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Minors Matters: Pirates Minor League report - 6/22/2021

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Here’s what’s going on in the Minors!

MLB: FEB 24 Spring Training - Pirates at Yankees Photo by Icon Sportswire

As you may already know, the top four levels of minor league baseball are playing six-game series this season, with Monday being the only scheduled off day. So let’s review how the Top 15 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB Pipeline rankings are given) are doing after the first seven weeks of play.

* Note that MLB Pipeline has removed the “prospect” tag from Ke’Bryan Hayes, so there’s been a slight change in the prospect lineup.

No. 1 - Nick Gonzales

Gonzales remains sidelined with a broken pinky finger and is expected to be out for another week or so. The club’s top pick in the 2020 draft was hitting .294 with two home runs and five RBIs at High-A Greensboro when he injured his finger on a collision at first base. According to the Grasshoppers website, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the injury was a fracture to the volar plate, a ligament that joins two bones in the pinky finger. The Grasshoppers website estimated that – barring complications – Gonzales would return to the lineup in late June or early July.

No. 2 - Quinn Priester

Priester, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and No. 18 overall, is 3-3 with a 3.52 ERA in seven starts so far for High-A Greensboro. In 30 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander has given up 34 hits and walked nine while striking out 28. In his most recent start, Priester gave up five hits and one earned run in five innings Tuesday against Hickory. He struck out six and walked one in his 84-pitch outing.

No. 3 - Oneil Cruz

The 6-foot-7, left-handed hitting Cruz continues to have a strong offensive season, as he’s at .300/.912 at Double-A Altoona. In 163 at-bats, Cruz has hit eight homers and driven in 26 – and even added eight stolen bases. So far in the month of June, Cruz is hitting .347 with a .984 OPS, banging out 25 hits in 72 at-bats, including four homers and 10 RBIs. Defensively, Cruz has 10 errors in 36 games at shortstop.

No. 4 - Liover Peguero

On the season, the 20-year-old shortstop is batting .272/.764 with three homers and 13 RBIs for High-A Greensboro. So far this month Peguero is batting .250/.686 with nine RBIs in 72 at-bats, but in his last 27 at-bats, he’s at .296/.900.

No. 5 - Hudson Head

The young outfielder, who came over from the San Diego Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade, is hitting .205/.762 at Low-A Bradenton. The 20-year-old left-handed hitter stroked his fifth homer of the season last week and now has 15 RBIs. He upped his on-base percentage to .403.

No. 6 - Tahnaj Thomas

The 6-4, 190-pound right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.37 ERA in seven starts High-A Greensboro. In 22 2/3 innings, Thomas has given up 17 hits and 18 walks while striking out 29. In his most recent start, which came Thursday against Winston-Salem, the 22-year-old Thomas was charged with one earned run in three innings. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out three.

No. 7 - Brennan Malone

The 20-year-old right-hander, who came over from Arizona along with Peguero in the Starling Marte trade, has been reassigned from Low-A Bradenton to one of the Pirates’ two teams in the Gulf Coast League. He 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. Gulf Coast League play is scheduled to begin June 28.

No. 8 - Travis Swaggerty

The Pirates’ top pick in the 2018 draft, Swaggerty underwent surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder, which he sustained while diving back to first base in a game on May 18. 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. 9 - Cody Bolton

Bolton underwent knee surgery last month and is expected to be sidelined from four to six months.

No. 10 - Carmen Mlodzinski

The 22-year-old right-hander, chosen 31st overall in the 2020 June draft out of the University of South Carolina, is pitching at High-A Greensboro, where he is 1-2 with a 1.78 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. In his most recent start Saturday, the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Mlodzinski worked four innings, giving up six hits and three earned runs while striking out six and walking two in a loss.

No. 11 - Miguel Yajure

Yajure is currently sidelined after experiencing forearm tightness in a start with Triple-A Indianapolis on May 26. The 23-year-old right-hander, part of the Jameson Taillon trade, was 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. The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel reported that Yajure is “symptom-free” and rehabbing in Florida, according to GM Ben Cherington.

No. 12 - Eddy Yean

The young right-hander, who came over from Washington in the Josh Bell trade, has taken his lumps this season for Low-A Bradenton. However, he had a scoreless three-inning relief outing last week, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out four. On the season, Yean – who turns 20 Friday — is 2-1 with a 7.25 ERA. In 22 1/3 innings, Yean has allowed 23 hits and 18 earned runs. He has walked 15 batters and struck out 24.

No. 13 - Ji-hwan Bae

The 21-year-old middle infielder, who has played exclusively at second base at Double-A Altoona this season, is yet another victim of the injury jinx. Bae, who started slowly but began picking it up in June, was placed on the seven-day injured list after hurting his knee in a collision with outfielder Cal Mitchell on June 8. Bae was hitting .265/.679 in 25 games at Altoona after going 11 for 23 in his first six games in June. He’ll be out another three to five weeks.

No. 14 - Mason Martin

The power-hitting first baseman is picking up the pace in June, and he has upped his overall numbers to .259/.861 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in 139 at-bats. He has struck out 53 times. In 16 games in June, Martin is hitting .277/.859 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 65 at-bats.

No. 15 – Jared Oliva

The 25-year-old outfielder, who started the season injured, has returned to action at Triple-A Indianapolis. In seven games totaling 20 at-bats, Oliva is hitting .200 without an extra-base hit or an RBI.

Others:

Indianapolis: Perennial prospect Mitch Keller, counted upon to be a major contributor at the big league level before being optioned to the minors earlier this month, has made two appearances – both in relief – for the Indians. Keller has pitched a combined 2 2/3 innings and given up one hit and one unearned run. He also battled control issues in his most recent outing Sunday, as he walked three in 1 2/3 innings of relief. He also struck out three and gave up a hit and an unearned run. ... Max Kranick, ranked No. 28 in the system, earned a promotion from Altoona, and in his first four Triple-A starts he has allowed 20 hits and 10 earned runs over 19 1/3 innings to go with seven walks and 20 strikeouts. ... Outfielder Anthony Alford continues to produce – when he isn’t striking out. Alford has struck out 42 times in 96 at-bats but overall is hitting .302/.986 with six homers and 22 RBIs and a .455 on-base percentage. In the month of June Alford is batting .452/1.406 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 42 at-bats. He’s struck out 15 times. ... Will Craig, the No.1 draft pick in 2016, has been hot since he was DFA’d and sent to Indianapolis. So far in June, Craig is hitting .317/.866 with a homer and eight RBIs. Overall he’s hitting .284/.890 in 67 Triple-A at-bats.

Altoona: No. 18 prospect Cal Mitchell’s arrow is pointing up; the 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .290/.823 in 131 at-bats. Mitchell has four homers and 21 RBIs. ...... No. 20 Roansy Contreras continues to pitch well for the Curve; he’s 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in seven starts. Contreras has yielded just 23 hits and nine walks in 40 innings while striking out 57 for a WHIP of 0.80. ... No. 24 prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba, an outfielder who came over in the Jameson Taillon trade, has been on fire the last couple of weeks. In 12 games totaling 44 at-bats, Smith-Njigba has a homer and seven RBIs and is hitting .409/1.036. ... Starter Travis MacGregor is 1-1 with a 4.21 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over seven starts totaling 25 2/3 innings. He has struck out 32 and walked 11. Pitcher Osvaldo Bido is 2-0 with a 3.41 in seven starts covering 31 2/3 innings. He’s given up 28 hits and 12 earned runs while walking 12 and striking out 30. ... Infielder Rodolfo Castro leads the team in home runs and RBIs with nine and 35, respectively, in 155 at-bats and is hitting .316/.912.

Greensboro: No. 22 Braxton Ashcraft is 1-0 with a 3.54 ERA in five starts spanning 20 1/3 innings. He has given up 15 hits and five walks while striking out 21. ... No. 24 Omar Cruz is 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA after seven starts. The 6-foot, 200-pound left-hander, who came from San Diego in the Musgrove trade, has allowed 17 hits and 11 earned runs in 28 2/3 innings, walking 14 and striking out 38. ... No. 29 Michael Burrows continues to pitch well, as he has a 2.12 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP in seven starts covering 29 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed just 13 hits and 12 walks while striking out 43. Reliever Will Kobos, a 23-year-old right-hander, is 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 11 appearances. He’s given up just seven hits and has 26 strikeouts in 21 innings, but he’s also given up 14 walks. ... Right-hander J.C. Flowers, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, has pitched well since being promoted from Low-A Bradenton. In three appearances, the last two of which were starts, the 2019 fourth-round draft choice has thrown 13 innings and given up eight hits and two earned runs. He’s walked only one and struck out 11. In six appearances at Bradenton, the last two of which were starts, Flowers had a 2.12 ERA, giving up 11 hits, four earned runs and three walks while striking out 23 in 17 innings. ... Matthew Fraizer, a left-handed hitting outfielder, continues to produce. The 23-year-old Fraizer, the Pirates third-round pick in the 2019 draft and No. 95 overall out of Arizona, is hitting .320/.949 with nine homers and 20 RBIs. ... Fellow outfielder Lolo Sanchez, 22, is hitting .250/.855 with seven homers and 19 RBIs. ... Fabricio Macias, another outfielder, is at .315/.853. Aaron Shackelford, 24, who moved to second base after Gonzales was injured, is at .222 but has an .856 OPS with 12 homers and 31 RBIs.

Bradenton: No. 17 prospect Jared Jones, the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, is 1-0 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 2/3 innings over five appearances. He’s given up 14 hits and seven walks while striking out 22. ... No. 21 Nick Garcia, last year’s No. 3 draft pick, is 3-1 with a 3.18 ERA over 22 1/3 innings spread out over eight appearances, all in relief. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has struck out 28 and walked 16. ... No. 25 Jose Soriano, the top pick in this year’s Rule 5 draft, underwent revision Tommy John surgery last week, 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 .302/.875 with 20 RBIs in 86 at-bats at Bradenton. His on-base percentage is .444. ... No. 18 prospect Sammy Siani, the No. 37 overall pick in 2019, is batting just .205 but is tied for the team lead with 25 RBIs and has a .368 on-base percentage. ... Endy Rodriguez, the organization’s top catching prospect and No. 25 overall, is at .263/.836 with six homers and 25 RBIs. ... Pitcher Santiago Florez, 21, is 3-1 with a 1.26 ERA in seven games, six of which have been starts. In 35 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound right-hander has given up 22 hits and walked seven while striking out 51.