Baseball America recently projected what the Pittsburgh Pirates lineup and rotation could look like by the year 2025 on their Instagram.
The Pittsburgh Pirates future is in their farm system. Recently on Instagram, Baseball America, one of the more popular sites for baseball news, prospects, and advanced analysis, ranked the Pirates’ top prospects as well as projected their line-up and rotation could look like by 2025 on Instagram.
In the lineup, there were no major surprises. Their infield consisted of Endy Rodriguez at first base, Nick Gonzales at second base, Liover Peguero at shortstop, and Ke’Bryan Hayes at third. That’s quite a strong defensive infield. All of them are considered average or better defenders at their respective positions. It is a good hitting infield as well. Among those four, Hayes may be the weakest hitter, but that’s mainly going by last year’s stats in which he had an unusually high ground ball rate, likely partly because of a wrist injury.
The projected middle infield for the Pittsburgh Pirates is also an impressive duo. Gonzales, who is considered the long-term second baseman for the Pirates, is a consensus top 60 prospect. He was one of the best hitters in the 2020 draft. Liover Peguero was acquired in the Starling Marte swap and has since developed into a consensus top 100 prospect. The two are very high-ceiling, high-floor prospects with lots of athleticism and good abiltiy to hit.
Behind the plate, they have the Pittsburgh Pirates first overall pick from 2021, Henry Davis. 2025 would be Davis’s age-25 campaign, so he should already have some Major League experience by then. He’s known for his outstanding power potential, as well as his overall great hitting ability. His defense is fringy though, but at the very worst, he’d split time with Endy Rodriguez at first base and the backstop.
Rodriguez at first might be the biggest surprise given Mason Martin. But there are plenty more questions surrounding Martin than Rodriguez. Martin strikes out a whole lot, saw his walk rate plummet in 2021, as well as not being considered a superstar defender at first base. Sure, he could be a strong three-true-outcomes hitter, but striking out nearly 35% of the time at Double-A isn’t a great sign for things to come.
Like with the infield, there are no major surprises in the outfield.
Currently, they project Bryan Reynolds in left field, Travis Swaggerty in center, and Oneil Cruz in right. It’s long been speculated that Cruz would make the transition to right field to accommodate for all the shortstop-capable prospects in the Pirate system. He is athletic enough to make the move to the grass as well. Swaggerty is known for his outstanding defensive ability, but many overlook his bat. He has a solid hit tool and has always been praised for his raw power potential. Last year, he looked like he was starting to translate some of that into game power, but only appeared in very few games because of a dislocated shoulder. So long as his shoulder injury didn’t zap any of his power, he’s a guy who could easily hit somewhere in the realm of .260/.350/.450 with 20-25 home runs and 20+ stolen bases with Gold Glove defense.
Reynolds mainly played center field for the Pirates this year and even was a Gold Glove finalist. Though long-term, his best position is likely left field. He had a phenomenal 2021 season where he was among the 10th in wRC+ (142), wOBA (.385), and OPS (.912).
Currently lined up at designated hitter is Mattew Fraizer. The outfielder had a huge breakout campaign between High-A Greensboro and Double-A Altoona. All told, he had 499 plate appearances with a phenomenal 149 wRC+, .402 wOBA, and .939 OPS. The biggest improvement he made was his power output as he blasted 23 home runs and had a .246 ISO. He’s a plus runner who isn’t a bad fielder either. Though with the overabundance of outfielders in the Pirate system and if Fraizer is the real deal, you have to find somewhere to put him. He could end up sharing DH and right field duties with Oneil Cruz to keep Cruz and his hulking body fresh.
The starting pitching staff is a bit interesting. They have the obvious names like Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, and Carmen Mlodzinski, but Mitch Keller and Micahel Burrows take up the other two spots. Now in all fairness, Keller was once one of baseball’s high-end starting pitching prospects. Plus it’s not like he hasn’t shown the talent either. In 8 starts this year, he went at least 5 innings allowing 2 or fewer earned runs. However, in 5 other starts, he gave up 5+ earned runs. Keller was the definition of a mixed bag last season. The leash on Keller is getting shorter and shorter, especially with the wealth of pitching prospects that are coming through the pipeline. In my opinion, I’m surprised they decided to go with Keller over some of the other names the Pirates have.
Burrows is another interesting player to have in the rotation. He had a fine season down at High-A Greensboro with a 2.20 ERA, 3.28 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP in 49 innings. He issued his fair share of walks but had a 34.2% strikeout rate and HR/9 of just .55. Plus he has some really good stuff. His fastball comes in around the mid-90’s with a ton of spin. He also added a tick of velocity this year. His curveball has some of the most RPM in the minor leagues. But the issue is, that’s about it for Burrows. He will occasionally throw a changeup, but he’s pretty much just a two-pitch-pitcher, which doesn’t bode well for starting pitchers. This is a projection well into the future, 3-4 years from now so it’s not like he couldn’t develop a third solid offering. But it’s still a tad surprising that of all their pitching prospects, that’s who they have along with Contreras, Priester, and Mlodzinski.
Finally, at closer, they have right-hander Jared Jones. The Pirates picked up the flamethrowing right-hander in the second round of the 2020 draft. Despite being a high school pick, Jones was already averaging out in the upper-90’s. He has the arsenal to remain in the rotation with a big fastball, strong slider, great curveball, and solid changeup. But his command might end up being a big deciding factor to where he ends up. Though if he can even come close to his ceiling, I believe that he could be a really good starting pitcher.
I know what some of you may be thinking. Where’s Miguel Yajure? What about Brennan Malone? How can they project Keller in the rotation over those two? What if Hudson Head pans out? Canaan Smith-Njigba would make a great DH as well if he can start getting the ball in the air more. Those are all good points, and I’m sure there are about a dozen other names you can think of off the top of your head that could be part of the Pirates’ 2025 rotation and line-up. But remember, this is just Baseball America’s projection, their educated guess of what the team could look like by 2025. So much can change by then, heck a lot can change by the end of next season depending on who pans out and who breaks out. So I wouldn’t take it beyond face value. Still, it, at the very least, projects a good future for the Pirates.