by Dave Finoli
As the Pirates have begun an impressive season at the major league level, the exciting part of the organization is the deep minor league system it has. A consensus top ten system in the league
Pittsburgh lacks star power at this point but has many players who could compete successfully for the Bucs in the future. It’s a system that hasn’t been this deep since the late 1960s and will hopefully allow the team to compete on a more consistent level than they have since the 70s.
This is my top 20 prospect list for the organization. The plan on draft412.com is to constantly update the list with current results as the season goes on (and of course, after they hopefully draft Dylan Crews with the first pick in the 2023 MLB draft). Here is the initial ranking.
1. Endy Rodriguez-C- After a phenomenal season in 2022 where he was successful at three levels, Rodriguez started the 2023 campaign at Indy with a homer before going into a slump. He rebounded and was hitting .263 when he was placed on the IR with an arm injury. More information to follow.
2. Termarr Johnson-2B- It’s tough to be rated this high without much of a minor league resume, but when the experts claim you’re the best high school hitting prospect in a decade, it happens. After a spring training injury, Johnson finally made his Bradenton debut Friday and promptly singled in two runs in his first at bat.
3. Henry Davis-C- He was upset when he was sent to Altoona to begin the season and has struggled somewhat with a .214 average. It’s not been all bad. He has shown a good eye with a .400 OBP and when he hits the ball, he hits it hard as his .429 slugging percentage would suggest. But still, when you’re upset, you might want to hit better than .214.
4. Luis Ortiz- RHP- Quite frankly has been the best Bucs pitching prospect in the minors so far this year and the closest to advancing to the major league level. His control still needs a little tweaking, but a 1.04 WHIP so far isn’t too bad.
5. Anthony Solometo- LHP- On the surface, Solometo seems to have struggled early on this year with a 5.25 ERA, but most of the damage was done in his second start of the season when he gave up four runs in 3 2/3 innings. The other two starts in Greensboro were solid with 13 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings.
6. Quinn Priester- RHP- Out of all the top prospects, Priester has struggled the most this season. A 7.80 ERA and 1.73 WHIP is not something the man who is supposed to be your top pitching prospect achieves. In his four starts this year, two have been bad including his latest Friday where he gave up four runs in 1 2/3 innings.
7. Nick Gonzales- 2B- When drafted first in 2020, Gonzales was thought to be the best collegiate bat in the draft. After a good first year, he struggled last season with injuries before rebounding late. This year, he started off soft but once again is hitting well. Hopefully if he continues to improve, he may not only find himself included once again in baseball’s top 100 prospects, but a late season shot at the majors.
8. Jared Jones- RHP- Jones possesses one of the best fastballs in the minors and is working on
some of his other offerings to make him a more complete pitcher. So far in Altoona, he has
enjoyed some success with three solid starts and 14 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.
9. Thomas Harrington- RHP- The Bucs' second round pick in the 2022 draft Harrington has a decent mid 90s fastball. He began his minor league career in Bradenton this year and while he was tagged for six runs in his second start of the season, he allowed no runs in his first and third starts, showing great control with only one walk in ten innings.
10. Liover Peguero-SS- Peguero is thought to have a great future with the organization, but his
aggressive manner at the plate has hurt him so far in career. He is mired in a bad slump so far
this year in Altoona but hopefully a fine performance Friday which lifted his average over .200
will get him moving in the right direction again.
11. Bubba Chandler-RHP- Taken as a two-way player in the 2021 draft, the power Chandler had shown in high school has not translated to the minors so let’s just say he is going to be a pitcher going forward. He has perhaps the best fastball in the organization that hits 99 MPH. His control is not where it needs to be at this point as he’s struggled at Greensboro so far with nine walks and 13 hits in 12 innings, but his talent is there, and he is a work in progress.
12. Mike Burrows- RHP- I’m probably not as big a Mike Burrows fan as others are. While he had a great season with the Curve last year I didn’t like how he struggled when he was promoted to Indianapolis. He looked good in his two starts with the Indians this year, but a potential serious arm injury threatens to shut down his season. More to come.
13. Jared Triolo-INF- Triolo is an incredible defender who struggled offensively until putting in a fine season at Altoona last year with nine homers, a .282 average and 24 stolen bases.
Unfortunately, he has yet to begin his 2023 campaign as surgery to fix a fractured hamate bone will keep him out at least until mid-May. His future in the majors appears to be as a utility infielder.
14. Malcom Nunez-1B- After coming over from the Cardinals last season in the Jose Quintana trade, Nunez showed good power with 23 home runs and has a chance to be the team’s first baseman of the future. He is a decent defender, but he does strike out quite a bit.
15. Jun-Seok Shim-RHP- A very interesting international signing from this past year, Shim is an 18-year-old hurler out of South Korea who can hit 100 with his fast ball and has a solid curveball. He was the number 10 ranked international prospect that had interest from several teams. Has incredible potential.
16. Matt Gorski-OF- A decent defender in center who has shown power, hitting 24 homers last
season among three levels, Gorski has struggled against off-speed pitching and strikes out quite a bit. He’s struggled offensively at Altoona this year, as most of the team has, with a .214
average, but has an .813 OPS so like Davis when he hits the ball, he hits it hard. He’s still a long
shot to be able to contribute successfully in the majors but with his power there is a chance.
17. Yordany De Los Santos-SS- A good defender at short, De Los Santos was an international signing last year. He hit .258 in the DSL for the Bucs in 2022 and should play for the short season Bucs again in 2023.
18. Braxton Ashcraft-RHP- A second round pick in the 2018 draft, this former star receiver who caught 37 touchdowns his junior year in high school could hit in the mid-90s with his fastball and signed with the Bucs. Unfortunately, Tommy John surgery cut his minor league career and sent him to the sidelines for the 2022 campaign. With his career starting again this year at Bradenton, Ashcroft has pushed his way back into a prospect status this season so far with three impressive starts, allowing no runs and only five hits in only 10 1/3 innings. A trip to Greensboro should be in the not-too-distant future where we will see if he can maintain his level of success.
19. Axiel Plaz- C- An intriguing 17-year-old prospect who was an international signing in 2022, he has impressive skills behind the plate for such a young player and reportedly a great arm. Plaz has also shown decent offensive skills which could improve as he grows. He hit .382 for the Bucs' DSL team last season with a 1.206 OPS. It’s far too early to properly project his eventual outcome but he certainly makes you wonder what could be.
20. Tsung-Che Cheng-SS- Signed as an international prospect in 2019, Cheng has shown to be great defensively at short, but a bit of a slap hitter so far in his career. He has speed like Bae, and can generate offense that way, but power seemingly was never going to be his forte. He has hit two homers so far in 2023 at Greensboro, a very hit friendly park, but has hit them on the road. He has a .279 average and .912 OPS in a short sample so far this year. If he can maintain such offensive numbers a future in Pittsburgh may be in the cards.
On the outside looking in are Matt Fraizer, Kyle Nicolas, Lonnie White, Hunter Barco and Abraham