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Minors Matters: Pirates Minor League report - 6/8/2021

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What’s happening down there?

Detroit Tigers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

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 five weeks of play:

No. 1 - Ke’Bryan Hayes

Hayes returned to the big league roster Thursday after being out for two months with a wrist injury he sustained in the second game of the season. A leading candidate for Rookie of the Year heading into the season, Hayes went 7 for 18 with a home run and three RBIs in his first series back over the weekend.

No. 2 - Nick Gonzales

Gonzales remains sidelined with a broken pinky finger and is expected to be out for another three weeks or so. Gonzales was hitting .294 with two home runs and five RBIs at High-A Greensboro.

No. 3 - Quinn Priester

Priester, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and No. 18 overall, had a rough start last week for High-A Greensboro. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander gave up five earned runs on eight hits in four innings in a loss to Winston-Salem. Priester threw 72 pitches, walking one and striking out three. Overall the 20-year-old Priester is 2-3 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. In 21 innings, he has allowed 23 hits and eight walks while striking out 17.

No. 4 - Oneil Cruz

The talented Cruz had a strong week and is now hitting .284/.862 with five homers and a team-leading 20 RBIs in his first 102 at-bats for Double-A Altoona. He has struck out 30 times. In his first five games in June, Cruz is 9 for 24 (.375) with a .917 OPS and four RBIs. Defensively, Cruz has committed nine errors in 25 games at shortstop.

No. 5 - Liover Peguero

Peguero missed two weeks with a knee issue, but is back in the lineup for High-A Greensboro. On the season, the 20-year-old shortstop is batting .259/.714 with two homers and four RBIs. So far this month Peguero is batting just .185 with a .452 OPS and five RBIs. He’s struck out in nine of his 27 at-bats during that stretch.

No. 6 - Hudson Head

The young outfielder, who came over from the San Diego Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade, fell below the Mendoza line on the season, as he’s hitting .190/.714 at Low-A Bradenton. Despite the low batting average, Head has shown some pop, as he’s hit three home runs and driven in eight. The 20-year-old left-handed hitter has also walked 23 times while striking out 34 times in 112 plate appearances for a .393 on-base percentage.

No. 7 - Tahnaj Thomas

The 6-4, 190-pound right-hander gave up just three hits and one run in his first two starts covering seven innings for High-A Greensboro, but his two most recent outings haven’t been as impressive. In five starts covering 17 innings, Thomas is 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He has allowed just nine hits, but five of them have left the yard. He has also walked 11 while striking out 23 and has a 1.18 WHIP. Thomas, who turns 22 next week, worked 3 1/3 innings in his most recent start Friday, giving up an unearned run and one hit while walking two and striking out three.

No. 8 - 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.

No. 9 - 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. 10 - Cody Bolton

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

No. 11 - Carmen Mlodzinski

Mlodzinski, chosen 31st overall in the 2020 June draft out of the University of South Carolina, continues to perform well at High-A Greensboro, The 22-year-old right-hander is 1-1 with a 0.55 ERA in four starts covering 16 1/3 innings. He has given up just seven hits and one earned run while walking seven and striking out 25. In his most recent start Sunday, the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Mlodzinski worked five scoreless innings, giving up four hits and a walk while striking out seven in a no-decision.

No. 12 - Miguel Yajure

Yajure is currently sidelined after experiencing forearm tightness in a start with Triple-A Indianapolis on May 26. GM Ben Cherington said Yajure had been pitching through some discomfort but the club decided to shut him down. 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.

No. 13 - Eddy Yean

The 19-year-old right-hander, who came over from Washington in the Josh Bell trade, is 1-1 with an 8.62 ERA in six games, four of which have been starts, for Low-A Bradenton. He has surrendered 16 hits and 12 walks while striking out 13 in 15 2/3 innings. In his most recent outing Thursday, Yean went four innings, giving up four runs – all earned – on four hits and two walks while striking out four. Two of the four hits were home runs; he has given up five homers so far this season. Most of his damage has come in three of his six outings; he’s given up 14 of his 15 earned runs and 10 of his 16 hits in 6 2/3 innings in those three games.

No. 14 - Ji-hwan Bae

The 21-year-old middle infielder, who has played exclusively at second base at Double-A Altoona this season, has picked it up offensively after a slow start. Bae is hitting .271/.692 in 104 plate appearances, driving in four runs and stealing five bases while hitting near the top of the lineup. Bae finished the month of May batting .200/.514 in 81 plate appearances. So far in June, he’s 11 for 21 with three doubles and a triple.

No. 15 - Mason Martin

The power-hitting first baseman is hitting .234/.809 over 26 games for Altoona. He has five homers and 17 RBIs and has struck out 43 times in 94 at-bats.

Others

Indianapolis: The Bucs’ top farm club is light in terms of prospects. Max Kranick, ranked No. 28 in the system, earned a promotion from Altoona and in his first two Triple-A starts he has allowed 11 hits and five earned runs over 9 1/3 innings to go with two walks and seven strikeouts. ... Bligh Madris, a 25-year-old outfielder/first baseman, started the year in Altoona and hit just .192 in 26 at-bats, but was promoted to the Triple-A Indians, where he is batting .333/.879 in 48 at-bats.

Altoona: No. 18 prospect Cal Mitchell is off to a solid start, hitting .276/.810 in 87 at-bats. He has three home runs, 13 RBIs and three steals. ... No. 20 Roansy Contreras continues to be the most impressive prospect overall, as he is 3-1 with a 1.63 ERA/0.76 WHIP after five starts spanning 27 2/3 innings. Contreras has given up just 15 hits and six walks while striking out 42. In his most recent start Tuesday, Contreras gave up four hits in six scoreless innings, striking out eight and walking none. ... . Starter Travis MacGregor is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP over five starts totaling 18 2/3 innings. He has struck out 28 and walked just six. ... Infielder Rodolfo Castro is having a solid year offensively, hitting .280/.824 with four homers and 19 RBIs in 107 at-bats.

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. His roughest outing of the season came in his most recent start Wednesday when he was touched for six hits and five earned runs in four innings. ... No. 24 Omar Cruz is 1-3 after four starts. The 6-foot, 200-pound left-hander, who came from San Diego in the Musgrove trade, has allowed 11 hits and seven earned runs in 17 2/3 innings, walking 11 and striking out 31. ... No. 29 Michael Burrows continues to pitch well, as he has a 1.74 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP in five starts covering 20 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed just seven hits and eight walks while striking out 31.

Bradenton: No. 17 prospect Jared Jones, the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, went 3 2/3 innings Saturday, giving up three hits and an earned run while walking two and striking out three. He is 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 7 2/3 innings over three appearances. ... No. 21 Nick Garcia, last year’s No. 3 draft pick, is 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA over 17 1/3 innings spread out over six appearances. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has struck out 20 and walked 12. In his most recent appearance Sunday, Garcia gave up two hits and an unearned run while striking out four in three innings. ... No. 25 Jose Soriano, the top pick in this year’s Rule 5 draft, had his rehab from Tommy John surgery suspended after reporting discomfort in his elbow. The 22-year-old right-hander appeared in just two games before halting his rehab. ... Shortstop Maikol Escotto, the last piece in the Taillon trade, is hitting .313/.898 with 15 RBIs in 67 at-bats at Bradenton. He’s also drawn a team-high 17 walks and his on-base percentage is .465.