The Pirates are in the midst of a very ambitious team building project. It will take a few years before it significantly impacts the major league team. That isn’t great news for Pirates fans unless you love to follow prospects on their path to the major leagues. That is our mission here at Prospects1500.
Since January 2020, General Manager Ben Cherington has essentially remade the minor league system through several trades, the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, and the 2020 MLB Draft. Because of the lack of a minor league season in 2020 and this influx of new players into the system, there is more unknown about the Pirates’ prospects than ever before. Now that we’re a few weeks into Spring Training, it is exciting that we’re now getting to see some of these guys on an actual baseball field.
Seeing actual baseball games got me thinking about where some of the Pirates higher profile prospects will start their minor league seasons. Where these prospects start may give us some insight into where the front office believes the these prospects are in terms of development. I thought it might be fun to take a stab at predicting where five of the Pirates’ top prospects will restart their minor league careers in 2021. Of course, when the minor league season finally starts, we will be able to find how far off base (pun intended) I was.
Nick Gonzales, 2B – Our 2nd ranked Pirates prospect was the 7th pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. He was one of the best college hitters in 2019 and the the best in 2020 at hitter friendly high-altitude New Mexico State. He also raked at the Cape Cod Summer League in 2019. Gonzales spent summer 2020 at the Alternate site in Altoona and participated in Fall Instructs as well. Like many first round picks, Gonzales was invited to major league Spring Training. Although he has not yet played in an official professional game, I believe the Pirates think he is advanced enough to start this season at Advanced-A Greensboro. If all goes well, maybe a mid-season promotion to Double-A Altoona is possible. The former Front Office was criticized in the past for not moving their top prospects fast enough. Gonzales may be a test case for the theory that this will change under Ben Cherington.
Liover Peguero, SS – Our 5th ranked Pirates prospect arrived in January 2020 as part of the Starling Marte trade with the Diamondbacks. Although he has not yet played an official game for the Pirates organization, he impressed at the Alternate site at age 19. In fact, he was so impressive he secured an invite to major league Spring Training as a non-roster player. Peguero should start his age 20 season with his potential MLB double-play partner Nick Gonzales at Advanced-A Greensboro. Like Gonzales, a strong start to the season may result in a mid-season promotion to Double-A Altoona.
Travis Swaggerty, CF – Our 9th ranked Pirates prospect was the 10th overall pick of the 2018 MLB Draft. Swaggerty spent all of 2019 at Advanced-A Bradenton. His numbers there do not jump off the page. However, given the context of the pitcher friendly Florida State League, his slash line of .265/.347/.381 was well above the league’s average .242/.313/.353. Like Peguero and Gonzales, Swaggerty spent 2020 at the Alternate site and is now a non-roster invitee in major league Spring Training. Combine his developing power/speed offensive game with his strong defense, Swaggerty figures to start 2021 roaming CF in Double-A Altoona.
Hudson Head, CF – Recently acquired from San Diego in the Joe Musgrove trade, Head is a talented 19 year old CF prospect and former high school QB. He performed well in his first taste of pro-ball in 2019 slashing .283/.383./417 in rookie ball but struggled at the Padres’ Fall Instructs with swing mechanics and injury. I would imagine the Pirates start Head in Bradenton where the Florida State League is now Class-A and not Advanced-A as it has been in years past.
Roansy Contreras, SP – This 21 year old was acquired from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade. He is on the 40-man roster which essentially means the clock is ticking a bit faster for him as compared to the other players on this list. He had a strong season for the Yankees Class-A team in 2019. Since he was not at the Pirates Alternate 2020 site or Fall Instructs, the front office will only really have this spring to evaluate Contreras’ progress to date. Therefore, it makes sense for the Pirates to start him in Advanced-A Greensboro with an early season promotion to Double-A Altoona if he proves too advanced for the level.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s Go Bucs!!