The Pittsburgh Pirates have many noteworthy prospects, but a handful of them are versatile players who can field many positions.
Most of the Pittsburgh Pirates top position prospects are pretty much posted at one position. Nick Gonzales will stick at second base. Liover Peguero will land at shortstop base. Travis Swaggerty is a potential long-term outfielder. However, they also have some noteworthy prospects that are versatile in the field.
The team’s top prospect who can play multiple positions is Ji-Hwan Bae. Bae was a very solid hitter last season. He batted .278/.359/.418 with a .343 wOB, and 114 wRC+ at Double-A Altoona. The speedster has mainly played second base and third base during his pro career.
However, at the end of the 2021 season and the Arizona Fall League, Bae started to see playing time in center field. Bae will likely get to play more centerfield next season at Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates have a ton of middle infield capable prospects outside of Bae, so it’s a good idea to get him familiar with another position.
A prospect who could be on top 100 watch is backstop, Endy Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who was acquired in the trade involving Joe Musgrove, won the Southeast Low-A MVP award. The switch-hitting backstop posted an outstanding .294/.380/.512 line with a .410 wOBA, and 140 wRC+. Rodriguez has posted a walk rate of at least 10% and strikeout rate below 20% every year of his pro career. Last year, he had an 11.5% walk rate and 17.7% strikeout rate.
Rodriguez is a backstop by trade, but he’s played a fair amount of first base and corner outfield. Given the number of backstop prospects in the Bucs’ minor leagues, Rodriguez may end up at another position depending on what happens throughout the next season or two.
Another noteworthy prospect the Pirates acquired in trade is Tucupita Marcano. Marcano went from Low-A in 2019 to making his way onto the San Diego Padres’ opening day roster in 2021. Because of the massive jump in level, it shouldn’t be a massive surprise that Marcano struggled. Marcano started hot, posting a .273/.366/.442 line, .351 wOBA, and 103 wRC+.
After the trade, Marcano hit a cold spell. He hit just .230/.254/.279, .285 wOBA, and 71 wRC+. This was in just 210 plate appearances and he did heat up in the last month of the season. Plus he had a strong 12.4% walk rate and 15.7% strikeout rate. Marcano is lauded for his outstanding ability to put the bat on the ball, but he’s an average or better defender at second base, shortstop, third base, and the outfield.
One of the Pittsburgh Pirates top breakout prospects in 2021 was Jared Triolo. Triolo batted .304/.369/.480, posting a .371 wOBA, and 128 wRC+. His production came at High-A Greensboro. Defensively, Triolo is a plus third baseman. He won the minor league Gold Glove for the hot corner. But he has also played a handful of games at shortstop. In college, he played his fair share of games in left field as well. He’s a good runner with plus skills across the diamond, so he could probably handle the right side of the infield along with 3B and SS.
The Bucs took a very versatile player in the 6th round of the draft. Mike Jarvis was an under-slot pick, but you wouldn’t have known that based on his numbers in college. He batted .325/.398/.495 with a .392 wOBA and 29 swipes. Jarvis continued to hit extremely well once the Pirates drafted him. He collected 19 hits with 4 walks in his first 67 plate appearances as a professional. He also was 100% successful in stolen base attempts, going 11-for-11. Jarvis has pretty much spent his time split between center field and shortstop. In college, he played at least one inning at every position outside of first base, catcher, and pitcher.
If you count him as a versatile player, then Bubba Chandler is the Pirates’ best multi-position prospect. Chandler is a two-way player. He was the team’s third-round pick but lasted so long in the draft because of his commitment to Clemson. Had it not been for that and Chandler would have gone top 15, possibly even top 10. He has all-star potential, both as a pitcher and infielder. He has four offerings that all project as average or better. He is already averaging in the mid-90’s with his four-seamer and touching the upper-90’s with regularity well before he even turns 20.
As a shortstop, he is highly athletic with plus power, plus fielding, and (obviously) a powerful arm. The Pirates will likely develop him as a pitcher first but also keep around his ability to hit. If he becomes a pitcher first player, he might see time all around the field given that he’s fast enough to man the outfield and since he’s a good defender at shortstop, he’d be able to handle both second base and third base.
One last player worth mentioning is Hoy Park. Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the trade for Clay Holmes, Park came over to the Pirates batting .327/.475/.567 with a .452 wOBA, and 180 wRC+ with the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. Park would only go on to bat .136/.334/.136 with a .274 wOBA, and 63 wRC+ with the Bucs’ Triple-A affiliate. On a more positive note, Park ended 2021 with a .250/.404/.432 line with a 126 wRC+ with his final 57 plate appearances of the major league season.
Park has displayed plus defense at second base, shortstop, and third base in the major leagues. He also graded out as a plus defender in both corner outfield spots. He didn’t do great in centerfield, but it should be noted that all defensive metrics came in a very small amount of playing time. Still, the fact he can play multiple positions, both in the infield and outfield makes him a solid utility-type prospect.
Most of the players we talked about have played both an infield position as well as an outfield position, aside from Bubba Chandler. However, the likes of Maikol Escotto, Rodolfo Castro, Diego Castillo, Luis Tejada, and Jackson Glenn can play multiple infield positions. While the versatility of a SS/2B/3B type infielder isn’t as valuable as a guy who can play multiple infield spots and outfield spots, there’s still valuable as it gives the team more flexibility.