Williams: Pirates Position Player Youth Movement

I’m not sure that it really matters in the long-term what the Pittsburgh Pirates do this offseason.

Looking over this team, they’re filled with players who probably won’t be here when the team is contending again, and they’re waiting on prospects to arrive to push the team to contention.

I don’t think that teams should fully rely on prospects. Contending teams are built through all areas of talent acquisition, and relying solely on one avenue is typically a bad recipe for success. The last time the Pirates were good, they added their prospects to great trade returns and free agent signings. They fell apart when the trades and free agents dried up and there were only prospects remaining.

It didn’t help that those prospects largely didn’t work out. Even if some of them did work, it’s inevitable that a large portion of prospects will not reach their upside.

So where does this leave the Pirates right now?

There are very few positions on the roster where they can be confident about being set for the short-term or long-term. They have prospects at nearly every position who could arrive in the next year or two, if the team is aggressive with their promotions. Ideally, that wave of prospects would result in only a few holes that would need to be filled via free agency and trades.

To get a better idea of the present and future of the team, here’s a look at each position player and their likely replacement. A similar article on the pitching staff will follow in the future.


Current Projected Starter: Jacob Stallings

Starter of the Future: Henry Davis

Earliest Projected Transition: 2023

Davis was drafted out of a major college, and the Pirates sent him to High-A during his signing season. On an aggressive push, I could see him splitting 2022 between High-A and Double-A, then moving to the majors by the end of 2023. The good thing is that the Pirates are set with Stallings until Davis arrives.

First Base

Current Projected Starter: Colin Moran

Starter of the Future: Mason Martin

Earliest Projected Transition: 2022

Martin will likely be in Triple-A in 2022, while the Pirates will likely have a one-year option of some sort at first base. It only takes a hot stretch for Martin to get his shot, and the Pirates would have little incentive to not give him that shot.

Second Base

Current Projected Starter: Rodolfo Castro/Hoy Park/Michael Chavis

Starter of the Future: Nick Gonzales

Earliest Projected Transition: 2022

The options at second base this year all have the upside of average starters, though they’re all more likely to be solid bench players for various reasons. The best long-term starting option is Nick Gonzales, who finished the 2021 season strong, and is carrying that over to the AFL. If the Pirates promote aggressively, and Gonzales keeps hitting, he could be in the majors by the end of 2022. It would be a bonus if one of the other options emerged as a solid bench player, or a starting option at another position by that point.


Current Projected Starter: Kevin Newman/Cole Tucker/Tucapita Marcano

Starter of the Future: Oneil Cruz

Earliest Projected Transition: 2022

Cruz came up briefly at the end of the 2021 season, and I want to see more. Ideally, immediately, although that would probably require some MLB rule changes on free agency eligibility. Until then, I’d expect Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker to get a final shot at the position, with a chance we could see Tucapita Marcano in the mix before Cruz arrives.

Third Base

Current Projected Starter: Ke’Bryan Hayes

Starter of the Future: Ke’Bryan Hayes

If Things Don’t Work Out: Jared Triolo

Changing up the format here, because this is the one position where the Pirates have their long-term starter in the majors. If Hayes doesn’t work out, then Jared Triolo is looking like a solid alternative, likely starting in Altoona in 2022. However, it’s way too early to give up on Hayes.

Left Field

Current Projected Starter: Ben Gamel

Starter of the Future: Bryan Reynolds

Earliest Projected Transition: Whenever the Pirates get a long-term center fielder

The Pirates have some strictly left-field prospects who could arrive in 2022. They include Matt Fraizer, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and Jack Suwinski. I’m betting that Bryan Reynolds stays, then I think he moves to left field when a better center field option emerges.

Center Field

Current Projected Starter: Bryan Reynolds

Starter of the Future: Travis Swaggerty

Earliest Projected Transition: 2022

Swaggerty would be that center field option from earlier, and he could be in the majors by the second half of the 2022 season. Of course, if the Pirates stick with Reynolds in center field, Swaggerty would join the candidates at the corners. If Reynolds is traded, Swaggerty would lead that group of Triple-A outfield prospects.

Right Field

Current Projected Starter: Anthony Alford

Starter of the Future: Cal Mitchell

Earliest Projected Transition: 2022

The other outfielders could work into this mix. Between Swaggerty, Fraizer, CSN, Suwinski, and Mitchell, the Pirates have a lot of outfield options who could arrive in 2022. The Opening Day outfield would probably include Ben Gamel and Anthony Alford. I’m guessing the end of the season outfield is going to look a lot younger.