Pittsburgh Pirates Top 30 Prospects

February 16, 2024

The 2024 Preseason Top 30 lists are built around the idea of certainty and future Role. Similar to industry projection systems such as Future Value (FV), Overall Future Potential (OFP), and Grade, Role is a way to describe to what degree a player will add value to his organization at peak.

Our scale is a bit more conservative than other grading systems. We take into account recent seasonal performance, proximity to impact, metric/data analysis, and industry conversations to build a case for the most likely outcome for any given player.

It is important to note these Role labels are fluid and can change as a player moves up the developmental ladder. It is not uncommon for a player to change his role projection over even one month. Players jump from a Role 35 to a Role 40 quite quickly.

Things like mechanical adjustments and physical maturation can alter a player’s projection seemingly overnight. Players change. Keep that in mind.

Below is our Role chart used to place future projection on players.

20No organizational value. Non-prospect.
30Organizational value, filler. Likely peaks at Triple-A or below.
35Potential up-and-down, Quad-A prospect. Has some tools. Development necessary to secure prolonged MLB role.
40Back-up at MLB level. No. 5 starter on non-competitive team. Depth.
45Potential starter on contender. Bench player for championship-level team.
50Starter on a championship-level team. Lacks star ceiling. Steady. Potential No. 4 starting pitcher.
55Potential all-star. Some impact. Above average big-league regular. Mid-rotation starter on a contender.
60All-star level player. Impact. Middle-of-the-order bat. No. 2 starter on good team.
70Perennial all-star. Will contend for seasonal awards. Potential MVP/Cy Young upside. No. 1 starting pitcher. Ace.
80Hall of Fame upside. Generational. MVP/Cy Young Favorite some years. Organizational pillar who can carry an entire franchise at times.

You will not find players with a sub-50 Role on our Top 100 Prospect List. You are also unlikely to find any sub-35 Role players on a Top 30 board. Generally, organizations will have at least 30 players with big-league projection.

All rankings and roles by Joe Doyle
Player notes by Jason A. Churchill

The Bucs have upside, probability, and proximity in their system, and it starts with the best set of pitching prospects in baseball. Paul Skenes is a potential ace and four other Pirates arms land in the Top 100, including Bubba Chandler and Jared Jones.

At present, the system lacks power bats, but Termarr Johnson projects to make an impact at the plate as an everyday second baseman.

1Paul SkenesRHP60
2Bubba ChandlerRHP55
3Termarr Johnson2B55
4Jared JonesRHP50
5Anthony SolometoLHP50
6Quinn PriesterRHP50
7Tom HarringtonRHP45
8Mitch JebbSS45
9Braxton AshcraftRHP45
10Tsung-Che ChengSS45

Skenes is a prototypical ace at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, and offering elite velocity (up to 102 mph) and carry on a four-seam fastball. It’s a 70-grade slider and plus control, and it all makes for a No. 1 starter with Cy Young capability.

Skenes also a changeup to give him three pitches to miss bats, and repeats his delivery well, not just for command, but health, too.

There’s little chance he spends much time in the minors in 2024 after five short but dominating outings after the draft last summer.

Chandler, a two-way star in high-school who received 160 plate appearances before he put the bat away prior to last season. As a result, the right-hander threw more strikes than ever after a shaky start to the year, and finished the season in Double-A.

He’s up to 98 mph with big-time projectable value, and changeup that a few scouts threw a 70 grade on last in the year. His slider is better than his curveball, though he’s struggled to keep them on a string.

Chandler’s athleticism and the fact he’s entering his second year focused on pitching suggest average or better controla and command in time. If he gets one of the breaking balls to plus territory, he’sa No. 2 starter,perhaps more.

Johnson has swing-and-missed more than one might have expected in his first 500-plus plate appearances in pro ball, but he won’t be 20 until June and reached High-A last season.

He wins with elite zone feel and plus bat speed, generating above-average power that may be plus in time, despite his 5-foo-8, 180-pound frame.

Joshnon has walked a ton to counter the strikeouts and lower batting averages so far, but his plate skills and bat-to-ball are advanced, and as he catches up to the levels the batting averages will rise.

One fun comp: Luis Arraez with power.

Solometo, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound left-hander, spent half his 2023 season in Double and looked every bit the partof a strong No. 4 starter on track to see the majors as soon as July.

Deception and sink helps his 90-94 mph fastball play up, running hitters into a solid slider-changeup combo, both which project to miss bats.

There are Madison Bumgarner vibes here with the long arm path and low release. The lefty will be 21 for all of 2024.

Jebb will stand out at first sight due to an unorthodox mechancis at the plate, but it’s a hit-over-power swing, plus or better speed and a shot to stick at shortstop.

The left-handed hitter profiles as a classic leadoff type, and he may fast-track to the big leagues if he doesn’t mess with the bat path along the way.

11Zander MuethRHP40
12Hunter BarcoLHP40
13Nick Gonzales2B40
14Mike BurrowsRHP40
15Kyle NicolasRHP40
16Matt GorskiOF40
17Michael KennedyLHP40
18Carlson ReedRHP40
19Lonnie White Jr. OF35
20Garret Forrester1B35
21Estuar SueroOF35
22Jun-Seok ShimRHP35
23Bralyn BrazobanOF35
24Jackson WolfLHP35
25Alika WilliamsSS35
26Patrick ReillyRHP35
27Khristian CurtisRHP35
28Tres GonzalezOF35
29Colin SelbyRHP35
30Raymond MolaOF35

Barco doesn’t throw particularly hard, but has reached 93 in most pro outings. He gets additional value from the deception and life created from his cross-body, low-release delivery.

If he stays healthy and contnues to throw strikes like he did after returning from UCL surgery to log 18.1 innings last summer, there’s No. 4 stuff here. Barco will varry some reliever risk due to the mechanics, however, but he has three pitches to get through the lineup three times.

Reed was the Pirates’ foirth-round pick last July after a splitting his time between the bullpen and rotation at West Virginia. He’s up to 99 mph, is built like a major-league starter, and has three pitches and athleticism to support rotation work early in his career.

Selby debuted in the majors last season, making five starts and 16 appearances out of the pen with mixed results. He posted an ERA of exactly nine, but missed some bats and induced some ground balls.

He’s a reliever long-term; 96-99 mph with a sinker to go with a slider and changeup that both generate swings and misses.

Joe Doyle
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