You have a choice.
You can only pick one of these #Pirates High-A middle infielders. Who do you take?
— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsPBN) May 6, 2021
You only know everything you know right now, and can’t predict the future.
Nick Gonzales versus Liover Peguero.
Who are you taking?
(If you haven’t read up on either player, be sure to check out our 10th Anniversary Prospect Guide.)
While you’re thinking, here’s a video of Gonzales tonight.
— Adam Young (@youngpbp) May 6, 2021
That bat speed, and then the sprint down the line and around the bag until it was over the wall…
Now, let’s look at the other side with Peguero.
.@Pirates 5th ranked prospect & @GSOHoppers SS Liover Peguero sends first pitch he sees tonight over the right field wall for his 2nd HR in as many games to start to 2021 season. @WFMY @JakeCrouseMLB @AlexJStumpf pic.twitter.com/dPUPwtdCQ7
— Brian Hall (@bhallwfmy) May 5, 2021
Just a very simple swing and effortless opposite field power from a highly athletic player who can play shortstop.
Fortunately, the Pirates don’t have to choose. They drafted Nick Gonzales in the first round in 2020, and acquired Liover Peguero in the Starling Marte trade. These players were the first two big additions to Ben Cherington’s rebuild, and kudos so far for the pickups, because I can’t decide which one I would pick, and I’m glad I get to cover them both.
My preference? The guy who can add power from the shortstop position, with tons of athleticism. I’m going with Peguero getting the edge, but I’ll be like all of you and dream of a future Pirates middle infield featuring these two.
Let’s take a look at the 2021 Greensboro Grasshoppers.
Greensboro Grasshoppers Roster Highlights
Impact Prospects on Both Sides
Gonzales and Peguero are two of the top five prospects in the system. Quinn Priester adds another top five guy, and Tahnaj Thomas could end up challenging a very crowded top five scene by the end of the year. He started off well tonight, with seven strikeouts in three innings, and his only hit and run coming off the same home run.
This is going to be one of the strongest prospect groups you’ll find in the system, at least with top-heavy talent. I’m wondering how long it will last. Under Huntington, the Pirates would promote guys to Double-A after half a season of showing they could handle the level. Is Ben Cherington going to be more or less aggressive?
New Development System Tests
There were certain players that the Pirates just couldn’t develop under the old system. Matt Gorski seemed to be the perfect example of that type of player. Potential for plus power, plus speed, plus defense at a premium position. But, also the potential for three-true-outcomes if his game goes too heavy on power, leading to too much swing-and-miss.
Jared Triolo is another type of player who the Pirates could get to Quad-A status, but never higher. He’s got some good contact ability and plate patience, good defense at a premium position, and if you could ever figure out how to squeeze out any power from his tall frame, you’d have a top prospect.
If I’m being honest, you could make an argument that the Pirates ultimately struggled with most of their position players. Matthew Fraizer is another guy I’m following. He’s got plus speed, but contact issues and doesn’t profile for more than gap power.
While we’re on the subject of development issues, the Pirates had a clear ability under Neal Huntington to scout and develop pitching prospects. The problem here was their ability to turn pitching prospects into MLB pitchers. I’ll have an article about that coming up.
Huntington left behind prep pitchers Braxton Ashcraft and Michael Burrows. Ashcraft is tall, and more raw, with a lot of projection still to his value. Burrows shows more present-day polish, but doesn’t project for as much of a ceiling. Both have the shot of being MLB pitchers, potentially both in the rotation.
Ben Cherington drafted college starter Carmen Mlodzinski last year, and will send him to High-A for his pro debut. Omar Cruz, acquired in the Joe Musgrove trade to the Padres, will be a guy to watch for his debut in the system as well. Mlodzinski, a right-hander, and Cruz, a lefty, both have the chance to be MLB back-of-the-rotation starters.
Breakout Time, Finally?
I’ve been waiting for Lolo Sanchez to finally break out. Fortunately, he’s still only in his age 22 season, and in High-A ball. He’s actually three months younger than Omar Cruz, and if the Pirates took him on as the fifth player in a trade, we’d be talking ourselves into “How can he show more of those few moments when he was a clear dynamic player?”
Sanchez is a guy we project to reach the majors, with a ceiling to even start as a center fielder. He shows flashes of being a play maker. Plus speed, above-average defense, ability to play center field, good contact ability, and a chance to hit for power. He typically struggles when he sells out to home run power, taking away from his contact skills. He could be a top of the order guy just focusing on contact, speed, and gap power.
I’ll have looks at Bradenton tomorrow night.
I’ll have some updates to the PBN Pirates page throughout the day, making navigation for the key features much easier. You may have noticed a few of the minor changes already, including an easier sidebar on this page to navigate. If you guys notice any glitches or issues, let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it to the maintenance list.