Here is a look at our top ten Pittsburgh Pirates prospects voted on by our writers here at Rum Bunter
Both the trade deadline and draft are well behind us. Because of that, I think it’s time we do another Rum Bunter top 10 Pittsburgh Pirates prospect list. Both the draft and the deadline added more depth to an already fairly deep farm system. It’s considered one of the best in baseball, with Baseball America ranking it at #4 and FanGraphs even going so far as to say they have the #1 system in the sport as of right now.
This list was voted on by our fellow staff writers. This list will consist of who we think are the Pirates’ top ten prospects as of right now. Note that we are leaving out guys like Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, or Jared Triolo. Although they technically are still prospects, this list could become outdated before the end of this season, so we are only keeping it to guys who have yet to make their big league debuts.
Before we get into our top ten, I want to first list some honorable mentions. These guys received some consideration and votes by our staff, however ultimately ended up outside our top 10 list.
The Pirates drafted Zander Mueth in the 2nd round of this past July's Draft. Mueth has an excellent pitch repertoire, including a plus sinking fastball that sits 92-95 MPH already, another potential plus offering in his sweeping slider, and a change-up with average potential. Mueth does this all with an arm slot reminiscent of Chris Sale. Mueth does struggle with his command as of right now. But he just turned 18 on June 22nd. He’s a tall, 6’6”, 205 pounds young right-hander. He could very well find himself within the organization's top 10 prospects after a year or two.
Braxton Ashcraft was a former 2nd round pick back in 2018. He missed most of 2020-2022, pitching less than 50 innings, missing time because of the canceled season, and having to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2021. Since returning, Ashcraft has been magnificent, working to a 2.39 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP. Ashcraft is averaging out in the upper-90s with some solid breaking and off-speed stuff. But he’s yet to be pushed for more than four innings, and all of his starts at Altoona have only been three frames.
The Pirates’ top international signee from the 2020-2021 off-season, Po-Yu Chen, is having a quality year at High-A Greensboro. Although he started off the season on the wrong foot, he’s pitched to a strong 3.28 ERA, 4.66 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP over his last 93.1 innings. He’s struck out over a quarter of the batters he’s come across at 26.4% with an 8.6% walk rate and 1.25 HR/9. Chen only hits about 90-93 MPH, and his slider and curveball are average pitches. But he’s shown off good command and a plus splitter.
Jase Bowen is the definition of a utility prospect. The only positions he hasn’t played as a pro ball player are shortstop, pitcher, and catcher, though his primary position is outfield. He also is a power/speed threat and currently has home runs, an isolated slugging percentage, and stolen bases. Overall on the year, he is hitting .260/.333/.476 with a 118 wRC+. Bowen does strike out a little more than you’d like, though his ceiling is a 20/20 threat who can play all three outfield positions, as well as second base, third base, and first base.
Mitch Jebb was the Pirates’ second-round pick in 2023. Jebb projects as a hitter who focuses on making a lot of contact and drawing walks at an above-average rate. However, he has little power and might top out at 12 home runs, in a good year. But Jebb is a plus runner who plays average defense in the infield and could potentially see time in center field. So far, Jebb has 18 hits in 93 plate appearances as a pro ball player, along with 12 walks and just 9 strikeouts.
The Pirates took Hunter Barco out of the University of Florida during the second round of the 2022 draft. While Barco had a strong final college season, it was cut short in May because of Tommy John surgery. Barco has only recently returned, tossing just 13.2 innings. He’s struck out 21 batters, has allowed just five walks and no home runs yet. Barco sits 91-94 MPH, with a slider and changeup. He also projects to have above-average control/command.
Tony Blanco Jr.
Tony Blanco Jr. isn’t the last player we’ll see from the Pirates’ 2021-2022 international signing class in today's list. Blanco Jr. might just have the most power potential in the Pirate system. At just 18 years old. Blanco is a massive 6’6”, 245 pounds. That’s the same height and weight as Yankee DH Giancarlo Stanton. Blanco Jr. does have some swing-and-miss concerns, but if he can get that down, you might be looking at a guy who could hit .260 and 40 homers a year. Although the Pirates originally drafted him as a corner outfielder, he’s mostly played first base this season. While Blanco might not be a terrible runner now, getting him to work in at first base gets him familiar with a position that he might end up at long term.
Lonnie White Jr.
Lonnie White Jr. was one of the many top high schoolers the Pirates drafted and signed in 2021. In his age-20 campaign, White Jr. has hit .275/.410/.460 with a .414 wOBA, and 137 wRC+ between the Pirates’ FCL affiliate, and Low-A Bradenton. White is one of the best runners in the system and has a plus glove in center field. He might not have a cannon for an arm, though it projects as average. He also has above-average raw power, though his hit tool needs some improvement.