For the past several years, I’ve liked the Pirates farm system. I thought Ke’Bryan Hayes was going to be a 20-20 guy. I’ve also liked Liover Peguero and Henry Davis – a lot. Loved Endy Rodriguez. Don’t get me started on Mitch Keller. And yet, the team is terrible, and each player hasn’t lived up to what I thought they could become.
So, with some trepidation, I have to say I like their farm system – A LOT! Sure, Paul Skenes doesn’t have great spin on his fastball, but the dude throws 100 MPH. I think Bubba Chandler has the upside of a #1 starter. Termarr Johnson will hit, with a chance to hit 20 home runs. I could go on.
I think they are only a couple of years away from finally competing. Am I going to bet the farm on it? Absolutely not!
- Top Prospect: Paul Skenes
- Biggest Mover: Bubba Chandler
- Biggest Disappointment: Nick Gonzales
- Emerging Prospect: Jun-Seok Shim
1. Paul Skenes (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with upside
- Tools Summary: He has the size and arsenal to be a #1 starter. Given how hard he throws, there is risk of early arm troubles, as seen with Hunter Greene.
When you’re 6-foot-6 with a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and routinely hits the triple-digits, you get drafted early. Should he have gone one overall? There is an argument. I would have gone with Dylan Crews, but he’s deserving. In my opinion, it’s a Hunter Greene starter kit.
In his two starts in the Florida State League, where we can get statcast data, his fastball averaged 98.8 MPH (100 max), but the spin rate was only 2155. While he got some whiffs with it, Major Leaguers will not be as fooled despite the high-end velocity. His slider/sweeper is an excellent pitch with high spin and movement. He didn’t throw a change-up, but the scouting report is that it’s average.
The Pirates had him throw at three levels, likely to show him off to their affiliates. He should start next season in Double-A, and unless he pulls a Jack Leiter, he’ll move quickly with a chance to see Pittsburgh in 2024.
We know he throws hard, but the data says his fastball is straight (just like Hunter Greene). The sweeper looks nasty, so I would expect plenty of strikeouts. The change-up to get lefties out is unknown. Assuming he throws strikes, he’s at least a mid-rotation starter, likely a number-two starter. If the change-up is plus and/or he can add spin to the fastball, the upside could be a number-one starter.
2. Termarr Johnson (2B)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 2B
- Tools Summary: He has a natural feel for hitting with high walk rates. I think there will be enough physicality to hit 15 to 20 home runs annually.
Termarr Johnson got more comfortable in the batter’s box as the season progressed and started making better contact. It was shocking early in the season as to how much swing and miss was in his game, particularly the amount of whiffs he had in the strike zone. But he’s a natural hitter with a great eye at the plate that might take a little longer to develop than I originally thought when the Pirates grabbed him with the fourth pick in the 2022 Draft. The outstanding question for me is how much power he will have. He has average exit velocities, but I would expect that to improve as he fills out and gets stronger. Plus, he should be able to add more loft to his swing. For now, I’m going to put his ceiling as a 15 to 20-home run bat.
3. Bubba Chandler (RHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP with risk
- Tools Summary: He’s athletic with a huge fastball. While he has a long way to go, the upside is significant.
Entering the season, I wasn’t sure if Bubba Chandler would remain a two-player or if he would focus full-time on pitching. The question appears answered as he did not post an at-bat in 2023.
He’s highly athletic and raw, as his high walk rate shows. But he’s got the big arm and can hit the upper 90s with significant spin (2400+ RPM). He also has a great change-up and an improving slider.
The Pirates haven’t succeeded in developing pitchers, but Chandler presents them with a lot to work with. The upside is a number two starter, and as I’ve said many times, do not give up on athletic pitchers who throw hard. More times than not, they figure it out.
4. Jared Jones (RHP)
- Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 SP or lockdown closer
- Tools Summary: He has a plus arsenal with a fastball that can touch triple-digits, an above-average change-up, and a slider and curveball that show promise. He’s still very raw and needs time to develop.
Jared Jones was the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 Draft (Pick #44) and has been quickly making a name for himself in prospect circles. There’s a lot to get excited about. He throws hard with his fastball, sitting 96 to 97 MPH, touching 100. His best secondary pitch is his change-up, which he throws hard with a tight fade (1685 RPM). He throws both a slider and curveball with strong pitch characteristics. He should miss plenty of bats if he can throw them for strikes. It’s the arsenal of a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, even an ace.
His delivery requires effort, but it’s more because he’s not a big guy (6-foot-1 and 180-ish pounds). The Pirates are aggressively moving him through the system, and when I saw him, the stuff, control, and command were still very raw.
Finally, I worry about future arm trouble when I see pitchers like Jones who throw so hard. There’s nothing easy about what he’s doing. He’s throwing as hard as he can, and while he’s exceptionally athletic, arm trouble finds players with this profile.
5. Anthony Solometo (LHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP with upside.
- Tools Summary: The arsenal looks extremely promising, and his control improved as he got deeper into the season.
Anthony Solometo was the Pirates’ second-round pick in 2021 and was signed for over-slot money. He has a fastball that is touching 97 but sits 92 to 95 MPH with a plus slider and change-up that shows promise. The delivery resembles vintage Madison Bumgarner with a lower three-quarters cross-fire delivery with maybe even more slinging motion than MadBum. Combining that with his 6-foot-5 frame is quite an imposing and intimidating delivery, particularly for left-handed batters.
While there are plenty of things to work on, he has the building blocks to develop into a number three starter, maybe more. Everyone is looking for players not widely rostered in Dynasty Leagues; here you go.
6. Quinn Priester (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP with upside
- Tools Summary: He’s a sinker-slider pitcher who will need above-average control to be successful. To date, he’s only shown average control at best.
Quinn Priester is a sinker-slider pitcher who relies on getting weak contact and striking out hitters with his plus slider. His change-up is above average, showing nice fade, but he only posted a 21% whiff rate with the pitch.
Before we had data, Priester looked like a number three starter. However, after looking at his pitch characteristics in Triple-A and his starts in the Major Leagues, I’ve lowered it to a number four starter. If he can throw more strikes, there is upside, but until he can, he’s going to have to rely a lot on his sinker getting weak contact.
7. Mitch Jebb (SS, #42)
- Highest Level: Low ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
- Tools Summary: Impressive contact skills but has demonstrated little power to date.
Mitch Jebb is a high-floor player that the Pirates grabbed in the second round of the 2023 Draft. The swing is slap-and-go walking more than he struck out in his Draft year. He’ll need some swing changes to get to power, as the swing looks a lot like Jeff McNeil. Yes, McNeil hit 23 home runs in 2019, but who believed that was sustainable – oh yeah, the Mets did. He likely profiles as a utility player, maybe a middle infielder.
That said, I like the player – he plays hard with a good feel for the game. Many times, those players overshoot their ceiling.
8. Lonnie White Jr. (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2026 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
- Tools Summary: He’s a strong, physical player who needs to stay healthy to develop.
Lonnie White started the season on the Injured List after having thumb surgery in March. It’s the second year in a row that he’s missed considerable time, but hopefully, he’ll run into a stretch of prolonged health.
He’s a strong, physical player who projects to have plus power and some speed early in his career. It will come down to how much he hits and shows promise. His approach has some chase, but he kept his strikeout rate under 30% with a high walk rate. The ceiling is a Top 45 outfielder with extreme risk because of how much time he’s missed.
9. Nick Gonzales (2B)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
- Tools Summary: He might develop into a 10-10 type of player with a .260 average and a .330+ OBP.
I’ve not been the biggest fan of Nick Gonzales, and unfortunately, I continue that position. His statcast data shows well below-average exit velocity with a high strikeout rate. There will be some speed early in his career, but I’ve never viewed him as an impact talent and see nothing in the data that would change that opinion. I’ve put his ceiling as a Middle Infielder.
10. Thomas Harrington (RHP)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
- Tools Summary: He throws strikes with an average arsenal.
Thomas Harrington was the Pirates’ Supplemental first-round pick in 2022. He doesn’t throw hard, with his fastball sitting 92 to 93 MPH and touching higher. But he throws strikes, locating his pitches well. He should move through the system quickly with a chance to be a number four starter or more if he can add some velo and develop a cutter that might enhance the entire arsenal.