Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: The Ascension of Liover Peguero

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop prospect Liover Peguero has slowly risen though the prospect rankings since his arrival to the organization

Back in the 2019-2020 off-season when the Pittsburgh Pirates sent veteran outfielder Starling Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a two-player package, many set their sights on Liover Peguero. Peguero at the time was considered a very high ceiling shortstop but would need to refine his skills to reach that ceiling.

Overall, he was considered a prospect to watch. One that could break out in the next few years. Fast forward to 2021 and he’s become one of baseball’s most notable shortstop prospects. FanGraphs currently ranks him #67 and MLB Pipeline has him at #85. Pretty good for a guy who started out both lists as a borderline top 100 prospect (#119 per FanGraphs and a “Just Missed Out” prospect by MLB Pipeline).

Peguero had a solid season at High-A Greensboro. Throughout 417 plate appearances, the shortstop batted .270/.332/.444 with 14 home runs, 19 doubles, a .338 wOBA, and 108 wRC+. While those weren’t close to the likes of his teammates such as Matthew Fraizer or Nick Gonzales, they were quite solid given more context.

Peguero was one of the youngest players at High-A Greensboro. He was about the age of the average Bradenton Marauders player and there were 8 different players who appeared in at least 12 games at the Florida Coast League of similar or older age to Peguero. Overall, Greensboro players were about two-and-a-half years older than the talented shortstop. The aforementioned Gonzales and Fraizer were both 2 and 3 years older than Liover by the end of the campaign. So while his bottom line numbers may not stand out among the crowd, being an above league average hitter while also being much younger than your competition is impressive.

Peguero is more of a hit-over-power kind of player. His hit tool projects at 60, which is reaching elite territory. But don’t get hit-over-power confused with no power at all. Peguero’s power has slowly been improving since his professional debut in 2018.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Peguero, his power was only projected to be a 40, which isn’t great by any means. But now he projects with 45-game power. Plus his raw power has always been projected at 50. He also had a single-season best ISO, posting a solid .174 mark this year.

His increased power potential is one of the major reasons he has climbed prospect rankings. Originally a wire-frame, slap hitter, Peguero now stands at a 6’1, 200-pound frame. He’s added 40 pounds since his first professional season in 2018 with his rookie weight coming in at just 160 pounds. That falls somewhere in the middle of Javier Baez (6-foot, 190 pounds) and Trevor Story (6’2″, 213 pounds). However, the added bulk hasn’t slowed him down yet. He’s still a projected plus runner and swiped 28 bases this year. He also projects as an above-average fielder with a strong enough arm to remain at shortstop long term.

The only knocks that can be made about Peguero so far is his plate discipline and batted ball rates. He only had a 7.9% walk rate and 25.2% strikeout rate. He also had a 49.8% ground ball rate and sub-20% line drive rate (18.6%). But the so-so plate discipline numbers aren’t uncommon for a young player. His batted ball numbers aren’t anything that can’t be fixed with some fine tuning to his swing or approach at the plate.

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Peguero has become not just one of baseball’s higher-end prospects, but one of the better overall shortstop prospects. He’s increased his power potential to an average level, but his size suggests he could be better than what the grades project when it comes to slugging. He’s one of the most exciting players to watch in the system. There’s a good chance that Peguero takes yet another step forward and starts the 2022 season at Double-A. While he’d be extremely young for the level, Peguero has proven that he’s good enough to play with the older kids.