Written by: Jake Tweedie
Follow him on Twitter: @MLBUKAnalysis1
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW
**Right below is the Pirates Top 20 list simplified. Scroll further down for FULL Present/Future Grades, FV, ETA, and summaries on EACH PLAYER ranked in the system! Tons of Statistics on each player as well! Some player highlights, future outlooks and more enjoy!**
|1||Ke’Bryan Hayes||3B||1st Round: 32nd Overall – 2015 Draft|
|2||Nick Gonzales||SS/2B||1st Round: 7th Overall – 2020 Draft|
|3||Oneil Cruz||SS||Trade with Dodgers|
|4||Liover Peguero||SS||Trade with D-Backs|
|5||Quinn Priester||RHP||1st Round: 18th Overall – 2019 Draft|
|6||Tahnaj Thomas||RHP||Trade with Indians|
|7||Brennan Malone||RHP||Trade with D-Backs|
|8||Cody Bolton||RHP||6th Round – 2017 Draft|
|9||Jared Oliva||OF||7th Round – 2017 Draft|
|10||Carmen Mlodzinski||RHP||CBA Round – 2020 Draft|
|11||Ji-Hwan Bae||2B/SS||International FA Signing 2018|
|12||Jared Jones||RHP||2nd Round – 2020 Draft|
|13||Mason Martin||1B||17th Round – 2017 Draft|
|14||Sammy Siani||OF||CBA Round – 2019 Draft|
|15||Travis Swaggerty||OF||1st Round: 10th Overall – 2018 Draft|
|16||Cal Mitchell||OF||2nd Round – 2017 Draft|
|17||Nick Garcia||RHP||3rd Round – 2020 Draft|
|18||Alexander Mojica||3B||International FA Signing 2018|
|19||Michael Burrows||RHP||11th Round – 2018 Draft|
|20||Braxton Ashcraft||RHP||2nd Round – 2018 Draft|
1. Ke’Bryan Hayes – 3B – MLB
23 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 5’10 Wt: 205
After making steady progress within the Pirates organization since being drafted in the 1st Round in 2015, he made his Majors debut in 2020 and proved to be a massive asset for the Pirates. Averaging .376 with 7 doubles, 2 triples and 5 HRs, he had a breakout year that demonstrated his offensive talents that much more and boosted him to number 1.
His stance sees him standing tall at the plate and waiting for the ball to come to him before he swings. He has a long swing and uses his core to generate power. Although his approach has led to more SOs, his contact and swing saw him lead all qualified rookies in average velocity in the Majors. This is created by his nice leverage and making solid contact with the ball. He may need to tighten up his swing as he develops, however, he finds the gaps in the field often as well as being capable of going long.
He has all the components to be a potential golden glove at 3B. His footwork is quick, he is very flexible and uses his strong arm and soft hands effectively. This led to him being tipped to be one of the best defense orientated prospect in the Majors. He showcased this in his small sample in the Majors with some strong defensive displays. This is partly down to his natural talent, but he also worked on his conditioning in the Summer that allowed him to look half a step sharper in the field.
2. Nick Gonzales – SS/2B – Drafted 2020
21 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 5’10 Wt: 190 – ETA: 2023
No Professional Stats
After putting up solid numbers in New Mexico, he dominated the Cape Cod League with a line of .351/.451/.630 with 21 XBHs. He backed up his abilities and stifled any shouts that New Mexico was too easy to hit at. This allowed him to climb up the draft boards and saw him picked by the Pirates as 7th overall. He is seen more as an offensive infielder.
He stands with his body tall with a slight bend at the waist to allow a shift of momentum through his front foot and pushed up from his back foot. His swing is compact and short and works with his quick bat speed. This short swing will result in more doubles or triples than HRs, but his clean contact and control over the zone should allow the gaps to be found on a consistent basis. He creates enough leverage to lift the ball to go deep, just not regularly enough.
He was announced as a SS and played there in the Summer, but will likely move to 2B. The lack of arm and range to lock down the position doesn’t help him, but he has quick footwork and reactions to make the shift to 2B effectively. He is certainly seen as more of an offensive player than for his defensive capabilities but has the potential to be effective without standing out.
3. Oneil Cruz – SS/OF – Altoona Curve (Pirates AA)
22 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – Ht: 6’7 Wt: 210 – ETA: 2022
Despite stories of off-field problems, he still regarded as one of the Pirates’ top prospects. He was signed by the Pirates from the Dodgers in 2017 and showed his worth with consistent progression and impressive offensive tools. He reached AA in 2019, and although his numbers dropped slightly, his general ability started to shine through.
He uses his height and frame to stand tall and effortlessly swings the bat with speed and purpose. There has been significant physical development in a short space of time, so his long-term approach will be more focused on utilizing this. As he starts to fill out his frame, his XBHs should continue to improve as his raw power potential shines through.
Although he strikes out regularly, when he does make contact he makes clean, loud contact. His body doesn’t move too much as he doesn’t need to but a shift in momentum through his swing may allow him to work around the zone a bit easier. He has the ability to work around the field and adjusts to pitches with minimal problems.
At 6’7 he has the range, agility, and arm to stick it out at SS. This may change as he continues his development but he moves well for someone so big due to his impressive athleticism. There may be some possibility of switching to the corner infield, likely RF with Double Plus Arm Strength and offensive ceiling.
4. Liover Peguero – SS – Hillsboro Hops (D-Backs A Short)
19 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 Wt: 160 – ETA: 2023
Signed at just 16 by the D-Backs for $475k, he started his pro ball career by averaging over .300 in the DSL in 2018, before getting the chance to come across to America and play in the Pioneer League. After hitting .364 with 15 XBHs and 8 SBs, he made the promotion to A Short, where he continued his momentum. He was signed by the Pirates with Brennan Malone for Starling Marte.
After impressing with his hitting tools in the Minors with the D-Backs, he was part of the Alternate Training Site with the Pirates to continue his growth. He was the youngest Pirate on-site, and was overpowered to start with by older pitchers but found his rhythm and started to make consistent contact with the ball. Peguero possesses a smooth swing, with quick bat speed and the ability to recognize pitches.
This alongside his ability to get under the ball has allowed him to be an XB threat, without quite making the next step to a HR threat. Once on base, he has the speed to pick up multiple SBs.
This speed allows him to be an effective fielder. This alongside his actions and arm allows him to make plays, with plenty of physical projection. This projection may see him shift to corner outfield, but for now, he has the agility and movement to sit at shortstop.
5. Quinn Priester – RHP – West Virginia Black Bears (Pirates A Short)
20 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’3 Wt: 195 – ETA: 2023
Drafted by the Pirates in the first round last year for $3.4m, he had a brief debut season, making 9 appearances. His ERA of 3.03 and 37 SOs in 32.2 innings showed glimpses of his pitching abilities before he was entrusted with a start at A Short. It will make for an exciting 2021 as he continues to gain a feel for his pitching and utilizing in game situations.
He mixes between his 4-seamer and his 2-seamer. The 4-seamer is upper-90s with riding life, whilst his 2-seamer drops low and allows for groundouts. He primarily uses his 4-seamer but adds in his 2-seamer to get more sink and adjust the hitters’ eye.
There has been an emphasis on utilizing his curveball more, especially at the Alternative Site. He has been heavily guided to use in the right situations and he has seen an improvement to that pitch. His Curveball can be knee-buckling and is the primary focus of his arsenal. The Pirates want him to use his Curveball to set up hitters before throwing in his higher velocity fastballs. He also possesses a changeup that works alongside his other pitches.
He has the athleticism and projectability to be a front line starter for the Pirates, and with the emphasis he had on him at the Alternate Site, there are high hopes for him.
6. Tahnaj Thomas – RHP – Bristol Pirates (Pirates ROA)
21 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’4 Wt: 190 – ETA: 2023
Brought to the Pirates after the 2018 season as part of the Luplow and Moroff trade, the big right-hander had a breakout year in 2019 in the Appalachian League.
His first couple of seasons in the Indians’ system didn’t really excite the organization, but the 2019 season showed the Pirates that there is plenty more to come.
He is heavily reliant on his big fastball. It averages mid-90s, with the potential to reach triple digits. His pitch has life up in the zone and is a significant improvement on his time with the Indians. He walked fewer hitters and found the zone on a more consistent basis, although it was overused at times.
He has the potential to miss bats with his high-80s slider, but it isn’t used regularly enough to continue its improving development. It flashes quality bite but lacks consistency. His 3rd pitch is a changeup that has been rarely used so will also need more work.
There will need to be an emphasis on utilizing his secondary pitches more but his fastball causes plenty of damage, and his slider can be an effective second pitch with work. He picked up 59 SOs in 48.1 innings in 2019 so will look to continue this in 2021.
7. Brennan Malone – RHP – Hillsboro Hops (D-Backs A Short)
20 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’4 Wt: 205 – ETA: 2023
Traded with Peguero to the Pirates for Starling Marte, he went 33rd overall last year and was one of the top HS pitchers in the 2019 Draft.
He made a handful of rookie appearances before a solo outing for the A Short outfit towards the end of the season. There wasn’t much time for him to showcase his talents but his 4-pitch mix should prove to be dangerous in time.
He has a mid-90s fastball that tops at 99, with the potential to reach triple digits. This is due to his quick arm action that shows plenty of projectability. His physical frame and athletic build allows him to throw hard and with the ability to command his pitches.
He possesses a slider, as well as a curveball and changeup that have been touted as ‘encouraging’ during Instructional League work. His slider is the more intriguing out of the 3 and is the one that can pick up SOs. Although it lacks some consistency, it needs more work in game situations to improve it. He also has an 11-5 curve that doesn’t always come out of the same slot, and a changeup that requires work.
The big right-hander has plenty of potential and although he isn’t as close to the Pirates’ Majors team as others on this list, his raw potential makes for an exciting watch.
8. Cody Bolton – RHP – Altoona Curve (Pirates AA)
22 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’3 Wt: 185 – ETA: 2022
After the Pirates drafted him in the 6th round in 2017, he missed a chunk of 2017 into 2018 through injury. Whilst not being given the chance to show his true talents, it took a healthy 2019 and the Pirates’ Pitcher of the Year to make people take notice of him. He followed this with some time at the Alternate Site and again proved his stuff against better hitters.
His 2 fastballs caused plenty of problems in A Adv, with a 10.1 K/9, due to their unique characteristics and power stuff. The 4-seamer sits mid-90s with a high spin rate and ride into the zone. This started to see more consistency with the pitch, thus the introduction of his 2-seamer. This pitch has horizontal movement to sink and move in the zone.
His slider has become more of a power pitch. It creates problems with its bite and consistency within the zone. There may be some work needed with his changeup to become more of a focal point against LHH moving forwards.
He has plenty of potential with his frame and projectability but health is key. A big season in 2019 showed what he can do fully healthy but will need to continue that in 2021 to reach his potential.
9. Jared Oliva – OF – MLB
24 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 Wt: 195
Drafted in the 7th Round by the Pirates in 2017, he has continued to progress in the last 2 seasons, enough so to earn a Majors call-up in 2020. His BA has been .275+ in the last 2 seasons and he has picked up 48 doubles and 69 SBs in that time.
He makes regular hard contact with the ball, largely in part due to his strong stance and uplift when hitting the ball. There are times where he can get the timing wrong and be over the top of the ball, but with emphasis on making clean contact he should pick up more XBHs and potentially more HRs. Not only does he have the raw power to pick up XBHs, but he also has the speed in between the bases to put the field under pressure as soon as makes that contact. His 84 SBs in 2 and a half years shows incredible base-stealing ability and instincts to get a jump on the fielders.
This speed is utilized in the outfield as well to make him a potential for an everyday role. His arm may be average but his ability to get to the ball and make smart runs is what makes him such an exciting fielder.
Being 24 there is added pressure for him to nail down a position either on the Majors roster, or to be a standout player in AAA so 2021 will be a big year for him either way.
10. Carmen Mlodzinski – RHP – Drafted 2020
21 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 Wt: 232 – ETA: 2024
No Professional Stats
Signed for just over $2m in the CBA Round, the Pirates felt like they got a steal for a player who was ranked the best pitching prospect in the Cape Cod League. He did miss the majority of the 2019 season but there was enough there to excite the Pirates.
He has a lively mid-90s fastball that reaches 99mph. It features sink and run, and once he starts pounding the zone more regularly then he will cause hitters problems.
His slider can come across as a hard curveball, but it’s a swing-and-miss pitch that sits in the low-80s. It follows the FB tunnel and has plenty of power and depth. His changeup has sinking action but will need more work to be a legitimate threat.
Mlodzinski is athletic and continued to work on his delivery throughout the off-season to smooth his mechanics and action. With more work on his secondary pitches, he could threaten as a mid-rotation starter.
11. Ji-Hwan Bae – 2B/SS – Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pirates A)
21 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 Wt: 170 – ETA: 2023
Signed for $1.2m in 2018, the Pirates acquired a speedy infielder who makes regular contact with the ball. The Korean won the South Atlantic batting title with a .323 average at Greensboro.
He naturally doesn’t have the power to be a HR hitter, but his ability to make regular contact with consistent groundballs. He has the extra gear/aggressiveness to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
His stance is fairly low and he uses his momentum to shift towards the ball to generate power with hits along the ground. There has been an improvement in plate discipline despite plenty of SOs in 2019, but his walk rate also increased. This is particularly important to get on base strong base running and his natural stealing ability.
He was utilized more as a 2B in 2019, but he has the agility and movement to play either infield position. His arm may suit 2B better as it isn’t the strongest but he makes up for it with his quick feet and soft hands.
He will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2019 with a solid season in A Advanced. The 21-year-old has the tools to open the hitting lineup and get on base early to put pitchers under early pressure.
12. Jared Jones – RHP – Drafted 2020
19 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 Wt: 180 – ETA: 2024
No Professional Stats
The Pirates went $500k above slot to pick Jones up in the 2nd Round of this year’s Draft. Despite being a 2-way player in High School, his future lies solely on the mound. There’s plenty of potential, but he will need refining as he makes that step to a full-time pitcher.
His fastball sits mid-90s with sink and run. It is a lively pitch that will need an emphasis on consistency. Despite his smaller frame, it is powerful and plays up due to this.
His slider has a lateral break and is better when low-80s rather than the more slurvy mid-70s pitch. It has a high spin rate and he finds regular consistency with its location. There needs to be more work on his changeup, but it mimics his FB release and sinks. There has been some work on a curveball throughout the pandemic, showing some differentials between that and his slider.
If he can continue to develop the 4th pitch then it will add to his athletic frame to create a useful arsenal. There needs to be an emphasis on ensuring he is consistent with his command and control but that isn’t unusual for a HS pitcher.
13. Mason Martin – 1B – Bradenton Marauders (Pirates A Adv)
21 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – Ht: 6’0 Wt: 201 – ETA: 2022
The power-hitter was signed in the 17th Round of the 2017 Draft by the Pirates above slot, and he has continued to impress since.
He was named the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year after hitting 35 HRs and having 129 RBIs split between Class A Advanced Bradenton and full season Greensboro. This led to him being called into the Alternate Site where he has focused on refining his approach to reduce his SOs as well as keeping on top of his physical strength.
Signed as a power-over-contact player, he has certainly lived up to expectations, with 60 HRs in 3 seasons, 2 more than the amount of doubles he has had in the same time.
Although 2019 was his breakout year, he has consistently looked comfortable at the plate and utilized his skill-set. His open body stance allows him to pull the ball with power, but does leave him susceptible to being struck out. The strength of his frame, and his strong stance combine to allow him to make hard contact regularly. There are some problems with his SO rate, especially when facing off-speed pitches, but he has the most amount of power potential in the Pirates’ system. He spent a lot of time in the batting cages over the last few months with the hitting coach, as well as picking the brains of Josh Bell.
He is not a standout defender but he got plenty of reps at 1B at the Alternate Site and worked with roving infield instructor Gary Green and special assistant Kevin Young to improve that aspect.
14. Sammy Siani – OF – GCL Pirates (Pirates ROK)
19 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: L – Ht: 6’0 Wt: 195 – ETA: 2024
After being drafted by the Pirates in the CBA Round last year, he went to the Gulf Coast League and had a mixed season to start his pro career. He had the ability to barrel the ball, as well as control the strike zone, but too many SOs and inconsistencies saw his numbers drop slightly.
The lefty has a fluid stroke and action that allows him to barrel the ball on a consistent basis. However, this was not shown regularly last year, but the potential is there with his quick bat speed and command over the strike zone. There’s plenty of physical projection left, so as he fills out there could be more emphasis on power. For now, he is more a contact hitter than a power hitter.
His target seems to be getting out in front of the ball early to help guide it to the pull side, but he was getting too far in front last season. Contact with the ball through his swing and shift to generate power could have positive effects, but it has been shown he needs to refine his approach, especially against better pitchers.
Defensively he uses his speed well to make plays. He has a more all-around ability than some of the other outfielders in the system, especially at CF, but this allows him to be versatile and play anywhere in the outfield.
15. Travis Swaggerty – OF – Bradenton Marauders (Pirates A Adv)
23 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: L – Ht: 5’11 Wt: 180 – ETA: 2022
His inconsistency caused some concerns heading into the 2018 Draft, but his power and ability to make clean contact with the ball made him an interesting proposition for the Pirates.
Initially he had some problems with contact, and this resulted in too many SOs, but he turned it around to end the season with a BA of .239 and 17 XBHs. His 2019 season saw him make the step up to A Adv, and he started to show some consistency, especially against LHP. It started off fairly subdued but July and August saw him hit 4 HRs, and SO just 40 times in 52 appearances.
Alongside his upturn in form saw more solidity in his stance. He was more upright and didn’t move his body as much. This allowed for his body to shift his momentum and make solid contact with the ball. His BA against LHP was impressive (.333), but most of his productivity came against RHP. He has the added threat of being quick between the bases, accompanied by a high walk rate, which allows him to get on-base and cause problems.
His speed complements his ability to make plays in the outfield by allowing him to get to the ball quickly. He has an above-average arm and a range that works well in the OF.
16. Cal Mitchell – OF – Bradenton Marauders (Pirates A Adv)
21 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: L – Ht: 6’0 Wt: 209 – ETA: 2022
After Mitchell slipped into the 2nd Round due to a poor Senior year, the Pirates took a chance on him. He repaid this trust with a decent year in Rookie ball in 2017, before hitting .280 at West Virginia Power (A), with 42 XBHs and being named a South Atlantic All-Star. This led to a promotion in 2019 to Bradenton at A Adv, and he more than held his own as he became a Florida State League All-Star.
There were some question marks about his approach and form towards the back end of the season after striking out 142 times altogether, but a .251 average and 38 XBHs showed his productivity at the plate.
Early signs saw Mitchell as a pure hitter with the leverage and swing to launch balls out the park. However, the second half of the 2019 season saw a decline in his productivity as he struck out more looking to make the most of his power. There was added aggression and swinging at more pitches, thus causing a slight dip in form. July saw an upturn in his approach, and he became more fluid with his action and he was having multiple hitting streaks.
His stance is strong and his action can be pure with emphasis on his body shift to create momentum through the ball. Once he starts timing his swings better and getting regular bat-on-ball then his output will become higher.
He certainly isn’t the best fielder, and struggles with his runs and arm. Seems more set for his offensive side than his defensive side.
17. Nick Garcia – RHP – Drafted 2020
21 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – Ht: 6’4 Wt: 215 – ETA: 2024
No Professional Stats
The former reliever was signed above slot by the Pirates, who saw his potential as a starter. This buzz came from his Junior year, where he finished 4-1 and an ERA of 2.00. His K/9 continued to be high and this showed his ability to be versatile in regards to where he is utilized. There will need to be work to ensure his command is consistent with his 3-pitch arsenal if he is to be a regular starter.
His fastball sits mid-90s, topping at 98mph. It is a raw pitch, but expected due to his hitter background. He can make the ball spin at rates of 2500rpm and shows consistency with his velocity.
His secondaries include a slider and a cutter. He sits around mid-80s with his slider with a deep, two-plane tilt, whilst his cutter holds that extra velocity. The control of his pitches is better than his command, but he hasn’t been a pitcher for long so will come with experience.
Whilst his 3-pitch mix and frame could prove to be highly effective, there will need to be emphasis on his command and control.
18. Alexander Mojica – 3B – DSL Pirates 2 (Pirates ROK)
18 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’1 Wt: 225 – ETA: 2024
Mojica’s $390k bonus was the fifth-largest of the International group of players that the Pirates signed in 2018-19. Although it was a big sum of money for the young Dominican, he showed incredible potential in the DSL with a breath-taking 1.048 OPS.
The youngster showed maturity at the plate in the DSL, averaging .351 with a walk rate similar to his SO rate. He is strong and well-built, and his stance and swing replicate this. There is the potential that he can hit for average and power, with exit velocities regularly surpassing 100mph. Whilst he had the ability to get on-base, there will need to be some work on his running between the bases to make the most of this.
Defensively he doesn’t suit 3B. His movement isn’t the best, and his size doesn’t allow him to make consistent plays in a demanding defensive position. This will mean a move to 1B in the near future.
19. Michael Burrows – RHP – West Virginia Black Bears (Pirates A Short)
20 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – Ht: 6’2 Wt: 183 – ETA: 2023
Picked up in the 11th Round in 2018, Burrows showed his value of $375k above slot by having a solid few games at Rookie level in 2018, before showing his stuff in 2019 with some consistent pitching and increasing his SO rate.
His fastball sits low-90s, topping out at 96mph. Although it isn’t the quickest in the organization it has sinking action, as well as plenty of spin rate, and the potential for more velocity. This pitch has been developed in the last couple of years, showing more consistency to sit more 93-95mph.
His secondary pitches consist of a curveball and a changeup. Whilst his curveball is controlled well, and can be utilized into more of a slider, his changeup somewhat lacks real consistency and is more of a 3rd pitch.
The slider has sharp, late break and worked well alongside his fastball last season. There will need to be some work on his changeup to make it an effective pitch, but he certainly has the effortless delivery to manipulate his pitches better.
He may prove to be a better bullpen arm than starter, but will need to work on his arsenal to be more effective and more well-rounded.
20. Braxton Ashcraft – RHP – West Virginia Black Bears (Pirates A Short)
21 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – Ht: 6’5 Wt: 195 – ETA: 2023
Signed above slot in the 2nd Round of the 2018 Draft, the Pirates picked an athletic pitcher who had previously played football alongside baseball. He started off fairly subdued in his first season in pro ball, before a 2019 that he would want to forget. After going 1-9 with an ERA of 5.77, it was evident that he was struggling, so was shut down early to rectify a problem in his non-throwing shoulder.
His 2019 season saw him upper-80s, with highs of 95mph for his fastball. After having surgery though, he has started to re-discover his velocity and reached around 94mph on a consistent basis. This pitch has big upside due to his large frame and projectable build.
His secondaries consist of a slider and a changeup. His slider has plenty of shape and movement to it. It is a promising pitch that can be sharp when used effectively, but he had problems with it flattening out last season. The changeup is inconsistent so will only get better the more it is thrown.
There is plenty of eyes on him as he returns from his surgery, and a lot is expected of him. A fresh, healthy season should allow him to find the form that had him picked as a 2nd Rounder in 2018. If he can continue to develop his off-speed pitches, as well as adding extra velocity to his fastball then he could prove to be a valuable asset.