Pittsburgh Pirates: How the Organization Built the Farm System

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aug 16, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Rodolfo Castro (64) reaches second against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Rodolfo Castro (64) reaches second against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

International Signed Prospects

Most of the Pittsburgh Pirates top and high-end prospects were acquired through trade or the draft. That’s mainly because most of the organization’s internationally signed prospects haven’t played all that much and/or are still very young (20-years-old or younger), so they haven’t gotten the same amount of time to develop and prove themselves compared to most of the names we’ve talked about so far.

The Pirates’ highest-ranked internationally signed prospect is infielder Rodolfo Castro. Castro got his first taste of MLB playing time this year and blasted 5 home runs in less than 100 plate appearances. He had a solid start at Double-A this year, and while he did fall off of a cliff in the second half, he picked things up once he got promoted to Triple-A. Castro has some solid power potential and isn’t a bad runner. He has played third base, shortstop, and second base where he has average at best defense. Castro may be ranked as the team’s top international prospect, but he isn’t the highest ceiling one either.

That title would arguably go to outfielder Rodolfo Nolasco. Nolasco already is seen as a guy who has very good power potential at just the age of 20-years-old. He has 55-projected grades for both his game and raw power. Plus he has a solid hit tool and isn’t a bad fielder. He has a good enough arm to play either corner outfield spot. Though once he fills out, he may only be regulated to left field. Still, there’s massive offensive potential in Nolasco that hasn’t been fully realized yet, mainly because he has less than only 96 professional games played and is still very young.

After Nolasco, we have Lolo Sanchez. Sanchez had a big year at Greensboro, having a 124 wRC+, 19 home runs, and a .365 wOBA in 437 plate appearances. Sanchez had a big power breakout this year, but he also maintained the speed he was known for, swiping 30 bases. If Sanchez’s power output wasn’t a fluke, he could be a solid outfielder for the Pirates to rely on soon.

Shalin Polanco was the Pirates’ most recent big international signee. He’s yet another outfielder with solid tools all around. The only area he’s lacking in is speed. He didn’t do all that well at the Florida Complex League, but it was only his age-17 season and he only had 176 plate appearances. Like stated earlier, the only area he’s lacking in is speed, which is the only tool that isn’t projected 50.

The last player I want to go in-depth with is Po-Yu Chen. Chen was signed in 2020-2021 as the Pirates used the international bonus pool money they got for Jarrod Dyson from the White Sox to sign Chen. Chen looked outstanding at the FCL but struggled once he was promoted to A-Ball Bradenton. He also is only 20-years-old. While Chen isn’t a hard thrower, he has three offerings that project as at least average, and command that is considered above average.

The remaining prospects that came from the international market currently ranked by FanGraphs include Santiago Florez, Alexander Mojica, Yerry De Los Santos, Luis Tejada, Wilkin Ramos, Sergio Campana, Andy Maldonado, and Osvaldo Gavilan. In total, that’s 13 players, making up 21.7% of FanGraphs’ list.