I’ve been covering so many Pirates prospects throughout the year that I feel like I’ve already written this article. Because I sort of did, particularly a month ago during Prospect News: Pirates Follow Secret Treasure Map to Roansy Contreras.
Definitely some of my shiniest work in that one, mateys. If you’ve been around here this season, you know I like this swashbuckling system, so let’s hit the high seas.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA
1. SS Oneil Cruz | 23 | MLB | 2021
MLB pipeline has Quinn Priester and Henry Davis ranked 2nd and 1st ahead of Cruz. It serves as a reminder to avoid those lists around dynasty draft season. Davis over Cruz isn’t the craziest take by any means, even though the former remains a right handed hitting catcher in a park that suppresses righty power, but Priester over Cruz in a fantasy context is preposterous. A 6’7” 210 lb meta-human, Cruz is the kind of piece you build around in dynasty leagues. I’ll be making a few offers for him in my leagues, but I doubt I’ll be able to get him. I wouldn’t sell. Even when he miss-hits a ball, or loses his mechanics mid-swing, the ball just rockets off his bat. Gray provided a good look at this on Tuesday in his Oneil Cruz, 2022 Fantasy Outlook.
2. 2B Nick Gonzales | 22 | A+ | 2023
Gonzales spent his whole season (80 games) at High-A, but I remembered him starting slow after not playing for more than a year, so I wanted to dig in and cut it up to get a clearer picture of who he was at his best. I’m zeroed in on his final 59 games, from July 6 through the end of the season, when Gonzales slashed .324/.409/.601 with 14 HR, 4 SB, 16 2B and 4 3B, good for 34 extra base hits in those 59 games. I’m confused about why he didn’t get promoted to AA at some point. He was walking in 11.6 percent of his plate appearances and striking out 26.6 percent of the time. No red flags there. Perhaps it was just to keep him on the dirt with Liover Peguero. Perhaps they didn’t have room after acquiring Diego Castillo and Hoy Jun Park. Regardless, Gonzales looked like his college monster self in his pro debut, featuring lightning quick hands and a compact swing with power to the opposite field. It’s hard to imagine what could trip him up long term. Dude looks better than a Tom Emansky video in the box.
3. C Henry Davis | 22 | A+ | 2023
Davis found little resistance in his first eight games as a pro, bouncing way up to High-A after two games on the complex. He hit two home runs, swiped a bag and slugged .684 in his first week of full-season ball and figures to open next season at the same level. He’d likely earn a quick jump to AA if he starts hot, and then he’s just some org success away from being an option for us in shallow mixed leagues. Pittsburgh has been aggressive with its premium prospects the past couple years, so the first overall pick in this year’s draft is probably on a faster path than Adley Rutshmann was coming out of his draft year.
4. SS Liover Peguero | 21 | A+ | 2023
Now that I’m out here cutting up sample sizes to serve my purpose, I may as well carve out the final 36 games of the year for Peguero, who slashed .305/.363/.523 with 8 HR and 13 SB over that stretch between July 29 and September 18. People have asked me why I’m so high on Peguero every time I publish a ranking, and well, that’s why. Stolen bases are misunderstood in fantasy, especially in dynasty, in my opinion. Sure, they exist in corners of the game, but to win tight leagues, you need your steals from steady sources in terms of playing time and across-the-board production.
5. RHP Roansy Contreras | 22 | MLB | 2021
Came over from New York along with three other pieces in the Jameson Taillon trade, and Contreras is already the better asset than Taillon in the dynasty game. I’d be curious how MLB teams feel about that either/or, too. I’m guessing most would prefer the high-90’s heat Roansy brings to the short-arm weirdness that was Jameson Taillon in 2021. Along with that tailing fastball, which stays up as it slices in on right-handed hitters, Contreras features a slider, curve and occasional change up. At 6’ even, he presents a unique look. His change up comes in around 90 and barely moves. His curveball drops down to 79 and has good drop. I’m guessing his change can be incredibly useful if he can control it, helping him access four velocity bands with offerings that move in four different ways.
6. SS Rodolfo Castro | 22 | MLB | 2021
Castro is just 6’ 205 lbs but brought big power with him to the majors when the club called him up from AA, but power was all he showed. Nonetheless, five home runs in 93 plate appearances is pretty good for a rookie who hadn’t played AAA. When he was sent to AAA after an up and down stretch, Castro played well, slashing .286/.342/.657 with three home runs in eight games, leaving his status up in the air for Opening Day. He’s probably going back to AAA, but he could quickly prove better than the competition and force his next chance. I like his work from the left side better than the right, at the moment, which is how you’d like a switch hitter to look in general, but especially as a young player.
7. OF Matt Fraizer | 24 | AA | 2023
An ascending player, Fraizer appears to be part of the outfield picture as soon as 2022, assuming we have a season. An elite football prospect, Fraizer is still learning to maximize his 6’3” 217 lb frame. 2021 showed he’s picking things up in a hurry. He slashed .288/.356/.492 in his 37 games at AA. On the full season across two levels, he hit 23 HR and swiped 15 bags in 112 games while maintaining solid strikeout and walk rates throughout. He’s a big dude with a beautiful left-handed swing, and I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot about him from all the prospect outlets sometime soon. Just checks off every box anyone might put in front of him.
8. SS Diego Castillo | 24 | AAA | 2022
Part of the return for RHP Clay Holmes, Castillo got traded more because the Yankees didn’t know what to do with him than anything he could control. While he may not tickle Cashman’s fancy, he’s an intriguing piece for our purposes: a 5’11” 185 lb middle infielder with just enough talent across the board to break even in every roto category. In 104 games across two levels last year, Castillo hit 19 bombs, swiped nine bags and slashed .278/.355/.487.
9. C/OF Endy Rodriguez | 21 | A | 2024
Spent the stretch run playing a lot of outfield because the bat appears ready to race, and with Henry Davis ahead of him, the team has less incentive to wait for Rodriguez’s defense to reach MLB level, which I think it would and still might if the Pirates want to keep that option. He’s a plus athlete, and if he’s allowed to shag flies full time, we might even see the speed tick up a notch. In 98 games, the 6’ 170 lb switch hitter slashed .294/.380/.512 while carrying an impressive 11.5%/17.7% BB/K rate.
10. RHP Quinn Priester | 21 | A+ | 2023
I don’t typically let chamber value hold much sway, but I suppose I tithe the ten spot to Priester here based largely on his perceived value within the dynasty game. A lot of guys in this system could lay claim to a spot—something I’ve found to be a rarity across the systems so far, where it’s more likely that I’m writing up a player or two I’m not sure will ever matter than it is I feel like I’m leaving out a few must-own assets in 15-team dynasty leagues. SS/P Bubba Chandler, OF Lonnie White, SS Hoy Jun Park, SS Maikol Escotto, SS Juan Jerez, 3B Alexander Mojica, OF Hudson Head, and 2B Tucupita Marcano would make a lot of the lists we’ve seen so far.
Priester is a 6’3’ 210 lb fireballer the Pirates liked enough to draft 18th overall out of high school in 2019. His best season so far was 2020, where he garnered wild hype from Baseball America and Fangraphs due to throwing hard at the alternate site and giving good interview about putting pitching lab time to good use. It’s not that I dislike him, I just think it’s easy to go broke paying up for pitchers who haven’t proven the ability to retire big league bats. His curveball on Fangraphs is listed as a 70/80, meaning it’s a 70 right now and an 80 in the future. These grades don’t fold in command, by which I mean their command grades refer to the pitcher’s entire arsenal, typically weighting the fastball much more so than the off-speed pitches. Priester uses that nasty hammer well enough, but the most important thing in the majors will be his ability to locate it down on a consistent basis, which will help his high nineties heater and plus cutter play up.
Thanks for reading!
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