Today I’m wrapping up my positional recaps with a position that hopefully won’t require prospect help in Pittsburgh anytime soon. As I wrote today at No Quarter, the 2021 season saw a drop in power from Ke’Bryan Hayes, helping to lead to an overall below-average season.
It’s far too soon to give up on Hayes based on his first full season at the age of 24. I could see him improving in 2022 to being an average or better starter, and I still think he’s got All-Star upside at third base.
In the event that Hayes doesn’t work out — whether that’s due to injuries or unexpected poor performance — the Pirates do have a few options to replace him.
This article is part of a series looking at the future of every position in the Pirates’ farm system. Note that this isn’t a full list of the third base prospects, but instead the top options in the system as of our latest rankings.
2021 Stats: .247/.300/.450, 15 HR, 350 PA (AA, AAA, MLB)
I’d expect Castro to open the 2022 season competing for a starting role at second base, and his best path to the majors with the Pirates exists at that position. However, he’s played shortstop and third base, spending most of his time in 2021 at third. If Hayes were ever to go down with an injury in 2022, I could see Castro as a top candidate to replace him.
2021 Stats: .304/.369/.480, 15 HR, 473 PA (A+)
The Pirates took Triolo out of college in the second round of the 2019 draft. He showed some promise in his first full season, hitting well in High-A, and winning a Gold Glove award at third base. Triolo has a large frame and managed some power to the tune of a .169 ISO. He also showed a strong ability to get on base. A lot of Greensboro hitters excelled at home and struggled on the road. Triolo’s numbers at home were decent, but he crushed the ball on the road. That, plus the defensive award, are encouraging that he’ll be able to keep up on both sides of the ball in the upper levels. He’s also played shortstop in pro ball, and first base and the corner outfield spots in pro ball. Triolo will be a guy to watch in Altoona in 2022.
2021 Stats: .278/.355/.487, 19 HR, 440 PA (AA, AAA)
Castillo was recent added to the 40-man roster, and like Castro, I see his chances at making the team better at second base. He’s played some third base, and more shortstop than second, so he’s got experience on the left side. He also has power potential that would be appealing at the corner. Castillo could emerge as another candidate to replace Hayes in 2022 if an injury occurs.
2021 Stats: .258/.341/.393, 10 HR, 416 PA (A)
As we get to the lower levels, the question comes up of whether a player can stick at third base. Lopez was signed a shortstop prospect, but showed poor defense at the position in 2021. He finished the year at third, where his defense continued to struggle. He made the jump from the DSL to Low-A, and his offense didn’t struggle much from the move. Based on how he looked defensively this year, he’ll probably end up a prospect at another position, assuming the bat plays up.
2021 Stats: .209/.322/.341, 9 HR, 339 PA (A)
Mojica is unlikely to stick at third base, due to his large frame. He does have good enough hands and a strong enough arm to play the left side of the infield. That should keep him there as long as there’s not a better alternative, and right now, there isn’t. His large frame projects plus power, but he didn’t show that in 2021. He didn’t make good contact, but walked a lot. Power will be essential to his game, as he’s likely to move to first base long-term, unless he can improve his conditioning at third.
2021 Stats: .296/.394/.500, 6 HR, 181 PA (Rk)
Jerez is very far from the majors, and his defense this year didn’t make him look like a candidate for third base long-term. He did show an impressive bat, with solid power production. That came with a lot of strikeouts, which is a concern at the lower levels. His .846 fielding percentage in rookie ball suggests he’ll end up elsewhere, but I wanted to mention his offense here, as I’ve yet to mention him in these writeups.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.