Speculating who the PTBNL in the JT Brubaker trade could be

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded JT Brubaker along with some international money to the New York Yankees for a PTBNL, but who could that player be?
Mar 24, 2023; Sarasota, Florida, USA;  New York Yankees starting pitcher Yoendrys Gomez (89) throws
Mar 24, 2023; Sarasota, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Yoendrys Gomez (89) throws / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates recently sent right-handed pitcher JT Brubaker to the New York Yankees, along with $500K of international bonus pool money, in exchange for a player to be named later. It’s been a few days since this trade, and the PTBNL has yet to be named. According to Ben Cherington, “We think we will get access to a good player from the Yankees.” That’s pretty vague, and obviously, no front office is going to show their hand, but let’s speculate who the potential prospect the Pirates could get is.

The Pirates have the opportunity to get a future first base option in this deal. A former 12th-round draft pick, Ben Rice has developed into one of the team’s better prospects. Last season between the Yankees’ High-A and Double-A affiliates, Rice slashed .324/.434/.615 through 332 plate appearances. Rice provided a ton of pop with 20 home runs and a .291 isolated slugging percentage. He did not strikeout much with an 18.7 percent strikeout rate and paired that with an equally strong 13.3 percent walk rate. When everything was said and done, Rice had a .462 wOBA and 183 wRC+.

Rice was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues last year. Among all hitters with 300+ plate appearances, he ranked first in wRC+, second in wOBA, fifth in OPS, sixth in slugging percentage, and 11th in on-base percentage. He was also tied with Kyle Stowers, one of the Baltimore Orioles’ top prospects, for the 9th-best isolated slugging percentage. Rice was one of just seven players with an ISO over .250 and K rate below 20 percent.

So Rice was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues last season, rarely struck out, hit for power, and drew some walks. What’s the catch? Well, Rice only just reached Double-A last year in his age-24 campaign. To his credit, he performed great and had an OPS well over 1.000 at 1.049 and wRC+ approaching 200 at 182. Rice also projects as a first baseman only because he’s considered a poor defensive catcher with a below-average arm.

Still, Rice currently ranks as one of the Yankees’ top 15 prospects by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. I think Rice would be a great fit in the Pirates’ system right now, all things considered. They don’t have a long-term answer at first base, and this could be it. Plus, he could work as the team’s third-string catcher.

Rice is just one name to keep an eye on. The Pirates could also possibly be targeting one of the Yankees’ younger, higher ceiling/higher risk prospects, such as one of their recent international signings or high school draft picks. One who has done great so far in his brief pro career is Keiner Delgado. Ranked as a top-25 prospect in the Yankees’ system by FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America, the middle infielder has hit .301/.459/.495 with a .462 wOBA and 158 wRC+ through 477 plate appearances.

There are some very notable numbers on Delgado’s brief resume. The first is his 19.4 percent walk rate. He has almost 100 walks in just 102 games, clocking in with 94. He has also only struck out 59 times for a strikeout rate of 12.4 percent. He has also been extremely aggressive on the base paths, attempting 85 stolen bases and being successful 70 times. Despite the enormous amount of stolen bases, he’s only considered an above-average runner but has shown great base running skills.

He does not project to hit for much power, standing at just 5’7”, 145 pounds. According to Baseball America, he has worked on adding some raw strength in the weight room. We shall see if the game power he has displayed so far carries over into his first appearance at a full-season level. Delgado is only in his age-20 season and was signed by the Yankees in the 2021-2022 off-season as an international prospect.

If the Pirates really want to lean into the high-risk/high-reward archetype, they should inquire about Carlos Lagrange. The 6’7”, 195-pound right-hander throws hard, sitting mid-90s and topping out at triple-digits. He also pairs that with a double-plus slider. Lagrange has 74.2 minor league innings under his belt with a solid 4.10 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and 1.17 WHIP. He’s struck out nearly a third of the batters he’s faced in that time with a 32.7 percent strikeout rate while only averaging 0.60 home runs per nine innings and having a ground ball rate over 50 percent.

Lagrange has some impressive stuff and a strong frame. But his command is considered fringy at best. He has a career 13.3 percent walk rate. Along with mediocre command, he also struggles to throw a third pitch. He’ll occasionally mix in a curveball and a change-up, but his upper-90s four-seamer and low-80s slider are his bread and butter by far.

Finally, if the Pirates want a pitcher whom they can call upon this year, the Yankees do have some options the Bucs could ask about. One is Yoendrys Gomez. Gomez pitched 65.1 innings last year at Double-A, working to a 3.58 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. Gomez was good at limiting home runs with an 0.83 HR/9 rate while also getting strikeouts at an above-average 28.5 percent rate. But his command can get spotty at times and struggled with control, leading to a 13.5 percent walk rate.

Gomez has a five pitch mix, including a fastball, slider, curveball, change-up, and cutter. He made his MLB debut last year, and used all five offerings in his two innings of work. Gomez averages out around 93-94 MPH with above average spin on his fastball. His slider, curveball, and change-up project as average or fringe-average. If Gomez ends up as the PTBNL, the Pirates could slot him in directly to Triple-A’s rotation and promote someone from within to the bigs.

Another pitching prospect who is already on the Yankees’ 40-man roster is Clayton Beeter. Beeter was the prospect the Yanks got back in the Joey Gallo deal with the LA Dodgers in 2022. Beeter started out his 2023 season red hot at Double-A before struggling in the second half at Triple-A. But he still ended his ‘23 campaign with a 3.62 ERA, 4.62 FIP, and 1.37 WHIP in 131.2 innings pitched. Beeter was great at getting strikeouts with a 28.8 percent strikeout rate but had an unimpressive 1.23 HR/9 and below average 13.1 percent walk rate.

Beeter has also made his MLB debut already, pitching one inning this year. Beeter works in the low to mid-90s, but his velo plays up in shorter outings. He also has outstanding carry to his four-seamer. He also tosses a curveball, slider, and change-up. Both his slider and curveball project as above-average offerings, like his fastball, though his change-up is a distant fourth pitch. But while Beeter has great stuff, he has consistently struggled with control and command.

I think the Pirates will end up getting at least a prospect who is generally seen as one of the Yankees’ top 20 prospects. Brubaker is a solid back of the rotation starter, but the $500K in international bonus money carries a decent amount of value. The PTBNL is still unknown, but maybe it will end up being one of the names we discussed today.