Three Pirates international prospects to remember

The Pirates have some underrated international talent to keep an eye on.

Cleveland Indians v Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians v Pittsburgh Pirates / Jared Wickerham/GettyImages
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Omar Alfonzo

Last year, the Pirates saw two of the best catching prospects in baseball reach the Major Leagues in Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis. But once they graduated prospect lists, there was a major void in the system left by the two. Their next best catching prospect arguably becomes Omar Alfonzo, an international signing in the 2019-2020 off-season.

Alfonzo spent his 2023 season with both the Bucs’ Florida Complex League affiliate and A-ball Bradenton, batting .275/.408/.427 with a .402 wOBA and 132 wRC+. Alfonso did not hit for very much pop, only having an ISO of .153, but he reached base at a very high rate. Along with his solid batting average, he drew a walk 18.3 percent of the time, which helped offset his unimpressive strikeout rate of 23.9 percent.

Although Alfonzo did not hit for much power last year, there’s definitely some potential for more. He is a six-foot-one, 180-lb backstop. He’s a hit-over-power batter, but he could reach at least 40-grade game power when everything is said and done. That will play because of his ability to draw walks. 2023 isn’t an outlier as his career walk rate is 18.8 percent, the 23rd-best among any minor leaguer since 2021 with at least 450 plate appearances. He has good pitch recognition and is an extremely patient batter.

Defensively, he’s been a bit shaky. While he has a 30 percent caught stealing rate, he has also allowed 32 passed balls in just 720.1 innings behind the plate, although the amount of passed balls so far in his career doesn’t tell the whole story. Alonzo is considered an average defender with a solid arm. He’s also logged some games at first base throughout his career, giving him some defensive versatility.

Alonzo doesn’t turn 21 until early August, so he is a very young backstop. He’ll likely spend most, if not all, of his 2024 season at A-Ball Bradenton, where his skills will be tested for the first time over the course of a full season. MLB Pipeline has some optimism for him as he ranked as the Pirates’ 29th-best prospect on their top 30 Pirates prospect list.