First Pitch: When Will the Prospects Arrive in Pittsburgh?

I love rollercoasters.

I no longer live in Florida, but when I did, I would frequent Universal Studios in Orlando often. The rollercoasters at their park are massively superior to what Disney offers.

I got an email last week about how they’ve added a new one.

I quickly got excited about checking out this new ride the next time I go down to visit my parents.

Then, I remembered my last few experiences with rollercoasters.

You get to a point where you can’t do them anymore. For me, after maybe two rides, I now start to get dizzy. If I push it further, I can induce a massive headache.

I’d imagine the rollercoaster that is the 2021 Pittsburgh Pirates season is going to be giving you many a headache this year.

If that’s the case, today’s article looks at a conservative timeline for when the prospects are expected to arrive, hopefully bringing us a much smoother ride.

I estimated the arrival of every prospect in our top 50, from the 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide. Below are those expected arrivals, broken down by year.

If you haven’t checked out the book, the digital version is free. We also have limited edition paperback copies still available.

Arriving in 2021

There were six players in our top 50 who had already appeared in the majors prior to 2021, and who have been in the majors already this year. Those players are Ke’Bryan Hayes, JT Brubaker, Wil Crowe, Cody Ponce, Anthony Alford, and Phillip Evans.

Luis Oviedo and Jose Soriano were both in the top 50. Oviedo is in the majors this year, and might be a rare case of a Rule 5 prospect losing prospect eligibility in his Rule 5 year. Soriano is rehabbing, and won’t return until later in the season.

The four prospects who I have as good bets to make Pittsburgh this year are Cody Bolton, Miguel Yajure, Jared Oliva, and Nick Mears.

The Pirates could see more than those guys, and some of them might arrive sooner than later. This is where I’ll include the bookend disclaimer that the pandemic, and the reduction of minor league teams will massively alter development timelines.

Maybe Next Year

I’m sure everyone wants to see Oneil Cruz in Pittsburgh this year.

Count me on that list.

But, Cruz has yet to play above Double-A. I’m making conservative projections here, and projecting Cruz to make the majors in 2021 doesn’t seem like a conservative projection. This is where the previous disclaimer comes into play, that players could move up and down in this conservative timeline.

I could see Cruz arriving in 2022. I could also see Nick Gonzales arriving in the same year. That could give the Pirates’ offense a big boost going forward.

For the rest of the 2022 arrivals, I’m projecting a lot of guys who were last in High-A in 2019.

Travis Swaggerty, Mason Martin, Cal Mitchell, and Rodolfo Castro are the remaining position players, and all four have starter potential in the majors.

Speaking of Martin…

On the pitching side, most of the prospects right now are outside of the top 30, and far from guarantees to make the majors at all. I have Max Kranick, Roansy Contreras, Travis MacGregor, and Osvaldo Bido as pitching candidates to arrive in 2022.

2023 is Looking Good

I think even in the most conservative timeline, we’d expect Cruz and Gonzales to be in the majors in 2023.

I think they could be joined that year by Quinn Priester and Liover Peguero.

We’re now getting to the point where I really need to stress how prospects aren’t guarantees. Otherwise, it’s going to be really easy to dream about a 2023 roster with Hayes, Cruz, Gonzales, Peguero, Martin, Swaggerty, Reynolds, and Stallings.

You add Priester to the pitching side of that group, and it starts to boost what is currently projecting to be the weaker side of that team. Maybe not for long though, as I’ll cover in the 2024 section.

Others who could arrive in 2023: Ji-Hwan Bae, Carmen Mlodzinski, Blake Cederlind (full season return?), Nick Garcia, Matt Gorski, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Jack Herman, Noe Toribio.

Pitching Arrives in 2024

This is where the promising pitching prospects start to show up. The group is led by Tahnaj Thomas and Brennan Malone. Eddy Yean, Braxton Ashcraft, and Michael Burrows are three other pitching prospects inside our top 20.

On offense, the top 30 prospects from this group include Hudson Head, Sammy Siani, and an actual catching prospect in Endy Rodriguez.

None of these guys have even played in a full-season league yet. I’d expect all of them to get their first shot in 2021. We’re getting to the point where it’s impossible to even be conservative when projecting the future of prospects. Any attempt at projecting a future MLB arrival for players who have yet to play a full season is anything but conservative.

With that said, add Santiago Florez, Jase Bowen, Aaron Shortridge, and JC Flowers to this list. Shortridge is the lone exception, last playing High-A, although he’s currently down with Tommy John.

2025 and Beyond

The same disclaimer from the previous group applies double here. We’re now down to guys in the GCL and DSL. All this section should do is show that there is a growing group of prospects who might be able to extend the Pirates’ competitive window a few more years, assuming that window opens around 2023.

Shalin Polanco is the top prospect from this group, signed for over $2 million out of the Dominican earlier this year. He’s also the last of the group projected to arrive, due to his age.

Polanco is joined by Rodolfo Nolasco, Alexander Mojica, and Solomon Maguire on the position player side. Jared Jones and Po-Yu Chen give the Pirates two young pitchers to follow from this group, both ranked inside our top 30.

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