The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a surprising 23-17 start to the MLB regular season after missing the playoffs a season ago. They are 0.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers for first in the NL Central, but the Pirates are tied for second place with the St. Louis Cardinals. I don't expect the Pirates to make the playoffs in 2018, but even if they do, the future is bright for a couple of reasons.
Pittsburgh has one of the prospect pools in the MLB. There Double-A team the Altoona Curve, won the Eastern League title in 2017 over the Bowie Bay Sox (Baltimore Orioles). The Pirates could contend for a World Series title in a couple of years as well.
The Pirates top prospect is right-handed pitcher Mitch Keller. He is projected to reach the majors at some point during the 2018 season. Keller is currently in Double-A. His record is 3-2 with a 3.44 ERA. In 34 innings pitched, Keller has given up 29 hits and 15 runs. He has walked 17 batters and struck out 30. Walking 17 batters in only 34 innings is a concern because it is shows Keller could be wild. However Keller has a very good fastball and breaking pitch, and he is working on his changeup. He has the potential to join a very solid pitching rotation one day along with Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow.
The second best prospect in the Pirates farm system is outfielder Auston Meadows. I thought Meadows was going to be in the Pirates starting outfield opening day this season, but that wasn't the case even though the Pittsburgh shopped outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants in the offseason. Meadows is in Triple-A Indianapolis and his batting average is .286 with one homerun and 13 RBI's, along with seven stolen bases. The Pirates don't have a very deep outfield to begin with and Meadows might be called up sooner rather than later and if he starts and finds a groove, it will be tough to pull him out of the lineup.
The Pirates fourth best prospect is third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes. He is a tremendous fielder and has great speed and that is why Hayes will one day make it to the big leagues. He is projected to reach the MLB some time next season and is currently in Double-A. Hayes only has a .233 batting average with seven RBI's, along with two stolen bases. He is also the son of former MLB player Charlie Hayes.
The Pirates fifth best prospect is shortstop Cole Tucker. He has a .214 batting average with seven RBI's. Tucker has a great eye at the plate and his on-base percentage is .306. He is projected to reach the majors in 2019 and is currently playing in Double-A.
Pittsburgh's seventh best prospect is shortstop Kevin Newman. He is projected to reach the majors some time this season. Newman and Tucker will possibly be battling it out for the starting shortstop position in a couple of spring trainings from now. Newman is currently in Triple-A. His batting average is .309 with one homerun and eight RBI's, along with six stolen bases.
Second baseman Kevin Kramer is ranked the eighth best prospect in the Pirates farm system. He has the ability to play other positions as well. Kramer is currently playing in Triple-A. He has a .292 batting average with three homeruns and 13 RBI's, along with four stolen bases. Kramer has a chance to be the Pirates starting second baseman in years to come. He is projected to reach the majors in 2018.
Third baseman/shortstop Oneil Cruz is currently in Single-A with the West Virginia Power. He isn't projected to reach the majors until 2021 and Cruz is ranked the 13th best prospect in the Pirates organization, but he could climb his way through the minors in a hurry. Cruz is only 19 years old and has major potential to be a starter one day. Cruz has a .264 batting average with five homeruns and 23 RBI's, along with three stolen bases. He also has a good eye at the plate and his on-base percentage is .348.
Outfielder Calvin Mitchell is ranked 15th in the Pirates farm system. He isn't projected to reach the majors until 2021 and Pittsburgh doesn't have a deep outfield to begin with. Mitchell is currently playing for the West Virginia Power. His batting average is .313 with four homeruns and 24 RBI's, along with two stolen bases. Mitchell hits for contact rather than power and that is a good thing. He also has a very good eye at the plate.
For more information on the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects, visit MLB.com and go to the players tab and click on top prospects.