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Minors Matters: Pirates Minor League report - 7/6/2021

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A look at the farm system!

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Those who follow Pirates prospects had to swallow hard Sunday when GM Ben Cherington mentioned on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan that two of the club’s more prominent minor leaguers are expected to visit doctors to check on some arm issues. Shortstop Oneil Cruz, the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and Roansy Contreras, a right-handed pitcher who has been excellent so far in 2021, are both expected to be examined this week. Cherington said both “felt something down on their forearm area.” Cruz’s issue surfaced on a throw from shortstop and Contreras reported discomfort during his most recent start, which was interrupted by a rain delay. “We are hopeful and feel like in neither case it’s a big deal,” Cherington said, “but they’re going to get seen.”

And on that sour note, let’s review how the Top 15 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB Pipeline rankings are given) are doing after the first nine weeks of play:

No. 1 - Nick Gonzales

Gonzales has scuffled since he returned from broken pinky finger that kept him out of action for five weeks. In eight games (38 plate appearances) for High-A Greensboro, Gonzales has collected six hits – two of which have left the park – and driven in five runs. He has struck out 12 times and walked three times and owns a batting average/OPS mark of .171/.580 during that stretch. Overall, Gonzales is hitting .244/.781 with four homers, 10 RBIs and 28 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances (29.5%).

No. 2 - Quinn Priester

Priester, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and No. 18 overall, is 3-3 with a 3.32 ERA in nine starts so far for High-A Greensboro. In 38 innings, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander has given up 39 hits and walked 15 while striking out 37. In his most recent start, Priester yielded two hits and one earned run in four innings Tuesday against Bowling Green. He struck out seven and walked two in his 65-pitch outing.

No. 3 - Oneil Cruz

The 6-foot-7, left-handed hitting Cruz had just four at-bats in the last week due to his aforementioned arm issue. On the season, Cruz is at .289/887 for Double-A Altoona. In 173 at-bats, 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 42games at shortstop.

No. 4 - Liover Peguero

On the season, the 20-year-old shortstop is batting .267/.761with five homers and 17 RBIs in 146 at-bat for High-A Greensboro. He has a 25.5% strikeout rate and a 6.2% walk rate. Defensively, Peguero also has had some issues, as he’s committed 13 errors in 34 games at short.

No. 5 - Hudson Head

The young outfielder, who came over from the San Diego Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade, is hitting .205 with a .771 OPS in 200 plate appearances. Head has walked 38 times and struck out 65 times and has seven home runs and 23 RBIs. His strikeout and walk rates are 32.5% and 19%, respectively.

No. 6 - Tahnaj Thomas

The 6-4, 190-pound right-hander has not pitched since June 24. He is 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA in seven starts High-A Greensboro. In 25 1/3 innings, Thomas has given up 19 hits and 25 walks while striking out 30.

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 Florida Complex League – formerly known as 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. He has yet to appear in a Florida Complex League game; the league schedule began 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 in May to repair a torn medial meniscus 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, had his roughest outing of the season for High-A Greensboro Saturday, as he gave up five earned runs and five hits in six innings against Bowling Green. He struck out five and walked one. Coming into the game, Mlodzinski had given up just six earned runs in 31 1/3 innings. On the season, Mlodzinski is 2-2 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts. In 37 1/3 innings, Mlodzinski has given up 26 hits, 11 earned runs, 10 walks and five home runs and has struck out 51 for a 0.964 WHIP.

No. 11 - Miguel Yajure

Yajure is currently on the 60-day injured list 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.

No. 12 - Eddy Yean

The young right-hander, who came over from Washington in the Josh Bell trade, has put together three straight solid outings – all in relief — for Low-A Bradenton. During that stretch, the 20-year-old Yean has given up just one earned run in 13 innings and allowed three hits and four walks while striking out 17. On the season, Yean is 3-1 with a 3.82 ERA. In 32 1/3 innings, Yean has allowed 25 hits and 19 earned runs. He has walked 17 and struck out 37.

No. 13 - Ji-hwan Bae

The 21-year-old middle infielder, who has played exclusively at second base at Double-A Altoona this season, continues to rehab from a knee injury he sustained 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. Bae was assigned to the Pirates’ Gold club in the Florida Complex League Friday but was moved to the Pirates’ Black club in the same league Monday.

No. 14 - Mason Martin

The right-handed hitting first baseman continues to show off his power stroke for Double-A Altoona. On the season, the 22-year-old right-handed slugger is batting .261/905 with 13 homers (tied for third in the Double-A Northeast League) and 40 RBIs(tied for fourth with teammate Rodolfo Castro) in 202 plate appearances. He has 65 strikeouts (32.2%) and 13 walks (6.4%). Nine of his homers and 26 of his RBIs have come since June 1 – a stretch of 113 plate appearances over 27 games.

No. 15 – Jared Oliva

The 25-year-old outfielder, who started the season injured, earned a call to the big leagues last week and has gotten just one hit in 11 at-bats for the Pirates. He was batting just .167/.460 in 52 plate appearances for Triple-A Indianapolis when he was recalled.

Indianapolis: Mitch Keller has made four appearances for the Indians and so far in 9 2/3 innings he has given up three earned runs and nine hits while walking four and striking out 12. ... Outfielder Anthony Alford is hitting .288/.943 in 143 plate appearances. He has struck out 48 times and walked 30 times and has an on-base percentage of .448 to go with six homers and 22 RBIs. ... Longtime middle infield prospect Kevin Kramer, meanwhile, was dealt to Milwaukee Sunday for Nathan Kirby, a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher. Kramer was the Pirates’ second-round draft choice in 2015 from UCLA while Kirby went 40thoverall in the same draft class. Kirby missed all of the 2016, 2017 and 2019 seasons due to injuries. The 6-foot 2, 200-pounder had been pitching at the Double-A level prior to the trade and had compiled a 0-1 record with a 1.93 ERA in 17 relief appearances. He gave up 12 hits and a troublesome 13 walks to go with 19 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

Altoona: No. 18 prospect Cal Mitchell is having a breakout season for the Curve, as he’s batting .312/.914 in 189 plate appearances. The 22-year-old San Diego product has nine homers and 30 RBIs to go with 12 walks (6.3%) and 31 strikeouts (16.4%). Since June 1, Mitchell is hitting .327/.956 in 112 plate appearances. He has homered six times and driven in 19 during that stretch. ... As mentioned earlier, No. 20 prospect Roansy Contreras is expected to be examined this week after experiencing some forearm issues during a start Wednesday against Hartford. 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 0-1 in his two starts since being promoted from High-A Greensboro. Cruz has worked 10 2/3 innings and given up nine hits and two earned runs to go with six strikeouts and one walk ... No. 24 prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba, an outfielder who came over in the Jameson Taillon trade, is at .268/.784 in 182 plate appearances. He has four homers and 26 RBIs to go with 27 walks (14.8%) and 45 strikeouts (24.7%). Since June 1, Smith-Njigba is at .301/.818 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. ... Infielder Rodolfo Castro has 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 212 plate appearances. He’s batting .306 with an .898 OPS. ... Starter Travis MacGregor is 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over eight starts totaling 36 2/3 innings. He has struck out 39 and walked 14.

Greensboro: No. 22 Braxton Ashcraft is 1-0 with a 3.62 ERA in seven starts spanning 27 1/3 innings. He has given up 20 hits and six walks while striking out 27. ... No. 29 Michael Burrows has a 2.39 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in nine starts covering 37 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed 20 hits and 15walks while striking out 52. ... Right-hander J.C. Flowers, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, continues to pitch well since his promotion from Low-A Bradenton. In five appearances, the last four of which were starts, the 2019 fourth-round draft choice has thrown 24 innings and given up 15 hits and three walks while striking out 20. ... Outfielder Matthew Fraizer, the Pirates’ third-round selection in the 2019 draft, continues to push for a promotion, as he’s batting .317/.935, with the latter figure the sixth-best in the High-A East League. In 236 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter has 11 home runs and 31 RBIs for the Grasshoppers. ...Fellow outfielder Lolo Sanchez, 22, is hitting .255/.850 with seven homers and 22 RBIs. ... Outfielder Fabricio Macias, 23, is at .316/.861 with six homers and 38 RBIs (fourth best in the league). Macias has struck out 41 times in 184 plate appearances(22.3%) and walked 10 times (5.4%).

Bradenton: No. 17 prospect Jared Jones, the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in seven games, five of them starts. In 22 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has given up 20 hits and 10 walks while striking out 39. ... No. 21 Nick Garcia, last year’s No. 3 draft pick, is 3-2 with a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings spread out over 10 appearances, seven of which came in relief. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has struck out 33 and walked 18. ... No. 25 Jose Soriano, the top pick in this year’s Rule 5 draft, underwent revision Tommy John surgery two weeks ago, 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 .291/.841 with 24 RBIs in 127 at-bats at Bradenton. He has struck out 47times (29.7%) and walked 28 times (17.7%). His on-base percentage is .424. He has made eight errors in 29 games at shortstop. ... No. 18 prospect Sammy Siani, the No. 37 overall pick in 2019, is at .218/.804 in 202 plate appearances. The 20-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder has seven homers and leads the team with 31 RBIs. He has struck out 51 times (25.2%) but has also walked 41 times (20.3%). ... Endy Rodriguez, the organization’s top catching prospect and No. 25 overall, is at .260/.794 with seven homers and 29 RBIs. He has an 18.7% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk rate in 203 plate appearances. ... Pitcher Santiago Florez, 21, is 5-1 with a 1.32 ERA in ninegames, eight of which have been starts. In 47 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound right-hander has given up 28 hits and walked 12 while striking out 63.