If you’ve been a reader of Pirates Prospects, you have surely seen our Prospect Watch articles posted daily during the minor league season. In those articles, we provide daily statistical updates for the top 30 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. That hasn’t been possible this year with no minor league season, so I thought I would do something similar today. This update looks at all of the players this year who have appeared in at least one game for the Pirates and they still have prospect status.
Just to be clear here, there are different definitions for the word “prospect” in baseball terms depending on how you use it. How it’s being used here is the broadest sense of the word. Anyone who hasn’t exceeded one of the maximum stats used to get into our yearly Prospect Guide. You can have 0-130 at-bats, 0-50 innings pitched or 0-30 pitching appearances, you can not have 131+ at-bats, 50.1+ innings or 31+ pitching appearances. Mitch Keller, Geoff Hartlieb and Sam Howard have exceeded those maximum stats this year, so they won’t be mentioned below. Kevin Kramer hasn’t played this year, so this is his lone mention in the article.
Plain and simple. Also, let’s face it, if I only included top prospects here, it would be a very short article. I’m not that busy that I can’t mention everyone who fits the tag. I’m sure you all get it. They don’t need to be a top 50 prospect to be listed below. I’m listing the players here alphabetical, with hitters listed first, then pitchers.
Anthony Alford – Alford probably would have lost that prospect tag if he didn’t get injured. He has 83 at-bats in 51 games over four seasons. He’s going to be fighting for an outfield job next year and he will still be 26 years old on Opening Day. That’s more like top end age for a prospect, though you’ll see he’s not the oldest here.
Will Craig – Craig got a brief cup of coffee this year, going 0-for-4 in two games. I mention this below more than once, but it wouldn’t be bad to see him get some more big league time to end this miserable season. The added experience could help next year.
Phillip Evans – Evans had a nice little run this year before getting injured. He’s out for the year. He wouldn’t have been in this article if he didn’t get injured because he was doing well and has accumulated 93 at-bats over his three years in the majors. Evans should be fighting for a spot next year, though at 28 years old already, he’s old for a “prospect”.
Ke’Bryan Hayes – He’s the #1 prospect in the system right now and he has only solidified that spot with his all-around play. Hayes will hold that top spot until he loses his prospect status next year. Hopefully it’s early in the season, and I say that in the sense that he doesn’t need anymore days off this year! He has 38 at-bats in the majors and 14 games to add to that total.
Jason Martin – Martin is on the active roster, though he’s barely being used this year. With the way things or going, it wouldn’t hurt to give him some regular at-bats to end the season. Including his 58 days of service time last year, he has just 43 big league at-bats. He also just turned 25 years old
JT Brubaker – Brubaker had an outside chance to lose his prospect status if he stayed on the normal five-man pitching schedule. He has a 5.34 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in 30.1 innings, with 32 strikeouts. Not the best results, but it should be remembered that he was in Triple-A and injured most of last year. He’s had his moments where he has pitched really well, so this is another case like Hayes where he should only be a prospect for a short time in 2021.
Nick Burdi – Burdi will have three years of big league service time at the end of the 2020 season and 12.1 innings pitched over 16 appearances. He’s going to be tough to rate as a prospect. The potential is huge, he’s legit closer material, but at what point does the high risk (plus he turns 28 in January) outweigh the potential upside. He’s still at the point where he has to be in the majors because of his Rule 5 requirements! That’s how little that he’s been healthy.
Miguel Del Pozo – If you question why he’s here, you didn’t read the top part (shame on you). Del Pozo only had five appearances for the Pirates, but it felt like more. Added on to the 17 outings last year for the Los Angeles Angels, and he’s nine appearances short of losing that prospect tag. The Pirates have kept him around and he’s been working in Altoona, so he’s not a completely lost cause. He can’t be worse than what we saw, and no that’s not a challenge.
Nick Mears – Mears being on this list should be the definition of the 2020 season, with expanded rosters and a shortened schedule helping him get to the majors. He had a few Double-A appearances last year and should have started the season in Altoona. Maybe he would have been a September call-up under regular circumstances, but he would not have been pitching in the first few weeks of the season. Mears needs more minor league work before he is big league ready. I guess his four appearances/five innings were good experience, and honestly, he should be back for more to finish out the year. I think they could find a bullpen spot for him.
Cody Ponce – Ponce has done well in spot starts, with a 3.18 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 17 innings. The strikeout rate is too low (12) and the home run rate is too high (5), but he really looks better than what I saw with Altoona and Indy last year. In 2019, he was a lot like Drew Hutchison, just with 2-3 more MPH. Worked up in the zone a lot, relied on chases, wasn’t consistent with the off-speed pitch, nothing really stood out. This year he’s spotting his fastball better in this small sample size and throwing everything for strikes. He has improved his prospect status this year, probably the only person here who really fits a significant improvement.
Nik Turley – At 31 years old, I don’t want to think about whether or not he should be in the 2021 Prospect Guide. Thankfully (I say while fearing a major jinx), he needs just two more appearances to lose the broad definition of the prospect tag. We don’t have an age cutoff for one Prospect Guide, but I feel like Turley would bring up a conversation about it. Ignoring yesterday’s hiccup, he really has been a nice story, with two years of rehab work (2018-19) and a long fight to get to the majors prior to his brief 2017 work. Just two more appearances (in case the baseball gods forgot already).
Brandon Waddell – Waddell was a shocking add to the big league roster, mainly because a few days before he got that call, he was sitting at home. He wasn’t in Altoona to start the year. Waddell pitched twice over his 23 days in the majors, allowing one run in 3.1 innings. If I did this same exact article next year (assuming he’s still with the Pirates), it wouldn’t be surprising if he added very little to that total. He’s a depth option.