Day One of Spring Training: Bring on the Prospects

If you’ve already downloaded the digital version of our tenth anniversary Prospect Guide, you may have noticed that a lot of those names in the top 50 prospects are also part of Spring Training this year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pitchers and catchers report today, followed by the rest of the position players on Monday, and then the first game on the 28th. This year is a bit different than most years, but it’s shaping up to be one of the better Spring Training rosters due to all of those prospects. You might not be excited about what happens with the Major League club once the regular season starts, and I don’t blame anyone for feeling that way, but you should be looking forward to what we will see down in Bradenton over the next six weeks.

I don’t think I’m breaking any news by saying that a lot of eyes this spring will be on Ke’Bryan Hayes, who already put together a strong month in the majors, and he still has some at-bats to go before he loses that prospect tag. He’s going to be one of (if not THE) biggest reason to watch the Pirates this year. He is the #1 prospect in the system and the only top 50 prospect guaranteed to be on the Opening Day roster. I’m 100% certain that they will have more than Hayes among the top 50 prospects on Opening Day, I just wouldn’t guarantee anyone else. There are clearly some players with a much better chance than others, such as JT Brubaker and Anthony Alford.

The Pirates currently have 16 top 50 prospects on their 40-man roster and obviously all of those players will be in Spring Training camp by Monday. The list of non-roster invites adds another ten top 50 prospects, including five of the top ten prospects in the system. As a group, that’s 26 of the top 50 prospects in the system, as well as a small handful of players who were either considered for the back-end of the top 50, or on the top 50 before the prospects in the three big trades this winter knocked them off.

The top six prospects in the system will all be in Spring Training this year and 12 of the top 20 prospects will be there. The other 24 top 50 prospects not in Spring Training by Monday will be reporting to Pirate City once the big league camp leaves at the end of Spring Training (technically it’s 23, since one player will be headed to the Dominican instead). Those lower level players used to come to Pirate City once Spring Training games started, but MLB’s player restrictions this year due to safety regulations limits the amount of players there at the same time. While the schedules haven’t been released yet, the plan is to start Triple-A on time and the other three full-season levels will start (and end) a month later.

Since the minor league players won’t be there, then that means the extra players for each game will be coming from the players already in camp, which should mean more playing time for the lower level players who are usually gone from the big league camp with the very early cuts. A player like Liover Peguero with no full-season experience would probably get into 1-2 Spring Training games, if any at all, but this year he should see more action because he will be with the big league team from the start. The only bad thing in that regard is that the revised Spring Training schedule cut out of a few games, including split squad contests, which are a good way to get extra innings for prospects.

Using last year as an example, the Pirates used 47 position players in the 23 games played before action was shut down last year. With a 29-game schedule this year, they have 33 position players in camp. Last year they used 39 pitchers and they have 36 in camp this year. Six extra games, 11 fewer players, equals more time to watch prospects play.

We will be starting our position-by-position preview on Friday, which will lead you into the opening game next Sunday. If you have any questions about the top 50 prospects or the prospect guide in general, our Q&A will be open. Leave your question in the comments in that link and someone will get to them.