Pirates Prospect Update: 2 names on the rise, 3 others who have stalled

Feb 20, 2024; Bradenton, FL, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Thomas Harrington (78) poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2024; Bradenton, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Thomas Harrington (78) poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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As the baseball season approaches its midpoint, minor leaguers have had the opportunity to adjust to their level and, for some, raise their stock in the organization. Others have struggled to find their footing and may be trending downward.

As the Pirates approach the trade deadline and a potential playoff push, which prospects have earned the front office’s faith and which ones may be on the chopping block?

The name on everyone’s lips this season is Charles McAdoo. The Pirates may have found a diamond in the rough in the 13th round of the 2023 Draft in this San Jose State alum. McAdoo has yet to appear on any major list of the organization’s top prospects. Since arriving in the minors last year, though, McAdoo has done nothing but hit. His line across two levels (Low-A and High-A) is .330/.415/.552. He hits for power (13 doubles and nine homers in 54 games this year) and has speed (12 steals in 14 attempts).

Given his level, fans would like to see his strikeout rate come down a bit, but his 20.8% K rate would be on par with the better hitters currently in Pittsburgh’s lineup (Bryan Reynolds, Connor Joe, etc.) This is the kind of guy the Pirates need to retain. He has played every fielding position except shortstop, center, and catcher, and could develop into a valuable utility option in the coming years.

Also on the rise and perhaps more buzz-worthy is Thomas Harrington. Currently listed by MLB.com as Pittsburgh’s No. 5 prospect, Harrington is still getting stretched out after straining his rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder during spring training, but he is currently at Double-A Altoona and putting together a solid season. Most notable is his command. Harrington has walked just two of the 112 batters he has faced with Altoona. He’s suffered on account of some poor defensive efforts, but his 3.10 FIP indicates that he has the stuff to quickly rise through the Pirates’ ranks.

Harrington’s rotation mate, Bubba Chandler, seemed to stall early in the season but has perhaps turned a corner in recent starts. Chandler jumped 16 spots, from 83rd to 67th, on MLB.com’s top prospect list early this year, but that seems to be on the merit of stuff alone as his fastball touches triple digits and pairs nicely with his plus slider. In his 11 appearances at Double-A this season, though, Chandler has completed five innings only twice and has 19 walks against 40 strikeouts. After allowing five runs without allowing a hit on May 17, he went to the IL with a forearm injury. Since then, Chandler’s form has improved, striking out 10 with just one walk across the past 12 innings.

Jase Bowen, also with Double-A Altoona, has certainly hit a decline. The two-sport athlete earned praise for his power, speed, and fielding when the Pirates drafted him in the 11th round in 2019, and until recently, those scouting reports have panned out. Bowen led the South Atlantic League in RBI and runs last season and finished in the top three in homers and hits. But with the Curve, Bowen’s power has run dry. He has just two home runs and an isolated power of .084. If the Pirates weren’t so thin on outfield prospects, Bowen would be tantalizing trade bait. He played well in the Arizona Fall League last offseason and may have turned a few other front offices’ heads.

Fellow outfielder Lonnie White Jr. has retained his power but is struggling in all other areas of the game. Of his 26 hits with High-A Greensboro, 15 went for extra bases, including nine homers. The Sally League is notoriously hitter-friendly, so White’s .157 batting average is of significant concern here. His strikeout rate of 33% should also ring alarm bells. His range factor per game is also fairly low for a center fielder — just 1.82 compared with teammate Hudson Head’s 2.36. White, though, is the youngest player on this list. At 21 years old, he is 1.3 years younger than the average player in High-A. Perhaps with time, he will be able to adjust and avoid the trade block.