The baseball Pirates could learn a thing or two from real pirates. Some tips from the Pirate-code Handbook:

  • Wear one eye patch—not two 
  • Find treasure 
  • Collect treasure 
  • Guard treasure with your life

The baseball Pirates have been sailing blind, making the worst and weirdest trade in recent memory when they sold low on Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz so they could buy high on Chris Archer in July of 2018. Baz alone is probably worth more than Archer on the market today, almost 16 months after the move. 

So first things first, lose an eye-patch and watch where you’re going. And maybe don’t listen to the parrot panicking on your shoulder. 

To be fair, Pittsburgh’s Pirates have actually been quite good at finding and collecting treasures, arguably too good at collecting during their best contention window, which is one reason it’s so wild they bought Archer when they did at the price they paid after they’d sold Gerrit Cole for chestnuts over the winter. Thus it’s this last Pirate-code piece about guarding your treasure that seems lost on Pittsburgh. Stop giving away your booty!

All that said, the Andrew McCutchen trade that netted Bryan Reynolds was a stroke of brilliance. If they can get similar return for Starling Marte, they’ll be a nautical mile closer to their next window. 


1. SS Oneil Cruz | 21 | AA | Early 2021

Cruz is probably my favorite player in the minors. Dude is a different species. An evolutionary step forward. If you buy in now, you can laugh at people as you travel toward the bank. All the way to the bank, as they say. I hope it’s close by. And that you stay hydrated. Not sure how long humans can healthfully laugh. Let’s find out. 


2. RHP Mitch Keller | 23 | MLB | Spring 2020

3. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes | 23 | AAA | Mid 2020

4. SS Ji-Hwan Bae | 20 | A | 2022

Owner of the season’s biggest ERA-FIP gap (3.94), Mitch Keller can hope for better days ahead thanks to better help from coaches in attacking lineups. I don’t mean to kick a dead Searage when he’s down, but I am giving all Pirate pitchers a closer look in 2020. 

Grey asked me about some redraft prospects for 2020 the other day, and Hayes was among them. My response? “Hayes, meh.” The journey of Ke’Bryan Hayes the ballplayer has been long and winding, but his journey as a fantasy prospect has been underwhelming bordering on irrelevant. 

On New Years Eve in 2017, Ji-Hwan Bae allegedly slapped, kicked and choked his then-19-year-old girlfriend. Bae was 18 at the time and was later convicted of assault and fined two million Won, so “allegedly” is more about linguistic specificity than a reticence to accuse. 

Due in no small part to . . . well . . . reality, Bae is among the more underrated prospects in dynasty baseball. He’s the best piece Atlanta lost due to international cheating. They’d signed him for $300,000 while promising another $600,000 off the books. Once back on the market, he signed for 1.25 million with Pittsburgh. He’s probably free for our purposes, or close to it, in large part because his suspension delayed and obfuscated his solid stateside debut. If he hits well in High A, he’ll climb lists in a hurry. 


5. OF Lolo Sanchez | 20 | A+ | 2022

6. 3B Alexander Mojica | 17 | R | 2024

7. OF Jared Oliva | 24 | AA | Mid 2020

8. OF Travis Swaggerty | 22 | A+ | 2022

Lolo Sanchez had a 143 wRC+ and walked more than he struck out the final month of the season. He also stole 33 bases in 113 games across two levels in 2019. I came into this process thinking I was low on Lolo, but now I’m feeling like a fanboy. This whole system is sneaky stacked all the way down to the teeny boppers. Speaking of . . . 

Alexander Mojica takes big swings and embodies the topside play in long-term dynasty. You’ll have to wait a long time if it works out, but I’m in it here because the price is free-ish now, but it won’t be if Mojica starts hot in full-season ball. With his plate skills and physicality, I think he will. He’s on track to be mashing in High A at 19 if Pittsburgh sees him that way, and they’ve been more aggressive with guys like Cruz and Cal Mitchell than is typical for them, so I’m optimistic. 

The Arizona Fall league is perhaps the biggest glow-up opportunity on the fantasy calendar, and nobody rode that 2019 escalator better than Jared Oliva (except maybe Anaheim’s Brandon Marsh). A college bat who started cold in AA, Oliva got hotter with the weather and stole 36 bases in 123 games while posting his third straight season with a wRC+ above 100. He’ll try to carry that momentum into AAA this year and could earn an early promotion depending on the Pirates plans for Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Jose Osuna

It seems relevant to me that Travis Swaggerty regressed throughout his college career at South Alabama. That’s probably an overstatement and an oversimplification. He was good the whole time he was there, but his competition was unheralded and his slash lines didn’t improve over time, and he’s been similarly consternating as a pro. 


9. SS Dariel Lopez | 18 | R | 2024

10. OF Jasiah Dixon | 18 | R Gulf -2.4 | 2024

There’s some thunder in Dariel Lopez. It’s going to be a long wait, but his hand-acceleration on the inner half is eye-catching. He’s unlikely to get stat-line playing time early in 2020, so you probably track from afar. 

I have a good feeling about Jasiah Dixon. His swing is not ideal, but his hips snap through and his hands are fast. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches to generate bat-speed, and I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff work, so when I see a player who looks different putting up solid numbers, I like to consider the possibilities. It’s something my dad said to me, I guess, about Gary Sheffield. Something along the lines of “How good would he be with good mechanics?” I would typically argue that maybe Sheffield needed the hand-waggle to slow him down a la Harrison Bergeron in the famous Kurt Vonnegut story of the same name, his bat being too fast for mere mortals. I don’t think Dixon has that issue.


Radio Flier:

Sir Mix-a-Lot would like this system. Has much back. I like RHP Tahnaj Thomas, who came over from Cleveland in the Jordan Luplow trade. You might prefer 2B Rayber Romero or RHP Cody Bolton. Respectable individuals have advocated for outfielders Cal Mitchell and Jack Herman.

  1. Jeff says:

    Surprised to not see Mason Martin anywhere in here considering the season he had. How far off would you place him?

    • Slappy Jack says:

      also surprised by his omission

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:

        Martin was tough for me, and perhaps I’ve made a mistake omitting him in the end, but first base, power-only prospects with contact issues are not especially valuable profiles for fantasy or MLB. They tend to stall out in the upper minors in search of an opportunity. Will Craig in this system is a decent example, as are Kevin Cron, Christian Walker, Roberto Ramos, Luke Voit and Dan Vogelbach, and even Jose Martinez for a glance at a different type of good hitter struggling to stay on the field. I didn’t expect to sell Martin short. (Accidental pun, but worth noting Martin is not a large man like the vast majority of corner bats who actualize. He’s listed at 6’ 200 lbs, which would make him the shortest, slightest everyday first baseman in the league if that’s his future). I had him in the top ten for most of the writing process but found players I liked better with wider paths to value as I dug into a well-stocked system.

        My guess is Martin will head to AA Altoona and struggle early in the year, but if he goes the other way and mashes there, I’ll be having some crow for dinner. Can hear one barking just outside my window right now, as fate would have it.

        Anyway, if you really like Mason Martin, I totally get it and think you might be wise to see if you can add Roberto Ramos of the Rockies. Similar though lesser profile but rule 5 eligible this winter after mashing in AAA. And that’s the primary factor pulling Martin down: the proliferation of guys available even in deep dynasty leagues who do what he does but are closer to a big league opportunity.

        • Sweatpants Nation says:

          Haha. When you said accidental pun my mind went to the juxtaposition of Martin and short and went with the actor Martin Short.
          Anyway, great write up as usual. I asked Grey about Hayes and he responded with your meh. It was wishful thinking on my part that maybe others would be seeing more than I because I drafted him in a keeper last year. But I guess I’ll cut him loose.

          • The Itch

            The Itch says:

            Thanks Sweatpants Nation!!

            And you nailed it—was hoping the pun would work both ways!

            Martin Short voices The Cat in the Hat these days, so he’s kinda part of my family’s everyday life. Holy wow those songs are glue on the brain.

            I think someone would be happy to take Hayes off your hands if you can either trade him now or wait until that window opens. He’s still gonna be top 50 and maybe even 25 on the defense-focused, legacy lists.

  2. Philip says:

    Love this series, Itch! You’re really high on Cruz. What if he has another year like 2019 (low to moderate power, mediocre slash line), will you continue to wait for his breakthrough?

    Also, does Dylan Carlson have star upside or is that asking too much?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, Philip!

      With Cruz, I think he’s among a handful of players talented enough to sort of dominate the early season conversation and become a ubiquitous top tier prospect.

      While my expectations are anything but pessimistic, I think I’d be okay seeing a slash line similar to his 2019. I’d be a little disappointed, maybe, but he did put up a 120 wRC+ in 35 games at AA as a 20-year-old after a 154 at High A. Worth noting that his abbreviated 2019 was partly a rehab stint.

      If he’s good this year and the Pirates are feeling frisky, he’ll be in AAA at 21.

      If he strikes out so much his power doesn’t play, I’ll have to drop him a little as I’m sure others will bounce and carve out some elbow room like Carlson did last year, but yeah I think I’d still be buying/waiting.

      Sort of a fluid thing—star upside—but I think the short answer is yes for Carlson.

      • philip says:

        Awesome response. Thank you.

  3. knucks says:

    Don’t be upset Mr. The Itch, but I’ve been a snitch and gone behind your back this week. Making a handful of dynasty trades without first seeking your advice.

    But before that azz gets too chapped, I want you to know though that I have not sought out any other pert’s advice, especially not Grey ;)

    Updated list of my moves since taking over this dynasty squad at the start of the offseason…

    Traded Away:
    Luis Patino
    Grayson Rodriguez
    Deivi Garcia
    Luis Arraez
    Harrison Bader
    Dylan Bundy
    Archie Bradley
    William Contreras
    Griff Conine
    Malcom Nunez
    L Santana
    #43 Pick

    Got back:
    Oneil Cruz
    Jeter Downs
    Keynan Middleton
    Luis Matos
    Gilberto Jimenez
    Seth Corry
    #7 FYPD Pick
    #12 Pick
    #14 Pick
    #41 Pick

    So now I have the #1, #7, #12, #14 and #15 picks in the FYPD and will be able to really stock up on some more teenage bats

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Knucks! I love it!

      And while, sure, my feelings are a little hurt, I realize you gotta move fast sometimes when you see a good opportunity. And wow you must’ve seen a few because this is an amazing off-season. Most of what you lost was droppable, and this is a great year for picks. If the league is communicating well—and it seems like this one is—draft day might be a blast. I wouldn’t slow-play all the picks necessarily, but I’d try to make it clear the pick is available while on the clock a few times early in the draft. If no interest, no big. Lots of good players there. Which is exactly why you might pull some good azzets for picks in the moment. A ticking clock can turn like to love in the space between a tick and a tock.

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