Dynasty: Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2020 Preseason Top 50 Prospects

The Pittsburgh Pirates system was once strong. However, after a couple of trades to obtain cost-controlled major leaguers, their farm’s been crushed.

As usual, this system is built on defensively minded offensive players with pitchers who might be No. 2s at best. Still, breakout seasons from Mason Martin and Jared Oliva should bring some much-needed offensive talent to Pittsburgh in the next couple of years. With Mitch Keller‘s expected graduation early next season, Quinn Priester and Tahnaj Thomas are their best pitching prospects but are far away.

All I have to say is I’m sorry, Pirates fans, Shane Baz would look amazing in this system.

Here’s a look at Pittsburgh’s Top 50 prospects.

Note: These Top 50 lists are all done through a fantasy baseball-focused lens. Many players who are ranked higher or lower on other platforms will get a boost here. For example, players who profile as middle relievers or glove-first infielders likely won’t have much fantasy relevance, so they won’t be ranked as highly.

 

1. RHP Mitch Keller

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: MLB

Keller began the season in Triple-A, which is where he finished the 2018 season. After he performed better in Triple-A and Pittsburgh suffered many injuries, he made his MLB debut in 2019. Keller had to be one of the unluckiest starting pitchers during the season. In 11 starts, he had an ERA of 7.13 and a 1.83 WHIP to go with a 0.475 BABIP and 59.6 LOB%. Obviously, there is positive regression coming for next year. It will be interesting to see how Keller performs with the new pitching coach in Pittsburgh as well.

ETA: 2020

 

2. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes

Age: 22

Highest Level: AAA

Hayes is easily my favorite prospect in the Pirates system. He brings an exciting combo of Gold Glove defense with plus speed and an above-average hit tool. Many scouts are unsure if the projected power will ever come, but Hayes should be an everyday player by midseason next year.

ETA: 2020

 

3. SS Oneil Cruz

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: AA

Let’s get weird and put a 6’7” player at shortstop. Scouts are unsure if Cruz will be able to stick at the position because of his size, but with the elite arm strength, he might move to third or the outfield. He has power for days, but with a below-average hit tool, he might struggle to get to it consistently.

ETA: 2021

 

4. OF Jared Oliva

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

Oliva had a breakout season in 2019, which had him finishing his campaign in the Arizona Fall League, where he also made the Fall Stars Game. There is nothing flashy about Oliva, but he is good at just about everything. He reminds me of Bryan Reynolds but with a bit more speed. We should see him in Pittsburgh next year.

ETA: 2020

 

5. RHP Quinn Priester

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: A-

Priester was the Pirates’ first-round pick this past June. The 6’3” righty threw 36.2 innings after being drafted, and he performed well. Prior to the draft, scouts and evaluators loved his projection and athleticism.  

ETA: 2023

 

6. RHP Tahnaj Thomas

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie

Thomas came over from the Indians in the Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff trade prior to the season. Thomas was once a shortstop prospect but quickly moved to the mound. He has a fastball and curveball combo. If he can develop a decent changeup, he will be a No. 2-3 starter type.

ETA: 2023

 

7. OF Travis Swaggerty

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

The Pirates picked Swaggerty in the first round last year following an excellent Team USA campaign. He struggled after being drafted but came back this year to post a 120 wRC+ in A+. He also lowered his K% and walked a few percentage points more. We should see Swaggerty in Double-A next year, which will be a huge test for him and his prospect stock.

ETA: 2021

 

8. OF Cal Mitchell

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A+

If Mitchell is going to make it to the majors, he will have to hit. So far, he has done so but took a step back last year. In High-A, his K rate rose to 28.8%, while his walks decreased to 6.5%.

ETA: 2021

 

9. OF Lolo Sanchez

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A+

Sanchez hit the ground running to begin the 2019 season. In A-ball, he swiped 20 bases in 61 games, where he also hit .301. He struggled after being promoted to High-A, where his aggressiveness at the plate was exploited by the more advanced pitchers. His BABIP dropped from 0.327 to 0.233—where the BABIP goes, so will Sanchez.

ETA: 2021

 

10. 1B Will Craig

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: AAA

Craig was nominated to the Futures Game after hitting 17 home runs and 14 doubles before the All-Star break. However, a second-half power outage dropped his overall numbers to a 92 wRC+. He is also blocked after Josh Bell’s breakout 2019 campaign in Pittsburgh.

ETA: 2020

 

11. 1B Mason Martin

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A+

Martin saw his prospect status soar after every home run he hit. He smacked 23 homers in 82 games before being promoted to High-A, where he hit another 12 tates. Martin is the typical slugger type but a perfect guy to take a chance on for your dynasty leagues.

ETA: 2021

 

12. OF Sammy Siani

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: Rookie

What Siani lacks in power, he more than makes up for with defense and a patient eye at the plate. He also has the contact skills to stick in the majors with speed to keep fantasy players interested.

ETA: 2022

 

13. 2B Kevin Kramer

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: MLB

Before this year, Kramer and Kevin Newman were seen as the same type of player: defensive-minded middle infielders with good contact skills. Newman became a decent MI for fantasy players, but Kramer struggled in Triple-A as well as the majors. This was the first time Kramer has struggled, so he should be able to rebound next year.

ETA: 2020

 

14. OF Juan Pie

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: Rookie

The Pirates gambled on this toolsy outfielder in the 2017 J2 signing period. Pie performed well in 2018 in the DSL but struggled in 2019. He should begin the year as a 19-year-old in low-A, and he’ll be an interesting gamble to take in your deeper dynasty leagues.

ETA: 2024

 

15. SS Ji-Hwan Bae

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A

Bae agreed to terms with the Braves before Atlanta was hit with sanctions due to some international signings, and he landed with Pittsburgh. Bae is a contact-oriented shortstop who should stick at the position. He has zero power but did have 31 steals in A-ball this year.

ETA: 2022

 

16. RHP Cody Bolton

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: AA

With an average fastball that projects to be above-average and an above-average slider, Bolton dominated High-A. He struggled with the long ball once he was promoted to Double-A. He should begin his season there next year, and I look for those awful numbers to come back down to his career level.

ETA: 2021

 

17. RHP Steven Jennings

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A

The second-round pick in 2017 struggled a bit in A-ball in 2019. Scouts have reported that his two breaking balls have decent spin, but he is unable to throw them consistently. He is a work in progress but threw 130 innings this year, so he might end up as a No. 5/innings-eater.

ETA: 2021

 

18. RHP Travis MacGregor

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: A

MacGregor did not pitch at all in 2019 as he had Tommy John surgery last September. Before the injury, he was sitting in the low to mid-90s and touched 97 mph a few times. Scouts had projected him as a No. 3 before the injury. 2020 will be a big year for MacGregor.

ETA: 2022

 

19. 3B Jared Triolo

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: A-

Hey, look! Another above-average infielder in the Pirates system. Shocker. Triolo has an excellent debut in Low-A, with double-digit walk rates and a 19% K rate.

ETA: 2023

 

20. RHP JT Brubaker

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: AAA

Brubaker has three pitches—the fastball, slider, and curve—and is working on a changeup to add to his arsenal. He started the year in Triple-A but was shut down twice, with the last injury being a dreaded forearm strain. He was able to get back on the mound before the end of the season and reportedly was pain-free. If he is able to keep the injury bug away, we should see Brubaker in Pittsburgh sometime next year. 

ETA: 2020

 

21. 2B Rodolfo Castro

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A+

After a down 2018 season, Castro performed well in a repeat of A-ball. In 61 games, he hit more home runs (14)  than he did in 105 games (12) in 2018. He struggled a bit with the promotion to High-A, but keep in mind the Florida State League is an awful circuit to hit in. Castro is still raw, but the increase in power is very encouraging. 

ETA: 2022

 

22. LHP Braeden Ogle

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

After Ogle struggled to stay healthy, the Pirates have moved him into the bullpen. The southpaw brings the heat by pumping 96 mph with the heater and mid-80s with the slide piece. He should move quickly through the Pirates system.

ETA: 2022

 

23. RHP Braxton Ashcraft

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A-

The righty has struggled since being taken in the second round of the 2017 draft. Scouts loved his athleticism and projectable body. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, but his slider has flashed above-average potential. Even with the struggles, it might be a bit early to be down on Ashcraft.

ETA: 2022

 

24. RHP Luis Escobar

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: MLB

Escobar is a super-max-effort reliever with the potential to have three plus pitches. He made his big league debut and pretty much walked the park. We should see more of him in 2020. If he can work on his command, he has the potential to be a late-inning reliever.

ETA: 2020

 

25. OF Jack Herman

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A

The Pirates took the prep hitter in the 30th round of the 2017 draft. He has performed well for someone taken so late. Herman has really shown power with .149 and .208 ISOs in his first two professional seasons. He struggled with strikeouts in 2019, with a 29.3 K%, which is something he will fight his entire career.

ETA: 2022

 

26. RHP Max Kranick

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: A+

Kranick was drafted in 2016 but barely pitched in 2017 due to shoulder issues, and he has thrown 78 and 109 innings the past two seasons. The righty has performed well with ERAs of 3.81 and 3.79. He has a four-seamer and two-seam fastball that sit in the low 90s but has flashed an above-average slider. Kranick is an interesting guy to watch the further away he gets from those shoulder woes. 

ETA: 2022

 

27. 2B Mitchell Tolman

 

Age: 25

Highest Level: AAA

Tolman is one of those players who just puts up great stats. His lowest wRC+ was a 105 in 2019, but his season was derailed by a 50-game suspension for drugs of abuse. However, the Pirates have a bunch of these MI types, so it is unclear when he will make his debut.

ETA: 2020

 

28. SS Stephen Alemais

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: AA

Another defensive wizard in the Pirates system with limited upside with the bat. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

ETA: 2020

 

29. SS Connor Kaiser

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: A

Kaiser was a third-round pick in 2017 and has struggled at each stop. With all of the talent ahead of him, it is doubtful he will make it.

ETA: 2021

 

30. OF Jason Martin

 

Age: 24

Highest Level: MLB

Martin was one of the players the Pirates got back in the Gerrit Cole deal (Sorry, Pirates fans). He posted a wRC+ over 120 at pretty much every stop prior to the trade. He has struggled since moving to the Pirates system and hit the 60-day IL with a shoulder injury in 2019. 

ETA: 2020

 

31. RHP Nick Mears

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AA

Mears’ story is pretty interesting. He went undrafted, but the Pirates signed him out of the Northwoods League in 2018. The righty has performed well and is your typical middle-reliever type.

ETA: 2020

 

32. RHP Nick Burdi

 

Age: 26

Highest Level: MLB

Burdi has an above-average fastball and slider but cannot stay on the mound. He has had Tommy John surgery and missed some of this season with a biceps issue.

ETA: 2020

 

33. OF Conner Uselton

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: A

Scouts have loved Uselton’s potential power, but it did not play at all in 2019. He need to produce, as his first taste of A-ball was not good.

ETA: 2022

 

34. RHP Cristopher Cruz

 

Age: 16

Highest Level: 2019 J2 Signing

The Pirates signed Cruz during the July 2 signing period. Scouts have loved his clean delivery in his workouts.

ETA: 2025

 

35. 1B Alexander Mojica

 

Age: 17

Highest Level: Rookie

Mojica is your typical 1B/DH masher. He will have to continue to mash to make it to the Show. He did post a 17 BB% and a 15.6 K% in 55 games in the Dominican Summer League.

ETA: 2024

 

36. C Deon Stafford

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: A+

See below.

37. C Grant Koch

Age: 22

Highest Level: A

I put Stafford and Koch back to back on this list because catching prospects are up there with pitching prospects. Unless they are lights-out (aka Adley Rutschman), you are probably wasting your time with them on your dynasty league roster.

ETAs: 2023

 

38. OF Rodolfo Nolasco

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: Rookie

The 18-year-old performed well in the DSL but was a bit old for the level. Keep an eye on him just in case.

ETA: 2025

 

39. OF Randy Romero

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: Rookie

Romero was old for the level but walked 6.9% of the time while only striking out 6.1% of the time.

ETA: 2024

 

40. RHP Domingo Gonzalez

 

Age: 20

Highest Level: A-

The 20-year-old has posted 37%, 27%, and 38% K rates in three levels this year. He should be an interesting pen arm in the future.

ETA: 2023

 

41. LHP Domingo Robles

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: AA

The southpaw is a low-strikeout guy with home run issues that cropped up in his first taste of Double-A.

ETA: 2023

 

42. OF Jonah Davis

 

Age: 22

Highest Level: A

The 22-year-old has major power but also major strikeout issues, posting a 36.2 K% in A-ball.

ETA: 2022

 

43. LHP Alex Manasa

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: A

Manasa threw 139 innings in A-ball for a 3.48 ERA. If he keeps this up, he might be an interesting up-and-down starter for the Pirates.

ETA: 2023

 

44. LHP Blake Weiman

 

Age: 23

Highest Level: AAA

Weiman has an average fastball/slider combo. He struggled, like most pitchers did this year, in his first taste of Triple-A.

ETA: 2020

 

45. OF Osvaldo Gavilan

 

Age: 18

Highest Level: Rookie

Gavilan was the Pirates’ highest-paid J2 signing in 2018. He has above-average speed and should be able to stick in center field but struggled in his DSL debut.

ETA: 2025

 

46. 2B Deivis Nadal

 

Age: 17

Highest Level: Rookie

Nadal posted a 124 wRC+ with an 11 BB% in his DSL debut. Deep dynasty players should keep an eye on him.

ETA: 2025

 

47. 3B Jesus Valdez

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: Rookie

Valdez was old for the level but performed well with a .292 batting average and five home runs.

ETA: 2024

 

48. 2B Juan Jerez

 

Age: 17

Highest Level: Rookie

Jerez showed power and speed in his 2019 DSL debut.

ETA: 2025

 

49. OF Blake Sabol

 

Age: 21

Highest Level: A-

Double-digit walk rates make Sabol a bit interesting. However, at 21 years old, you expect just a bit more.

ETA: 2024

 

50. RHP Sergio Umana

 

Age: 19

Highest Level: Rookie

The 19-year-old righty posted a 2.39 ERA with a 23.1 K% and 3.1 BB% in his DSL debut. There might be something here.

ETA: 2025

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

Shelly Verougstraete

Shelly currently writes for Pitcher List, RotoGraphs, Friends with Fantasy Benefits, and Prospects1500. She can also be heard on the Dynasty's Child podcast on The Dynasty Guru. She is a proud member of Red Sox Nation.

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