Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Underrated Prospects Who Are Hot

BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 16: Carmen Mlodzinski #83 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FLORIDA - MARCH 16: Carmen Mlodzinski #83 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 10: A wide angle view during the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park on May 10, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Infielder Dariel Lopez

Dariel Lopez probably doesn’t come up in conversations as one of the better infield prospects in the Pirate system. But Lopez, at 20-years-old, could become a corner infield prospect with plus power and a decent hit tool in the next few years. Lopez had a solid, albeit unimpressive, 2021 campaign where he hit .258/.341/.393. Overall, he was about league average, represented by his .348 wOBA and 103 wRC+.

Lopez probably had one of the slowest starts to the season among all players in the organization. In his first 60 plate appearances, Lopez batted just .179/.220/.250. He struck out in over 30% of his trips to the plate while only drawing a walk at a 5% rate. Lopez had a sub-.500 OPS, wOBA well below .250, and wRC+ that clocked in at 26. The difference between the league average and Lopez was the same difference as 2019 MVP runner-up Christian Yelich and the league average.

In Lopez’s defense, he is in his age-20 campaign and at High-A. The average age of pitchers in the South Atlantic League is 23.2-years-old. Lopez won’t turn 21 until next Feburary and he has been pushed through the minor leagues at a stead-fast reate.

But regardless of his age, Lopez has finally started to hit. Throughout the month of May, Lopez is batting .269/.338/.552. Although his strikeout rate is still a tad high at 28.4%, he is now walking at a 9.5% rate. Lopez is also hitting for power. He has blasted five home runs in just 74 plate appearances while having a phenomenal .283 isolated slugging percentage. This has helped him put up a .389 wOBA and 133 wRC+.

This year, Lopez has mostly worked at third base but has a handful of games logged at shortstop. With his limited range, third base and first base are the likeliest destinations for him long term. But if he keeps hitting anything as he has so far, he should have no problem converting to a corner infield role long-term.

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