Left Field: Rodolfo Nolasco
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Rodolfo Nolasco on July 2nd, 2018. Nolasco was one of the more noteworthy signings at the time, and his first taste of professional action was very promising. In fact, there is an argument to be made that Nolasco is the most underrated prospect in the Pirate farm system.
Nolasco hit .302/.373/.472 with 5 long balls in 225 plate appearances, a .405 wOBA, and 133 wRC+. Nolasco struck out just 11.6% of the time, though his 7.1% walk rate wasn’t great. The outfielder did have a line drive rate of just 15.3% and an even worse 57.6% ground ball rate. But overall, it was a good first season.
Nolasco has gotten even better this year. He’s stepped to the plate 144 times at the Pirate Florida Complex League, batting .266/.395/.508 with 6 long balls, .416 wOBA, and 139 wRC+. Nolasco is striking out more than you’d like with a 27.6% mark. But his walk rate has increased by nearly double since 2019, all the way up to 15.8%. Nolasco has seen his LD% rise to 16%, which is still a bit lower than you’d like, but his GB% has gone down by over 15% to 41.3%.
Nolasco has an average projected hit tool, at a 50-grade. But both his raw power and game power grades are considered 55-projected grade tools by FanGraphs. Nolasco had an 89 MPH exit velocity and a 46% hard-hit rate in 2019, which is above the major league average. That was during his age-17 season. As a defender, he’s considered average with a good enough arm to play either corner spot. Though left field will probably be his final home. Right now, he’s a 50-grade runner, but by the time he fills out, he’s only projected to have 40-grade speed.
Even if Nolasco has to move to left field, it won’t be any problem. The young slugger has plenty of power to get him to the majors. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts a bit as well as increase his line drive rate, but nothing that can’t be fixed with some fine-tuning and proper coaching. You also have to consider that 2022 will only be his age-20 season. Swings and misses at such a young age are common.