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Pittsburgh Pirates: Top 10 Dynasty Prospects

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be our next stop on the farm to evaluate the best prospects on each MLB team. Once the 2020 MLB season begins, it may turn out that Minor League systems will be more important than usual. Franchises are losing money during the pandemic layoff, so many teams will be looking for sources of cheap production. It might also take older players longer to rebound from a long layoff meaning we could see more injuries and more roster moves. We might even see expanded rosters, at least in the early going.

One important question to ask is: How will a long layoff affect prospects? One has to assume the more advanced prospects prior to the work stoppage will be at an advantage, while the more “toolsy but raw” type could be hurt with the lack of repetition and in-game action; throwing or hitting in simulated environments just doesn’t match up to the real thing. Many prospects will have to work jobs during the pandemic just to make ends meet, while players who signed for large bonuses will have an advantage. Other prospects that lack strong discipline and commitment to their craft could struggle to stay in shape.

We won’t really know what the layoff impact will have on baseball in general until things start ramping up. But we do know that a strong prospect pool will continue to be an important element for a successful baseball franchise. We're looking at the Top 10 (or more) dynasty prospects in each organization with an eye to discovering which organizations are best positioned to succeed with their player development when games resume. Make sure to check out all of our prospect content, including Top 50 for 2020 and Top 250 for Dynasty Leagues.

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Quick Synopsis

The Pirates system is a modest one with some interesting players but most possess just modest ceilings or significant risk. The trade of veteran outfielder Starling Marte to Arizona brought in two high-ceiling lottery tickets.

 

1. Mitch Keller, RHP

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 64
2020 Prospect Rank: 25
2020 LEVEL: AAA
MLB ETA: 2020

Keller has the makings of a solid No. 3/4 starter but he struggled his control during his MLB debut and gave up a whopping 72 hits in 48 innings. The other worrisome thing with Keller is that his previously-impressive ground-ball rates have dried up since he reached Triple-A in 2018. When he’s on, Keller has shown the ability to miss a lot of bats and he has a strong frame to provide lots of innings.

2. Oneil Cruz, SS

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 75
2020 LEVEL: AA
MLB ETA: 2021

Cruz possibly has the highest ceiling in the system thanks to his plus-plus raw power. Just 21, he stands 6-foot-7 but his long levers also lead to timing issues and lots of swing-and-miss. His apparent athleticism should help him improve with further experience but lost development time in 2019 due to injury did him no favors — nor will the time lost to the pandemic. Cruz is no long-term shortstop and is likely best-suited for right field given his rocket arm.

3. Brennan Malone, RHP

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 112
2020 LEVEL: SS-A
MLB ETA: 2023

One of my favorite high school pitchers available in the 2019 draft, Malone was a great addition from the Diamondbacks during the Starling Marte deal. He has a chance for four average-or-better offerings. His fastball already hits 95-96 mph, and he could add some velo as his body matures. His athleticism should help him achieve at least average command and control in time.

4. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 130
2020 Prospect Rank: 37
2020 LEVEL: AAA
MLB ETA: 2020

Hayes’ ceiling has lowered a bit over the past year or two and he now looks like more of solid-but-unspectacular player who may struggle to hold down a full-time job in the Majors. He finally hit double-digit home runs for the first time in his five-year pro career but he also failed to be a league-average hitter for the first time. Hayes likely wouldn’t be a much of an upgrade, if any, to current third baseman Colin Moran although he has above-average athleticism so there is still a glimmer of hope that things will eventually click.

5. Travis Swaggerty, OF

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 144
2020 LEVEL: AA
MLB ETA: 2021

Swaggerty is another intriguing player because of his power/speed potential to go with his above-average athleticism. But he also lacks natural feel for hitting and struggles to repeat his swing, which leads to an inconsistent bat path and, in turn, too much swing-and-miss and not enough hard-hit balls. He’s still just 22 but the layoff from the pandemic will not help as he needs lots of at-bats against quality pitching to figure things out. But if it clicks, there is 20-20 potential here.

6. Sammy Siani, OF

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 166
2020 LEVEL: A-
MLB ETA: 2023

Selected 37th overall out of high school in 2019, Siani has an advanced feel for hitting that should allow him to move relatively quickly through the minors. The big question mark with this player is whether or not he’ll hit for enough power to hold down a corner outfield slot. He has enough speed to steal 15-20 bases.

7. Quinn Priester, RHP

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 175
2020 LEVEL: SS-A
MLB ETA: 2023

A multi-sport star in high school, Priester was nabbed 18th overall in the 2019 amateur draft and showed a better-than-expected feel for pitching. He wasn’t phased by the pro environment and he posted a K-BB of 41-14 in 36.2 innings split between two levels. Priester can already work his heater into the 95-97 mph range and has a potential for three average-or-better offerings.

8. Tahnaj Thomas, RHP

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 221
2020 LEVEL: A-
MLB ETA: 2022

Thomas is a very projectable pitcher with an excellent frame that continues to fill out. The 20-year-old hurler held his own in short-season A-ball in 2019 by posting a K-BB of 59-14 in 48.1 innings. He has an excellent fastball-slider combination but needs to find a reliable third offering to stick as a starter.

9. Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B/SS

Dynasty Prospect Rank: 238
2020 LEVEL: A+
MLB ETA: 2022

Bae has now played 121 pro games without hitting a home run but power will probably never be a big part of his game. He’s a natural hitter with good speed as witnessed by his .323 batting average and 31 stolen bases in just 86 games in 2019 at the Low-A ball level.

10. Liover Peguero, SS

2020 LEVEL: A-
MLB ETA: 2023

Peguero has a chance to zoom up the Pirates’ top prospect list over the next year (assuming players can get onto the field). He has electric bat speed and should grow into above-average power as he matures. He also has above-average speed and could eventually steal 20+ bases.

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