Top 5 Pirates Prospects: NRIs

When I first read the NRI list-and thought about writing this blog post-I started a list that looked much like the previous Top 5s from previous weeks; as in containing almost all the same familiar names.

But then it dawned on me, that there were almost more surprises on the list than guys I expected to be added to Big League Camp.

However, before I get started I would feel remiss if I didn’t explain that just because A guy doesn’t get the NRI designation, it doesn’t mean we won’t see them in Spring Training action. Guys get called over from Minor League Camp at Pirate City all the time. Whether it be for a day to cover one of the two scheduled split-squad games, or to give a regular a break in the later innings pretty much any day over the nearly 30 games in the Grapefruit League.

1) Malcom Nunez-1B/3B

Nunez being there is not a surprise. What is the surprise, is how smooth he looks at the hot corner. Yes, I realize that it is a simple infield drill; however, based on some his scouting assessments, one would think he couldn’t field the position, even if his life depended on it.

Clearly this isn’t the case.

His good footwork, with a smooth glove could make the move to first one of benefit, not out of necessity.

Add in the recently established power potential, and you might have a legitimate answer at first base in MLB.

2) Jared Jones-RHP

Jones is truly a surprise for me here, but nowhere near undeserving.

Of the regular starters in Greensboro this past season only Nick Garcia-traded to Colorado for Connor Joe-had a better ERA 4.62 to 3.66 and WHIP 1.204 to 1.353 than Jones; although, the young man from La Mirada High Schoo is over 2 and a half years younger than Garcia.

Selected as one of the Pirates Prospects that Peak My Interest Peaked My Interest, Jones has the completely unfair mid-90’s four seamer with a 2600 rpm spin and a slider that moves from one side of the plate to the other. Add in a near average changeup, and the Pirates might have something.

3) Lolo Sanchez-OF

Lolo is the first one this list that I haven’t mentioned, or potentially even though about as a factor since before the 2021 season.

But more than likely around 2018.

At this point you might think Sanchez is reaching 27 to 28 years old because of how long he has been around, but in reality the young man is just about to turn 24 in April.

Still it doesn’t change the fact that Sanchez has slashed .252/.353/.391 since 2019. Even so, he does have a 112 wRC+ and 70 stolen bases, so it is entirely possible they are trying to figure out what the new rule changes could mean for a player like Lolo.

4) Andres Alvarez-IF/OF

20 Homers/20 Stolen Bases. That’s one hell of an accomplishment for a player in Altoona; especially since it’s never happened before.

Through the first 105 plate appearances of the season the former Cougar batted .271 with an 1.004 OPS with 8 homers. At the time I was a little bit concerned about his 26.7% K-Rate, but his 15.2% BB-rate kept me optimistic.

After his hot start Alvarez struggled to the tune of a .205 AVG with an .697 OPS. To his credit he maintained a consistent walk rate of 14.2%, and blasted 12 more homers. Nevertheless, it’s hard to ignore how his numbers decreased as the season went on; ending the year with an .567 OPS over his final 51 plate appearances in September.

On a positive note Alvarez does have the flexibility to play every position except first base and catcher; which, is something Ben Cherington and Company have put an emphasis on.

5) Termarr Johnson-2B

At only 18 years old, the Pirates 2022 First Round Draft Pick and Top Prospect is set to be the youngest NRI in the entire Grapefruit League. And, although this isn’t a normal invitation-in that he has no chance of heading north with the Big League Club-there are some positive to Johnson being with the Major Leaguers; even if it is only for a couple of weeks.

First and foremost he will get to see how professionals go about their business in preparation for the upcoming season; while getting to interact with them on a daily basis.

An added bonus would be the possibility of instilling the desire in him to work toward returning to the same camp in the future; only as a player that could potentially head to PNC Park. However, with that being at least a couple of years away, it might make more sense to focus of the present.

As it stands, Johnson is still an 18 year-old kid with 82 plate appearances spread between the FCL and Low-A Bradenton.

Still that doesn’t change the fact that I am more than just a little bit excited to see what this young man can do in 2023, and beyond.


I realize that this list was a little bit different than the previous ones, as probably only Nunez has a chance to impact the 2023 roster in a meaningful way; or really at all.

However, it does give us a little bit of insight as to how Ben Cherington operates concerning development; and, potentially how he views certain players in the system. Especially when you look who he could have selected to attend the Big League Camp, but chose a few of these guys instead.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

One thought on “Top 5 Pirates Prospects: NRIs

  1. I’m increasingly excited about Nunez, the more reports I encounter of him playing good defense at both corners. I know the Bucs already have 3B very much covered, but if they can keep him capable of playing 3B, that bodes well for long-term value.

    The middle three do feel like they’ve been in the system awhile, yeah, and here’s hoping they iron out the wrinkles to reach their respective good potentials.

    Johnson makes me wonder whether having a player take that knowledge back to the low-minors squads every year could be of some value. An ambassador apiece for Greensboro and Bradenton, so to speak


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: