While the Pittsburgh Pirates have a ton of top ranked prospects, the team could see these unranked prospects breakout in 2023.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the better farm systems in the sport. Their system has many consensus top 100 prospects like Termarr Johnson, Nick Gonzales, Henry Davis, and Quinn Priester are among the best the Pirates have to offer. But they have plenty of unranked prospects. Many of these unranked prospects could have massive breakouts in 2023.
Mentioning extremely young international prospects such as Axiel Plaz or Pitterson Rosa are obvious players. Neither are even 18 years old and haven’t even played at A-Ball Bradenton yet. They could be part of the Pirate top 50 prospects in the next year or two but won’t play a full season next year. So the first player I want to highlight today is left-handed pitcher Julian Bosnic.
The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Bosnic in the 14th round of the 2022 draft. Bosnic was considered a top draft prospect in 2021, with MLB Pipeline ranking him as the 187th best draft prospect. He was projected to go in the early rounds of the draft but fell to the San Francisco Giants in the 16th round as blister issues throughout the season limited him to just 6.2 innings and severely hurt his draft stock. Bosnic did not sign and re-entered the 2022 draft.
Bosnic’s final season at the University of South Carolina was a good one. In 50.2 innings, the southpaw had a 2.84 ERA and .93 WHIP and allowed just two home runs. On top of that, he struck out a whopping 78 batters for a 37.9% strikeout rate. The only negative to his 2022 campaign was a sub-par 12.1% walk rate.
Bosnic has a plus fastball that he can run up at 97 MPH. He isn’t the hardest thrower, but he can throw the pitch with a ton of movement. His curveball grades out as a plus-plus pitch. It sits in the upper-70s, but with both spin and active spin, Bosnic gets a ton of swings-and-misses on the offering. He also throws a tumbling change-up, though it’s not his most used offering. He only uses it when he starts games.
The issue is that Bosnic’s command is not great. This stems from mediocre athleticism, which leads to an inconsistent delivery motion. But Bosnic has high-end stuff. He has a reliever’s outlook, but if he can get his command and motion tightened up, there’s a chance he will end up as a starting pitcher. It’s not very likely, but it could still happen.
While talking about recent international signees may be a bit obvious, one that does stand out as one who could have a massive breakout in 2022 is Hung-Leng Chang. Unlike Plaz or Rosa, Chang will more than likely play a full season. The Taiwanese pitching prospect spent the 2022 season at the Pirate Florida Complex League affiliate. With 2023 as Chang’s age-21 season, he’ll play the season at Low-A Bradenton.
Chang pitched 22.2 innings, striking out 27.8% of the batters he faced with a quality 8.2% walk rate. He was a ground ball merchant and didn’t allow a single home run. Chang had a 48.3% ground ball rate but gave up 12 earned runs. While he may have given up a fair amount of runs, he was also extremely unlucky with a .355 batting average on balls in play.
Chang only tops out at 94 MPH and mixes that with four other offerings. He has a highly advanced feel for pitching and decent command. Chang definitely has a frame he can fill out. He stands at 6’3” but just 160 pounds. Chang could gain an extra tick or two of velocity by the time he is 23 or 24 years old and on the major league doorstep.
Arguably the best-unranked position player prospect in the system is outfielder Braylon Bishop. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Bishop as one of their many overslot picks in the 2021 draft. Bishop was selected 403rd overall, but he was considered a top 100 draft prospect. Next season should be his first full campaign and a chance to see what he can do.
Bishop was praised for his athleticism and power. He has extremely fast bat speed and is a center fielder through and through. He has the speed, glove, and arm to remain up the middle long term. The downside is his swing can get in the way, and there is some risk on that end. He’s struck out in 27.2% of his professional plate appearances. But the talent is definitely there.
All three of Bosnic, Bishop, and Chang will likely be part of the same Bradenton roster to start the 2022 season. While Bishop and Chang will almost certainly spend the entire season at Low-A, Bosnic could reach High-A Greensboro. Either way, this trio could become notable prospects within the organization after next season.