The Pittsburgh Pirates could have a large influx of prospect talent between late-June and early-July of this upcoming season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates should see their fair share of prospects come up next year. Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras could potentially start the year on the major league roster. Diego Castillo and Travis Swaggerty are guys that should take over roles by mid-May. Early into summer, between late May and early June, the Pirates could promote Canaan Smith-Njigba and Mason Martin, two guys with plus power potential. Late into the season, we might see a prospect like Nick Gonzales make his debut.
But throughout summer, the Pirates should see many of their most talented prospects arrive in the majors. The Pirates will start to see some very notable prospects reach the game’s highest level between late June and early July.
Arguably the best position player prospect that should come up during this time is outfielder Matt Fraizer. Fraizer could come up earlier depending on if they start him at Triple-A or Double-A to kick off the 2022 campaign. Afterall, Fraizer reached Double-A last year and excelled, so you can’t completely rule that out.
Fraizer started to appear on prospect radars after his remarkable 2021 breakout campaign. He split his season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers and Altoona Curve, posting a .306/.388/.552 line through 499 trips to the plate. Fraizer also showed off a fair bit of plate discipline with an 11.2% walk rate and solid 21.6% K-rate. All told, he put up a .402 wOBA and 149 wRC+. Although Fraizer can handle center field, he’s not the best defender. He’ll likely move to a corner long-term, but he could grade out as an above-average glove in left field. After having a 129 wRC+ at Altoona and entering his age-24 season, the Pirates could move him to Triple-A.
The best pitching prospect who should come up around this time is Carmen Mlodzinski. Mlodzinski was a competitive balance pick during the first round of the 2020 draft. Last year, Mlodzinski had a quality 3.93 ERA, 4.34 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP through 50.1 innings of work at Greensboro. He had a solid 30% strikeout rate, 9.6% walk rate, and 1.25 HR/9 to go with that.
You have to remember that Mlodzinski played in an extremely hitter-friendly environment. Plus, he had a much better 4.00 xFIP. He saw a slight uptick in velocity this past winter in the Arizona Fall League and is overall one of the Pirates’ more talented pitchers. He also made his Triple-A debut in 2021, so he’d likely start there in 2022.
A middle infielder that could come up with Mlodzinski is Ji-Hwan Bae. Bae spent his time as Oneil Cruz’s double-play partner at Altoona in 2021. Bae put up a .278/.359/.413 line at Double-A. A potent on-base bat, Bae walked 10.4% of the time. His solid production at the plate came out to a .343 wOBA and 114 wRC+.
Bae is known for his incredible speed and ability to hit for contact and get on base at a healthy rate. Although he’s not a big power hitter, he increased his isolated slugging percentage from just .100 to .134. Bae has also added some utility to his play style. He’s mainly a middle infielder but started to see time in centerfield last year. This gives the Pirates many avenues on how to use the speedy South Korean prospect.
Another speedy infield prospect we could see around this time is Tucupita Marcano. Marcano was acquired in the Adam Frazier trade and brings a similar skillset to Bae. He has a great hit tool, is extremely fast, is a good fielder up the middle, and brings some outfield utility.
Marcano already made his major league debut but struggled. He had just a 45 wRC+ in his first 50 plate appearances. But Marcano also skipped three minor league levels before making his debut. He definitely wasn’t ready but was more or less forced into emergency playing time because of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s early-season injury.
The Pirates could also add two left-handed pitching prospects to the 26-man roster during this time. Omar Cruz and Trey McGough could find themselves part of the major league pitching staff. Although Cruz and McGough aren’t nearly as highly touted as guys like Mlodzinski or Contreras, the Pirates’ pitching staff is light on left-handers. Both are guys who rely more on command than overpowering stuff to get outs. Between the two, McGough has the higher ceiling as he throws a bit harder with more break and pitched well as a reliever in 2019.
Overall, the roster should see some big improvements during this summer. With many notable prospects coming up, the current 26-man roster should look completely different than the one we see in September. The team has more than enough prospects to fill in many of the holes that are currently on the major league squad.