Pittsburgh Pirates: Three Prospects Who Could Play Full Season in 2023

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

These three Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects could play a full season in 2023 after seeing time at the Rookie-Ball level in 2022

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of top prospects in the minor league system. But many of those prospects are still very young and haven’t played a full season. They may have only played at the Pirates’ Florida Complex League or Dominican Summer League affiliate, or maybe they were a recent college draftee who has yet to play. Either way, the Pirates have a handful of top prospects that will be in for a full season at Low-A Bradenton next year.

Bradenton was one of the Bucs’ strongest minor league affiliates this year. With the likes of Anthony Solometo, Bubba Chandler, Tsung-Che Cheng, and Rodolfo Nolasco as some of the most notable prospects, next year could be another season where Bradenton has a good roster. With that, let’s look at three prospects who will get a full season’s worth of work.

RHP Hung-Leng Chang

One of the Pirates’ biggest international signings this past off-season was Hung-Leng Chang. The Taiwanese right-hander signed for $500K, making him the fourth highest-paid player from the team’s 2021-2022 international class. Chang looked decent at the Florida Complex League, and with 2023 being his age-21 season, he’ll surely open the season with Bradenton.

Chang only pitched 22.2 innings but struck out 27 batters while only allowing eight to reach via free pass. But the most impressive line from his small sample size was his 48.3% ground ball rate and zero home round allowed. Despite having a 4.76 ERA, Chang had a strong 2.50 FIP and 3.35 xFIP. The main reason for his inflated ERA was a .355 batting average on balls in play through the small sample size.

Chang averages out around the low-90s but has hit 94-95 MPH. He isn’t a hard thrower, but he also isn’t fully matured yet. He’s a lanky 6’3”, 160 LBS. There’s a decent amount of physical projecting with Chang. He could add another tick or two of velocity and consistently sit around 92-94 MPH by the time he’s 23-24.

OF Lonnie White Jr.

The Pittsburgh Pirates used their 2021 draft money very wisely. After going under slot to pick Henry Davis, the Pirates would then go on to select three straight overslot prospects. In the competitive balance round after the second wave of picks, the Pirates selected high school outfielder Lonnie White Jr.

White Jr. hasn’t played much, only appearing in 11 total games and stepping to the plate 40 times, mainly due to some injuries stemming from this year. But he has ten hits in those 40 plate appearances, including six extra-base hits. Three of his extra base hits were doubles and the other three are home runs. Though Lonnie has just a 2:17 BB: ratio, the power has been fully displayed. The top outfield prospect has a .316 isolated slugging percentage in the small sample size.

The Malvern Prep High School product has considerable power and speed. He has the ceiling of a 30/30 candidate. He is also a great fielder with a strong arm. Combined with his defensive work and speed, White Jr. projects as a center fielder long term. There are some questions about his hit tool. After all he struck out 17 times, but if he can even be a .220-.240 batter in the major leagues, he’ll be more than productive given his power potential and Gold Glove fielding ability.

RHP Joaquin Tejada

Joaquin Tejada was acquired by the Pirates at the 2021 trade deadline. He, along with catching prospect Carter Bins, was sent from the Seattle Mariners to the Bucs for left-handed starting pitcher Tyler Anderson. Tejada hasn’t pitched much professionally, but he has shown a decent amount of talent when he has.

Tejada has tossed a total of 55.2 innings between last year and this season. While his 4.20 ERA may not be too pretty, he’s held opponents to just 6.5 hits-per-9 innings, just two home runs, and a solid 24.4% strikeout rate. But where he does struggle is his walk rate. He has just a 13.6% BB% through his first handful of innings.

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Tejada has the chance to have four average or better offerings. He throws a fastball, slider, curveball, and splitter. His breaking offerings (his slider and curveball) are his best pitches. However, both his splitter and fastball have potential. Like Chang, Tejada sits in the low-90s but has more velocity potential. He’s just 5’11” 160 LBS, so after some development and some added muscle, he could gain a bit of velocity.