January of 2021 was a busy month for the Pittsburgh Pirates, not only did they make a big deal with the Yankees, but they participated in a three-team trade that involved Joe Musgrove
This past January the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets and San Diego Padres struck a three-team trade. This trade sent San Diego left-handed pitcher Joey Lucchesi to the Mets, Met catching prospect Endy Rodriguez to the Pirates, Pirate right-handed pitcher Joe Musgrove to San Diego, and Padre outfield prospect Hudson Head, pitching prospects Drake Fellows and Omar Cruz, as well as reliever David Bednar to the Pirates.
Head was the headliner of the players headed to Pittsburgh after the trade went through. Head is the organization’s current 12th ranked prospect and for good reason, he is expected to be starting in the outfield along with Bryan Reynolds and likely Travis Swaggerty in the future.
Head is a 50/80 graded prospect with all 5 tools graded 50+, his highest-graded tool is his speed, which is graded a 60. Head leads the Bradenton Marauders with 12 home runs and is tied for fourth-most in the Low-A Southeast division. Hudson is batting .201/.360/.731 with 12 home runs, 43 RBIs, 57 hits, and 3 stolen bases. The left-handed hitter will be a welcome addition in 2023 and his speed and power will be a change of pace in a lackluster but surprisingly semi-productive Pirate lineup.
Fellows has made only 5 appearances in 2021 for Pittsburgh’s Low-A squad because of a nagging elbow injury he had before the trade and the injury he currently has may be related to his elbow. There isn’t much information out about him but I do know that Fellows was pitching lights out for the FCL Pirates Gold in July and earned a promotion to Bradenton, where he remains. In his 5 appearances this year, Fellows has made two starts, has an ERA of 3.09, struck out 9, and is 1-0, all over 11.2 innings pitched.
The former Vanderbilt pitcher has a sinking fastball that ranges from 89-94 mph and has pitched in big games already, some say he is already groomed for the big leagues because of the big games he played in college. The 23-year old has some work to do but is an exciting prospect nonetheless and matches the kind of pitchers the Pirates were targeting in the 2020 draft.
Probably one of the coolest stories of the 2021 season for the Pirates is acquiring Pittsburgh native Bednar. Bednar went from a 36th round pick in 2016 to what looks like a temporary closing option for his hometown team. Bednar has been reliable all season and has the lowest ERA out of all the Pirate’s bullpen. Bednar has kept the damage to a minimum with a 2.39 ERA, 2 saves, and 64 strikeouts over 54 games and 52.2 innings pitched.
Bednar is beloved by fans mainly because he made his walkup song Renegade, a song by the band Styx that the Pittsburgh Steelers use to hype up their crowd during the late stages of home games. Bednar, 26 seems to be a better closer than Chris Stratton who took over the closing duties after Richard Rodriguez was traded, but it seems he has found his role within the team and he has been worth the acquisition so far.
Cruz is the team’s 27th ranked prospect in the recently updated farm system and prospect rankings. Cruz started the season with High-A Greensboro and in June received a promotion to Double-A Altoona because of his 3.45 ERA and 17 hits allowed in 7 games started in High-A. Cruz kept opposing batters hitting just .168 over 28.2 innings pitched and kept for the most part kept balls in the park. Now with the Curve, Cruz has thrown through 10 games and is carrying a 3.88 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 51 innings pitched while allowing the same amount of home runs (4) and walks (14) he gave up during his time with the High-A team. Cruz throws in the low-90’s and has a curveball that is either on point or hittable every time, but he still has time to improve on that as he is only 23 and is already on Pittsburgh’s top 30 prospect list.
Rodriguez has quickly risen as a catching prospect since he came over from the Mets. Rodriguez, the 19th ranked prospect in Pittsburgh’s farm system, leads Low-A Bradenton in average and runs scored, and is expected to arrive at the same time as Henry Davis. Rodriguez is slashing .276/.364/.829 with 10 HRs, 49 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, and 82 hits.
The switch-hitting catcher can also play at first base and in the outfield and has shown off his power, not a trait he is well known for. The catching position will be one of the Pittsburgh Pirates strongest positions once Rodriguez and Davis arrive, but, for Rodriguez, he could be a plus designated hitter if a universal DH rule is put into place. The Pittsburgh Pirates are set up for the future at the catching position and Endy has a future here in Pittsburgh, his consistent hitting, his defense behind the plate, and positional flexibility are too valuable not to hold onto and he is still just 21-years old.