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.
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.