Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 Preseason Top 10

Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 Preseason Top 10


Player: Mitch Keller
Position(s): RHP Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: AAA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’2” Weight: 210 lbs.
Quick Report: A hard sinking fastball that can touch triple digits and sit up to 97 is a hard pitch to hit at any level, add to that a strong 11-5 curve and you have the makings of an impressive pitcher. In order to truly be effective as a starter, he needs to improve the change that is not quite average but showing signs it will get there, which will make the fastball and curve play even better. The delivery is smooth and repeatable, although he has battled injuries throughout his pro career. He has the future of a number two or three starter, although he could have to become a dominant reliever if the change doesn’t improve, but I foresee him settling in as a staple in the Pirates rotation as early as this June.


Player: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Position(s): 3B Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’1” Weight: 210 lbs.
Quick Report: A real shot to be a future Gold Glove award winner, Hayes has the bloodlines (his father Charlie Hayes played 13 years in the big leagues) and athleticism to be special. He has a contact first approach that has also seen him improve his walk rate every pro season. The bat seems to be pulled through the zone rather than snappy so the power upside may be limited, but a guy who hits for a solid average, can leg out plenty of doubles, and plays elite defense can be a starter for a long time at the big league level.


Player: Travis Swaggerty
Position(s): OF Opening Day Age: 21 2018 Highest Level: Low A
Bats: Left Throws: Left Height: 5’11” Weight: 180 lbs.
Quick Report: The tenth overall pick a season ago, Swaggerty really made a name for himself starring on the collegiate team for Team USA after his sophomore year. He made some mechanical adjustments to his swing to go from a more contact oriented bat to a guy with plus raw power. He has a long stride that allows him to really get into the ball to the pull side but can swing over the ball quite a bit too. Despite the stride suggesting he should struggle with off-speed stuff, he has very good hands that adjust well and will limit the number of strikeouts he is saddles with. In the field he can fly and is improving on his routes, suggesting he will be an above average center fielder with a plus arm for the position.


Player: Oneil Cruz
Position(s): SS/OF Opening Day Age: 20 2018 Highest Level: Low A
Bats: Left Throws: Right Height:  6’6” Weight: 175 lbs.
Quick Report: Quite possibly the most intriguing prospect in baseball, Cruz is listed at 6’6” but some say he is at least an inch taller. The simple fact is there has never been a player able to stick at short with his size, but there is a chance he sticks there. He has good hands and as strong an arm as any position player in baseball. He runs well for a long legged guy, although it is more straight line speed than quickness. If he does move off short, the first move would likely be to center, but if he ends up losing too much athleticism (he is insanely lean at just 175 lbs. after all) he could be a plus defender in right. There is real concern about his ability to make consistent contact, but that may not be too big a concern as he has top of the scale raw power and is already allowing that to translate to game power. If he can prove he is able to hit .275, which is unlikely, and stick at short, he will be the number one prospect in the game in a couple years. That is his ceiling, but I see him more as a .260 hitter with 35+ home runs and a change to be an above average defensive center fielder.


Player: Cole Tucker
Position(s): SS Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Switch Throws: Right Height: 6’3” Weight: 205 lbs.
Quick Report: Shoulder injuries are always scary, but Tucker has bounced back from a labrum tear early in his career to see his arm return to plus status. His defense at short is smooth and is good enough to make him be an impactful player regardless of his offense, which has improved. He is much better from the left side of the plate as his swing is smooth and is able to barrel up the ball well. From the right side, the swing gets a bit clunky and he grounds out too often, but he is still very lean, so there is a chance that smooths out as he fills out more and could become a guy who runs into double digit home runs.


Player: Kevin Kramer
Position(s): 2B Opening Day Age: 25 2018 Highest Level: MLB
Bats: Left Throws: Right Height: 6’ Weight: 200 lbs.
Quick Report: Kramer struggled in his brief taste of the big leagues a season ago, but that is of little concern to the Pirates. He is a player who has always been able to make adjustments, going from a contact first hitter to a guy looking to hit for power, he now needs to improve his approach at the plate, something I have little doubt he will be able to do. His future as an everyday player is at second base, but if he can’t hold down an everyday job he can be a utility infielder that can hold down short in a pinch and has enough arm to play third.


Player: Kevin Newman
Position(s): SS/2B Opening Day Age: 25 2018 Highest Level: MLB
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’ Weight: 195 lbs.
Quick Report: Newman lands this high on the list purely based on floor as his ceiling is quite limited. He is a solid shortstop who can play very good defense at second and hold down third if needed. At the plate it is an all contact, no power approach, which really limits his impact. He doesn’t walk much, but he rarely strikes out, which allows him to potentially be a guy who hits second in a lineup, but more likely a number seven type hitter. If all comes together, he could have a ceiling of a David Eckstein, but that will most likely be a utility role due to the infield talent the Pirates have on the way.


Player: Bryan Reynolds
Position(s): OF Opening Day Age: 23 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Switch Throws: Right Height: 6’3” Weight: 205 lbs.
Quick Report: I really struggled with who to place higher between Mitchell and Reynolds, and ultimately settled giving Reynolds the nod ahead of Mitchell.. While Vandy has an impressive track record of pitching talent in recent years, their outfield prospects have proven to be better in college than in the pros, and I fear Reynolds may be another example of this. He is a solid defensive center fielder but lacks the arm strength to be a true fourth outfielder as he would not be able to play right. There is hope he develops into average power, and the swing does make it easy to put an above average raw grade on it, but it is the contact and the fact he is a switch hitter that will carry him.


Player: Calvin Mitchell
Position(s): OF Opening Day Age: 19 2018 Highest Level: Low A
Bats: Left Throws: Left Height: 6’ Weight: 210 lbs.
Quick Report: Defensively, Mitchell is quite limited, likely to be a left fielder and some chance he has to move to the dirt and play first. He has a smooth stroke from the left side of the plate that could keep up and allow him to develop an above average hit tool. There is a good bat plane to translate to power, but he lacks projectability, so I don’t see a whole lot more game power showing up. In the end, he will be a guy who could become above average hit, average power, but a defensive liability that limits his upside.


Player: Luis Escobar
Position(s): RHP Opening Day Age: 22 2018 Highest Level: AA
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6’1” Weight: 205 lbs.
Quick Report: Sitting in the mid-90s and running his fastball up to 97 wasn’t something many saw coming when he signed with the Pirates as an infielder in 2013. Now he is a power pitcher that has started all but five of his pro appearances, although his big league future is in the bullpen. He has the big fastball, but also has an above average curve and a change that has shown signs of being a plus pitch. The command is, well, poor and there is a lot of effort in the delivery, so the future is almost certainly as a high leverage reliever, although the command could limit his effectiveness in that role.

Others of Note:

Jason Martin – OF – 22 – AAA
Lolo Sanchez – OF – 19 – Low A
Jared Oliva – OF – 23 – High A
Steven Jennings – RHP – 20 – Rookie
Pablo Reyes – Util – 25 – MLB
Tahnaj Thomas – RHP – 19 – Rookie
Braxton Ashcraft – RHP – 19 – Rookie

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