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Minors Matters: Pirates Minor League report - 8/10/2021

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Outfielders Alford, Fraizer on the move; Fowler sent packing

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Some movement has taken place within the PIttsburgh Pirates’ minor league organization, and although it might not be as much as some fans want, it did involve a couple of players who have been putting up eye-popping numbers this season.

Late last week, the Bucs promoted outfielder Anthony Alford, who started the season with the big club but was DFA’d after going 2 for 24 with 16 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances and wound up at Triple-A Indianapolis. Alford took a while to get untracked at Indy, but eventually got rolling and was mashing at the time of his recall. In 189 at-bats, Alford was hitting .307 with a .420 on-base percentage and a 1.013 OPS. He’d slugged 14 homers and driven in 41, striking out 78 times.

His 1.013 OPS was tops among all qualified hitters in the Triple-A East while his .420 OBP was tied for third.

Earlier in the week, the Pirates promoted another outfielder, moving Matthew Fraizer from High-A Greensboro to Double-A Altoona. Fraizer, not ranked among the club’s Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, was enjoying a stellar season at Greensboro, leading the High-A East division in four categories: batting average (.314), runs (64), hits (95) and walks (43). He was also tied for the league lead in home runs with 20 and was No. 2 in both OPS (.979) and slugging percentage (.578).

Fraizer has appeared in only four games since arriving in Altoona, but he’s continued swinging the bat well, as he’s gone 6 for 15 with two doubles and a triple.

In addition, another outfielder was sent packing Saturday, as the Pirates released Dustin Fowler. A former highly regarded prospect with the Yankees, Fowler was brought in and given a chance to compete for a job, but failed to seize that opportunity. He spent much of this year injured and never got untracked.

Now for a look at the Top 15 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline’s rankings, and a few others as we head into the final six weeks of minor league play.

No. 1 - Nick Gonzales

Gonzales continues to hit at High-A Greensboro, as he’s at .270 overall with an .843 OPS in 221 plate appearances. Gonzales has homered nine times and driven in 27, walking 9.5% of the time and striking out 28.1%. So far in eight games in August, Gonzales is hitting .308/1.207 with three homers and eight RBIs in 32 plate appearances. More good news: he’s struck out just three times and walked five times during that stretch. Dating back to July 16, a span of 92 plate appearances, Gonzalez is at .354/1.041 with four homers and 16 RBIs and a 19.5% strikeout rate.

No. 2 - Quinn Priester

Priester, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and No. 18 overall, is putting together a fine season at High-A Greensboro. So far in 14 outings – all starts – Priester is 4-3 with a 3.09 ERA. In 67 innings, the big right-hander has yielded 54 hits and 28 walks while striking out 58 In his most recent start, which came Friday against Hickory, Priester gave up five hits and two earned runs while walking three and striking out four in five innings.

No. 3 - Oneil Cruz

The 6-foot-7, left-handed hitting Cruz, who hasn’t played since June 30 due to a forearm strain, is back throwing for the first time since being placed on the seven-day injured list July 6. According to MLB.com, the club envisioned Cruz starting to hit later last week, with the goal to have Cruz see some game action before the end of the season. So far this year, Cruz is at .289/.887 for Double-A Altoona. In 190 plate appearances, Cruz has hit nine homers and driven in 29. He has a 7.9% walk rate and a 22.6% strikeout rate. Defensively, Cruz has 12 errors in 42 games at shortstop.

No. 4 - Liover Peguero

The highly touted 20-year-old shortstop has had a rough start to the month of August at High-A Greensboro. In his first six games covering 26 plate appearances, Peguero has struck out 12 times and is hitting just .174 with a .231 on-base percentage. He has homered twice and driven in six. Since mid-July, his numbers look a better; he’s at .267/.789 in 94 plate appearances with five homers and 15 RBIs. On the season, Peguero is batting ..254/.757 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs in 290 plate appearances for High-A Greensboro. He has a 26.2% strikeout rate and an 7.6% walk rate. Defensively, Peguero has committed 19 errors in 61 games at short.

No. 5 - Hudson Head

The 20-year-old outfielder, who came over from the San Diego Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade, is hitting .217 with a .782 OPS in 314 plate appearances at Low-A Bradenton. He has 12 home runs – tied for third in the Low-A East division — and has driven in 41 runs. Head has a 16.9% walk rate and a 30.6% strikeout rate; his 96 strikeouts are tied for second-most in the league. Since July 15, Head is hitting .254/.836 in 81 plate appearances with 22 strikeouts (27%) and nine walks (11.1%).

No. 6 - Tahnaj Thomas

The 6-4, 190-pound right-hander has compiled a 1-2 mark with a 4.64 ERA in 42 2/3 innings over 12 appearances – all starts. Thomas has given up 38 hits and 27 walks for a 1.52 WHIP while striking out 46. Eight of his 38 hits allowed have left the yard. Thomas missed more than three weeks during the end of June and first half of July. In his four most recent starts, he has given up 19 hits, eight earned runs and two walks while striking out 16 in 17 1/3 innings. In his last start Sunday, Thomas yielded three hits and two earned runs while walking one and striking out four in a no-decision.

No. 7 – Tucupita Marcano

The 21-year-old left-handed hitter, who came over from San Diego in the Adam Frazier deal and is now at Triple-A Indianapolis, is hitting .238/.704 with one hit and one RBI in 49 plate appearances for the Indians. Prior to the trade, Marcano was hitting .272/.811 with the Padres’ Triple-A team in El Paso and he also batted .182/.485 in 50 plate appearances with the big league club.

No. 8 - Brennan Malone

The 20-year-old right-hander, who came over from Arizona along with Peguero in the Starling Marte trade, made his first appearance for the Pirates’ Gold team in the Florida Complex League – formerly known as the Gulf Coast League – and it did not go well. Malone retired just one of the five batters he faced before being pulled from his start. He gave up one hit and three walks along with three earned runs in his brief outing. Prior to his assignment in the FCL, Malone appeared in three games for Bradenton, pitching a total of 3 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and four runs – none of which were earned – while walking five and striking out two.

No. 9 - Travis Swaggerty

The Pirates’ top pick in the 2018 draft, Swaggerty underwent surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder. The injury is expected to keep him out at least five months, which effectively ends his minor league season. He was hitting .220/.772 in 41 at-bats with Triple-A Indianapolis before his injury.

No. 10 - Cody Bolton

Bolton underwent knee surgery in May to repair a torn medial meniscus and is expected to be sidelined from four to six months.

No. 11 - Carmen Mlodzinski

The 22-year-old right-hander, who experienced shoulder stiffness last month, has resumed his throwing program and is close to facing live hitters in batting practice, Kevin Gorman of TribLive.com reported last week. Mlodzinski last appeared in a game on July 10. On the season, Mlodzinski is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA in nine starts. In 41 innings, Mlodzinski has given up 27 hits, 12 earned runs, 14 walks and five home runs and has struck out 54 for a 1.00 WHIP.

No. 12 - Miguel Yajure

Yajure, who remains on the 60-day injured list after experiencing forearm tightness in late May, made his first rehab start Friday, throwing 31 pitches for Low-A Bradenton. Yajure allowed two hits and one earned run, striking out one, as he threw 24 of his 31 pitches for strikes. The 23-year-old right-hander, part of the Jameson Taillon trade, is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts for the Pirates and 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts with Indianapolis.

No. 13 - Eddy Yean

The 20-year-old right-hander, who came over from Washington in the Josh Bell trade, is 4-2 with a 5.18 ERA in 15 games at Low-A Bradenton, six coming as a starter. In 48 2/3 innings, Yean has given up 38 hits, 12 walks and 15 earned runs while striking out 36 to go with a 1.19 WHIP. Yean’s most recent outing came Friday as a reliever, going four innings and giving up four hits, an earned run and a walk while striking out three. He threw 71 pitches, 46 of which went for strikes.

No. 14 - Ji-hwan Bae

The 21-year-old middle infielder is hitting .275/.792 in 228 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona, with six home runs and 19 RBIs. He’s done most of his damage in the power department lately, hitting four of his six home runs since July 28. Over his last 115 plate appearances since returning from a knee injury, Bae is hitting .275/.866. On the season, Bae has a 7.9% walk rate and a 22.8% strikeout rate.

No. 15 - Mason Martin

The lefty-swinging first baseman is off to a slow start in August, as he’s batting just .148/.471 in 35 plate appearances with no home runs and five RBIs. He’s struck out in 16 of those plate appearances and walked six times. Since mid-July, Martin is at .200/.648 in 94 plate appearances with 37 strikeouts (39.3%) and 11 walks (11.7%). Overall, Martin’s 19 home runs are fourth in the Double-A Northeast division, three behind the leaders, and his 61 RBIs are second, four behind the leader. On the season, the 22-year-old slugger is batting .256/.871 in 329 plate appearances. He has struck out 113 times (34.3%) and has walked 27 times (5.8%).

Indianapolis: Fabricio Macias, a 23-year-old outfielder whose .316/.861 start at High-A Greensboro earned him a promotion to Triple-A after 184 plate appearances, is hitting .296/.759 in 71 at-bats. ... Michael Chavis, obtained from Boston for Austin Davis, is off to a fine start with the Indians, going 9 for 20 with four doubles, a pair of home runs and six RBIs. ... Dillon Peters, obtained from the Los Angeles Angels, has appeared in four games – two as a starter – and has given up just three hits and an earned run in 11 innings. He’s walked six and struck out 13.

Altoona: No. 18 prospect Cal Mitchell has cooled off a bit in recent weeks, as he owns a .225/.522 profile in 85 plate appearances since July 16. He’s hit just one home run and driven in 11 in 21 games during that stretch, striking out 16 times and walking twice. Overall on the year, he’s hitting .269/.754 in 300 plate appearances. The 22-year-old San Diego product has 11 homers and 43 RBIs to go with a 5% walk rate and a 18% strikeout rate.. ... No. 20 prospect Roansy Contreras, sidelined by a right forearm strain at the end of June, is throwing again. Like his teammate Oneil Cruz, the goal is for Contreras to see some game action before the end of the season. On the season, Contreras is 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA in nine starts covering 46 innings. He has walked 11, given up 31 hits and struck out 65. ... No. 22 prospect Omar Cruz is 1-2 with a 3.75 ERA in seven starts since being promoted from High-A Greensboro. Cruz has worked 36 innings and given up 36 hits and 15 earned runs to go with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks. ... No. 24 prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba, an outfielder who came over in the Jameson Taillon trade, was placed on the seven-day injured list with a leg issue on July 27 and has yet to return. He is at .286/.830 in 248 plate appearances. He has six homers and 40 RBIs to go with a 16.1% walk rate and a 25.8% strikeout rate. ... No. 30 prospect Carter Bins, obtained in the Tyler Anderson deal, is hitting .251/.820 overall with most of those numbers coming at the High-A level before the trade. So far at Altoona, Bins is at .296/.737 in 30 plate appearances with four RBIs. ... Diego Castillo, a shortstop who came in the Clay Holmes deal, is at .261/.793 in his first 53 plate appearances for the Curve but overall on the season he’s at .274/.840 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs. He has an 9.3% walk rate and a 12.2% strikeout rate in 302 plate appearances at the Double-A level. ... Jack Suwinski, who came over from San Diego in the Adam Frazier trade, is at .308/.840 in 48 plate appearances since the deal with one homer and seven RBIs. Overall on the season, Suwinski is at .275/.933 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs along with a 28% strikeout rate and a 16.5% walk rate.

Greensboro: No. 22 Braxton Ashcraft, who was 1-1 with a 5.35 ERA in 10 starts spanning 38 2/3 innings, underwent Tommy John surgery last week, according to Jason Mackey of the Post-Gazette. He had given up 35 hits and 12 walks while striking out 41. ... No. 29 Michael Burrows who was placed on the seven-day injured list on July 16 with an undisclosed injury, has resumed throwing, according to Mackey. Burrows has a 2.25 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in 11 starts covering 44 innings. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed 21 hits and 17 walks while striking out 63. ... Right-hander J.C. Flowers, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, is 4-2 with a 4.80 ERA in 10 appearances, nine of which have been starts, after being promoted from Bradenton. Flowers has given up 46 hits and 16 walks and has struck out 46 in 45 innings. ... Third baseman Jared Triolo, the Pirates’ second-round draft pick out of the University of Houston in 2019, is at .301/.814 with 59 RBIs – fourth in the league – and 20 stolen bases, tied for fifth in the league. ... Teammate Lolo Sanchez (.228/.772) is second in the league in steals with 25 and also has 11 home runs.

Bradenton: No. 17 prospect Jared Jones, the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, is 3-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 games, nine of them starts. In 46 innings, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has given up 43 hits and 19 walks while striking out 70. ... No. 21 Nick Garcia, last year’s No. 3 draft pick, is 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA over 50 1/3 innings spread out over 15 appearances, eight of which have been starts. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has struck out 54 and walked 27. ... No. 25 Jose Soriano, the top pick in this year’s Rule 5 draft, underwent revision Tommy John surgery and the 22-year-old right-hander will be sidelined for 16 months. ... Shortstop Maikol Escotto, the last piece in the Taillon trade, is hitting .254/.780 with 32 RBIs in 272 plate appearances. He has a 16.2% walk rate and a 29.4% strikeout rate to go with a .382 on-base percentage. He has made 15 errors in 50 games at shortstop. ... No. 19 prospect Sammy Siani, the No. 37 overall pick in 2019, was placed on the seven-day injured list on July 17. His last appearance in a game came on July 14. Overall he is at .210/.767 in 231 plate appearances. The 20-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder has eight homers and 35 RBIs as well as a 19% walk rate – second-best among the club’s Top 30 prospects behind only No. 30 Carter Bins — and a 25.5% strikeout rate. ... No. 25 prospect Endy Rodriguez is at .279/.840 in 310 plate appearances, with 10 homers and 43 RBIs. He has an 19% strikeout rate and an 11.3% walk rate. ... Fellow catching prospect Abrahan Gutierrez, obtained from Philadelphia for pitcher Braeden Ogle, is 8 for 18 with three RBIs with Bradenton, and overall on the year Gutierrez is at .307/.883 in 237 plate appearances with five homers and 35 RBIs to go with a 13.9% strikeout rate and a 16.9% walk rate.

Florida Complex League: Po-Yu Chen, an international signing who received a $1.25 bonus last year, is 2-0 with a 0.43 ERA in five starts for the Pirates’ Black team. In 21 innings, Chen has surrendered just 13 hits and has not walked a batter while striking out 26. ... First overall draft choice Henry Davis was assigned to the Complex League’s Pirates Black team last week. In two games going into Tuesday’s action, Davis was 3 for 7 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs.