Shortstop Prospect Spotlight: Liover Peguero
Welcome to a continuation of our new Prospect Spotlight series, where we pair our prospect rankings with a deep dive on one of the players in that ranking. Here, we’ll dive deeper into the prospect’s fantasy profile, highlighting their background, skill set, and what we see for them coming down the pipeline. Prospects are the lifeblood of any dynasty league and we hope to bring you more great info on these rising stars in 2021 than ever before.
THE GREAT PITTSBURGH REBUILD
When Ben Cherington traded away Starling Marte to the Diamondbacks for Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone it signaled his commitment to the teardown and rebuild in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have recently churned through a mess of failures at both middle infield positions, so the move was a welcome one. Frankly, the Diamondbacks gave up a lot of value for a few months of Starling Marte. The move for Peguero is a positive one in my estimation. All too often, an aspect of prospecting that gets lost in the shuffle is the opportunity to advance and the way in which certain organizations promote their prospects. As amazing as it might be for a prospect to be able to develop his skills with the Dodgers, for example, it can also limit value (see: Gavin Lux). What I like about Peguero leaving Arizona is the opportunity for advancement and playing time at the major league level that Pittsburgh can provide. At present, it is hard to say whether or not Oneil Cruz will stick at shortstop, but his speed and arm could easily push him to the outfield. Nick Gonzales, though drafted as a shortstop, is going to be holding down second base at PNC Park in the near future. Peguero’s recent reports have him improving his defense considerably, something which bodes well for his future at the six and could help push Oneil Cruz off the position a couple of years down the road. In short, the future is there for the taking in Pittsburgh whereas I never really understand what the “game plan” is for Arizona. The Diamondbacks seem to change tacks every couple of years and never really see a strategy all the way to completion (see: Zach Grienke). That type of constant shifting can leave some prospects out in the cold.
The comp for Pueguero that you will hear everywhere is Jean Segura. Where I diverge from the pack on that comp is Peguero’s speed and stolen base potential. Segura stole 50 bases in 130 games in 2008 and pretty regularly turned in seasons with 30+ swipes. I am not seeing that kind of production out of Peguero, but he is a good bet to steal between 15-20 bags at peak. Part of the reason for this projection is that Peguero should be adding at least a little bit of mass to his 6’0″ 160 pound frame, which will slow him down a touch on the base paths and in the field. That said, the tradeoff there will be to convert Peguero’s above-average bat speed, quick hands, and contact abilities into more power than he is presently showing. Reports from the alternate site and scouting reports from previous years all seem to agree that Peguero is adept at making loud and hard contact. His approach is aggressive and he hits too many balls on the ground at the moment, so keep a close eye on Peguero’s walk rate and fly ball percentage this year against more advanced competition.
Another thing to keep in mind with Peguero is that he has always been at least two years younger than his competition during his minor league career. Despite that, he has more than held his own. His turn in the Pioneer League had a wRC+ of 153. Peguero is the type of prospect that doesn’t necessarily do any one thing at an elite level, but he is above average across the board and doesn’t really have a hole in his game other than the power. If the reports from the alternate site about his exit velocities are real (remember that these reports are generally created by the team), the only aspect of his game that lags behind the rest of his profile is quickly catching up.
Peguero will take at least a couple more seasons in the minor leagues to fully actualize his abilities and grow into his body. Still just 20 years old, he will likely be sent to A-Ball or High-A in 2021 and I expect him to hit well enough to be promoted during the season. As for his future with the big club, the next two seasons should be more than enough time for the Pirates to figure out where Oneil Cruz will play on the diamond. Cruz has an absolute cannon for an arm and can use his giant legs (he is 6’7″) to stride around the outfield, so the transition should be relatively painless. The things to watch for this season are Peguero’s body evolution, strikeout rate, and hard-hit percentages as he faces more advanced competition after a year at the alternate site.
I leave you with this highlight from the 2019 minor league playoffs…