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Hitting: 60. Power: 50. Running: 55. Fielding: 70. Arm: 60. TRACK RECORD: The Pirates drafted Hayes with the 32nd overall pick in 2015. He’s the son of former major league third baseman Charlie Hayes, who played for the Pirates in 1996 and spent 14 years in the majors. (His brother Tyree also pitched professionally.) Hayes entered the 2020 season as the Pirates’ top position prospect but tested positive for Covid-19 during summer camp, which set his progress back. He returned in late July and made his major league debut in September, exploding onto the scene with numbers that were among the best of the rookie class. He hit .376/.422/.682 with seven doubles, two triples and five home runs in 95 plate appearances. His 1.124 OPS ranked fourth among qualified batters in September, when he won National League rookie of the month, providing hope for Pirates fans looking for a young prospect to emerge as a cornerstone of their rebuild. SCOUTING REPORT: Hayes’ calling card has long been his defense at third base. He has a chance to win multiple Gold Glove awards with smooth hands, quick reactions, good routes to the ball and plus arm strength. He’s an asset defensively for the Pirates whether they want a traditionally strong third baseman or if they want to get creative with defensive shifts. Hayes has the range to play shortstop in a pinch and is a great candidate to move around the field in different defensive alignments. Hayes’ offense has been improving the last few years and his power took a big leap in 2020. Hayes made adjustments to his swing mechanics by opening up his stance and changing his hand position. His biggest change was mental. He prioritized hard contact, as opposed to just making contact, and worked with his father during quarantine to get the ball in the air more often. The result was the most power than Hayes has had in his career without sacrificing his average or plate discipline. Hayes’ video-game September numbers will come down, but he is capable of hitting .300 with 15-20 homers a year with a high on-base percentage. Hayes is an above-average runner who adds value on the bases in addition to his bat and glove. THE FUTURE: Hayes has the potential to be an offensive cornerstone the Pirates build their lineup around. He won’t hit .450 on balls in play, as he did in a small 2020 sample, as pitchers adjust to him, but if he gets anywhere close he will be a perennial all-star third baseman. Hayes will be the Pirates’ Opening Day third baseman in 2021 and figures to keep that status as long as he remains in Pittsburgh.
Hitting: 50. Power: 70. Running: 60. Fielding: 55. Arm: 60. TRACK RECORD: Cruz signed with the Dodgers for $950,000 in 2015 and was traded to the Pirates two years later for Tony Watson. He cemented his status as the most athletic and dynamic prospect in the Pirates’ system during his ascent to Double-A in 2019 and spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site. He was arrested in his native Dominican Republic in September for allegedly driving under the influence in a car crash that killed three people. SCOUTING REPORT: Although it might seem odd to see a 6-foot-7 player at shortstop, Cruz can handle the position. He has plus speed and moves around well at short despite his height. Cruz has a plus arm and the Pirates have better infield options, so he may end up in right field in the future. Cruz is a dynamic prospect due to his elite raw power that comes from his long arms and strength in his hands and wrists. He’s hit for average in the minors, but because of his lanky body and long levers, there are long-term concerns about whether pitchers will find holes in his strike zone to exploit. THE FUTURE: Cruz faces up to five years in prison if convicted. If he’s able to play, he has the tools to anchor the middle of the Pirates’ lineup with power and speed.
Hitting: 70. Power: 45. Running: 55. Fielding: 50. Arm: 50. TRACK RECORD: Gonzales became the first draftee of the Ben Cherington era for the Pirates, signing for $5,432,400 as the seventh overall pick in 2020. That capped off an impressive transformation after he joined New Mexico State as a walk-on and went on to lead the nation in hitting while batting .432/.532/.773. He hit 12 home runs in 82 plate appearances in his brief junior season. SCOUTING REPORT: Gonzales’ carrying tool is his bat. Despite his slight, 5-foot-10 frame, his elite contact skills, exceptional plate discipline and exemplary barrel control should allow him to hit annually for a high average. He consistently finds the barrel and his strong hands help him drive pitches to all fields, giving him surprising 15-20 home run power. Gonzales’ above-average speed and advanced baserunning instincts should result in a handful of stolen bases, too. Gonzales has the arm strength for shortstop, but scouts question his short-area quickness and prefer him as a second baseman who can focus on being an elite hitter for the position. THE FUTURE: Scouts view Gonzales as a future all-star second baseman capable of competing for batting titles. He is advanced enough to jump on the fast track to the majors and arrive in Pittsburgh at some point in 2022.
Fastball: 60. Slider: 40. Changeup: 50. Curveball: 60. Control: 55. TRACK RECORD: The Pirates drafted Priester out of high school with the 18th overall pick in 2019. He hadn’t even turned 20 when the Pirates sent him to their alternate training site in 2020, but he was impressive enough facing some of the best hitting prospects in the system to show he may be a fast-mover despite his youth. SCOUTING REPORT: Priester’s fastball jumped to 96-98 mph in short stints at the alternate training site, an encouraging development after he sat in the low 90s and touched 97 mph in his pro debut. He throws both a two-seamer with movement and a four-seamer he controls better. Priester complements his fastballs up with a plus low-80s curveball he can land for strikes or get swings and misses with. He improved his changeup by learning to consistently throw it like a fastball. Priester improved his control by staying taller in his delivery and keeping his upper and lower body in sync. He’s made strides figuring out how to sequence and tunnel each pitch to improve his entire mix. Priester is a studious learner who quickly picks up the game’s newest trends on pitch mechanics and deception. THE FUTURE: The Pirates are prepared to move Priester aggressively with his stuff and smarts. He has the potential to eventually join Mitch Keller at the front of the Pirates’ rotation.
Hitting: 60. Power: 50. Running: 55. Fielding: 50. Arm: 50. TRACK RECORD: The first big move Pirates general manager Ben Cherington made was to trade center fielder Starling Marte to the D-backs for Peguero and righthanded pitching prospect Brennan Malone in January 2020. The previous year, Peguero ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League and finished the campaign at short-season Hillsboro. The Pirates sent him to their alternate training site in 2020 to challenge him against older competition. SCOUTING REPORT: Peguero is a dynamic athlete with a long track record of hitting the ball hard. He has a strong, wiry build and has a natural feel for finding the barrel. He has worked the last two years to tone down his aggressive approach and be more selective at the plate. If those improvements continue, he has the feel for quality contact to be a plus hitter with average power as he fills out. Peguero improved his defense at shortstop with Arizona prior to the trade and continued his work at the position all year with the Pirates. He has above-average speed and the long strides to handle the outfield if he has to move. THE FUTURE: Peguero’s bat will always be above his glove, but he has a chance to be the Pirates’ shortstop of the future as long his defensive strides continue. He is slated to jump to full-season ball in 2021.
Fastball: 60. Slider: 55. Changeup: 50. Control: 55. TRACK RECORD: The Pirates drafted Bolton in the sixth round in 2017 and signed him for an over-slot $300,000 bonus. He was shut down with forearm soreness after nine starts in 2018 and received a platelet-rich plasma injection, but he came back throwing harder with better control in 2019 and vaulted up to Double-A. He spent 2020 at the alternate training site in Altoona, Pa. SCOUTING REPORT: Bolton has grown into his projectable frame and now sits 93-96 mph on a consistent basis, while touching 98. He has both a four-seamer and a two-seamer he keeps in the bottom part of the zone in the low 90s, forcing hitters to look for two different fastballs in two different parts of the zone. Bolton added a cutter in 2019 and has developed it into a potentially above-average pitch that pairs nicely with his two-seamer. His average changeup gives him a competitive offering against lefthanded hitters and gives him the third pitch needed to start. Bolton pounds the strike zone out of his low three-quarters arm slot and keeps his walks to a minimum. THE FUTURE: Bolton has the body, stuff and control to profile as a middle to back-of-the-rotation starter. If his development stalls, he has a fallback as a power reliever with his fastball/cutter combination.
Fastball: 70. Slider: 55. Changeup: 45. Control: 50. TRACK RECORD: Thomas trained as a shortstop in the Bahamas and moved to the mound only after signing with the Indians for $200,000 in 2016. The Pirates acquired Thomas in the November 2018 that trade sent Jordan Luplow and Max Moroff to Cleveland. Thomas’ velocity spiked and his control improved after the trade, helping him emerge as one of the top pitchers in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2019. SCOUTING REPORT: Thomas hasn’t pitched in a live game since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he was sitting 95-99 mph and touching 101 with Bristol at the end of that season. His fastball gets swings and misses with plus life up in the zone, and he has steadily improved his control to become an average strike-thrower. Thomas relies heavily on his fastball, but his slider flashes above-average potential and generates swings and misses at its best. He throws his fringe-average changeup sparingly. THE FUTURE: Thomas has the kind of overpowering fastball that dominates hitters, but he needs to refine his secondary pitches. He has a chance to stick as a starter if he can improve his changeup or find another offspeed pitch. If not, he can be a dominant reliever with his fastball/slider combination.
Fastball: 60. Slider: 60. Changeup: 50. Curveball: 50. Control: 45. TRACK RECORD: The D-backs drafted Malone with the 33rd pick in the 2019 draft and signed him for an above-slot $2.2 million to keep him from a North Carolina commitment. The Pirates acquired him with Liover Peguero for Starling Marte in January 2020. Malone reported to the Pirates’ alternate training site in Altoona, Pa., after the pandemic canceled the minor league season, but he was never cleared for on-field activity. SCOUTING REPORT: Malone is a physical, projectable pitcher still learning to harness his potent stuff. His fastball sits at 93 mph and touches the upper 90s with heavy sink, and his slider is a potential plus pitch with late, sharp break. He focused on developing his curveball during the shutdown and transformed it from a slurvy pitch to a spike-curveball that shows average potential. His changeup isn’t consistent but flashes average potential. Malone has a strong, durable frame and an athletic delivery, but he can be a bit wild and spent the shutdown working to shorten his arm path in an attempt to throw more strikes more consistently. THE FUTURE: Malone made his Pirates debut in instructional league and should see full-season ball in 2021. He has mid-rotation potential but is a long way from that ceiling.
Hitting: 60. Power: 30. Running: 70. Fielding: 55. Arm: 40. TRACK RECORD: Bae originally signed with the Braves but was declared a free agent after MLB ruled the Braves violated international signing rules. The Pirates signed him in early 2018 for $1.25 million. Bae was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend in South Korea and served a 30-game suspension during the 2019 season. He returned to low Class A Greensboro in late May and won the South Atlantic League batting title with a .323 average. The Pirates brought him to their alternate training site in 2020. SCOUTING REPORT: Bae projects as a prototypical top-of-the-order shortstop with a contact bat and plus speed. He makes some of the best contact in the system and uses his speed to beat out infield singles and take extra bases when he drives the ball into the gaps. Bae lacks home run power with his slight build, so his slugging contributions will come from doubles and triples. Bae has the range to be an above-average defender at shortstop, but his lack of arm strength raises questions about his ability to stick at the position. His assault conviction raises obvious concerns about his makeup. THE FUTURE: Bae has a chance to develop into a table-setter at the top of the order or a No. 8 hitter who provides value with his speed and defense. He may see Double-A in 2021.
Fastball: 60. Slider: 55. Changeup: 40. Cutter: 55. Control: 55. TRACK RECORD: Mlodzinski was one of the 2020 draft’s biggest question marks due to a lack of track record. He suffered a broken foot that limited him to three starts in 2019, made six starts in the Cape Cod League the following summer and had just four outings before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the 2020 college season. His stuff was undeniable, though, and the Pirates drafted him 31st overall and signed him for $2.05 million to turn pro as a redshirt sophomore. SCOUTING REPORT: Mlodzinski throws a heavy sinking fastball that sits 92-94 mph and has reached 98. He throws a slider and a cutter that have flashed plus potential, especially during an impressive performance in the Cape. Both pitches were less sharp in the spring, however, with the slider lacking depth and tilt, and his cutter sitting at a reduced 89-91 mph. Mlodzinski has a fringe-average curveball and a below-average changeup that each need to be improved. He throws strikes and generates a lot of ground balls with his fastball, but he’s still trying to find a consistent swing-and-miss pitch. THE FUTURE: Mlodzinski is capable of being a groundball-oriented starter at the back of a rotation. He needs to find a consistent second pitch.
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