Although the Pirate farm system took a bit of a hit over the last year, 2023 could give the minor leagues the boost it needs
Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system took a hit, and to no fault of any specific player. The Pirates saw the likes of Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras graduate prospect status. Both were top 100 prospects, with Cruz even ranking among the best prospects in all of baseball. Roansy wasn’t nearly as highly ranked but was still a consensus top-100 prospect. Along with Cruz and Contreras, other fairly notable prospects like Tucupita Marcano, Rodolfo Castro, and Jack Suwinski graduated prospect status as well.
For some, the farm system has taken a step back. But 2023 could give the Pirate minor league system the significant boost it needs and rejuvenate it in a big way. The first reason is because of prospects already in the system, specifically young guys who will play a full year.
At the end of 2023, Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo may become two of baseball’s premier prospects. Thomas Harrington will also get a chance to show off what he can do. Two of the team's many over-slot draftees from 2021, Braylon Bishop and Lonnie White Jr., are in line for regular playing time at Bradenton. The Pirates’ big international signee from this past offseason, Jun-Seok Shim, will get a chance to play at the FCL and at Bradenton. Owen Kellington will also be returning from an injury-ridden 2022.
Let’s also not forget some prospects who aren’t on many lists right now. One of the organization's larger 2021-2022 international signees, Hung-Leng Chang will get a chance to play a full season next year. Axiel Plaz is starting to gain traction. Give him another look and he might start getting more recognition.
Not to mention the multitude of rebound candidates like Liover Peguero, Matt Fraizer, and Jared Jones, or injured prospects like Nick Gonzales or Henry Davis who could regain some of their stock. One outfield prospect some have identified as a breakout candidate is Shalin Polanco, who will get an extended look at Bradenton in 2023. The Pirates have a handful of players who could become top prospects simply by getting more playing time.
That’s not the only way the Pirates could rejuvenate the farm system. The team also has the no. 1 pick in this year’s draft, and many are projecting them to select LSU outfielder Dylan Crews. Crews is one of the most hyped draft prospects in recent history, and he could even rival Adley Rutschman’s signing bonus (which is the current record). Chase Dollander or even Paul Skenes could rival Gerrit Cole’s signing bonus (current record holder for a pitcher in the draft). In total, the Pirates have four picks in the top 100 (their fourth-round pick is the 104th overall selection) in arguably the best draft class since the rebuild started.
The Pirate farm might have taken a step back, but there’s still plenty to look forward to. Young players getting playing time and a high draft slot in a talented draft class will help the Pirates rejuvenate the system. Even with more prospects looking to graduate status this year, like Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Nick Gonzales, Endy Rodriguez, and Ji-Hwan Bae, the team should still find a way to up their minor league talent.