While there are a lot of question marks facing the Pirates organization in 2020, one thing is certain: It’s going to look different.
For the first time since September 2007, there will be a new general manager overseeing all things baseball operations wise. Neal Huntington, who became the GM back then and helped rebuild the farm system to the point where it aided the Pirates in making three straight playoff appearances, was let go in late October.
For an extended period of time, that farm system was one of the best in baseball, making MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 rankings five times in a row from preseason 2015 through preseason 2017 (Two rankings are released each season.). A combination of graduations and trades thinned it out somewhat, but Pittsburgh did come in No. 15 in the 2019 midseason system rankings.
There is some elite-level talent at the top, with the top three prospects all firmly in the Top 100, but it thins out more quickly than it has in the past. It will be up to whoever takes the helm to help the Pirates restock so the farm system can again be an asset in helping the Pirates compete in the NL Central.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
- Mitch Keller, RHP (No. 26 on Top 100)
- Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (No. 36)
- Oneil Cruz, SS (No. 57)
- Travis Swaggerty, OF
- Cal Mitchell, OF
Complete Top 30 list »
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Mason Martin, 1B (No. 16): The 2017 17th-rounder displayed some pretty hefty power in 2019, hitting 35 homers and driving in 129 runs in 131 games with Class A and Class A Advanced combined. He had a .558 slugging percentage.
Cody Bolton, RHP (No. 13): Bolton had an outstanding 12 starts at Class A Advanced Bradenton before moving up to Double-A Altoona and having slightly different results. In Class A Advanced, he had a 1.61 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP, 69 strikeouts and just one home run allowed. More »
Jared Oliva, OF (No. 11): Oliva had a solid, if unspectacular second full season of pro ball, with a .277/.352/.398 line to go along with 36 steals in Double-A in 2019. Then he led the Arizona Fall League in doubles, extra-base hits and steals to really raise his prospect profile.
J.T. Brubaker, RHP (No. 26): Brubaker pitched well enough in 2018 to land a spot on the 40-man roster and looked poised to contribute to the big league staff at some point in 2019. But he made just six starts all year due to a forearm strain and elbow inflammation and didn’t pitch after June 23. He could come back healthy in 2020, but he’ll be 26 and the clock is ticking.
Draft: Quinn Priester, RHP, 1st round (No. 6); Sammy Siani, OF, CBA (No. 7); Matt Gorski, OF, 2nd round (No. 21); Jared Triolo, 3B, CBB (No. 27). Complete Draft list »
International: Christopher Cruz, RHP (No. 20 on International Top 30)
The Pirates were aggressive last July when the 2019-20 international free agent signing period began, handing out a total of 16 six-figure bonuses. Seven were pitchers with Cruz, one of the top arms on the market, leading the way with an $850,000 bonus. The Pirates have been going back-and-forth between taking a high school arm (2019, 2017) and a college bat (2018, 2016) in the first round of the past four drafts. Don’t be surprised if Priester takes off and becomes a Top 100 caliber prospect soon.
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Mitch Keller, RHP: Keller finished just two innings shy of graduating off of prospect lists during his uneven big league debut in 2019, but he finished off the year on a strong note and while his prospect star faded a tiny bit, he showed he can be an effective big league starter when he trusts his stuff.
Hit: Travis Swaggerty
Power: Mason Martin
Run: Ji-Hwan Bae
Arm: Oneil Cruz
Field: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Best athlete: Oneil Cruz
Fastball: Blake Cederlind
Curveball: Michael Burrows
Slider: Cody Bolton
Changeup: Luis Escobar
Control: Aaron Shortridge
How they were built
Eight of the Pirates’ top 10 come from the Draft and the overall list is extremely Draft-heavy. But they might look back at a trade as providing a potential elite-level player as a key moment in player acquisition. Back in July 2017, the Pirates sent Tony Watson to the Dodgers and got a gangly teenager who was playing in the United States for the first time. Oneil Cruz is still gangly, but he’s becoming one of the most intriguing prospects in the game.
Top 30 breakdown by position
If you’re looking for a future battery with a left-hander, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Pirates don’t have a single backstop or southpaw in their Top 30. They do have lots of right-handers, though. The 14 on the top 30 places them third among all 30 organizations, behind only the Astros and Yankees (15 each).