Injuries have led to a disappointing season for several top Pittsburgh Pirates prospects in 2022 but their ratings remained high as MLB Pipeline released their midseason top 30 prospect list for the franchise.Below is a list of their top 10 preseason rankings and the updated midseason list.
The first prominent sign in the rankings is Cruz and Contreras have been omitted in the midseason rankings. This is due to the fact they spent enough time in the majors that they are no longer considered prospects. Cruz has looked better in the field that originally thought and while he has shown to be a bit of a freak of nature when it comes to exit velocity, sometimes it feels that he is swinging too hard to continue to produce those numbers and it’s one of the major reasons his batting average has stayed below .200. Contreras has shown incredible ball movement at times and the potential to be an effective number one or two pitcher in the Pirate rotation.
With those who remain, Henry Davis has kept his status at number one even though he’s spent most the season on the injured reserve. Davis does stand too close to the plate which has resulted in him being hit 17 times this year that included him fracturing his wrist after being hit by a ball on July 2nd. He finally returned to action in a rehab stint at Bradenton on August 23rd, but some scouts feel that it has hurt his development as a defensive catcher. Davis has one of the strongest arms in the game but needed development defensively that he has not gotten this year because of the injury. On the other side Endy Rodriguez has had a breakout season. The catcher, who was acquired from the Mets in the Joe Musgrove trade, also can play first and in the outfield. Endy has done a good job this year behind the plate defensively while hitting .309 as of 8/25 including a .356 average and 1.156 OPS since being called up to Altoona on 8/11. Rodriguez has moved up from his slot at number 19 to begin the season and has been highlighted as one of the top minor leaguers twice by Baseball America over the past month. To make his potential more intriguing he is the rare switch-hitting catcher. Has he put himself in a position to be the starting catcher of the future and push Davis into another position or DH?
Johnson had the biggest jump being slotted in as the number two prospect in the organization after being drafted this summer. It’s a move that should be no surprise as many scouts have claimed Johnson to be the best hitting prospect available in the draft in decades. Despite the fact Cruz seems to be the shortstop of the future, Johnson’s incredible confidence has him claiming that job will be his.
While Priestner slipped a spot to three, it was more because of Johnson’s big potential rather than anything Priestner has done. The right-hander has pitched mostly in Altoona this year band has sported a 2.43 ERA there with a 1.19 WHIP and 55/16 Strikeout/walk ratio in 55 innings as of 8/25. He has a four-pitch repertoire including a mid 90s fastball and an effective sinker that leads to many ground balls.
Peguero came to the Bucs in the Starling Marte trade and has become a top 100 prospect since moving over. The middle infielder is an effective shortstop defensively and does show Oneil Cruz ability at time hitting the ball with exceptional exit velocities at times. Like Cruz he also becomes too aggressive at the plate, and it does hamper his efforts at times. With all his potential he has struggled in Altoona this year with a .259 average as of 8/25 and a disappointing .683 OPS, although he did get a shot with the Bucs this year going one-for-three against the Giants on June 18th.
For Nick Gonzalez, the top pick in 2021, 2022 has been nothing short of a disaster. A heel injury sent him to the 60-day disabled list in June following a slow start in Altoona. Gonzales had a slow start the year before in Greensboro but rebounded for a phenomenal 2021 professional debut, although Greensboro has a very hitter friendly park. In Altoona he showed little power early on which caused Baseball America to question whether or not whatever power he had projected for him would not translate to the major leagues. He was not included in their top 100 list at midseason. Since coming back from the injury, he has raised his average to .253 with the Curve as of 8/25 and his OPS is now creeping up towards .800. Many scouts deemed him a natural hitter and the way he has rebounded since coming back hopefully that potential is back on track.
Rounding out the top 10 in the midseason rankings is Bubba Chandler, the pitcher/shortstop who has taken a stronger step on the mound so far with a 97 MPH fast ball and incredible curve. The former Clemson quarterback recruit has a 1.95 ERA with the team’s rookie league squad and Bradenton. Mike Burrows has made a huge jump from number 14 at the beginning of the season to eighth on the strength of his incredible start with the Curve where he compiled a 2.94 ERA and 1.10 WHIP before being moved up to Indianapolis where he has struggled a bit as those numbers have increased to 4.31 and 1.26. His fastball touches 97MPH and has had an effective 227/73 strikeouts to walk ratio in 198.1 innings during his short professional career to this point. Anthony Solometo, the second-round pick in 2021, is having a solid debut this season in Bradenton showing off his mid 90s fastball while working on other pitches he is trying to develop. His arm comes at hitters at a ¾ angle, as per Madison Bumgarner, and has an impressive 3.05 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while striking out 41 hitters in 38 innings as of 8/25. The top ten is concluded with righty Thomas Harrington, another draft pick from 2022 out of Campbell University. He has a fastball that can reach 96 and a decent slider and curveball. He has yet to make his professional debut.
One thing very different about Ben Cherington’s system versus his predecessor is the depth the Pirates seem to have. Many of the top 30 have major league potential and five have found their way into the top 100 MLB prospects according to MLB Pipeline including Davis (20), Johnson (30), Priestner (47), Peguero (65) and Gonzales (99). Looks like the future will be a better place for this franchise as these prospects mature.