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25 Man Roster

The concept of purgatory has the been the subject of philosophical and theological debate for millennia. For Pirates fans, it is real and seemingly eternal. Through ownership groups, general managers and field managers, fans, save for a few spasms of moderate success, have been subject to numerous proclamations of retooling, repositioning, restocking and finally an acknowledgement of the obvious, the rebuild. With an official rebuild comes a projected timeframe of sustained competitiveness and contention, the 2025 season. Fans know the names of the building blocks in place, Cruz, Contreras, and Hayes, in addition to pieces that may be part of it, Reynolds, Bednar, Keller and Suwinski.

If those players are a part of the next great faction of Pirate championship hopes, or the continuous punch line of MLB jokes of ineptitude, will depend largely strong results from their much-ballyhooed farm system. General Manager Ben Cherington inherited a system that was filled with lots of safe selections and wishful thinking. Completing a Top 30 prospects list became an exercise in citing 10 obvious names and a lot of throwing darts at the wall. Now, it is a painful endeavor in only limiting the list to 30 prospects.

This article, and an accompanying piece by Dave Finoli, will attempt to identify some of those prospects on whom much of the success of 2025 and beyond will depend. It will focus on catcher, infield, and the bullpen, with Dave handling the rest of the positions. The prospects named will be from AAA Indianapolis and AA Altoona, with a few additions from High A Greensboro. The higher in an organization a player reaches, the higher the likelihood of success. Not to mention the Pirates apparent philosophy of glacially moving prospects through their system. This contrasts to organizations such as the World Champion Atlanta Braves, who quickly identify impact prospects and put them on the bullet train to the Majors. Everyday contributors to their line up include probable Rookie of the Year Michael Harris and Vaughn Grissom, III, both 21 and both started the year at the AA level.

Emmet’s 25 Man Roster

1B Malcom Nunez

2B Nick Gonzales

3B Ke’Bryan Hayes

SS Liover Peguero

LF Jack Suwinski

CF Bryan Reynolds

RF Oneill Cruz

C Endy Rodriguez

DH Henry Davis

Bench (C) Blake Sabol

Bench Caanan Smith-Ngigba

Bench Diego Castillo

Bench Tucipita Marcano

SP Roansy Contreras

SP Quinn Priester

SP Michael Burrows

SP David Bednar

SP Mitch Keller

Swing Johan Oviedo

Closer Yerry De Los Santos

RP Wil Crowe

RP Cody Bolton

RP Nick Mears

RP Colin Holderman

RP Manny Banuelos

RP Cam Alldred

Manager Kieran Mattison

Likely trade candidates Reynolds, Bednar, Bae,


First recalls SP-Johan Oviedo, OF-Cam Mitchell, Inf-

Termarr Johnosn, RP-Tyler Samaniego

Dave’s 25 Man Roster

1B Malcom Nunez

2B Termarr Johnson

SS Oneill Cruz

3B Ke’Bryan Hayes

LF Jack Suwinski

CF Travis Swaggerty

RF Cal Mitchell

C Endy Rodriguez

DH Henry Davis

Bench Nick Gonzales

Bench Liover Peguero

Bench Lonnie White Jr

SP Roansy Contreras

SP Quinn Priestner

SP Mitch Kellar

SP Anthony Solometo

SP JT Brubaker

Swing Johan Oviedo

Closer David Bednar

RP Wil Crowe

RP Duane Underwood

RP Thomas Harrington

RP Mike Burrows

RP Bubba Chandler

RP Cam Alldred

RP Luis Ortiz

First recalls- OF-Caanan Smith Njigba, 2B- Diego

Castillo, RP- Yerry De Los Santos, RP-Carmen


CATCHER- Perhaps Cherington’s greatest accomplishment to date has been turning the Pirates absolute dearth of catching depth into a positional strength. Championship teams must be strong up the middle and without viable production from the catcher, that task gets much more daunting. At the top of the Pirate’s catching depth is last year’s #1 overall selection, Henry Davis. While much of the development of Davis has been detoured by injury, he is still a consensus Top 50 prospect in all of MLB and should be a contributor and team leader in 2025. Endy Rodriguez, an ancillary part of the Joe Musgrove trade, is the Pirates most buzz worthy prospect this season and their likely Minor League Player of the Year. He mashed his way to Altoona, where inexplicably he remains all while destroying AA pitching. Considered solid behind the plate, his impressive offense earned his spot in Top 100 prospect lists.

Two high end prospects at the same position on the same roster has caused both to be tried elsewhere on the diamond. The universal DH and position flexibility should allow both players to be in the line up virtually every day. Abraham Gutierrez, brought in from the Phillies in a barely noticed minor league deal, has taken a step back offensively, but is still regarded as having at least major league back up capabilities. Carter Bins has not shown any offense, aside from some pop, but is a very good defender. He is 23 and at AAA. He might slot in as a third catcher on the 2025 squad. Sleeper – Blake Sabol, AAA.

INFIELD- Infield, especially middle infield, has been an area the Pirates have had plenty to keep an eye on. Frequently, the hype has not matched the reality. However, if there is on area of abundance in this system, it is the infield. Viable prospects are at every level and all positions, save 1B. Closest to joining the big club is Ji-Hwan Bae. Bae was a high bonus signing and has played both 2B and SS. The latter is spoken for in Pittsburgh, his future would be at 2B. He has had a very good offensive season at Indianapolis, including greater than expected power.

The fact that the run challenged Pirates have not promoted him might indicate he is not in their long-term plans. He was convicted in his native South Korea of assaulting his then girlfriend. The details are ugly, and MLB hit him with a 30-day suspension without pay. A sanction many, including his former girlfriend, found inadequate. A team already steeped in bad PR could find the understandable blowback too much. He could be part of a trade to a win at all costs organization willing to take the hit.

The two most promising prospects to man the middle infield play at Altoona, Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero. Gonzales, the Pirates #1 pick in 2020, and Peguero, brought in via trade, have different scouting profiles. The former, when not on the IL, is a hit first player. He will hit his way to Pittsburgh where he will settle in at 2B. Injuries, a 30% K rate and a 2 to 1 K:BB ratio are concerning, but not enough to shake the belief in him being a productive everyday contributor. Peguero came to the Pirates with the reputation as having a major league ready glove and a hope of sufficient offense. He has close to 30 errors at AA, but he wouldn’t be the first young infielder who tried too much and racked up the errors. His bat does show signs of playing at the major league level. Malcom Nunez, the dividend paid on Jose Quintana, is the only truly viable option at 1B. Since his arrival in Altoona, he has hit with a lot of power, while still displaying the ability to get on base. The final member of the Curve infield is the biggest wildcard, 3B Jared Triolo. At 24 and in AA, he is only a marginal prospect. However, he is a minor league Gold Glove winner, and this year has added power to his resume. Ke’Bryan Hayes and his extension will move Triolo to a utility role, should he reach Pittsburgh. It is from this pool that Cherington might dip into to sweeten any future deals and enhance the return. Sleeper – Termarr Johnson, High A, only in the sense that there is no way to know how quickly he will be moved through the system. He will reach Pittsburgh. He will be the 2B. Will it be before 2025? Who knows. However, his immense potential will force some of these names, and others, into new organizations.

OUTFIELD- If I could wish one thing for the future of this franchise it would be signing Bryan Reynolds to a long term contract, solidifying perhaps the weakest area in the system with one of the great young players in the game. The problem is I don’t see them doing that and I think by 2025 Reynolds will be gone from the franchise. What does that leave the franchise going forward? Not a ton unfortunately. Jack Suwinski will probably hold down one of the corner outfield positions. He’s played ok defensively and has shown nice power, some homers coming at clutch moments in the game. The issue is his inconsistency at the plate. He’s shown to be a hitter that may only ascend to the .220 level at his best. Cal Mitchell, a second round pick in 2017, has shown flashes with the Bucs this year and has had an outstanding year with Indianapolis, hitting .339 as of 9/15 with a .937 OPS in 261 at bats. He hasn’t had a consistent professional career at this point though but hopefully what he has shown in 2022 will be the Mitchell of the future. Travis Swaggerty, the first round pick in 2018, is a fine defensive outfielder who could play well in center, but he is proving to be an potential offensive liability so far. He is showing to be a .250-.260 hitter with little power although his on base percentages haven’t been bad but there is an incredible difference between he and Reynolds in the lineup….again if I had a dream come true.

Depth is lacking in the outfield. While Bligh Madris has had success at the major and minor league level this year I think his ceiling with Pittsburgh will probably be a fourth outfielder. Two former college football prospects, Lonnie Smith Jr and Canaan Smith-Njigba both have potential to crack the starting line up in Pittsburgh. Smith is probably the better prospect of the two, but Smith-Njigba, also part of the Taillon deal, has shown power potential, but a leg injury hampered his progress in 2021. Sleeper- Matt Fraizer. Funny that somehow the organizations minor league player of the year is a sleeper pick but that’s the kind of disappointing year it’s been for Fraizer. He really had a chance to grab onto a future spot in the Pirate lineup in 2022, but to say he laid an egg would be an understatement. With a .217 average as of 9/15 with only six homers, while failing to move up from Altoona has taken Fraizer to this point. If he can somehow regain his consistency at the plate in 2023, perhaps he may get back on track.

DESIGNATED HITTER- For those who do not like the DH in the game (and include me in that) for the future Pirates this position could actually be a positive thing. It’s the catch all for some of the fine hitting prospects the Bucs have brought along in the last few years. If Henry Davis can’t surpass Endy Rodriguez behind the plate, his bat could be very effective in the Pirates lineup at DH. The franchise has a glut of potential outstanding performers in the middle infield. For those that may not have a starting place in the infield, a prospect such as Nick Gonzales, who is projected to be an outstanding hitter but might not be good enough to secure a starting spot a second, this could be the place for him. I may not be a DH fan, but with so many fine hitting prospects in the system, DH could be a strength for this franchise going forward.

STARTING PITCHING- If there is one area that the Pirates have flexed their future muscle in 2022 it has been the starting rotation. The Ben Cherington group has done what the Neil Huntington group had failed time and time again to do in their tenure…..take a top prospect pitcher and push them towards their potential (and no I don’t count Gerrit Cole since he actually reached his vast potential away from Pittsburgh). In Mitch Keller they laid out the expectation, pulled him from the rotation when he wasn’t reaching it and now finally has him going in the right direction. He has been the Bucs best pitcher over the last quarter of the season and finally we can see what the experts were boasting about at the minor league level. Roansy Contreras has been very effective at both the minor and major league levels. He has tremendous movement on his pitches and will prove to be an outstanding return in the Jameson Taillon trade. JT Brubaker has been very solid this season despite less than stellar run support and will be a top four or five man in the future rotation. Luis Ortiz and Johan Oviedo came up late in the season to show their vast potential while Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson have plugged the holes in the rotation in 2022, but have been inconsistent and don’t appear likely to be functioning parts of the rotation three years from now.

Cherington has put together fine depth in the organization on the mound and Emmet’s thought of moving Bednar to the starting rotation is certainly very intriguing my thought is the final two pieces will be Quinn Priestner, who is enjoying a phenomenal campaign at Altoona, and Anthony Solometo, the second round pick in the 2021 draft who began his development quite nicely in Bradenton this season. Sleeper- Miguel Yajure. If he can ever find the plate consistently he could be something special. Walking 5.7 per nine innings in his short time with the Bucs this year shows he still hasn’t done that.

BULLPEN- If any hopes for a championship on the horizon exist, a bullpen will be a huge part of it. In this new era of reliance on analytic driven decisions, starters are on a shorter leash, relievers are throwing more innings and the increased utilization of openers and swing men has made the innings after the starter departs essential. It is also the hardest position to forecast. Closers can have short MLB shelf lives. Middling career starters can become dominant set up men. Unless one is drafted very early on with the express intent of rushing them through the system as a reliever, one can never be sure where next year’s bullpen will come from, let alone three years from now. Pirate fans have been subjected to a cruel degree to the unending parade of DFA arms populating the big-league roster. Do the minors possess arms that could become fixtures in a reborn Shark Tank? Possibly. Indianapolis has an intriguing mix of pitchers who have either been up for a cup of coffee or had their development short circuited by injury. That is the case with Cam Alldred, Nick Mears, and Blake Cinderlind. Alldred has only one major league inning to his credit but has been a consistent out getter at every level of the organization. Mears and Cinderlind have huge arms

producing 100 MPH gas that made them prospects. However, they have more time on the IL than on any active roster. Travis MacGregor and Cody Bolton have the pedigree but have not results. Should everything click, they could easily be contributing members of the 2025 staff.

Altoona has two former starters that appear to have found their role in the bullpen, Tahnaj Thomas and J.C. Flowers. They have each worked at setting up and closing and each has a reputation for throwing hard. Two pitchers not as high on the prospect list who made the jump from Greensboro to Altoona have consistently gotten outs in their brief time in the system. 2021 15 th rounder, Tyler Samaniego and undrafted free agent Nick Dombkowski have bucked the slow train and have become two people to watch in just over a year. Sleeper – Braxton Ashcraft, High A 60-day IL. A 2 nd round pick in 2018, Ashcraft is a 6’5” athletic pitcher. Depending on how and when he returns, he could be a quick mover through the system.

Will all these players continue to develop and eventually be part of the next contender in Pittsburgh? Absolutely not. Plateaus, injuries, Rule V eligibility, roster crunches and trades will certainly prune this list. But, for the first time in a very long time, the answers outweigh the questions.

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