The Pittsburgh Pirates added a handful of young players to the organization through the international signing date. So where do their top newly signed prospects rank?
January 15th marked the International Signing Deadline. The Pittsburgh Pirates were quite active as they added plenty more talented young players to an already highly regarded farm system by signing one of baseball’s best international free agent classes. A couple of the new prospects they signed, two to be exact, could be among the team’s top-ranked prospects.
Those two are hulking outfielder Tony Blanco Jr. and talented middle infielder Yordany De Los Santos. They were both ranked as top 15 prospects per MLB Pipeline, and the Pirates were also the only team to land two top 15 ranked international prospects from this year’s class.
Blanco Jr. ranked just ahead of De Los Santos at #11. The righty-hitting outfielder was lauded for his massive power potential. FanGraphs gives him projected-70 raw power and 60-projected game power. MLB Pipeline sees him as a guy with 40-home run potential. He’s 16-years-old but comes in at a massive 6’6″, 245-pound frame. If you want to know what that looks like, Giancarlo Stanton also stands at 6’6″, 245.
Not only does Blanco Jr. have a league-leading home run power, but he also has excellent plate discipline for his age. It’s also something MLB Pipeline praised him for. He moves pretty well for his size and has a phenomenal arm. Currently, he is a right fielder by trade, but will probably rotate between first base, left field, and designated hitter long term. His frame might draw comparisons to Stanton, but he has also been compared to Cleveland Guardians’ designated hitter Franmil Reyes.
De Los Santos came in as the 12th best prospect, per MLB Pipeline. De Los Santos is a plus hitting shortstop. He brings a robust hit tool with above-average power. While he isn’t nearly the same size as Blanco, he stands at a strong 6’1, 170 pounds. This makes him quite projectable for the future. De Los Santos has the instinct, reflexes, and skills to man shortstop long term. But once he fills out, his range will end up on the fringy side of things. He’s already not the fastest runner, though his bat would easily play at either position if he had to move to second or third base.
However, he will look to stay at shortstop for as long as he can. If you can get a player with an above-average offensive profile at a premium position like shortstop, then you have an outstanding long-term player on your hands. He has middle-of-the-line-up potential, making him one of the best international prospects in this year’s class.
So, where could each rank in next year’s prospect rankings? According to FanGraphs, both currently sit at a 40 FV. That’s pretty common for young players, as the highest FV for any signing prospect was Brandon Mayea at 45+. Most young prospects like this start low in rankings and make their way up.
Right now, that would put them in the top 45-35 range of Pirates’ prospects. This is about where Shalin Polanco (#47) and Po-Yu Chen (#48) rank among the Pirates’ top prospects. Both were notable international signings from last year’s international signing period. Almost all amature international signees never rank among the top 100 prospects. So it’s not as if there was a chance for the Pirates to sign a top 100 prospect out of the gate.
For the Pirates to acquire two more top 45 or better prospects for their farm system makes an already deep system even better. The Pirates ended 2021 with the most top 100 prospects and most ranked system prospects among all MLB teams, per FanGraphs.