11 Pirates Prospects To Watch Beyond The Top 30

The Pirates Top 30 prospects rankings are up now for Baseball America subscribers, with full scouting reports, BA grades and tools grade projections for all 30 players.

Through the process of narrowing the list down to a Top 30, there are other intriguing names who didn’t make the cut but are worth monitoring, with the potential to jump into the Top 30 in the future. Some of those are players who might be in the upper levels and could see big league time this year, though likely in a limited role, while others are lower-level players still in the complex leagues with more upside but plenty of risk.

Beyond the Top 30, these are 11 prospects to watch in Pittsburgh’s farm system.

Jose Hernandez, LHP. The Pirates selected Hernandez from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft. His fastball sits between 95-97 mph and touches 100 mph. He also mixes in a tight mid-80s slider and a changeup. The slider did the heavy lifting, generating whiffs at a rate of 60% to go with a 35% chase rate in 2022. The Pirates believe he could slot into their bullpen immediately and stick for the entirety of the season.

Andres Alvarez, IF. The 25-year-old Alvarez unlocked more power in 2022, hitting 20 homers and stealing 21 bases with Double-A Altoona. His strikeout rate climbed and production waned as the season progressed, but his power and defensive versatility make him an intriguing piece for the Pirates at the upper levels.

Travis Swaggerty, OF. Swaggerty briefly debuted with the Pirates in June, but was sent down after five games and passed over for subsequent promotion. The oft-injured 2018 first-rounder hasn’t consistently tapped into his power potential as a pro. Still, Swaggerty offers above-average center field defense and on-base skills as a fourth outfielder.

Matt Fraizer, OF. Fraizer broke out at High-A in 2021 after simplifying his swing and approach, but was exposed against better pitching at Double-A in 2022. He’s still a solid defender at all three outfield positions with some power potential, but he’ll need to make better swing decisions to recapture the momentum from a year ago.

Abrahan Gutierrez, C. The combination of contact ability, plate discipline and solid defensive acumen gives Gutierrez a shot at reaching the big leagues as a backup catcher. The Pirates hope he can tap into his pull-side power more as he moves up the ladder.

Carlos Jimenez, RHP. Jimenez has a loud three-pitch mix consisting of a mid-90s fastball, one of the better changeups in Pittsburgh’s system and a mid-80s breaking ball. He needs to tighten his command, walking 5.8 batters per nine innings as a 19-year-old with Low-A Bradenton in 2022, but it’s an electric blend. 

Ryan Vilade, OF. Vilade was the sixth-best prospect in the Rockies system entering 2022, but posted a .697 OPS with Triple-A Albuquerque and was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh after the season. Vilade has contact ability, but he needs to re-work his approach and swing path to get more balls in the air.

Ricky DeVito, RHP. DeVito’s arsenal is impressive. He pairs a lively mid-90s fastball with a changeup that batters whiffed on 53% of the time in 2022, plus an above-average curveball. There are considerable strike-throwing concerns and some injury risk, so DeVito may ultimately end up in a multi-inning role.

Tahnaj Thomas, RHP. Thomas restored some of the athleticism in his delivery and threw more strikes in 2022 in a pure relief role. His fastball touched 99 mph out of the bullpen, but it has playability questions because of the cutting action he puts on it, and his feel for the breaking ball remains inconsistent.

Maikol Escotto, SS. Escotto was considered a rising prospect when Pittsburgh acquired him from the Yankees in the Jameson Taillon trade. They sent him to High-A as a 20-year-old and it was disastrous—he hit .164 and struck out 36.3% of the time before being sent to the Pirates Florida complex for a reset. There’s power potential with a chance to stick in the middle of the infield, but Escotto’s approach needs to mature.

Nicholas Dombkowski, LHP. Pittsburgh signed Dombkowski as a nondrafted free agent in 2021 and he quickly pitched his way to the upper levels as a reliever. His 90-92 mph fastball has great shape with nearly 21 inches of induced vertical break and he can get whiffs with both his slider and changeup. He could help Pittsburgh’s bullpen sooner rather than later.

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