As we get through the next few stages of the current build for the Pirates, we are starting to see waves of prospects they’ve stockpiled the last few years crash on the shores of Pittsburgh.
Two of their biggest prospects, Roansy Contreras and Oneil Cruz, made brief cameos in 2021, but 14 more players made their major league debut this past season.
They may not see that big of a crowd in 2023, but this upcoming season should produce yet another wave of prospects that make their debuts over the course of the year.
The Pirates added four names to their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 deadline earlier in the offseason, and they would more than likely be the first few to be called up.
Mike Burrows and Endy Rodriguez are among the team’s top prospects, and even with the Pirates adding free agents at their position, there won’t be anything keeping them back once they are deemed ready for major league action.
Colin Selby was a name that flew out of almost nowhere and was added, and has the kind of stuff to make an impact out of the bullpen earlier than later. With Diego Castillo getting designated for assignment, that opened up a potential right-handed utility spot that Jared Triolo could fill. Not only is he one of the best defensive players in the minors, he was a hit machine over the past two seasons.
Jose Hernandez was the Pirates Rule 5 pick earlier this month and will have to stay on the roster all season. He’ll have to earn a roster spot in Spring Training, but should have an inside edge in doing so.
Outside of the names on the 40-man roster, the Pirates still have plenty of their top prospects that will be knocking on the door waiting to make their major league roster.
Quinn Priester is arguably their best prospect that isn’t on the 40-man, and he finished the year in Indianapolis. Malcom Nunez was acquired in the Jose Quintana trade, and while he’s certainly a candidate to make his debut this year, the additions of Ji-Man Choi, Carlos Santana and even Connor Joe made the path to the majors a little more difficult.
Matt Gorski was another Rule 5 eligible player that was protected, like Nunez, with an injury the only thing slowing him down enough to keep him from reaching 30 home runs last season. He will have to cut down on the strikeouts in Triple-A to get his shot, and the offseason additions of Joe and Ryan Vilade also puts him a little further down the organization’s depth chart.
Staying healthy, something that isn’t guaranteed with them, will go a long way in determining if Henry Davis and Nick Gonzales will be a part of this wave or next year’s. Gonzales is going to be eligible for the Rule 5 next offseason, with Davis the following year, so there isn’t as much of a rush for the former first overall pick.
The Pirates have a slew of pitching prospects in the upper levels, with Cody Bolton one of the few who spent all of 2022 in Indianapolis. If they decide to shift him to the bullpen he could have a quicker path to the majors then if they try him as a starter.
Carmen Mlodzinski, Kyle Nicolas, and Tahnaj Thomas are other notable pitchers that could slide into the major league bullpen at some point, but that would be further out and a lot would likely have to happen to see any of them up at some point.
There are going to be a lot of roster decisions coming over the next couple of seasons, so any move they make will have to have the future in mind just as much as the present. Some of these names may be well worth getting a look, but the current (and future) roster makeup may not allow for it.
Regardless, based on the names that are knocking on the door, even if there aren’t as many debuts in 2023, the ones who do may have a bigger impact on the roster than the previous year.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**In my column today, I looked closer at how Austin Hedges fits in to the Pirates focus on mindset throughout the system.
**The Pirates announced their 2023 Minor League Coaching Assignments.
**The Pirates agreed to a minor league deal with RHP Tyler Chatwood.
**Duane Underwood Jr. is heading to Puerto Rico for Winter Ball. John Dreker has all of the latest Pirates winter league updates.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at the moving parts from the DFA of Diego Castillo.
Song of the Day
Pirates Prospects Weekly
Our latest Roundtable will go up at noon on Thursday.