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Minors Matters: Pirates Minor League report - 8/31/2021

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Davis out with oblique strain; Priester mows ‘em down

2021 Sirius XM Futures Game Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

With the minor league season winding down and other obligations ramping up, we’ll offer a pared down version of our Minors Matters column this week, taking a look at only the Top 10 prospects according to MLB Pipeline.

Unfortunately for Pirates fans, top prospect Henry Davis – the overall No. 1 pick in last month’s first-year player draft – sustained a strained right oblique muscle and was placed on the seven-day injured list.

Davis, the hard-hitting catcher from Louisville, had been assigned to High-A Greensboro after a brief stay in the Florida Complex League. Todd Tomczyk, the Pirates’ director of sports medicine, told media members last week that the club anticipated Davis’ stay on the IL to be “a bit longer” than seven days, but that an MRI would shed more light on the situation.

Unless Davis is an amazingly quick healer and the Pirates want to see what he can do in a postseason situation, it’s likely Davis is done for the season. Greensboro’s regular season ends Sept. 19.

That down note was offset somewhat by a major up note struck by No. 2 prospect Quinn Priester, the details of which you’ll find below.

And now a look at the Top 10 prospects:

No. 1 - Henry Davis

As noted above, Davis is sidelined with an oblique issue and likely is done for the remainder of the season. Davis, who turns 22 on Sept. 21, had appeared in six games with Greensboro and was 5 for 24 with a pair of home runs and three RBIs before his injury.

No. 2 - Quinn Priester

Priester, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and No. 18 overall, had a bit of a rough outing on Aug. 20, but he more than made up for it with his most recent start for High-A Greensboro Friday. Priester, ranked No. 53 on MLB’s Top 100 list, pitched six innings of one-hit ball and finished with 13 strikeouts. Priester struck out the side in each of the first three innings and set down the first 15 batters in succession. On the season, the right-hander is 6-3 with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 17 starts. He has allowed just 68 hits and 30 walks in 85 innings while striking out 87. His 2.86 ERA is the best in the High-A East division; the next-best qualified pitcher checks in at 3.68 and No. 3 is at 4.39. His WHIP also tops the division, as does his .216 batting average against.

No. 3 - Oneil Cruz

The 6-foot-7, left-handed hitting Cruz, ranked as MLB’s 57th-best prospect, missed the entire month of July and the first three weeks in August with a forearm strain. Since returning to Double-A Altoona on Aug. 20, Cruz is hitting .318/.784 with two doubles and three RBIs in 24 plate appearances. He also has an astronomical .467 batting average on balls in play. On the season, Cruz is at .290/.874 with nine homers and 32 RBIs. He has an 8% walk rate and a 23.6% strikeout rate. Defensively, Cruz has 12 errors in 45 games at shortstop.

No. 4 - Nick Gonzales

Gonzales’ power numbers continue to rise, thanks to a three-homer, eight-RBI game Sunday for High-A Greensboro. The club’s top pick in the 2020 draft is hitting .298/.910 in 301 plate appearances for the Grasshoppers, as he has slugged 14 homers and driven in 40 runs. He has an 8.3% walk rate and a 27.9% strikeout rate. In the last 30 days, Gonzales has hit eight home runs and driven in 22 in 117 plate appearances. During that stretch he is hitting .355/1.102 with an 7.7% walk rate and a 23.1% strikeout rate. He is ranked No. 68 on MLB’s updated list.

No. 5 - Liover Peguero

The highly touted 20-year-old shortstop, ranked 93rd on the Top 100 list, also has been picking up the pace power-wise in the month of August. Over the past 30 days, Peguero has hit seven homers and driven in 20 runs while batting .316 with a .951 OPS. He also has a 6.7% walk rate and a 26.7% strikeout rate during that time. On the season Peguero is at .266/.779 with a 7.2% walk rate and a 25.1% strikeout rate. He has 14 home runs and 43 RBIs in 359 plate appearances – 58 more than keystone partner Gonzales.

No. 6 - Roansy Contreras

Contreras remains inactive due to a right forearm strain he sustained at the end of June. Several reports indicated the right-hander faced hitters in a live batting practice session two weeks ago, but he has yet to rejoin Double-A Altoona or make a rehab start elsewhere. On the season at Double-A Altoona, 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. 7 - Anthony Solometo

The club’s second selection in the July draft has yet to appear in a game for the organization. The 6-foot-5 left-hander, a New Jersey high school product taken 37th overall, reportedly received a $2.8 million signing bonus – nearly $1 million over slot — to forgo his enrollment at North Carolina. During his senior year at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, Solometo posted a 4-0 mark with a 0.21 ERA, 64 strikeouts and five walks in 32 2/3 innings, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

No. 8 - Bubba Chandler

Chandler, the Pirates’ third round pick in last month’s draft, has yet to throw a pitch for the Pirates’ Black team in the Florida Complex League but he has appeared in six games – four as a DH and two at shortstop. Offensively, Chandler is 4 for 17 with one home run and two RBIs. He has walked four times and struck out six times.

No. 9 - 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 just .198/.581 in 118 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. Overall at Triple-A on the season, Marcano is hitting .244/.725 with seven homers and 31 RBIs in 317 plate appearances.

No. 10 - Carmen Mlodzinski

The 22-year-old right-hander, who experienced shoulder stiffness last month and missed more than a month, made his third appearance in a game for High-A Greensboro Sunday since July 10 when he started Saturday against Asheville. Mlodzinski gave up two runs on five hits, walking one and striking out two in 1 2/3 innings. On the season, Mlodzinski is 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 12 starts. In 46 2/3 innings, Mlodzinski has given up 37 hits, 18 earned runs, 18 walks and seven home runs and has struck out 60 for a 1.179 WHIP.