18. He should be around the top 23-20 on Pipeline’s updated rankings.

Yet another pitcher who’s impressing is right-hander Michael Burrows. Burrows has tossed 25.2 innings at Greensboro. He’s put up a strong 1.75 ERA, 2.31 FIP and 0.74 WHIP. The right-hander has always been good at limiting home runs, allowing just 2 in his 57.2 innings of his pro career. This year, he’s let up just a single home run. He’s also gotten 40% of batters to go down on strike three. Although this does come with a 10.5% walk rate. Burrows has seen a noticeable uptick in velocity as well, working in the upper-90s making him a very intriguing arm for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs agree that Burrows is the Pirates’ 28th best prospect. Reaching the top 25 isn’t an impossible task for Burrows. His imporved stuff is helping to back-up his numbers, which should see him get moved up.

One outfield prospect who isn’t getting nearly the recognition they deserve yet could climb up prospect rankings is Lolo Sanchez.

The 22-year-old is hitting for a strong .279/.415/.529 line with 6 home runs, and 8 doubles. The power output for him has been a massive step up from previous seasons. Sanchez’s .250 ISO is more than one hundred points higher than his previous output. He’s been displaying outstanding plate discipline walking 20 times against just 15 strikeouts. His 164 wRC+ and .418 wOBA are the second-best marks among Pirates minor league players with at least 100 plate appearances.

Sanchez ranks as the team’s 41st best prospect by FanGraphs and got pushed out of MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Pirates prospects after acquiring a ton of prospects this off-season. However, Sanchez may reappear on Pipeline’s list. He could also move closer to the top 35 prospects on FanGraphs’ list.

One last player worth mentioning who’s on the rise is infielder Rodolfo Castro. Castro has been crushing it at Double-A to the tune of a .302/.357/.524 line, .380 wOBA, and 136 wRC+. He’s walking at a 7.1% rate, a noticeable uptick from 2018-2019 while striking out just 20% of the time. Castro has a healthy .222 ISO mark, showing that he hasn’t sacrificed any power for his better plate discipline, or better contact rates.

Castro is the team’s 34th best prospect on FanGraphs, but unranked on MLB Pipeline. Like many others we’ve talked about today, he was pushed off of Pipeline’s list because of the huge influx of new prospects. He might not reappear on Pipeline’s list this time around but should move up a spot or two on FanGraphs’ list.

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