The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the last few seasons under Ben Cherington collecting as much depth in the minors as possible, hoping to build from the bottom into a contender once again.
During the 2022 season we saw a lot of the first wave of prospects start crashing into the major league level, highlighted by Oneil Cruz, among others. With quite a few graduations, the farm system maybe isn’t as strong as it was last offseason, but it is still ranked among the better in baseball.
Highlighted by two catchers — Endy Rodriguez and former first overall pick Henry Davis (pictured above by Pirates Prospects photographer David Hague) — the Pirates have numerous prospects in most top prospects lists on just about every outlet. Every organization has their strong points, and even the better ones like the Pirates have weaker parts of the system.
According to the current Top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline, the Pirates breakdown like this;
Catchers – 2
Middle Infielders – 5
Corner Infielders – 3
Outfielders – 8
Right Handed Pitchers – 9
Left Handed Pitchers – 3
— Even though they only have two catchers in their top 30, both are among the top at the position in all of baseball. Even going beyond the top 30, this was a point of emphasis for Cherington over the last couple of years, adding Abrahan Gutierrez and Carter Bins through trades in 2021.
Even their organizational catcher depth is good, as Dylan Shockely and Wyatt Hendrie get rave reviews for their defensive work.
— The Pirates have three middle infield prospects that are Top 100 worthy, Termarr Johnson, Nick Gonzales, and Liover Peguero. Johnson and Gonzales were top 10 picks, and Peguero was part of the first big move made by Cherington.
While Johnson is further down in the minors, Peguero and Gonzales have played around the diamond to account for the current log jam they have at the position – with Cruz, Rodolfo Castro, and fellow Top 30 prospect Ji-Hwan Bae all at the major league level.
You can make a pretty good case that this is the deepest collection of young players they have in the system, as even beyond the top end prospects, players like Javier Rivas, Tsung-Che Cheng and Andres Alvarez all had strong 2022 seasons.
— Like any good organization, the Pirates have stockpiled pitching, as you can see from the nine in Pipeline’s Top 30. The next wave of prospects in 2023 should include a couple of them at the top, namely Quinn Priester and Mike Burrows. They also have it set up where they could hit in continuous waves over the next couple of seasons, to keep replenishing the pitching staff with fresh arms.
— The outfield is crowded, but doesn’t seem to have any one player that sticks out among the crowd, which is fine, as not many had Jack Suwinski ranked among one of the top prospects at the position. He still managed to launch 19 home runs with the Pirates in 2022.
— Cherington and company have continued to show the ability to recognize and address any weak parts in the system. Left-handed pitching was one of them, mainly for the lack of it. Anthony Solometo had a fantastic debut season, but there wasn’t much behind him. He’s joined now in the Top 30 by Michael Kennedy and Hunter Barco, both highly regarded prospects in the 2022 draft. Kennedy is going to be 18-years-old the entire 2023 season, so they will probably take their time with him. Barco had Tommy John Surgery last year with the Florida Gators, so we might not see him pitch until 2024.
Pittsburgh is starting to build the kind of depth where they can do a prospect-for-prospect type trade to add a little extra to a position of need. However they do it, Cherington has shown time and again his ability to find help where it is needed in the minors.
There’s still plenty of depth there, and we should see a big group arrive in Pittsburgh this season.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**Ethan Hullihen looks at MLB’s new pre-arbitration bonus pool, and how it relates to Pirates players.
**Left-handed pitcher Daniel Zamora, drafted by the Pirates in the 40th round in 2015, is returning to the organization.
**Sammy Siani continues to play well in Australia. John Dreker has the latest Pirates winter league updates.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at how the upper level pitching staff is facing another roster logjam with the upcoming additions of Jarlin Garcia and Vince Velasquez.
Song of the Day
Pirates Prospects Weekly
Ethan Hullihen’s latest Pirates Business update looks at the Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool that was implemented in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Ethan also looks at the payroll updates with the moves from the winter meetings.
I will have First Pitch on Monday afternoon, previewing what is to come on the site this week, and looking back at the winter meetings.