Although the Pittsburgh Pirates have many prospects that fans are looking forward to seeing how they play in a full season, they do have a few who will miss most, if not all, of the 2023 season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a fairly deep farm system, with their talent spread throughout their minor league system. Fans are looking forward to what guys like Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo can do in a full season, as well as if Triple-A prospects like Endy Rodriguez, Luis Ortiz, Mike Burrows, and Nick Gonzales can take the next step in becoming productive Major League players. Unfortunately, the Pirates have a few top prospects who will miss most of, if not all, of 2023 due to injuries.
The Pirates’ second-round pick from last season, Hunter Barco, will likely miss all of 2023. If he does return, it likely won’t be until late August at the earliest. Barco underwent Tommy John surgery during his final year at the University of Florida. The southpaw made nine starts and pitched 50.2 innings, working to a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 6.27 K:BB ratio. Barco struck out with his 34.3% strikeout rate being his highest single-season career rate. His 5.5% walk rate was another single-season best, but he did have a 1.10 HR/9 rate.
Barco was sitting 90-93 MPH and topping out at 95. His changeup has flashed above-average potential at times, making it a solid off-speed offering. However, his best pitch is his slider, which sits in the low-80s with sweeping action. Barco has both good command and some deception with a cross-fire delivery. This also includes a low arm slot. Although he is a high-floor/low-ceiling type pitcher, there are definitely some traits that could help him play up, according to FanGraphs.
While Barco is still far off from the Major Leagues, Max Kranick, on the other hand, has already made his major league debut. Kranick has only pitched 43.2 innings in the big leagues, owning a poor 5.56 ERA, 4.49 FIP, and 1.65 WHIP. He only has a 0.82 HR/9 rate and a .341 batting average on balls in play haven’t done him any favors, but Kranick’s walk rate clocks in at 10.9%. Plus, he has a poor 17.9% strikeout rate to combat it.
But Kranick opened 2022 with some serious promise. He was coming out of Spring Training, averaging out at 95.1 MPH, compared to 94.2 MPH in 2021. Although he didn’t see a major uptick in spin rate, the added velocity to his four-seamer was encouraging. But after his second game of the season in the bigs last year, Kranick landed on the IL and underwent TJ surgery. Hopefully, he can maintain the added speed he gained once he recovers from the procedure. He could have a future in the big league pitching staff if he can.
The last prospect injured and missing all of 2023 was fairly recently in Dariel Lopez. Lopez dislocated his knee and will have to undergo surgery to repair it. This is after he came off his best season yet, batting .286/.329/.476 with a .359 wOBA and 116 wRC+. Lopez hit 19 home runs and had a .186 ISO, but only walked at a 5% rate and struck out just over a quarter of the time (25.5%). But Lopez was great during summer, slashing .314/.351/.508 with a .382 wOBA and 131 wRC+. However, plate discipline issues still plagued the infielder, clocking in with an even lower 3.9% walk rate but a slightly improved 23.9% strikeout rate.
There is definitely some concern about Lopez. He doesn’t walk all that often, his strikeout rate is a tad high, and he had a .348 batting average on balls in play last season (.376 mark in his June-September hot streak). He’s also a positionless defender. He mostly played shortstop last year but has experience at all four infield positions. He’s a poor runner, and now with this major knee injury, he may even slow down even more. Still, he should find a home on an infield corner. He makes the easy plays at shortstop, which could translate well to third base or first base. Although Lopez has some risk, it is certainly unfortunate he was injured right after a breakout 2022 campaign. Hopefully, he can return in 2023 and further build off his breakout, improving some of the flaws in his game.