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Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Superlatives: Mitch Keller & Bryan Reynolds Are Need-to-Know Potential 2020 Breakouts

The Pittsburgh Pirates won't be challenging for a postseason run this year, but they have a number of promising young prospects as well as a bust and sleepers according to SI Fantasy expert Shawn Childs.

Breakout: OF Bryan Reynolds

Reynolds made a slow push through the Pittsburgh Pirates system due to boring power and minimal speed.

Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .312 with 177 runs, 28 home runs, 158 RBI, and 15 steals over 1,088 at-bats.

His bats flashed over 49 at-bats at AAA in 2019 (.367 with five HRs and 11 RBI) in 2019, leading to a callup to the majors.

With Pittsburgh, Reynolds performed better than expected over his first 446 at-bats (.330 with 80 runs, 16 HRs, 66 RBI, and two SBs) before fading over his final 45 at-bats (.156 with no HRs and two RBI).

His contact batting average (.416) has been high at every level while showing growth in his average hit rate (1.604).

He played well against righties (.334 with 63 runs, 11 HRs, and 51 RBI over 347 at-bats).

Reynolds placed 123rd in his hard-hit rate (41.7). His walk rate (8.4) came in at the league average with a slight risk in his strikeout rate (22.2). He had a low fly-ball rate (29.8) with a push in his HR/FB rate (14.4).

Reynolds is an excellent option in batting average with developing power and chance at more steals than on his minor league resume. Trending toward an 80/20/80 player with an edge in batting average with an OF3 ADP (185).

Breakout: OF Mitch Keller

The Pirates drafted Keller in the second round in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft out of high school.

Over six seasons in the minors, he went 36-22 with a 3.12 ERA and 556 strikeouts over 539.1 innings. His walk rate (2.8) and K rate (9.4) played well in the minors.

Keller solved AA (11-4 with a 2.83 ERA and 121 Ks over 120.2 innings) while needing more work at AAA (10-7 with a 3.98 ERA and 180 Ks over 156 innings).

In his second chance at AAA in 2019, he posted a 3.56 ERA and 123 strikeouts over 103.2 innings.

His major league career started with five disaster outings over his first nine starts, leading to an 8.29 ERA, 1.868 WHIP, .355 BAA, and six home runs over 38 innings.

Keller ended the year with two solid games (three runs over ten innings with 14 strikeouts).

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His strikeout rate (12.2) was much improved with Pittsburgh, with a slight regression in his walk rate (3.0).

Both righties (.322) and lefties (.380) hit well against him. His AFB (95.5) looked good in velocity but not in success (.461 BAA).

Keller has two breaking pitches of value (slider – .200 BAA and curveball – .138 BAA).

Fantasy owners in the high-stakes market have him priced like a breakout arm (ADP – 230).

Keller failed last year with the Pirates due to the mindset that his fastball could get him out of trouble. He needs better location in the strike zone while still lacking a trusted changeup.

His fastball/curveball combination will be dominating at times in 2020. After tossing 151.2 innings in 2019, Keller was expected to reach 180 innings this season. Look for a 3.75 ERA or less this year with impactful strikeouts.

Sleeper: OF Gregory Polanco

For the third straight year, Polanco had his season cut short due to an injury. He started the year on the injured list with a slow recovery from left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Over his first 42 games, he hit .242 with six home runs and 17 RBI over 153 at-bats. Polanco saw his season ended in mid-June with more issues with his left shoulder.

After a platelet-rich-plasma injection in early September, he felt better when throwing in December.

In 2019, he had a massive strikeout rate (29.3) compared to his career resume (19.7). Polanco showed power and speed in 2016 (22/86/17) and 2018 (23/81/12).

His ADP (293) won’t require much of a fight for a fantasy owner to own him. The pieces are there for an 80/25/80/15 season, but I would avoid him if there is any more negative news about his shoulder.

Bust: SS Kevin Newman

The Pirates drafted Newman in the first round in 2015 with the 19th pick.

Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .287 with 15 home runs, 146 RBI, and 62 steals over 1,630 at-bats. Newman was tough to strike out (10.3 percent) with some weakness in his walk rate (7.0) in his minor league career.

After playing well in 2018 at AAA (.302 with four HRs, 35 RBI, and 28 SBs over 437 at-bats), he proved to be a better player in his first full seasons with Pittsburgh (.308 with 61 runs, 12 HRs, 64 RBI, and 16 SBs over 493 at-bats).

Newman maintained his low strikeout rate (11.7) while losing some value in his walk rate (5.3).

Most of his production came against right-handed pitching (.316 with 11 HRs and 59 RBI over 367 at-bats). He played much better on the road (.350 with nine HRs and 34 RBI over 240 at-bats).

Newman offered the most value in June (.316 with four HRs, 16 RBI, and four SBs over 114 at-bats) and August (.317 with four HRs, 16 RBI, and four SBs over 104 at-bats).

His hard-hit rate (24.4) ranked 438th. He has a high ground ball rate (49.4) while improving his HR/FB rate (9.8).

Not quite a leadoff type bat and his power invites more regression than upside. Overpriced for me based on his ADP (191). Possible help in batting average with only a 70/10/50/25 skill set.

Deep Sleeper: 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes

Hayes made the climb of one level in each of the past three years while remaining one of the Pirates’ top prospects.

Over five seasons in the minors, he hit .279 with 254 runs, 25 home runs, 202 RBI, and 66 stolen bases over 1,731 at-bats. He will take some walks (9.4) while minimizing the damage in strikeouts (16.8).

Hayes projects to be a top defender while needing to get stronger to pump up his value in home runs. He stole 27 bags in 2017 at High A, but he doesn’t project to offer plus speed on the bases.

With a full season at AAA (.265 with ten HRs, 53 RBI, and 12 SBs over 427 at-bats), Hayes should be in the majors early in 2020. He has a lot of work to do with his bat, but his AVH (1.566) is trending up.

READ MORE: 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Team Preview