Skenes among 5 Top 100 prospects invited to Bucs camp

January 30th, 2024

The Pirates announced their initial list of non-roster invitees for 2024 Spring Training, and a number of exciting prospects made the cut, including five in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100.

Among the 13 players invited are right-hander , infielder , right-hander , left-hander and right-hander .

Most of the players on the full list will open the season with Minor League affiliates, but it’s at least worth raising the question of what a stellar spring could do for Skenes and Jones, who are ranked No. 3 and No. 62, respectively, on the Top 100 Prospects list. The only mark against Skenes is that he hasn’t thrown more than a full game’s worth of innings as a pro, while Jones struggled in his first jump from a great Double-A showing to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had a 4.72 ERA in 15 starts and one relief appearance.

The rest of the top guys are just scratching the surface of Double-A or are primed to reach the level this season. Johnson (No. 44 overall) fits into the latter group after he topped out at High-A Greensboro last year, when he increased his OPS from his first pro season to his second by a good margin (.731 in 2022 to .860 in ‘23). He only slugged one homer in 23 games in his first year, but he slugged 18 in 105 games last year.

Solometo (No. 82) will join the Major League camp alongside established MLB lefties in Marco Gonzales and Martín Pérez, and he’ll try to use their knowledge as well as other players’ insights to rebound at Double-A after beginning his time at Altoona with a 4.35 ERA in his first 12 starts. This is often the biggest test for Minor Leaguers, as the strongest prospects often don’t need much time at Triple-A, but all need reps at Double-A.

Bubba Chandler (No. 93) broke into the Top 100 with strong strikeout numbers in 2023, when he had 128 K’s over 111 innings across High-A and one start at Double-A. He’s still working to clean up his command and repeat his delivery to trim the 4.54 ERA he put up last season, but the former two-way standout in high school is certainly looking more comfortable as a full-time pitcher, and time in big league camp can only grow his confidence.

The list also includes right-hander Thomas Harrington, the first Pirate outside of the Top 100 if last year’s Top 30 club rankings hold. The 22-year-old was drafted with the 36th overall pick in the 2022 Draft out of Campbell, and he proved to be pro-ready in 2023 across Single-A and High-A with 146 strikeouts in 127 1/3 innings to go with a 3.53 ERA in 26 starts. Given his college pedigree and rising rank, don’t be surprised if he’s pushing for an end-of-year callup in 2024.

The rest of the field of non-roster invitees are infielder Andrés Alvarez, catcher Carter Bins, infielder Jack Brannigan (No. 20 Pirates prospect per MLB Pipeline), outfielder Matt Gorski (No. 19), catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, infielder/outfielder Joe Perez and right-hander Sean Sullivan.

Pirates pitchers and catchers report to LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla., on Feb. 13.