While the Pittsburgh Pirates have many highly regarded prospects, there are non-top 100 prospects who could end up having impactful 2023 seasons
Many of baseball’s best players were once considered top prospects in the minor leagues. However, not every player was a top 100 prospect. The Pittsburgh Pirates system is very deep, and while they do have a ton of top 100 ranked prospects, they still have plenty of players who are outside the top 100. But who could make the biggest impact in the major leagues next year, among the non-top 100 players?
On the pitching side of things, Mike Burrows would definitely be at the top of the list. Last season, Burrows worked to a 4.01 ERA, but 3.29 FIP and 1.21 WHIP across 94.1 innings. Burrows struck out well over a quarter of the batters he faced with a 28.2% strikeout rate, but also kept walks down (7.9% walk rate), and kept the ball in the park (0.76 HR/9 rate).
Overall, those were pretty decent numbers. His ERA wasn’t pretty, but it was inflated by his last start to the season where he allowed six earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Before that outing, Burrows had a 3.46 ERA, over a half-run lower than what he finished the year out with.
But Burrows has always had the stuff to be an interesting pitching prospect. He averages out in the mid-90s with a ton of spin. His four-seamer hits about 2500 RPM. For reference, the league average fastball spin in Major League Baseball is around 2250 RPM. His curveball is also elite and is a high-spin pitch, like his fastball. Burrows’ curve averages out at a whopping 3000 RPM. Ryan Presley led all MLB pitchers in curveball spin rate, which would be around the 95th percentile. There were always questions about his changeup, but it has come a long way to become a pitch he can rely on.
There are some potential relief prospects who could make an impact. All of Tyler Samaniego, J.C. Flowers, Tahnaj Thomas, Colin Selby, and Nick Dombkowski should all start the year at Triple-A Indianapolis. Chances are, at least one will make a debut and make a decent impact on the team next year. Thomas brings a big fastball, Flowers has one of the best breaking balls in the system, Samaniego has a nasty fastball/slider combo, and Dombkowski showed off great command last year.
The non-top 100 prospect position player who could make the biggest impact is Ji-Hwan Bae. Bae had another quality minor league season, this time at Triple-A. In 473 plate appearances, Bae slashed .289/.362/.430 with a .353 wOBA, and 112 wRC+. Bae has never been a power hitter, but his .141 isolated slugging percentage is a single-season best for him. He’s always been a high-average/OBP hitter and he continued that this year. Bae walked at a 10.1% rate with a career-best 16.9% strikeout rate.
Bae’s ability to reach base is all the more valuable because of his speed. Bae is a 65-grade runner and swiped 30 bags last year. Bae made his debut and went three-for-three in stolen base attempts in just ten games/37 plate appearances. In total, he had 11 hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
There are some other position player prospects who we could see make an impact next year. Malcom Nunez had a quality season where he had a .833 OPS and 117 wRC+. Canaan Smith-Njigba likely would have broken rookie status last season if he didn’t fracture his wrist. He also was having a decent season before his injury and looked decent in the very few games he played.
There should be many debuts for the Pirates next season. Among them, there is bound to be at least one non-top 100 prospect who makes a sizable impact on the team next season. There’s many prospects to look forward to next year, and Burrows and Bae could make some of the biggest impacts on the season.