Pittsburgh Pirates Top 15 Prospects For 2024

Headlined by right-hander Paul Skenes, the Pirates have restocked the farm system after a slew of graduations in 2023.

ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 1: Paul Skenes #27 of the Altoona Curve warms up before the game against the Erie SeaWolves at UPMC Park on September 1, 2023 in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Pirates graduated over a dozen players from their prospect ranks in what proved to be an assessment year in 2023. While Pirates fans are forced to stomach a world without Endy Rodríguez (who underwent Tommy John Surgery this winter) this coming season, they’ll get a glimpse of former No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis in an everyday catcher role and continued auditions for Jared Triolo, Nick Gonzales, Liover Peguero, Quinn Priester and several more.

General Manager Ben Cherington added a top overall pick to the picture this past summer in LSU right-hander Paul Skenes, along with Michigan State’s Mitch Jebb via the draft. Coupled with strong drafting in previous years and some big-ticket International Free Agent signings, the Pirates have seemingly re-tooled an organization depleted by graduations in recent years.

1. Paul Skenes – RHP – (Triple-A)

 Height/Weight: 6’6″, 250 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 1st Round (1), 2023 (PIT) | ETA: 2024


Skenes transferred to LSU in hopes of improving his draft stock by throwing in the SEC. In turn, he became a National Champion and one of the best pitching prospects we have seen in some time.

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Skenes is a power pitcher in every sense, but his ability to locate his explosive stuff is what really sets him apart. The right-hander was able to lean on his 98-100 MPH fastball nearly two-thirds of the time, simply overpowering collegiate hitters while also commanding it on both sides of the plate.

There’s some questions about the shape of Skenes’ fastball, but shape becomes less consequential when you can locate triple digits. Over his last ten collegiate starts, Skenes averaged 99 MPH and touched 102 MPH several times.

The wipeout pitch is the slider in the mid 80s. The pitch features late sweep and is difficult to differentiate from the fastball out of his hand. Skenes locates it extremely well to his glove side, but the pitch is such a whiff machine that he can pick up ugly swings even when he doesn’t drill his spot.

While he did not need to use it much in college, Skenes has a good changeup that could develop into a plus pitch as he becomes more accustomed to throwing it. It sits in the 88-91 MPH range with good arm side fade.


One of the best college arms we have seen in some time, Skenes should fly through the minor leagues with little reason to waste bullets at the lower levels. While he will need some seasoning in the minors, it is arguable that the bulk of his development could be had at the big league level, given his borderline plus command of two 70-grade pitches.

The development of his changeup will likely be the key to his frontline upside, but he is likely good enough to churn out quality starts for the Pirates while still working on his feel for the pitch. We could see Skenes making MLB starts as early as next season. With some tweaks to his fastball shape and refinement of an already solid third pitch, Skenes could blossom into one of the best young arms in the game.

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2. Termarr Johnson – 2B – (High-A)

Height/Weight: 5’8″, 175 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 1st Round (4), 2021 (PIT) | ETA: 2025


Viewed as one of the best pure prep hitters in years, Johnson has the looks of a power-over-hit prospect in the early going, but the power is plentiful.

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Johnson starts with his bat resting on his shoulder and his weight favoring his backside before getting into a big leg kick that coincides with a barrel tip. Generally, these loud moves would be of concern in regards to disrupting timing and consistency, but Johnson is quick and compact with explosive bat speed.

Despite his smaller stature, Johnson generates a ridiculous amount of rotational power and bat speed, already posting plus exit velocities with a 90th percentile exit velocity of 105 MPH and max of 112 MPH.

Like many young hitters, Johnson tends to try to get into his pull side power a bit too much, causing him to be out and around the baseball. Good secondary stuff in pro ball has also caused Johnson to drift onto his front foot as well. That said, he is patient in the box, running a chase rate right around 17%

Johnson is a really fun hitter to watch when he’s on time. Pitchers will fear going inside on him because of the way he is able to turn around stuff on the inner half with authority. When Johnson is at his best, he is able to shoot balls the other way with authority as well, but he will need to find some more consistency with his lower half.

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It will remain to be seen if Johnson can get away with his loud moves against more advanced pitching, however his decent feel for the barrel and ridiculous bat speed should help him either A. Get away with it, or B. Quiet things down without it coming at expense of much power.


Johnson’s hands work really well and his average arm should play fine at second base. Though not the rangiest, he should be an average defender or better at second.

Just an average runner who many evaluators think could slow down a step as he continues to mature, it’s unlikely that Johnson is a major factor on the bases.


There’s a lot to like with Johnson’s bat. Plus raw power with a feel to hit that should improve along with a patient approach, there’s potential for major impact in the batter’s box. While he may not be the plus plus hitter that many evaluators tabbed him as coming out of the draft, he also boasts far more raw power than most gave him credit for.

How Johnson responds to more challenging pitching will likely determine whether he needs to make some swing tweaks, but his twitchy bat speed and explosiveness are impossible to teach and should give him an edge as he shores up his consistency.

3. Jared Jones – RHP – (Triple-A)

Height/Weight: 6’0″, 180 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (44), 2020 (PIT) | ETA: 2024

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A fastball/slider combination that could probably fit into an MLB bullpen tomorrow, Jones is an average third pitch away from a strong starter’s outlook.

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Starting with a fastball that sits 96-98 MPH and touching triple digits from a low release point, Jones often gets ahead of hitters and racks up whiffs with the pitch. It really explodes out of his hand, getting on hitters quickly and playing well at the top of the zone. Jones has picked up a ridiculous 17% swinging strike rate and 30% in-zone whiff rate on the pitch in 2023.

The second plus pitch for Jones is his cutterish slider that sits anywhere from 89-92 MPH. Some will feature more horizontal break, while others have more of a gyro shape (more downward break). The sharpness and action of the pitch help its effectiveness against both lefties and righties. Opponents have hit well below the Mendoza line against the pitch in 2023.

The third pitch is a work in progress for Jones. Both his changeup and curveball are inconsistent, but he has still mixed each in around 10% of the time. Both pitches are below average and mostly used against lefties, but Jones’ changeup looks like it has a better chance of becoming a viable third offering at this point.


Pretty good command of two plus pitches that have both ticked up in 2023 helped Jones break out at the upper levels in his age-21 season. He will either need to develop plus command of his fastball and slider or see one of his changeup or curveball emerge as a viable offering to reach his No. 3 upside, but the young righty continues to trend in the right direction.

4. Bubba Chandler – RHP – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’2″, 200 | Bat/Throw: S/R | 3rd Round (72), 2021 (PIT) | ETA: 2025

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Drafted as a two-way prospect who also boasted Power Five offers as a quarterback, Chandler has blossomed quickly as he has focused on pitching, with his athleticism more than evident.

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Athletic with elite arm speed, Chandler’s fastball explodes out of his hand with good carry. An easy plus heater, it sits 95-97 MPH, flirting with triple digits while averaging more than 18 inches of induced vertical break. The strong pitch characteristics have helped Chandler pick up elite whiff and chase numbers, especially at the top of the zone.

Working off of Chandler’s lively heater is a plus changeup with late arm side fade. His ability to maintain his arm speed makes it difficult for hitters to differentiate from the fastball. Opponents hit below .150 against the pitch with a 54% ground ball rate. He will predominantly throw it to lefties, but it is a good enough pitch to bury in on right-handed hitters.

The third offering for Chandler is his cutter in the upper 80s. The pitch was somewhat between a cutter and slider shape but became more effective for him as he started to throw it harder with more of a true cutter shape as the season progressed. As he commands the pitch a bit better, it should be an above average third offering.


As athletic as they come on the mound, Chandler made a huge leap in his first full season exclusively focusing on pitching. His combination of a plus fastball and changeup elevate his floor, but there’s more in the tank.

His stuff continued to trend in the right direction as the season progressed with the fastball looking like a double-plus pitch down the stretch. With some continued refinement of his cutter and overall feel to pitch Chandler has a chance to blossom into a strong middle-rotation arm.

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5. Anthony Solometo – LHP – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’5, 220 | Bat/Throw: L/L | 2nd Round (37), 2021 (PIT) | ETA: 2026


An unorthodox lefty who saw his stuff jump by nearly two ticks in 2023, Solometo started to really gain confidence in his stuff, reaching Double-A in his age 20 season with a dwindling walk rate.

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A delivery that is reminiscent of Madison Bumgarner with a windup deep arm swing backwards leading into three-quarters, cross-body release, Solometo creates a very unusual look for hitters. After averaging 90.5 mph on his fastball in 2022, the southpaw settled at 92.2 mph in 2023 while more than doubling his innings total.

Even at 91-93 mph, Solometo’s fastball gets on hitters quickly. His low release paired with above average extension and slingshot delivery does not discriminate against lefties or righties. If anything, the fastball plays better against right-handed hitters (.212 OBA).

He will mostly throw four-seam fastballs, picking up very strong whiff numbers at the top of the zone, though he will mix in some sinkers to visit the bottom third enough for hitters to keep it in mind.

The second plus offering for for Solometo is a mid 80s slider with hard, cutterish break that plays up horizontally thanks to his far out release. He commands the pitch even better than his fastball, landing it for a strike 70% of the time, rarely missing his spot by much.

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His superb command of his slider allows it to play up against right-handed hitters, sneaking the pitch in through the back door while also featuring enough sharpness to it for Solometo to confidently go inside too.

The third pitch for Solometo is a changeup that has flashed average but took a step backwards in 2023. He only landed it for a strike 39% of the time, with far too many non-competitive changeups. After utilizing the pitch nearly 20% of the time in 2022, the lack of viability of the offering resulted in less than 10% usage in 2023.


As Solometo blew past his previous high in innings pitched, his velocity waned a bit over his final handful of starts, but was still effective as a 20-year-old in Double-A, walking just 6% of batters while still missing a decent amount of bats.

Assuming Solometo will sit closer to where we saw him in the beginning of the season velocity wise, both the fastball and slider could be plus or close to it with above average command. Though there’s still hope that the changeup can progress to a respectable third offering, the effectiveness of both Solometo’s fastball and slider against hitters from both sides of the plate and his above average command could allow him to get away with predominantly using just two pitches.

Still just 21 years old for the entirety of 2024 and with a big frame, it wouldn’t be outrageous if he gained another tick on his heater, which could give him middle-rotation upside. It’s more likely that Solometo slots in as a solid backend arm with flashes of more.

6. Jun-Seok Shim – RHP – (Low-A)

Height/Weight: 6’4, 215 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $750K, 2023 (PIT) | ETA: 2026

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The Pirates offered Shim $750,000 to skip the KBO draft and sign with the Pirates, who were enamored with his electrifying stuff and massive upside. An ankle issue limited Shim to just 8 innings pitched in 2023, but Shim generated plenty of buzz on the backfields and even in his short work in the Complex League. It’s hard to argue that there is a higher upside arm in the system outside of Paul Skenes.


Shim opened up his pro career as strong as any pitching prospect could, tossing four perfect innings with eight strikeouts. His ankle had been giving him trouble during spring training and after that outing, it reportedly flared up again with the Pirates deciding to err on the side of caution after his next appearance, shutting him down until August.

The fastball sits 94-96 mph with good carry from a relatively flat attack angle. It should easily be a plus heater with the chance to be double-plus if he can hold his velocity deeper into starts and fill the zone with the consistency he has flashed.

Shim’s sweeper and curveball both break so much that he is working to consistently land both for a strike. His low 80s sweeper gets 18-20 inches of horizontal break with virtually 0 vertical break. It has the chance to be a devastating pitch to righties, but he could benefit from slightly shorter break at a higher velocity.

His mid 70s curveball averages more than 20 inches of vertical break and well over 3,000 RPM, making it hard for him to keep it in the zone at this point. His release height being slightly below average helps his fastball but makes it even more difficult to land the curveball for a strike with so much vertical break. The Pirates will likely help him find a sweet spot with the pitch as the way he is able to manipulate the baseball is rare.

Shim has mixed in a splitter that is clearly his fourth pitch at this point, but has a chance to be a viable offering as well as he throws hit more.

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It’s extremely early in the development of Shim and while his 2023 season mostly being wiped out by injury was unfortunate, he does not turn 20 until after the start of the 2024 season where he will presumably begin in Low-A with a chance to be promoted quickly.

Standing at a sturdy 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Shim has looked plenty comfortable holding his velocity deeper into starts as an amateur and in his lone 4 inning outing during the 2023 season, his final fastball of the day was clocked at 96 mph. There’s much more variance for Shim than many of the other solid arms in the Pirates system, but it could also be argued that he has more upside than anyone not named Paul Skenes.

7. Thomas Harrington – RHP – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’2, 190 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 2nd Round (37), 2021 (PIT) | ETA: 2026


A walk-on at Campbell Univeristy, Harrington was the Big South Freshman of the year before becoming the first Golden Spikes finalist in program history as a draft-eligible sophomore. Great fastball characteristics and good command give Harrington a strong chance at sticking as a starter.


A four pitch mix, Harrison really pounds the zone with his fastball and slider. The fastball averages 92-93 mph, but has great characteristics that help him generate high in zone whiff rates and chase rates. Generating above average carry for a 5.5 foot release height, Harrington misses plenty of bats at the top of the zone and will freeze hitters at the knees. He works east and west effectively as well, hitting his spots with relative consistency.

Harrington’s fastball whiff rates were near elite while generating a chase rate above 30%. His ability to generate whiff in the zone encourages him to fill it up (72% strike rate), especially at the upper third, but he has mitigated the long ball pretty well, even in a hitter-friendly Greensboro.

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Working off of his fastball is a slider at 82-84 mph with good sweep and some ride that he also commands really well. Though he will still mix it in against left-handed hitters around 20% of the time, it is right-handed hitters who are particularly stifled by the pitch, hitting just .150 against it. Harrington has so much confidence with his slider that he will throw it to righties more frequently than his fastball (50% usage vs. RHH).

For how effective and consistent his fastball and slider are, Harrington still shows a willingness to throw his average changeup. Shape wise, the pitch is fringy, but it plays up off of his low-release heater. He will mix in a cutter at 86-87 mph on occasion, which is most effectively used as a tie-up pitch to lefties.


Harrington’s command of his above average fastball and slider really elevate his floor and with a bit more development of his changeup, he should have a strong chance at sticking as a starter. With one of the lowest ground ball rates in all of Minor League Baseball, it will be important for Harrington to keep the ball in the yard and consistently generate whiff in the zone, two things he has consistently done thus far.

Set to start his age 22 season at Double-A in what is a much more pitcher-friendly environment compared to what he managed in Greensboro, Harrington could settle in quickly to the upper minors with a chance to really climb up the prospect ranks. He projects as a quality No. 4 starter heading into 2024.

8. Braxton Ashcraft – RHP – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 6’5, 185 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 2nd Round (324), 2018 (PIT) | ETA: 2024


Injuries have really hampered Ashcraft since being drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft, dealing with a non-throwing shoulder dislocation in 2019 and then Tommy John Surgery following the pandemic. With his innings carefully managed, Ashcraft returned in 2023 looking both effective and efficient.

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A three pitch mix that he commands well, Ashcraft utilizes a fastball and a pair of breaking balls that give him three distinct speeds. The fastball averaged 95 mph in 2023, but it is worth noting that this was in shorter spurts, eclipsing 60 pitches in just two of his 19 outings.

Prior to going down with Tommy John surgery, he averaged around 93 mph in 2021. Like many pitchers post TJ, Ashcraft likely enjoyed the uptick that often follows rehab and strengthening, but it will be important to see if he can maintain his gains in longer outings as his shape leaves a bit to be desired. While the velocity was higher, he lost about an inch of ride, resulting in more contact within the zone.

Ashcraft has a fantastic feel for his tandem of breaking balls landing both for a strike nearly 70% of the time despite their distinctly different shapes. His 79-81 mph curveball features plenty of depth with sharp 11-5 bite that makes it effective to both lefties and righties.

He went to it more than a third of the time in 2023, holding opponents to a batting average hardly over .100 with strong in zone whiff numbers. It compensates for his lack of changeup, stifling left-handed hitters more than righties from a production standpoint as well as nearly every underlying metric.

Ashcraft’s short, hard slider in the upper 80s with both some cut and dive. Hitters seem to struggle to differentiate it from his fastball out of the hand, helping it play up with high chase and lots of weak contact rather than gaudy whiff rates. Much like his curveball, Ashcraft had success with the against hitters from both sides of the plate.


Having never thrown more than 53 innings as a pro, it will be important to monitor Ashcraft’s stuff as he stretches out at the upper levels in 2024. His borderline-plus command of two secondary pitches that play well against hitters from either side of the plate really helps his chances of sticking as a starter even if the fastball is closer to average.

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9. Michael Burrows – RHP – (Triple-A)

Height/Weight: 6’2, 185 | Bat/Throw: R/R | 11th Round (324), 2021 (PIT) | ETA: 2024


An overslot 11th round pick in 2018, the Pirates shelled out $500K to sign Burrows away from UCONN, betting on his upside. Much of that upside came to fruition in 2022, as he carved through Double-A before holding his own in Triple-A. Just two appearances into his 2023 campaign, Burrows needed to undergo Tommy John surgery delaying what would have likely been his debut year.


Burrows has a solid three pitch mix and has commanded it better than ever this season. His arsenal is led by his plus fastball in the mid 90s with lots of ride. The high spin fastball averages more than 19 inches of vertical break and a slightly flatter vertical attack angle than most pitchers with his release height, causing hitters to frequently swing under it.

Working off of his lively fastball a changeup that flashes plus in the high 80s and a downer curveball in the low 80s. After struggling to command the pitch previously, Burrows landed it for a strike two thirds of the time in 2022, maintaining the appearance of his jumpy fastball well, which only helped it play up. Opponents hit .120 against the pitch with a 22% swinging strike rate.

Burrows leans on his curveball against righties, going to it a third of the time. An average pitch, it flashes a bit better at points, but he would probably benefit from tightening up the pitch a bit, as it sometimes looked like too easy of a take for hitters who ran a chase rate of only 21% in 2023. It was still an effective third offering to lefties as well with about 20% usage.


The development of Burrows’ changeup has really helped him make the transition to the upper minors, especially as his curveball stalled some. The right-hander has the confidence to go both secondaries consistently with his plus fastball serving as a great eraser of hitter’s counts. Average command of three solid pitches gives Burrows a high floor with still a decent amount of upside if he can come back healthy presumably in late 2024.

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10. Mitch Jebb – 2B – (High-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 180 | Bat/Throw: L/R | 2nd Round (42), 2023 (PIT) | ETA: 2025


Elite bat-to-ball with a patient approach and good speed helped the Pirates see past Jebb’s defense and power shortcomings. The second-round pick is a high floor bat who should climb quickly.


Starting upright with his hands rested on his shoulder and torso open slightly towards the pitcher, Jebb loads with a coil into his backside and sinks lower into his base. It’s all one rhythmic move for Jebb who is consistently on time and looks to put himself in position to be able to throw his hands at the ball and spray it anywhere.

His feel for the bat and adjustability stands out, getting to pitches in tough spots and spoiling plenty of quality two strike pitches. He struck out just 11.6% of the time his junior season at Michigan State with a ridiculous zone contact rate right around 95%.

It was more of the same in his 34 game taste of Low-A following the 2023 draft, posting elite contact rates and a chase rate below 20% leading to nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. Jebb posts great run times to first base as his left-handed swing naturally leads him out of the box with momentum to first base. Considering how often Jebb puts the ball on the ground, this should help him steal plenty of hits.

There’s minimal impact, with only a few batted balls above 105 mph with metal during the 2023 college season and only one BBE above that threshold in his 34 Low-A games. Jebb is going to need to really hit to be an everyday player, but his extremely patient approach helps.


An easy plus runner, Jebb posts great run times to first base and should be a consistent stolen base threat. His arm and actions project best at second base where he can be a solid defender. Good footwork and instincts could encourage the Pirates to continue to give Jebb reps at shortstop, but he likely projects as a fringy defender there who can fill in when needed. A move to the outfield could be worth considering with his speed.


Jebb’s lack of impact puts a lot of pressure on his hit tool to be elite. That said, he has been among the best in that department at every stop thus far. His ability to draw walks at a high clip and good speed also help his case. A move to centerfield could bolster Jebb’s value some should he be able to play solid defense out there (he has the athleticism to potentially do so), but for now his likely to be a high-contact, speedy second base option who will need to consistently hit as he only has the power for a couple home runs per year at this point.

11. Zander Mueth – RHP – (CPX)

Height/Weight: 6’6, 200 | Bat/Throw: R/R | CB-B Round (67), 2023 (PIT) | ETA: 2027


Tall and slender with a low, three-quarters arm slot, Mueth makes for an uncomfortable at bat. His stuff ticked up as the draft approached, enticing the Pirates enough to give him an over-slot $1.8 million bonus at the No. 67 pick (1.1M slot value).

Mueth’s fastball features good arm side run from his horizontal release, sitting 92-94 mph, touching as high as 97 mph. The action on the pitch should make it a solid ground ball pitch while tying up righties on the inner-third. As he develops, it could become a plus fastball.

The slider plays well from his release when he is able to command it, but it was sporadically there for him, especially on the showcase circuit where he would often miss far to his glove side. His changeup similarly flashes potential with too many non-competitive pitches in between. 6-foot-6 teenage pitchers are almost always going to be a work in progress and Mueth is no exception. His upside could make him worth the wait.

12. Tsung-Che Cheng – SS – (Double-A)

Height/Weight: 5’7″, 175 | Bat/Throw: L/R | IFA: $380K, 2019 (PIT) | ETA: 2025


Contact, defense and speed is the name of the game for Cheng, putting up fantastic numbers at his first three stops before meeting his match at Double-A in his age 21 season. Cheng starts deep in his base with a set up almost puts him right at his launch position. From there he utilizes a small leg kick and minimal hand load that leads into a compact swing.

His stroke lacks violence, sometimes even looking as though Cheng is selling out for contact a bit too much, with a more armsy swing. He flashes some sneaky pop to his pull side but likely will offer below average power. A patient approach and strong contact rates elevate Cheng’s floor with his gap to gap power proving to be enough at the lower levels.

A plus runner with an above average arm and the actions to stick on the left side of the infield, Cheng has the defensive ability to play a solid shortstop and above average defense at second base and third base. He is not afraid to steal bases, but needs to be more efficient to be a consistent threat at the highest level. Cheng projects as a high-end utility piece.

13. Jackson Wolf – LHP – (Triple-A)

Height/Weight: 6’7″, 205 | Bat/Throw: L/L | 4th Round (67), 2021 (PIT) | ETA: 2024


Traded by the Padres in exchange for Rich Hill and Ji-Man Choi ahead of the 2023 trade deadline, Wolf made one emergency MLB start with the Padres before being moved to Pittsburgh where he was assigned back to Double-A Altoona.

After averaging 89 mph with his fastball in 2022, Wolf’s four seamer gained nearly a full tick, sitting at 90 mph where his unique release helped the pitch play up. The 6-foot-7 lefty generates great extension from a low-three quarters release, giving it the appearance of a harder fastball to hitters. Despite the lower velocity, Wolf is confident in his fastball, throwing it 50% of the time with a 71% strike rate and respectable whiff and chase rates.

His best pitch is his upper 70s slider, limiting lefties to a .175 batting average and big whiff/chase numbers. He prefers his average curveball and fringy changeup against right-handed hitters, which explains why he is much more effective left on left, but with three secondaries that he can mix in to righties, he should be able to keep them off balance enough to turn a lineup over a couple times when he is on.

Good command and plus makeup helps Wolf’s chances of surviving as a No. 5 starter, but his effectiveness against lefties and potential to see his stuff tick up in shorter outings could make him a quality swing man.

14. Michael Kennedy – LHP – (Low-A)

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 200 | Bat/Throw: L/L | 4th Round (110), 2022 (PIT) | ETA: 2026


Signed for a well-over slot $1 million in the fourth round of the 2022 draft, Kennedy enjoyed a nice pro debut as an 18-year-old, dominating his way through the Complex League before earning taste of Low-A Bradenton for two appearances.

Kennedy’s stuff does not jump off of the page, averaging 89-91 mph with his fastball, but he generates plenty of whiff with his deception. With a release height nearly a foot below the average arm, his fastball picks up much more whiff in the zone than other fastballs in that velocity bucket.

Even with the built-in deception, he likely will need to see his fastball velocity jump some for it to be an above average fastball at the upper levels. Considering Kennedy’s youth and relatively low-effort delivery, an uptick does not seem far fetched.

His best pitch is his slider in the low 80s with late horizontal break that plays well off of his fastball from his slot. It has a chance to develop into a fringe-plus pitch if he can gain some velocity and a more frequent feel for it. Kennedy’s nascent changeup has flashed potential, but he struggled to find it in 2023.

There’s a fair amount of reliever risk with Kennedy, though with his fastball/slider combination from the left side, he could develop into a quality set up type who sees his stuff tick up in short spurts. Still 19 years old for the entirety of the 2024 season, Kennedy will be given plenty of time to develop as a starter.

15. David Matoma – RHP – (CPX)

Height/Weight: 6’0″, 165 | Bat/Throw: R/R | IFA: $20K – 2022 (PIT) | ETA: 2027


Signed as a 16-year-old out of Uganda in 2022, Matoma saw his stuff explode after turning pro, running his fastball up to 101 mph in his 16 2/3 innings of scoreless work in the Dominican Summer League during the 2023 season. Not only does his fastball now sit in the upper 90s, but it flashed great carry, giving it the chance to be a double plus pitch.

His slider has already flashed above average with the chance to become a plus pitch as he finds more consistency with it. His changeup is early in its development, but he would flash a decent one or two per outing providing hope for an average third pitch.

Considering Matoma’s size and higher-effort delivery, he comes with plenty of reliever risk, but he boasts the potential for closer stuff. His athleticism on the mound is impressive, and as he refines his mechanics and the rest of his body catches up to his electric arm, there’s at least some chance he could handle a starter’s workload. Matoma will be 18 years old for the entirety of the 2024 season, offering tantalizing upside.

Other Names to Watch

Hunter Barco – LHP – (Low-A): Barco was Pittsburgh’s second round selection in 2022 despite undergoing Tommy John Surgery in May of his draft year. The former Florida Gator didn’t make his professional debut until July 20th of this past season, and finished the year with six starts spanning 10.2 IP with Bradenton. While he punched out 19 and walked just four in that span, the base hits piled up against him, surrendering 13 and six earned runs. Barco sits in the low 90s with his fastball, when healthy, but uses his long limbs to snap off a sweeping slider to complement the so-so heater.

Jack Brannigan – 3B – (High-A): Brannigan put together a solid collegiate career at Notre Dame, slashing .289/.369/.508 in 117 games for the Fighting Irish across his three seasons. After being selected in the third round of the 2022 MLB Draft, Brannigan broke out in his 87-game season this past year. The soon-to-be 23-year-old logged a .915 OPS and was 24-for-27 in the stolen base department between Low-A and High-A. After a so-so showing in the Arizona Fall League, 2024 marks a pivotal year for Brannigan’s development in the upper minors.

Jase Bowen – 1B/OF – (Double-A): Bowen has slowly but surely climbed after being taken in the 11th round in 2019 out of high school in Toledo, Ohio. After repeating Low-A in 2022, a strong showing in the Australian Winter League gave Bowen plenty of confidence heading into ’23, in which he hit 23 homers and stole 24 bases in 29 attempts with High-A Greensboro. He followed that up with a massive showing in the AFL, clubbing 11 extra base hits and driving in 19 in just 25 games. Bowen should get reps in center field, both corners, and first base with Double-A Altoona this coming season.

Yordany De Los Santos – SS – (Low-A): De Los Santos was signed for $1.2 million by the Pirates in the 2022 IFA cycle and won’t turn 19 until mid-February. He showcased solid patience and a penchant for stealing bases in his first taste of pro ball in the Dominican Summer League, but the right-handed bat struggled mightily stateside in 2023, hitting just .234 with a 31% K-Rate between the complex and Bradenton. While the results haven’t immediately shown themselves, it’s far too early to give up on the prospects of a top-billed 18-year-old.

Garrett Forrester – CIF – (Low-A): The 22-year-old Forrester was the Pirates’ third round pick this past year after slashing .341/.485/.522 in 61 games with Oregon State in the spring. Forrester only got a six-game taste of Low-A to end his year, but he reached base 16 times in his 29 plate appearances, including 10 walks in those six games. While he was the Beavers’ full-time first baseman the past two seasons, Forrester played third base in all six games in Bradenton. Position aside, it’s all about the blend of hit and power for the former PAC-12 masher.

Matt Gorski – OF/1B – (Triple-A): An exciting blend of power and speed, Gorski has logged back-to-back seasons of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in Minor League Baseball, accounting for 44 home runs and 44 stolen bases (on 51 attempts) in his last 189 games. Age unfortunately isn’t on his side, as he turned 26 years old in December. Gorski saw time in center, left, right, first, and second in 2023, so it may just be a matter of opportunity.

Kyle Nicolas – RHP – (MLB): The former second round pick of the Miami Marlins came to Pittsburgh as part of the Jacob Stallings deal in 2021 and threw well in Double-A in 2022. This past season, after putting up an ERA in the mid 4.00’s in 12 Double-A starts, the Pirates sent him to Indianapolis, where he logged a 10.00 ERA and a .329 BAA as a starter. His struggles prompted a move to the bullpen, which was like a switch flipping on. From August 1st until his MLB call-up on September 19th, Nicolas allowed just 10 hits and five earned runs while striking out 31 hitters in 22.0 IP. His fastball ticked up to the high 90s and his slider crept up to the 90 MPH range, creating a setup-caliber two-pitch mix.

Shalin Polanco – OF – (Low-A): The $2.35 million IFA signing by the Pirates in 2021 will turn 20 years old in early February, and he’s seen a steady climb in production in his first three years of professional baseball. Polanco stumbled out of the gates both in the DSL and at the Complex, logging an OPS under .700 at both stops. Bradenton was Polanco’s first stop with objective success, as he upped his SLG over the .400 mark for the first time in his career and doubled his home run output compared to his first two years (12 home runs in 2023 compared to three homers in both the ’21 and ’22 seasons). The left-handed hitter can play all three outfield spots, but he’ll need to tap into even more power to be worth the hefty price tag that Cherington slapped on him in 2021.

Jhonny Severino – INF – (CPX): Severino was a straight swap for first baseman Carlos Santana with Milwaukee at the 2023 Trade Deadline. While he has yet to make his way off the Complex, Severino has eight home runs and 17 stolen bases in his first 63 professional games and will be 19 years old for the entirety of the 2024 season. The former $1.2 million Brewers signing has recently scrapped switch hitting, which seems to be a decision that has already paid dividends for the Dominican teenager.

Estuar Suero – OF – (CPX): Much like Severino, Suero was another deadline acquisition, coming over with Jackson Wolf and Alfonso Rivas from San Diego for Rich Hill and Ji Man Choi. Suero is the baby of the bunch, as he won’t turn 19 until August 29th of this year. The 6’5″, 180 pound switch hitter has logged a slash line of .231/.335/.365 in his first 95 games and has ample playing time in both center field and right field. It’ll be a minute, but there’s a good bit to dream on with the thought of Suero developing.

Lonnie White Jr. – OF – (Low-A): White joined Chandler and Solometo as the beneficiaries of Henry Davis signing for well under slot value at the top of the 2021 draft, inking for $1.5 million as the 64th overall pick. Injuries halted his progression for the better part of three seasons, limiting him to just 72 games in his first three years as a pro. However, White showcased the power and speed combination that had the Pirates willing to pry him away from his commitment to play wide receiver at Penn State this past year, hitting nine home runs and swiping 18 bags in just 61 games. He’s got a long way to go, but being on the field was a massive step forward for the tooled-out White.