On March 12, 2021, I made somewhat educated guesses about where five of the Pirates’ top prospects would start their seasons in 2021. I am happy to report I was right and wrong. Oddly enough, I’m more pleased about the predictions I got wrong. That sounds strange but I can and will explain.
First, I correctly predicted that Nick Gonzales and Liover Peguero would team up as the double play combination for High-A Greensboro. The Pirates’ front office and dynasty league owners view both of these players as key pieces of their futures. Next, as expected, Hudson Head gets to begin 2021 in the heat and humidity of the Florida State League (Low-A Southeast) with the Bradenton Marauders.
As for Travis Swaggerty and Roansy Contreras, I was wrong. I underestimated how aggressive GM Ben Cherington would be in terms of where they would start in 2021. Cherington was so impressed with Travis Swaggerty’s performance both in major league spring training and at the alternate site, the decision was made for Swaggerty to skip Double-A entirely. Swaggerty’s progress is big news for the Pirates especially in light of the black hole centerfield has been for the last two years. The Pirates have already been through the failed Anthony Alford and Dustin Fowler experiments this season. With the recent injury to fellow centerfielder Jared Oliva, Travis Swaggerty may well have the chance to stake his claim to the centerfield job in Pittsburgh later this season with a strong start in Indianapolis.
Contreras looked great in his limited reps during major league spring training. Clearly, he impressed GM Ben Cherington so much that he was assigned to Double-A Altoona Curve and skipped over Advanced-A. As I mentioned in my earlier article, Contreras was probably in line for a bigger push because he is on the 40-man roster. However, he still needed to show he was ready for the push and, to his credit, he did.
The bigger news for Pirates fans and dynasty league owners is the larger message the Pirates front office may be sending with these aggressive assignments. For years, Pirates fans and dynasty league owners have been frustrated by how slowly prospects advanced through the system. Given the lack of a 2020 minor league season, there was concern that prospects would be held back even more. I view these two-player assignments as the clearest indication yet there is new leadership with a different plan in place. Perhaps the days of fading Pirates prospects in dynasty drafts because of how long they take to climb the ladder to The Show are over.
The Minor League Baseball season just started last week on May 4th. The Pirates’ top prospects are spread out amongst their 4 affiliates.
In addition to Hudson Head, the Low-A Bradenton Marauders will feature Endy Rodriguez, the catcher acquired from the Mets in the Joe Musgrove trade, Maikol Escotto, the infielder acquired from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade, Eddy Yean, the 19-year-old right-handed pitcher acquired from the Nationals in the Josh Bell trade and Brennan Malone the former first round right-handed pitcher acquired from Arizona in the Starling Marte trade. This is a fascinating roster full of prospects with talent but little track record. I am looking forward to seeing this team in person this summer.
In addition to Nick Gonzales and Liover Pegeuro, the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers will feature 2019 first rounder righty Quinn Priester and hard-throwing righty Tahnaj Thomas. Both of these players are considered top 100 caliber players based solely on stuff. Hopefully, in 2021 they get to start building a resume of performance consistent with the talent they both possess.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 6, 2021
The Double-A Altoona Curve will be an exciting team to follow with prospects like infielders Oneil Cruz and Ji-hwan Bae, first baseman Mason Martin, and outfielders Calvin Mitchell, and recent trade acquisition Canaan Smith-Njigba. Altoona should have a high-powered offense with more than a few home run balls clearing the right field fence at Peoples Natural Gas Field near the Skyliner roller coaster.
Joining Travis Swaggerty at Triple-A Indianapolis is Miguel Yajure, a righty acquired from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon deal. Yajure has already appeared with the Pirates making one encouraging start. Yajure could be in line for more starts with the Pirates this season if he is able to show some consistent results at Triple-A.
🚨MiLB Opening Day Pod🚨
-Analyzing each minor league roster for the Pirates!
-Why the Greensboro Grasshoppers will be the most fun!
-How far can Priester and Gonzales move up?
-Surprises and predictions
Subscribe and download wherever you get your podcasts!#LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/HUTf6kUbsa
— Locked On Pirates (@LockedOnPirates) May 4, 2021
Congrats everyone! We made it to a new minor league season. Let’s enjoy watching these and other Pirates prospects develop into successful big leaguers together.
Greg Rosenthal is a lifelong baseball fan and now the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Prospects1500. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he has lived in South Florida his entire adult life. Greg graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Political Science as well as a law degree. Greg is married with three college aged kids. He plays in several fantasy baseball leagues including two dynasty leagues. He can be reached on Twitter at @bucfish67.