The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a rough run since the last time they made the playoffs in 2015. Since that 98-win season, they have only had one winning season. While it all may seem doom and gloom in Pittsburgh, the good news is replacements are on the way. The Pirates have compiled a ton of top draft picks, which makes their farm system filled with talent that could arrive in Pittsburgh soon. With Endy Rodriguez leading the way, let’s talk about the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ top prospects for fantasy baseball.
Pittsburgh Pirates Top Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1. Endy Rodriguez, C
Age: 22/2022 Stats(A+/AA/AAA): 458 AB/.323/.407/.590/25 HR/4 SB/92 R/95 RBI
The rise of Endy Rodriguez has been nothing short of impressive. Known for being one of the hardest workers and a clubhouse leader, Rodriguez moved from High-A to Triple-A with a stop in Double-A in between. He improved at every level, depending on what statistics you look at. The 6’0 versatile catcher also showed the ability to play second base. Between all three MiLB levels, he slashed an impressive .323/.407/.590 with 25 home runs, 95 RBI, and 92 runs scored. Pittsburgh needs this kind of bat in their lineup sooner than later.
Rodriguez is a switch hitter who shows strong instincts from both sides of the plate. As a left-handed hitter, he posted a .325/.410/.592 slash and was equally as strong from the right side with a .316/.396/.579 slash. Rodriguez is a contact-oriented hitter with a strong feel for the strike zone. He gets most of his power to the pull side and can do it well from either side of the plate. Rodriguez could move off the catcher position, but he did see improvements in 2022. Whether he plays part-time at catcher and sees some time at second base is still to be determined, but his bat will play either way.
2. Termarr Johnson, 2B
Age: 18/2022 Stats(Rk/A): 63 AB/.222/.366/.365/1 HR/6 SB/7 R/6 RBI
Termarr Johnson has been part of one of the most hyped prep classes of hitters in some time. Johnson was selected fourth overall in the 2022 MLB Draft after being lauded for a strong hit tool with plenty of power potential. Despite being only 5’8″ and potentially maxed out from a weight standpoint, Johnson does find plenty of power, thanks to excellent barrel control and bat speed. After a short stint of struggles at the complex, Johnson moved to Low-A, where he showed some impressive flashes of his tools. Johnson was also young for the draft class and will spend half of the 2023 season as an 18-year-old. The high-end outcome for Termarr Johnson could be a plus or better hitter with plus power. He still has plenty of development left to go, but Johnson’s upside, plus his floor as a hitter makes him an excellent target in FYPDs.
3. Henry Davis, C
Age: 23/2022 Stats(A/A+/AA): 212 AB/.264/.380/.472/10 HR/9 SB/39 R/42 RBI
The top overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, Henry Davis, made his way to Double-A in his first full season with Pittsburgh. Davis put on a hitting clinic during his years at Louisville, plus a strong arm behind the plate led the Pirates to draft him first overall. A bad run of injury luck caused Davis to miss extended time in 2023, but he still managed 255 plate appearances. Across three levels, he slashed .264/.380/.472 with ten home runs. The Pirates also sent him to the Arizona Fall League to catch up on plate appearances, where he got a mixed bag of results. Despite the strong arm, there is no guarantee that Davis sticks behind the dish due to inconsistencies. As he profiles for plus power, his bat could play in a corner outfield spot.
4. Luis Ortiz, RHP
Age: 24/2022 Stats(AA/AAA): 125 IP/4.56 ERA/1.14 WHIP/138 K
MLB Stats: 16 IP/4.50 ERA/1.12 WHIP/17 K
If you look at surface numbers, you are probably puzzled with Luis Ortiz being ranked fourth here. He finished his Minor League season with a 4.56 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 125 innings. His Major League numbers were not all that impressive, as Ortiz posted a 4.50 ERA in four starts. But, all that is irrelevant when you look at the larger picture with Ortiz. He has a solid frame at 6’2/240 lb and easily pumps his fastball in the upper 90s. He mixes in a four-seam and a sinker to keep hitters on their toes. Ortiz’s slider is also easily a plus pitch that sits upper 80s. He provides value now, as he should be in the Pirates’ rotation in 2023. If he can polish his arsenal a bit, there is solid fantasy appeal here.
5. Quinn Priester, RHP
Age: 22/2022 Stats(A/A+/AA/AAA): 90.1 IP/3.29 ERA/1.20 WHIP/89 K
Quinn Priester has a deep arsenal of pitches and solid command of each. He may not be the flashiest arm, but Priester is a sum-of-the-parts pitcher. In 2021, he ditched his four-seamer for a sinker and has seen improved results. He was not getting whiffs with the four-seam, so it made sense to go to a sinker to get the ball on the ground more often. His curveball is arguably his best pitch, which sits around 80 mph and generates a ton of chase from hitters as it dives out of the zone. Priester added a slider to his arsenal, but it has some inconsistencies. His changeup gets a nice fade to it, but it would be better if it had more velocity separation from his sinker. Priester has shown he can go deep into games, and he has a repeatable delivery. 2023 will be a big year as he likely spends most of it in Triple-A.
6. Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B/OF
Age: 23/2022 Stats(AAA) 419 AB/.289/.362/.430/8 HR/30 SB/81 R/53 RBI
MLB Stats: 33 AB/.333/.405/.424/0 HR/3 SB/5 R/6 RBI
Ji-Hwan Bae may not be a fantasy stud, but he is a pure hitter. Bae has consistently hit at every level, shown by his career .294/.373/.419 slash in the minors. His game power will likely be below average, but some underlying data suggests he hits the ball harder than you might think. His raw power grades closer to average, but I would never project Bae to hit more than 12-15 home runs in a given season. For fantasy, that is not great, but when you couple it with high-end contact rates and plate discipline plus 20+ stolen base upside, you have an intriguing fantasy asset.
7. Bubba Chandler, RHP
Age: 20/2022 Stats(Rk/A): 41.1 IP/2.61 ERA/1.23 WHIP/60 K
Bubba Chandler is an athlete, and a dang good one at that. As a prep player, he excelled as a three-sport athlete and was committed to Clemson to play both football and baseball. The Pirates loved him enough to give him an over-slot deal in the third round to get him to sign. If you are looking for a breakout in the Pirates org, Chandler is your guy. He is a two-way player, but has shown to be a much better pitcher with a potential 70-grade fastball that sits close to 96 mph consistently. His slider is plus, and his changeup has shown to get plenty of swings and misses. The walks are concerning, but Chandler has only focused on baseball for a short time. If he does the transition to pitcher only, he could move up rankings due to his already elite stuff.
8. Liover Peguero, SS
Age: 22/2022 Stats(AA): 483 AB/.259/.305/.387/10 HR/28 SB/65 R/58 RBI
Nothing about Liover Peguero’s base stat line warrants him being ranked here, especially over a player like Nick Gonzales. Peguero’s skillset has not truly translated to game action yet, and it is important to remember he played the full season at 21 years old and even made an improbable MLB debut. One of the more prominent flaws is that Peguero can be a bit of a free swinger, and he posted a chase rate north of 30 percent last season. The good news is the batted ball data was very good. He made contact on 80 percent of pitches in the zone and posted a strong 104.4 mph (90th percentile) exit velocity. Beyond that, he is also a plus runner capable of stealing plenty of bases. If he can put all the tools together, there is a solid starting shortstop in Peguero.
9. Nick Gonzales, 2B
Age: 23/2022 Stats(Rk/A/AA): 269 AB/.264/.382/.435/7 HR/6 SB/48 R/37 RBI
You are probably asking yourself the question, why is Chris so low on Nick Gonzales? After being drafted seventh overall as a hit-first, advanced offensive bat, Gonzales has failed to live up to the hype. The contact skills have trended in the wrong direction and he continues to struggle with fastballs up in the zone. I expressed concerns after seeing him over an extended series in the summer of 2021 and have seen the struggles live in both the 2021 and 2022 Arizona Fall League.
Injuries could have played a factor last season, but for a contact-oriented hitter, he has a sub-70 percent zone contact rate. When that is coupled with a poor overall contact rate, plus below average exit velocities, there are major concerns. Can Gonzales bounce back? Absolutely. But for now, I can’t push Gonzales higher until we see some improvements against fastball and in-zone contact.
10. Mike Burrows, RHP
Age: 23/2022 Stats(AA/AAA): 94.1 IP/4.01 ERA/1.20 WHIP/111 K
Mike Burrows is a two-pitch pitcher, but both pitches are arguably plus. His fastball sits close to 95 mph with excellent ride up in the zone. His curveball produces elite spin rates and a ton of vertical movement. Burrows does utilize a changeup, but it is seldom used. If he can develop that pitch, it will go a long way in his starter progression. The other traits are those of a starting pitcher, especially the fact that he throws so many strikes. His delivery is repeatable, and he should make his debut with Pittsburgh at some point in 2023.
11. Anthony Solometo, LHP
Age: 20/2022 Stats(A): 47.2 IP/2.64 ERA/1.05 WHIP/51 K
Anthony Solometo was the Pirates’ second round pick in 2021, and signed well over slot to keep him away from playing college ball at North Carolina. Solometo has a funky delivery as the lefty takes a big step away from his body, has a big leg kick, and a three-quarters arm slot. His stuff is good, as he features a fastball, slider, and changeup combo. He creates good deception thanks to his delivery, and he surprisingly repeats it well. There is plenty of upside here, and watching Solometo as he moves up the minors will be fun.
12. Tom Harrington, RHP
Age: 21/2022 Stats: Did not pitch
Tom Harrington was selected by the Pirates with the 36th pick in the 2022 MLB Draft out of Campbell. Harrington did not become a starting pitcher until his junior year of high school. Due to COVID killing his senior year, he was forced to walk on at Campbell. He had a strong freshman season, but then dominated in 2022 with a 2.53 ERA in 92.2 innings. Harrington features a four-pitch mix, and while none stand out above the other, he is a strong sum of the parts arm. He has a strong feel and command of each pitch. The jury is still out on the type of pitcher Harrington can become, but it will be telling as we see him pitch in pro ball this season.
13. Malcom Nunez, 3B
Age: 22/2022 Stats(AA/AAA): 416 AB/.262/.367/.466/23 HR/5 SB/72 R/88 RBI
Malcom Nunez was part of the Cardinals’ international class in 2018, and after a dominant showing in the Dominican Summer League, he flew up rankings. Nunez sputtered after, and COVID set his development back. While Nunez has not been elite, he has still been a really solid prospect, and 2022 was his best season since his DSL debut. His batted ball data is good, and he has a strong 104.7 mph (90th percentile) exit velocity coupled with an 82 percent zone contact rate. Nunez has the potential to be a solid fantasy contributor at third base.
14. Matt Gorski, OF
Age: 25/2022 Stats(A/A+/AA/AAA): 286 AB/.280/.358/.598/24 HR/21 SB/62 R/66 RBI
Matt Gorski is probably the only player I have written up this offseason that played at every level of full-season Minor League ball. Despite getting just 286 at-bats between them due to the injury, Gorski still mashed 24 home runs and chipped in 21 steals. It is pretty crazy to think about. He hits the ball extremely hard, posting a near 107 mph (90th percentile) exit velocity and a 91 mph average. The larger issue with Gorski is his contact ability. It is well below average, and his slash line is a poor indication, given that he struck out nearly 29 percent of the time and posted a contact rate near 60 percent. Gorski has fun power and speed, but unless his bat-to-ball skills improve, it will be hard for him to excel in the Majors.
15. Axiel Plaz, C
Age: 17/2022 Stats(DSL): 68 AB/.382/.500/.706/3 HR/2 SB/16 R/21 RBI
Axiel Plaz signed as a 16-year-old with the Pirates in January 2022, and hit the ground running in the Dominican Summer League. Plaz dominated all aspects of the game with an impressive slash line, good contact skills, power, and even a solid arm behind the plate. While we still know very little about his game and how it could translate, he will be fun to watch in 2023. Plaz is a player to keep an eye on in 2023 and potentially jump on in dynasty leagues if the success continues.
Photos by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire and Jordan Faux/Unsplash. | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)