Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Top 30 Prospects

We’ve been doing this a long time.

Pirates Prospects has been ranking players in this farm system since the 2010 season. Our rankings have matured over the years, adjusted, altered tendencies, and what I’ve learned from doing the rankings this year is that this whole process becomes really easy with a system this loaded.

You can take a random selection of the top 60 prospects in the system to make up spots 21-30, and that’s a good thing. Most of those guys are either low-level, high-upside guys who you can dream on adding a key tool, or overcoming some kind of odds against them. Or, you’ve got the upper level guys who might be able to start in the majors, but are good enough to at least reach the big leagues and very possibly provide bench and bullpen depth.


That’s what this system has.

Depth in top prospects in the game.

Depth in potential starters for the key Pirates positional needs, which are — well, mostly everywhere, but primarily Catcher, Second Base, Shortstop, Outfield, the Rota — you know what, just everywhere.

There’s depth everywhere.

Potential starters.

Potential bench players.

Potential starters to serve as a backup to the other Potential starters.

Potential bench players who you can dream about being Potential starters because there are already so many Potential starters.

And they’re all starting to collect, lining up from the upper levels down, in one of the top ranked farm systems in the game, with hopes of building the base for the next contender in Pittsburgh.

And hopefully sooner, than later.

This year’s group of prospects was fun to grade and write about. There are a lot of future MLB players in this group. There are a lot of future MLB players left off this group. That’s being said with respect to how rare MLB players actually are (just over 20,000 total in the history of the game), and with respect to how much talent there is in this system.

I don’t think it’s overstating it to say that this is the best farm system we’ve seen in Pittsburgh in a long time.

Below is the Pirates Prospects 2022 Top 30, made up from the rankings of all of our writers. You can find the list, along with our individual top 30s, on our Rankings page.

1. Oneil Cruz, SS

Origin Story: Cruz was acquired by the Pirates at the 2017 trade deadline in exchange for Tony Watson. A young, high-upside prospect with a ton of raw power at the time, Cruz has since grown into one of the top prospects in the game, largely due to how much his raw power translates over to the game. Pirates fans got a glimpse of this at the end of 2021, watching Cruz hit a home run off of one knee — a feat he repeated this spring.

2021 Stats: .310/.375/.594, 17 HR, 19 SB, 301 PA (AA/AAA)

2022 Outlook: Cruz will start the season in Indianapolis. Realistically, the Pirates will hold him down until they can gain an additional year of service time from him. He will be up full time at some point this year. He’s going to work on the outfield in Triple-A, but is still seen as a shortstop, and should be the long-term option in the organization at the position. Regardless of where he plays, the biggest value from Cruz will come from his impact hitting potential, and based on what we’ve seen so far, that could already be Major League ready.

MLB Future: Cruz has such a dynamic upside, that you could see 40+ home run power and 20+ stolen bases a year. He’s a playmaker and a game changer who should settle comfortably into the heart of the Pirates’ order for their next contending run, while providing value on the defensive side of the ball with his athleticism playing somewhere on the field.

P2Daily: So, When Will Oneil Cruz Be in the Majors For Good?

2. Henry Davis, C

Origin Story: The Pirates made Davis the first overall pick of the 2021 draft. Part of that move was to save money for high-upside prep picks like Bubba Chandler, Anthony Solometo, and Lonnie White Jr. A bigger part was the power potential from Davis, and his ability to stick behind the plate as a leader of a future pitching staff. Davis made his brief pro debut last year, hitting three home runs in the lower levels before going down with an oblique injury, which he has since recovered from.

2021 Stats: .308/.387/.808, 3 HR, 1 SB, 31 PA (Rk/A+)

2022 Outlook: Davis will start the year in High-A Greensboro, and if his bat shows up as advertised, he could be in Altoona by the end of the season. The big focus will be game calling and his work behind the plate, transitioning away from a college atmosphere where games are mostly called from the bench. Davis hasn’t shown any signs that this will be an issue for him to pick up.

MLB Future: The power potential is real, rivaling that of Cruz. Davis posts some of the best exit velocities in the system, and absolutely destroys baseballs with his low-crouch power swing. He crowds the plate, with heavy armor on his elbow, and the shown ability to turn on a pitch and do some damage. Davis projects to be a solid MLB hitter no matter where he plays. If he can stick behind the plate, the Pirates will have a huge block to build around, with Davis potentially arriving as soon as late-2023.

Henry Davis is Already Acting Like a Leader on Day One of Spring Training

3. Roansy Contreras, RHP

Origin Story: The Pirates grabbed Contreras from the Yankees as part of the Jameson Taillon trade prior to the 2021 season. At the time, Contreras had only made starts in A-ball prior to the pandemic, with decent numbers and less than a strikeout per inning. Contreras made some strides during the lost 2020 season, and went to Double-A with the Pirates, where he showed much improved strikeout stuff and even made a start in the majors by the end of the season.

2021 Stats: 2.64 ERA, 82:13 K/BB, 58 IP (AA/AAA)

2022 Outlook: Expect Contreras to pitch out of Triple-A to start this season, and in a similar situation to Oneil Cruz, expect Contreras to arrive in the majors by the middle of the season for a starting role. Contreras missed some time last year due to a forearm injury, but returned by the end of the season. Managing his workload should be a priority this year, especially since he projects to be in the majors by the end of the season.

MLB Future: Contreras could be one of the leaders of a future contending Pirates rotation. He’s got a fastball that tops out at 98, along with a curveball and slider that both can be plus offerings. He aggressively attacks hitters with confidence in his stuff, and that approach didn’t appear to wane in his brief time in the majors. Contreras should arrive by the middle of this season, giving the Pirates a key building block for their future rotation.

A Clear Mindset Drives Roansy Contreras to the Top 100 and the Majors

4. Nick Gonzales, 2B

Origin Story: Gonzales was drafted in the first round of the 2020 draft as the first pick under new General Manager Ben Cherington. He was regarded as one of the best pure hitters in college at the time, and has hit well in his time in pro ball. There have been concerns about his hitting track record lining up with offensive-friendly environments, and his performance outside of those environments. He also dealt with a broken finger that cost him more than a month early in the season.

2021 Stats: .303/.385/.565, 18 HR, 7 SB, 369 PA (A+)

2022 Outlook: Gonzales will go to Altoona, which will be the biggest test to the question of how strong his hitting ability really is. This will be his most neutral home park yet, getting away from the more offensive-friendly environments he’s used to. Park factors aside, Gonzales does have a quick swing with a clean bat path, and some power potential. He’s an average fielder who can start at second base and play shortstop, but his hit tool will drive the way. If he hits well enough in Altoona, it could be possible to see him getting a late-season call to the majors, similar to Cruz and Contreras in 2021.

MLB Future: This is where the system starts to get fun, because you could make an argument that Gonzales belongs with Cruz and Davis, and you could make an argument that he belongs lower than Quinn Priester or Liover Peguero. It largely depends on how much you like his hitting skills, and how much the park factors have deterred you. I see Gonzales as a future .280-.300 hitter at the least, with .350-.380 on-base ability, double-digit home runs and solid defense at second base, which would make him one of the top options in the system for the future at second base.

How Far Away is Nick Gonzales From Entering the Second Base Mix in Pittsburgh?

5. Quinn Priester, RHP

Origin Story: Priester was the final first round pick under Neal Huntington, and made his full-season debut in 2021 in High-A Greensboro. He’s drawn a lot of attention for his ability to improve his stuff through watching YouTube videos, and has seen his fastball jump to mid-to-upper 90s since turning pro. His 2021 season lacked the overall dominance you’d expect from a top of the rotation starter, but his strikeouts increased in the second half of the season, entering 2022 on a high note.

2021 Stats: 3.04 ERA, 98:39 K/BB, 97.2 IP (A+)

2022 Outlook: Priester will go to the rotation in Altoona, where he will hope to follow on those late-season strikeouts in High-A last year. There have been some concerns that his fastball might be too easy to hit, and those concerns will be tested in Double-A. He could follow a similar path as Roansy Contreras last year, ending up in Triple-A with a look in the majors at the end of the season.

MLB Future: Priester has two plus pitches and the control to be a top of the rotation starter. He’s a smart pitcher who has shown the ability to quickly adapt and change his game. He added a slider in 2020, giving him a third pitch that grades as average or better. He had a heavy ground ball rate in 2021, and the strikeout increase at the end of the year. He’s on pace to be one of the leaders of a future staff in Pittsburgh, and Altoona will be a huge test this year.

Quinn Priester is Looking Beyond the Prospect Rankings

6. Liover Peguero, SS

Origin Story: The Pirates added Peguero and RHP Brennan Malone from Arizona for Starling Marte, and sent Peguero to the alternate training site in 2020. He went to High-A in his age-20 season and impressed at the plate, showing off a ton of athleticism, with power, speed, and the ability to play strong defense at shortstop.

2021 Stats: .270/.332/.444, 14 HR, 28 SB, 417 PA (A+)

2022 Outlook: Peguero will move up to Double-A, where he will be one of the youngest players in the league, and will face a big test to his all-out, aggressive approach. Peguero has the capability to be an All-Star shortstop or center fielder with power, speed, and an ability to hit for average — very similar to the outlook for a young Starling Marte. The key will be consistency, limiting the impact of his swing and miss on offense, and utilizing his athleticism more consistently on defense. His consistency will be tested in Altoona.

MLB Future: If everything to this point works out as planned, and it absolutely won’t, then Peguero would be displaced from shortstop by Oneil Cruz and beat out at second base by Nick Gonzales. It’s more likely that Peguero is a starter at shortstop long-term over Cruz. However, in the event that Peguero needs to move off the position, he has the athleticism to play anywhere, including center field. His bat will make him an All-Star at a premium position. He has no true plus tool, but no tool that grades below average, giving him plenty of paths to success in the majors in the future.

For Liover Peguero And Nick Gonzales, Success Will Come From The Details

7. Endy Rodriguez, C

Origin Story: Once upon a time, the Pirates didn’t have any catching prospects who could be seen as future starters. Then, they added Endy Rodriguez as part of the Joe Musgrove trade prior to the 2021 season. Rodriguez was followed by the additions of Henry Davis, Carter Bins, and Abrahan Gutierrez, and now might have to turn to his athleticism to play another position just to get playing time. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the lower levels, and is athletic enough to play all over the field, including left field and second base.

2021 Stats: .294/.380/.512, 15 HR, 2 SB, 434 PA (A)

2022 Outlook: Rodriguez is expected to start the year on the same roster as Davis and Gutierrez in High-A Greensboro. He will be playing a lot of left field, some second base, and some first base as the Pirates rotate the catching trio. Rodriguez is raw behind the plate, and it might not be a bad move for the Pirates to start transitioning him full time to a super utility player who can catch, rather than a catcher who can play elsewhere. His bat is advanced for High-A, and should destroy in the offensive-friendly Greensboro environment. If he’s developing as a utility player, he could move up to Double-A faster, with less focus needed on his catching work.

MLB Future: Rodriguez is projected to make the majors on the strength of his hit tool and the versatility that his athleticism provides. He’s a skinny player who manages average power and has a plus hit tool. He can play average defense, with an above-average arm and enough range for a corner outfield spot. He’s yet to play above Low-A, but his assortment of tools makes him one of the safer bets in the lower levels.

Endy Rodriguez: Toolbelt Runs Deep, Both In The Field And At The Plate

8. Jared Jones, RHP

Origin Story: Jones was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2020 draft and given a $2.2 million bonus. He has quickly shown why, with a fastball that can hit triple-digits and a slider that can generate a lot of swing and miss. In his pro debut with Bradenton, he struck out 103 batters in 66 innings, while displaying control issues.

2021 Stats: 4.64 ERA, 103:34 K/BB, 66.0 IP (A)

2022 Outlook: Jones has some of the most electric stuff in the system, but some wild control bouts at times. He’ll spent the 2022 season in A-ball, this time getting a crack at the advanced level, where he will work on getting more consistent control of his stuff.

MLB Future: The upside with Jones is huge, with two plus pitches, including one of the best fastballs in the system. At the very least, he could make it in the majors as a lights out reliever who can be effectively wild, working in the 98-100 range. The Pirates will give Jones a chance to make it as a starter, where he will likely need better control or a third pitch to reach an upside as a middle of the rotation starter or better.

Pirates Prospects Scouting Notes: Jared Jones

9. Mike Burrows, RHP

Origin Story: The Pirates used the rest of their bonus pool money in 2018 to sign 11th round prep pitcher Burrows, who has since emerged as one of the top prospects in the system with some of the best spin in the system and lights out numbers in High-A in 2021.

2021 Stats: 2.20 ERA, 66:20 K/BB, 49.0 IP (A+)

2022 Outlook: Burrows will move up to Altoona after his injury shortened year, showing that his stuff can play at the higher level. His fastball has gotten to the mid-90s, touching 97, and is paired with a plus curveball. His spin rates are among the best in the system, making his stuff even more difficult to hit. All of that will make him a guy to watch as he moves up to Altoona.

MLB Future: Burrows isn’t in the same group as Priester and Contreras, but a solid season in the upper levels could get him in the discussion. He’s got deceptive stuff, and an aggressive approach on the mound that could allow him to easily fall back to a power reliever role if he can’t make it as a starter. Burrows is a sleeper if you want an upper level guy who can be more than a back of the rotation starter.

Mike Burrows Confident He Can Face Anybody After 2021 Season

10. Matt Fraizer, OF

Origin Story: Taken in the third round of the 2019 draft, Fraizer emerged in 2021 as the Pirates’ Minor League Player of the Year, and their breakout prospect of the year. After a few adjustments to his swing and approach, Fraizer went on to put up impressive numbers at the plate, coming into the 2022 season with 20/20 goals.

2021 Stats: .306/.388/.552, 23 HR, 15 SB, 498 PA (A+/AA)

2022 Outlook: Fraizer is aiming for a 20/20 season, which doesn’t seem difficult considering he hit 23 home runs last year with 17 stolen bases. He will face a bigger challenge playing most of his games at a higher level, though he handled Double-A well in his first run through the system. Fraizer could find himself in Pittsburgh by the end of the season with another strong year at the plate.

MLB Future: One of the top outfield prospects in the system, Fraizer has the potential to play all three outfield spots while providing above-average offense from a well-rounded profile. His swing is quick and barrel-to-ball, giving him plenty of time to adjust to tough breaking stuff, and still maintaining above-average power from a quick trigger. He could arrive in Pittsburgh in 2022, and should be in the starting mix in the outfield by the end of the 2023 season.

Matt Fraizer Sets a Goal to Follow Being the 2021 Pirates Minor League Player of the Year

11. Bubba Chandler, RHP/SS

Origin Story: The Pirates went under slot to take Henry Davis with the first overall pick in 2021, in part to save money to sign Bubba Chandler to a $3 million bonus as a third round pick. Chandler is a highly athletic player who was slated to play baseball and football with Clemson. He joined the Pirates with the promise that they would let him try to be a two-way player, which is something the Pirates haven’t tried in this site’s history. Chandler was getting that opportunity this spring.

2021 Stats: .167/.324/.300, 1 HR, 0 SB, 37 PA (Rk)

2022 Outlook: The Pirates are using Chandler as a pitcher first, while getting him work at shortstop and as a hitter. That will give him plenty to work on in 2022. Based on how they used Jared Jones in 2021, expect Chandler to get some work at Pirate City, and spend most of his season across town with Low-A Bradenton for a challenge.

MLB Future: There are a lot of paths for Chandler to make the majors. He’s a pitcher who can already throw low-to-mid 90s, and has hit 97 in the past. He’s got easy raw power, but a lot of concerns of swing and miss from an overall raw swing. He’s never fully focused on baseball, and will now focus on both sides of the game. If that experiment doesn’t work, he can pick the best side and put all of his focus into that. Between the tools he’s starting with, and the overall athleticism, he should have a good chance of reaching the majors in some kind of role on either side of the ball.

The Pirates Are Giving Bubba Chandler Work as a Two-Way Player

12. Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP

Origin Story: The Pirates added Mlodzinski as a supplemental first rounder in 2020, and sent him to High-A for his debut season in 2021. He impressed as a starter at the level, and was moved to Indianapolis at the end of the year for a two inning depth appearance. He should spend most of the 2022 season in Altoona’s rotation.

2021 Stats: 3.96 ERA, 66:22 K/BB, 52.1 IP (A+/AAA)

2022 Outlook: Mlodzinski has a 93-95 MPH four-seam fastball that touches 98 and gets some sinking movement. He throws four secondary pitches, including an above-average slider and changeup. Mlodzinski doesn’t have an out pitch, and will need to learn to get outs using pitch selection and consistency with his stuff.

MLB Future: Mlodzinski has the chance to be a starter in the majors, capable of working the back of the rotation and holding down innings with a pitchability approach that can be dominant at times. He could get a shot in the majors at some point in 2022 if his stuff looks polished enough for the upper levels.

Baseball America: Small Change Yields Big Results For Carmen Mlodzinski

13. Anthony Solometo, LHP

Origin Story: When Tony Stark created the Iron Spider suit for Peter Parker, he modeled the arms not to mimic Doc Ock, but to mimic the pitching movements of Anthony Solometo. The young lefty received $2.8 million to sign as a second round pick in 2021, and features one of the craziest deliveries in the system, adding deception to a fastball that already sits 90-93, and has hit 96.

2021 Stats: N/A

2022 Outlook: Solometo should get some work at Pirate City, and might get a shot in Bradenton. Despite the moving parts to his delivery, he’s got impressive control of his stuff, with a good combo of a plus fastball and a plus slider. The stuff and deception should allow him to dominate the lower levels of the minors at a young age.

MLB Future: Whether Solometo’s delivery can maintain consistency in games remains to be seen. He’s an advanced prep pitcher with solid stuff and a deceptive delivery who could be a middle of the rotation starter in the future.

Pirates Prospects Scouting Notes: Anthony Solometo

14. Lonnie White Jr., OF

Origin Story: White was part of the group of over-slot prep players who signed from the 2021 draft class. The Pirates gave the outfielder a $1.5 million bonus to turn down going to Penn State to play both football and baseball. He’s shown plus raw power, and hit two home runs in his pro debut last year.

2021 Stats: .258/.303/.516, 2 HR, 0 SB, 33 PA (Rk)

2022 Outlook: White should get a challenge at some point in Low-A Bradenton, showing how much his power can play in the game right now. He’s got some swing and miss concerns, which might hold him back in extended Spring Training and the FCL. He can play center field, and should get a chance to work on his game on both sides now that he’s focusing on baseball full-time.

MLB Future: The majors are a long ways away for White, but he’s got the tools to get there. His raw power and athleticism builds a profile of a power/speed center fielder. He’ll be a project in the short-term, but one of the highest upside projects to follow in the lower levels.

Lonnie White Jr. Shows the Upside That Made Him a Key Part of the Pirates 2021 Draft Class

15. Travis Swaggerty, CF

Origin Story: Swaggerty was the first round pick out of South Alabama in 2018, and has emerged as one of the top center field prospects in the upper levels of the system. He could have had a shot at the majors last year, but went down with a shoulder injury early in the year. He will get another shot to make the jump to Pittsburgh this year, with two long-term spots open in the big leagues.

2021 Stats: .220/.333/.439, 3 HR, 3 SB, 48 PA (AAA)

2022 Outlook: Swaggerty is starting off the season with a minor injury to his other shoulder, but right now that is only limiting him to DH time. He will need to prove his bat in the upper levels before getting a shot at the majors. His defense in center field is some of the best in the system, with no questions about his abilities on that side of the ball.

MLB Future: Swaggerty could be an average starting center fielder with power, speed, and strong defense up the middle. His defensive abilities would be enough to move Bryan Reynolds back to a corner spot, and his offensive upside is good enough to eventually be a full-time starter in the big leagues. He could get that chance starting in 2022.

Despite Setbacks, Travis Swaggerty In Position To Validate Draft Status

16. Diego Castillo, 2B

Origin Story: Castillo was acquired with Hoy Park last year in a trade that sent Clay Holmes to the Yankees. One year later and he’s powered his way onto the big league Opening Day roster with a strong Spring Training performance.

2021 Stats: .278/.355/.487, 19 HR, 9 SB, 440 PA (AA/AAA)

2022 Outlook: The Pirates will give Castillo a shot in the majors to start the season after seeing him crush Double-A pitching, handle Triple-A in his brief time at the level, and destroy pitching this Spring Training. He’s played second and third base, along with corner outfield, and should have plenty of opportunity to get playing time at the start of the year at those positions, especially if Ke’Bryan Hayes needs to miss any time.

MLB Future: Castillo has played all over the infield, and has gotten work in right field, but is a bat-first prospect no matter where he goes. He’s got tremendous power potential that he’s only started to tap into. If his performance this spring is anything close to legit, then we might be seeing a breakout of a true power hitter. That would only add a bonus to this young and growing team. There are long-term jobs to win in Pittsburgh, and Castillo is being given one of the first opportunities.

Daily Video Rundown: Even More Diego Castillo, Michael Chavis, Nick Gonzales

17. Miguel Yajure, RHP

Origin Story: Yajure was one of four prospects acquired from the Yankees for Jameson Taillon. He pitched 15 innings in the majors with the Pirates last year, missing some time due to injury.

2021 Stats: 3.40 ERA, 45:14 K/BB, 47.2 IP (AAA, A)

2022 Outlook: Yajure should pitch in the MLB rotation this year, trying to win a long-term role. He gets by more on pitchability, and will need a velocity increase from his low-90s fastball to improve his odds of sticking in a Major League rotation. He’s got a five pitch mix and throws all of his pitches for strikes.

MLB Future: Yajure has a chance to be an MLB starter in the short-term, but long-term profiles more as a reliever, due to higher upside arms in the system. He will need impressive control and consistency over his stuff to remain a long-term starter.

Three Fringe Pitching Prospects That Could Impact a Future MLB Rotation

18. Rodolfo Nolasco, OF

Origin Story: The Pirates signed Nolasco on July 2nd, 2018 for a $250,000 bonus. He’s got some of the best raw power and hardest exit velocities in the entire system, and has shown a bit of that power, with eight home runs last year in 134 at-bats in the FCL. Nolasco is a thick 6-foot-1 with plenty of power left untapped in his game.

2021 Stats: .284/.409/.552, 8 HR, 0 SB, 164 PA (Rk)

2022 Outlook: The Pirates should send Nolasco to Bradenton this year for his first run through full season ball. He will need to watch his swing and miss at the higher level, while balancing out his power production. He’s shown a good ability to get on base, which will be put to the test against more advanced pitchers.

MLB Future: Nolasco is a bat-first prospect who can play right field, and will have his value driven by his raw power. That provides a narrow path to the majors, with very little room to miss. However, that’s a testament to his physical strength and the demonstrated ability so far to translate that strength to the game. Nolasco has some of the best power in the system.

Under the Radar: Three More Sleeper Prospects To Follow in the Pirates System in 2022

19. Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B

Origin Story: Bae’s career has been a roller coaster ride. He was originally signed by the Braves, before being made a free agent after their international signing scandal. The Pirates signed him with some of the bonus pool space they received from trading Andrew McCutchen in 2018. He was then suspended 30 games after facing charges of assaulting his girlfriend in South Korea. He has since returned, and hit well in Altoona as he’s started to move to a super utility role.

2021 Stats: .281/.360/.422, 8 HR, 20 SB, 372 PA (AA, Rk)

2022 Outlook: Bae can play both middle infield spots, and has been getting work in center field. He might have a better shot at reaching the majors as a super utility player, and should get more work around the field this year. The hope is that his offense carries over from last year, including the added power that his new leg kick brought.

MLB Future: Bae could break into the majors in 2022 as a super utility player, with paths to playing time at second, shortstop, and center field. He should get plenty of time in Indianapolis, with a few players ahead of him at each of those positions. Long-term he could be an average starter at any of those spots, led by his hit tool and speed.

P2Daily: Finding The Right Fit For Ji-Hwan Bae

20. Rodolfo Castro, 2B

Origin Story: Castro was originally signed by the Pirates in October 2015, and has since emerged as one of the best power hitting middle infielders in the system. He was given a shot in the majors in 2021 for an extended look, and fared well in the jump from Double-A, hitting for a .653 OPS with five home runs in 86 at-bats.

2021 Stats: .247/.300/.450, 15 HR, 7 SB, 350 PA (AA/AAA)

2022 Outlook: Castro should return to an MLB depth role out of Indianapolis this year, serving as one of the many starting options for second base, as well as an option at third. He will need to improve his contact skills or on-base ability to regain his place as one of the top options in Pittsburgh.

MLB Future: Castro is pretty close to his floor right now as an MLB bench option who can provide power and play all over the infield. The question is whether he can emerge as an impact bench bat or an average starter. The Pirates got aggressive with him in 2021, and he should get another shot in the big leagues at some point this year.

Winter Leagues: Rodolfo Castro Leads the League in Hitting

21. Canaan Smith-Njigba, OF

Origin Story: Smith-Njigba joined the Pirates in the Jameson Taillon trade with the Yankees, and has emerged as one of their top outfield prospects, earning a spot on the 40-man roster this past offseason. Smith-Njigba spent his 2021 season in Altoona, with a brief stop to end the year in Indianapolis, which is where he’ll start in 2022.

2021 Stats: .258/.381/.379, 6 HR, 13 SB, 289 PA (AA/AAA)

2022 Outlook: The Pirates have two long-term outfield spots open in Pittsburgh, and Smith-Njigba’s spot on the 40-man and role in Indianapolis puts him at the front of the pack for one of those jobs. He’ll need to show he can hit in Triple-A, with increased power from his quick swing.

MLB Future: Smith-Njigba profiles as a bat-first corner outfielder who could handle left field at PNC Park. He’s got average starter upside, and could get his first shot at the majors in 2022.

Scouting the System: Canaan Smith-Njigba

22. Jared Triolo, 3B

Origin Story: The Pirates took Triolo with the Competitive B round 72nd overall pick in 2019. He has since gone on to hit for an .849 OPS in High-A in 2021, while winning a Gold Glove award for his defense at third base.

2021 Stats: .304/.369/.480, 15 HR, 25 SB, 471 PA (A+)

2022 Outlook: Triolo enters the 2022 season as an upper-level sleeper. He was drafted out of college, so his offense in High-A isn’t as impressive. What was impressive was his ability to hit better away from Greensboro’s offensive-friendly environment. That should ease any concerns of his ability to hit in a more neutral environment. He’s got more power potential than he’s shown so far, and provides defensive value at third, with the ability to play the outfield and even some shortstop. Expect him to get a chance to showcase all of that in Altoona this year.

MLB Future: Triolo could be a backup plan at third base if Ke’Bryan Hayes doesn’t work out. He could also be an option at first base or a corner outfield spot. He’s got a good hit tool, solid plate patience, and more power than he’s shown. With his ability to also play some defense, he could emerge as a sleeper starter for the Pirates in the next few years.

Gold Glove Third Baseman Jared Triolo Overcame a Slow Start in 2021

23. Connor Scott, OF

Origin Story: The Pirates acquired Scott, along with right-handed pitchers Zach Thompson and Kyle Nicolas, in return for Jacob Stallings. Scott is a skinny outfielder at the moment, but is believed to have some untapped power potential if he adds strength, and has plans to enter the 2022 season over 200 pounds, which is about 15 pounds more than his 2021 starting weight. Scott hit well in High-A last year in his age-21 season.

2021 Stats: .276/.333/.446, 10 HR, 14 SB, 432 PA (A+)

2022 Outlook: Scott will likely join the mix of outfielders in Altoona for most of the 2022 season. He’s shown the ability to stick in center field, with potential for positive value from the bat. He’ll work on showing more of that this year, with the hope of more power from the added weight to his frame.

MLB Future: Scott could be a power/speed center fielder with average defense. He joins a growing mix of outfielders in the upper levels who are gunning for one of the long-term spots in Pittsburgh. His path will largely be helped by increased power production.

Connor Scott Had a Strong Finish in 2021 Before Being Acquired by the Pirates

24. Tahnaj Thomas, RHP

Origin Story: The Pirates added Thomas in a five-player trade that sent Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff to Cleveland. He has since shown an upper-90s fastball that has touched triple-digits, along with a slider that generates a lot of strikeouts.

2021 Stats: 5.19 ERA, 62:35 K/BB, 60.2 IP (A+)

2022 Outlook: Thomas will go to Altoona’s rotation, where he’ll focus on his fastball control and consistency with his secondary stuff. He’s been working on timing mechanisms to pause his delivery and throw off hitters with two-strike approaches, but will need to get into those counts consistently for that to matter.

MLB Future: Thomas has the stuff to be an elite reliever or a back-of-the-rotation power starter in the majors one day. His window of being a starter is still open, but will rely on his performance in Altoona this year, and whether he can improve on the high walk rates that sunk his numbers in High-A in 2021.

Tahnaj Thomas Hopes to Maintain Clean Mechanics Into 2022 Season

25. Kyle Nicolas, RHP

Origin Story: The Pirates added Nicolas, along with RHP Zach Thompson and OF Connor Scott, in exchange for Jacob Stallings. Nicolas spent the 2021 season between High-A and Double-A in the Miami farm system, and should go to Altoona for his debut with the Pirates’ organization.

2021 Stats: 4.18 ERA, 136:49 K/BB, 99.0 IP (A+/AA)

2022 Outlook: Nicolas has shown some impressive stuff, with a fastball that has touched upper 90s and sits mid-90s, along with a mix of secondary stuff that generates a high swing and miss rate. He’s got some control issues, and that will be a big factor to focus on in 2022, while trying to maintain his high strikeout totals from the year before.

MLB Future: Nicolas has the stuff to be a starter in the majors in the future, though he will need better command to get there. The Pirates should give him plenty of time in the rotation to work as a starter, and if his 2022 season goes well enough, he could be in the mix for a rotation spot at some point in 2023.

Baseball America: Pirates’ Kyle Nicolas Stands Out At Minor League Camp

26. J.C. Flowers, RHP

Origin Story: Flowers was a two-way player at Florida State, ending his career as a closer. The Pirates drafted him in the fourth round in 2019, and he spent the 2021 season in the High-A rotation, posting solid numbers in his first full year as a starter.

2021 Stats: 3.78 ERA, 92:25 K/BB, 78.2 IP (A/A+)

2022 Outlook: Flowers will move up with the rest of the 2021 Greensboro rotation, getting a shot as a starter in Altoona. He only threw 26 innings in college, and hasn’t pitched more than his 2021 total of 78 innings in a season. He should continue to get work as a starter to see if he can handle the workload as he adjusts to the higher level. He will also be working on his command this year.

MLB Future: Flowers has a four-seam, two-seam, slider, and changeup, with his slider leading to a lot of his strikeouts. He’s working on throwing the secondary stuff for strikes, while still getting used to the wear and tear of pitching. Flowers is an interesting project, in his age-24 season this year, but with very few innings and enough promise so far to potentially be at least an MLB reliever.

J.C. Flowers Adjusting to the Role of a Starting Pitcher

27. Dariel Lopez, 3B

Origin Story: Lopez was signed by the Pirates on July 2, 2018 for $400,000, and has since emerged as one of the more promising lower level position players in the system. He spent the 2021 season in Low-A at the age of 19, putting up impressive numbers as one of the youngest players in the league, while playing all over the infield.

2021 Stats: .258/.341/.393, 10 HR, 1 SB, 416 PA (A)

2022 Outlook: Lopez should spend most of the 2022 season in Greensboro, where he will at least get an offensive boost from the hitter friendly home park. His ability for contact and his raw power from a small frame give him the chance to succeed at the plate without the park factor boost. His solid defensive work around the infield should get him plenty of playing time.

MLB Future: Lopez is a sleeper to emerge as a starting infielder in the future, or a super utility bench player. For now, he’s more projection than results, entering his age-20 season. He’s one of the bigger sleepers to watch in the lower levels.

Unique Skillset Gives Dariel Lopez Breakout Potential

28. Luis Ortiz, RHP

Origin Story: Ortiz has gone from a $25,000 signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 to a starter in Low-A in 2021. A big reason for the quick jump was an increase in his velocity that saw his fastball touching 99 MPH and sitting mid-90s last year. He enters the 2022 season as one of the biggest lower level sleeper pitchers to follow in the system.

2021 Stats: 3.09 ERA, 113:28 K/BB, 87.1 IP (A)

2022 Outlook: Expect Ortiz to pitch out of the High-A rotation, where he can make a continued case for his long-term future as a starting pitcher, while working on the changeup that will help keep him there.

MLB Future: Ortiz could make the majors as a reliever with his fastball/slider combo and his control. He’s relatively inexperienced pitching, and has been promising so far. The Pirates should keep him as a starter for as long as possible to see if Ortiz can develop into a solid starting prospect.

Prospect Watch: Strong Performance by Luis Ortiz; Lolo Sanchez Goes Deep Twice

29. Cody Bolton, RHP

Origin Story: Bolton has missed a lot of time the last few years, after being a sixth round pick out of high school in 2017, and emerging with a mid-90s fastball that touches 97 in 2018. He missed time with a forearm injury in 2018, a groin strain in 2019, and knee surgery in 2021. Bolton will hope to return to a game this year for the first time in almost three years, while trying to stay healthy.

2021 Stats: N/A

2022 Outlook: Bolton’s stuff before his 2019 injury had him on the radar as a future starter in Pittsburgh. He’s still on that radar, but has seen several pitchers move past him in his time down. A solid season with Indianapolis this year could help him get back on track, and possibly to the majors by the end of the season.

MLB Future: Bolton could arrive in Pittsburgh as a starter in 2022, with a solid fastball and the return of his old slider that plays better off his fastball. He’s got the upside of a back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, but the fastball/slider combo could play in the bullpen if he can’t win a starting job.

Cody Bolton Returning Healthy and With His Old Slider

30. Maikol Escotto, SS

Origin Story: Escotto was the last of the four players the Pirates acquired from the Yankees for Jameson Taillon, with all four making this list. He gets ranked higher on other lists, routinely showing up as a top 20 prospect for his ability to generate shortstop and potential for power from a smaller frame. Escotto spent the 2021 season in Low-A Bradenton, where he had some questionable contact skills at a young age.

2021 Stats: .234/.354/.347, 7 HR, 22 SB, 381 PA (A)

2022 Outlook: Escotto will move up to High-A Greensboro, where he will look to improve on his swing and miss from 2021, while trying to maintain his power production from a small frame. We’re lower on his power potential due to his size, but even without that, he profiles as a guy who could be an MLB bench option one day, as long as the hit tool settles.

MLB Future: Escotto can stick at shortstop, but has the raw hitting abilities to be a starter with a move to second base. This will be a big year to see if he can transition more toward in-game results and away from being graded on potential.

Looking Ahead at the Pirates’ 2022 System: Greensboro Grasshoppers


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Despite Setbacks, Travis Swaggerty In Position To Validate Draft Status

Unique Skillset Gives Dariel Lopez Breakout Potential

Under the Radar: Sleepers Just Outside of the Pirates Top 30

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.

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