Today is the day that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, though many of them were at Pirate City already yesterday. We posted our 2019 Spring Training Tracker yesterday, which will we update as player movement happens this spring. Tim Williams also broke down some of the position battles that we will see over the next six weeks. Once all of the position players arrive later this week, the group in Spring Training for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year will be filled with prospects.
Our 2019 Prospect Guide has extended scouting reports for the top 50 prospects in the system. Going by our list, a total of 21 top 50 prospects will be in the Major League camp this spring. More importantly for the prospect fans, that group includes ten of the top 12 prospects in the system.
One other thing about Spring Training is that teams will carry extra players from the minor league camp for each game, so there is no doubt that we will end up seeing more than 21 of the top 50 prospects. I think most people remember last year when 18-year-old Lolo Sanchez got a chance to play and ended up stealing home against the Phillies. Some others might remember 18-year-old shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae, who was the top international signing last year for the Pirates, playing in a Spring Training game before he played his first pro game. In fact, he was only officially signed 17 days before that spring appearance.
The group of prospects this year doesn’t include many that have a shot to win Opening Day jobs, but Spring Training gives you a chance to get extended looks at some players you probably don’t see during the season. Only six of the top 50 prospects in camp have already made their debut.
Top prospect Mitch Keller, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and first baseman Will Craig are all participating in their first big league camp. They all saw brief time with the Pirates last spring as minor league extras, but they will get extended looks this year before heading back to the minor league camp. Cole Tucker is in his second camp, but he received just 14 plate appearances before being assigned to the minor league side last year, so he will also see more time.
Luis Escobar is one of the top pitching prospects in the system, yet he made just one relief appearance last spring in his first camp. Southpaw Elvis Escobar wasn’t even a pitcher last spring. He’s now a top 50 prospect on the mound, trying to make a good impression with coaches who saw him as an outfielder last spring. JT Brubaker, our Pitcher of the Year for 2018, will see his first action in big league camp. Right-handed relievers Geoff Hartlieb and Jesus Liranzo could hit triple digits on the radar gun this spring.
Before they really get down to the decisions for the final roster spots, you’ll get a good look at players who could be a big part of the future for the Pirates. For some like Keller, Hayes, Tucker and Craig, that future might not be that far down the line.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.