Starting spots for Pirates' Top 30 prospects

April 4th, 2019

With the 2019 Minor League Baseball season getting underway, here's a look at where the Pirates' Top 30 prospects are starting the year. We also identify the prospect who just missed the Top 30 list, a player who didn't make the big league Opening Day roster but should make an impact this year, a prospect who is ready to break out in 2019 and the team's best defensive prospect.

  1. Mitch Keller (MLB No. 19), RHP -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  2. Ke'Bryan Hayes (MLB No. 45), 3B -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  3. Travis Swaggerty (MLB No. 85), OF -- Bradenton Marauders (A Adv)
  4. Oneil Cruz (MLB No. 94), SS -- Bradenton Marauders (A Adv)
  5. Cole Tucker, SS -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  6. Kevin Kramer, 2B -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  7. Calvin Mitchell, OF -- Bradenton Marauders (A Adv)
  8. Bryan Reynolds, OF -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  9. Kevin Newman, SS -- Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB)
  10. Luis Escobar, RHP -- Bradenton Marauders (A Adv)
  11. Jason Martin, OF -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  12. Jared Oliva, OF -- Altoona Curve (AA)
  13. Steven Jennings, RHP -- Greensboro Grasshoppers (A)
  14. Braxton Ashcraft, RHP -- Extended spring training
  15. Will Craig, 1B -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  16. Ji-Hwan Bae, SS -- Extended spring training
  17. LoLo Sanchez, OF -- Greensboro Grasshoppers (A)
  18. Pablo Reyes, 2B -- Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB)
  19. Tahnaj Thomas, RHP -- Extended spring training
  20. Travis MacGregor, RHP -- Out for season -- Tommy John surgery
  21. J.T. Brubaker, RHP -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  22. Connor Uselton, OF -- Extended spring training
  23. Clay Holmes, RHP -- Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
  24. Nick Burdi, RHP -- Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB)
  25. Santiago Florez, RHP -- Extended spring training
  26. Stephen Alemais, SS -- Altoona Curve (AA)
  27. Cody Bolton, RHP -- Bradenton Marauders (A Adv)
  28. Juan Pie, OF -- Extended spring training
  29. Max Kranick, RHP -- Bradenton Marauders (A Adv)
  30. Gage Hinsz, RHP -- Altoona Curve (AA)
    Complete list »

Just missed Top 30: Deon Stafford
The Pirates don’t have much in terms of catching depth in the system, with Stafford the best of the bunch. He has some pop at the plate (11 homers in his first full season) and he’s improved his receiving and throwing. The St. Joseph’s product profiles best as an offensive-minded backup, but the Pirates do love his makeup and leadership behind the plate.

On the shelf: Travis MacGregor
It looked like Travis MacGregor was taking a big step forward in 2018 after being drafted as a projectable right-hander out of the Florida high school ranks in 2016. But after pitching well in full-season ball, he was shut down in August and had Tommy John surgery in September. That will keep him out for all of 2019

Impact prospect: Cole Tucker
An argument could be made that Ke’Bryan Hayes deserves the nod, but the Pirates have more options at third in the big leagues. Erik Gonzalez is the starter, with Kevin Newman behind him on the depth chart. Neither has a ton of offensive upside, and if Tucker gets off to a hot start (he hit .389 this spring), seeing him get his first crack at the big league infield later this year seems realistic.

Breakout prospect: Oneil Cruz
Acquired from the Dodgers in the 2017 Tony Watson deal, Cruz reached double-digits in homers and steals in full-season ball. The 6-foot-6 (you read that right) shortstop continues to defy expectations defensively, as the 20-year-old is just scratching the surface of his enormous offensive upside.

Best defensive prospect: Ke'Bryan Hayes
Hayes was the third baseman on our All-Defense Team, and for good reason. He entered pro ball as one of the better defenders at the hot corner, but he's gotten even better as he's committed himself to his conditioning, adding to his agility and range to make him the best in the Minors at the position.