Pittsburgh Pirates: Young Prospects Fans Should Be Excited About
The Pittsburgh Pirates have multiple very exciting, but young prospects in their deep farm system that fans should be excited to watch in 2023.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ still have a deep farm system despite graduating a handful of prospects over the last year. They’ve still found ways to add depth through the draft and international signees and have a ton of up-and-coming prospects. But next season, Pirates fans should keep an eye on many of the highly talented and exciting prospects in the low minors.
Maybe the most exciting prospect the Pirates have to offer right now that isn’t Endy Rodriguez is Termarr Johnson. The team’s first-round pick, Johnson, signed an over-slot deal for the fourth overall selection. Johnson was considered the best prep hitter the draft has seen in a while and fell to the Pirates *only* because he projects as a second baseman rather than a shortstop.
He’s a pure hitter who also has 60-grade power. He makes contact, doesn’t strikeout, and draws plenty of walks. MLB Pipeline drew comparisons to Wade Boggs and Vlad Guerrero Sr. for his plate discipline and plate coverage. Even if he only projects as a second baseman, he projects as an above-average keystone defender. He has .300/.400/.500 potential and the kind of power that could hit 25+ homers.
Two of the Pirates’ best pitching prospects will also start the year below Altoona. The first is Anthony Solometo. The southpaw was the team’s 2021 second-round pick but was considered a top-20 talent. He had an outstanding brief look at Bradenton, working to a 2.64 ERA, 2.83 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP through 47.2 innings. While Solometo had a 10.3% walk rate, he struck out 27.1% of opponents and allowed zero home runs.
Solometo isn’t considered a flamethrower, but it seems he’s gained some velocity. According to fellow staff writer Kody Duncan, Solometo is topping out at 97 MPH. Solometo has elite command and some nasty breaking stuff. If he can average out around 92-95 MPH with his fastball, he’ll be an elite pitcher in the future. He definitely should be on top 100 watch, and he’ll certainly get there if he pitches well in the hitter-friendly Greensboro.
Solometo was a top 20 draft talent in 2021, and Bubba Chandler was a top 15 talent in the same draft. Chandler was selected in the 3rd round because of his commitment to Clemson football. The talented two-way high schooler took the money and went to the Pirates. The right-hander had a 2.61 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP across 41.1 innings between the FCL and Bradenton. Chandler struck out a whopping 34.7% of opponents while keeping them to an average of .161. Although batters didn’t get many hits off of Chandler, they did draw a walk at a 16.2% rate against him.
Chandler was drafted as a two-way prospect, but it seems his days as a hitter are being put behind him. He wasn’t a terrible hitter, slashing .196/.331/.382 with a 104 wRC+, but he struck out nearly a third of the time (33.1%). Chandler clearly was more talented on the mound, flashing an upper-90s four-seamer to go with a big slider and decent change-up. He also projects to have a solid curveball. Chandler might see an improvement in his command now that he’s focusing solely on pitching.
Some of the Pirates’ recent international signees are also prospects fans should keep tabs on. Jun-Seok Shim is a teenage Korean right-hander who tops out at triple-digits. Axiel Plaz had a 206 wRC+ (106% better than the league average batter) in his first look at the Dominican Summer League. Tony Blanco Jr. is a 6’6”, 245 pound outfielder. With that kind of frame, he has the 40-home run potential in his future. Yordany De Los Santos was the team’s top international signee in 2021-2022. He had a promising first look at the professional level last year. Shalin Polanco has also been identified as a potential breakout candidate.
There’s a lot to look forward to in the minor league system next year, but these lower-level prospects are certainly players fans should be excited to watch during the 2023 season. All of them have some very high-end potential. Guys like Chandler, Solometo, and even Shim could end up as top 100 prospects within the next year.