Bucs invite 22 to ST, including Gonzales

February 2nd, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- After having their Minor League seasons canceled in 2020, many of the Pirates’ top prospects will have a chance to see game action with the club this Spring Training.

The Pirates announced their updated non-roster invitee list on Tuesday, which included nine of the club’s Top 30 prospects as of the 2020 year-end rankings. (The updated rankings for ‘21 will arrive before Opening Day.)

First-time invitees Nick Gonzales, who is MLB Pipeline’s No. 43 overall prospect, and Quinn Priester (No. 52 overall) highlight the 22 additions, which bring the total number of invitees to 26.

The full list of non-roster invitee additions from Tuesday is as follows:

Right-handed pitchers: Cody Bolton, Chase De Jong, Yerry De Los Santos, Jandel Gustave, Clay Holmes, James Marvel, Quinn Priester, Shea Spitzbarth

Left-handed pitchers: Braeden Ogle, Blake Weiman

Catchers: Jason Delay, Christian Kelley, Arden Pabst

Infielders: Ji-Hwan Bae, Will Craig, Nick Gonzales, Kevin Kramer, Mason Martin, Liover Peguero

Outfielders: Cal Mitchell, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Travis Swaggerty

Infielder Wilmer Difo, catcher Joe Hudson, catcher Andrew Susac and outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. were previously announced as non-roster invitees.

Gonzales has yet to record an at-bat in the pros due to the coronavirus pandemic, after being selected No. 7 overall in the 2020 Draft. His collegiate track record speaks for itself, though, as he was named MVP of the Cape Cod League in '19, when he batted .351/.451/.630 in the wooden-bat circuit. The Pirates will want him to see live game action before he arrives in the Majors, but his consistent bat could allow him to move swiftly in the organizational ranks.

Priester, the Pirates’ first-round selection in the 2019 Draft, is only 20 years old with nine pro appearances under his belt, but he’s one of the quickest-rising prospects in all of baseball. The former Illinois prep standout recorded a 3.19 ERA with 41 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings combined between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Short-Season. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis said scouts have told him Priester could become “the best pitching prospect in baseball in 2021.”

Among the club’s other top prospects, per MLB Pipeline’s 2020 year-end rankings, are infielder Peguero (No. 5), outfielder Swaggerty (No. 7), right-hander Bolton (No. 13), infielder Bae (No. 15), outfielder Mitchell (No. 17), first baseman Martin (No. 25) and outfielder Smith-Njigba (No. 26).

Nine others on the Pirates’ Top 30 Prospects list are already on the club’s 40-man roster, including Ke’Bryan Hayes (No. 9 overall prospect) and Oneil Cruz (No. 64 overall).

With Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon gone, it will be interesting to see who emerges from the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitee group to lay claim as potential fourth and fifth starters or depth options. For now, JT Brubaker and Cody Ponce shape up to take the Nos. 4 and 5 roles after gaining experience in 2020, but a solid spring from someone like Bolton or the newly acquired Miguel Yajure (40-man) could propel them to earn a Major League look.

One familiar returning face among the latest additions is Holmes. The 27-year-old right-hander returns to the Pirates after signing a Minor League deal in December. Holmes pitched to a 5.91 ERA while with Pittsburgh from 2018-20 before he elected free agency.