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Minors Matters: Pirates Minor League report - 8/24/21

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MLB Pipeline updates prospect rankings; top pick Davis is now No. 1

MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned last week, MLB Pipeline updated its prospect rankings for all 30 teams as well as its Top 100 list and the top 10 list at every position. So we’ll take a look at the Bucs’ “new” prospect list as their minor league clubs head into the home stretch of the season.

The Florida Complex League schedule is scheduled to conclude Sept. 18, the day before the last regular-season games are slated to be played at the Low-A, High-A and Double-A levels. The Pirates’ Triple-A club in Indianapolis is scheduled to play its final regular-season game Oct. 3.

MLB Pipeline elevated 2021 first-round pick Henry Davis to the No. 1 prospect spot in the Pirates organization, supplanting the 2020 top pick Nick Gonzales, who moved down to No. 4 behind No. 2 Quinn Priester and Oneil Cruz.

Davis also became the Pirates’ highest-rated prospect in MLB’s Top 100 list, slotting in at No. 23. He was fourth among those taken in the July draft, as Marcelo Mayer, who went fourth overall to Boston, is MLB’s ninth-ranked prospect. Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt product chosen No. 2 behind Davis by the Texas Rangers, is ranked No. 12, one spot ahead of Jordan Lawlar, chosen sixth overall by Arizona.

But by no means are the MLB Pipeline folks down on Davis; Jim Callis said on last week’s MLB Pipeline podcast that if Davis becomes even an average catcher, he should rank among baseball’s Top 10 prospects, given his hit and hit-for-power tools and his makeup.

Now on to our prospects update:

No. 1 - Henry Davis

The Louisville product needed just two games with the Pirates’ Florida Complex League Black team to convince GM Ben Cherington and his crew that he was ready for stiffer competition, so they elevated the soon-to-be 22-year-old catcher to High-A Greensboro, where he is 5 for 24 with a pair of home runs and three RBIs. Davis has walked four times and struck out eight times. Defensively, Davis has allowed two passed balls in four games behind the plate at Greensboro and has thrown out one of the two runners who attempted to steal on him. He also served as a DH in two other games.

No. 2 - Quinn Priester

Priester, the club’s No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft and No. 18 overall, is now pegged at No. 53 in MLB’s Top 100 list. He had one of his roughest outings of the season last week at High-A Greensboro, as he was nicked for four earned runs and seven hits over five innings against Bowling Green. That’s the most earned runs Priester has allowed since he gave up five on June 1, and it’s only the second time this season that the big right-hander has allowed more than three earned runs in a start. On the plus side, he did not walk a batter and struck out six. Overall on the season Priester has a 3.08 ERA in 16 starts. In 79 innings he’s given up 67 hits and 30 walks while striking out 74 for a 1.23 WHIP.

No. 3 - Oneil Cruz

The 6-foot-7, left-handed hitting Cruz, ranked as MLB’s 57th-best prospect, returned to action last week with Double-A Altoona for the first time since June 30; he’d been recovering from a forearm strain. Cruz returned with a bang, collecting two doubles and a single and driving in three runs in his first game back, but he went 0 for 4 with a walk in his second game Sunday. He served as the Curve’s DH in both games. So far this year, Cruz is at .291/.890 for Altoona. In 200 plate appearances, Cruz has hit nine homers and driven in 32. He has an 8% walk rate and a 23.5% strikeout rate. Defensively, Cruz has 12 errors in 42 games at shortstop.

No. 4 - Nick Gonzales

Gonzales’ numbers keep climbing, as he raised his batting average to .298 and his OPS to .882 in 272 plate appearances at High-A Greensboro. The club’s top pick in the 2020 draft has homered 10 times and driven in 31, walking 8.5% of the time and striking out 29%. In the last 30 days, Gonzales is hitting .369/1.051 with an 8.8% walk rate and a 24.6% 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, is having a so-so month of August, as he’s hitting .250/.701 in 62 plate appearances at High-A Greensboro. Peguero has struck out 19 times and walked three times, homering twice and driving in eight runs. His 30-day window looks better; he’s hitting .278/.830 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in 101 plate appearances. On the season, Peguero is batting .259/.750 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs in 326 plate appearances. He has a 25.5% strikeout rate and an 7.1% walk rate. Defensively, Peguero has committed 19 errors in 69 games at short.

No. 6 - Roansy Contreras

Contreras, sidelined by a right forearm strain at the end of June, faced hitters in a live batting practice session last week, according to Jake Crouse of MLB.com. Contreras, obtained in the Jameson Taillon trade, is expected to throw another batting practice session before he returns to game action. 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 three games – two as a DH and one at shortstop. Offensively, Chandler is 1 for 8 and has struck out three 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 .193/.579 in 96 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 .246/.735 with seven homers and 30 RBIs.

No. 10 - Carmen Mlodzinski

The 22-year-old right-hander, who experienced shoulder stiffness last month, made his second appearance in a game for High-A Greensboro Sunday since July 10 when he started on Saturday against Bowling Green. Mlodzinski gave up four hits, four earned runs and two walks while striking out two in two innings. Two of the four hits he allowed left the yard. On the season, Mlodzinski is 2-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 11 starts. In 45 innings, Mlodzinski has given up 32 hits, 16 earned runs, 17 walks and seven home runs and has struck out 58 for a 1.089 WHIP.

No. 11 - Lonnie White

The 6-foot-3, 213-pound outfielder, taken No. 64 overall in the July draft, made his first professional appearance Thursday in a Florida Complex League game, going 2 for 2 with a pair of doubles. The 18-year-old right-handed hitter, who passed on a chance to play wide receiver for James Franklin at Penn State, batted fifth and started in right field for the club’s Black team.

No. 12 - Hudson Head

The 20-year-old outfielder, who came over from the San Diego Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade, has been struggling at Low-A Bradenton, as he’s gone 1 for 39 over the past eight games. Over the last 30 days, Head his hitting just .149/.566 in 84 plate appearances with two home runs and 10 RBIs. On the season, Head is at .200/.737 with a 17% walk rate and a 32.2% strikeout rate in 348 plate appearances.

No. 13 - Tahnaj Thomas

The 6-4, 190-pound right-hander has compiled a 2-2 mark with a 4.18 ERA in 51 2/3 innings over 14 appearances – all starts – at High-A Greensboro. Thomas has given up 45 hits and 34 walks for a 1.44 WHIP while striking out 55. Eight of his 43 hits allowed have left the yard. In his most recent start, Thomas threw four shutout innings, allowing two hits and four walks while striking out four. He threw 46 of his 82 pitches for strikes.

No. 14-– Michael Burrows

Burrows, who was placed on the seven-day injured list on July 16 with what Jason Mackey of the Post-Gazette reported to be an oblique injury, is throwing off a mound, and Mackey quoted Todd Tomczyk, the Pirates’ director of sports medicine, as saying that Burrows is “making the necessary strides” to return to game activity before the end of the minor league season. 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 for Low-A Bradenton.

No. 15 - Jared Jones

Jones, the Pirates’ second-round pick in the 2020 draft, is 3-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 14 games for Low-A Bradenton, 10 of them starts. In 52 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder has given up 47 hits and 25 walks while striking out 82. In his most recent start, which came Sunday against Clearwater, Jones needed 72 pitches to get through 3 2/3 innings. He gave up four earned runs, four walks and two hits while striking out six and hitting a batter.

No. 16 - Travis Swaggerty

The Pirates’ top pick in the 2018 draft, Swaggerty underwent surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder and is out for the season. He was hitting .220/.772 in 41 at-bats with Triple-A Indianapolis before his injury.

No. 17 - Mason Martin

The lefty-swinging first baseman continues to scuffle during the month of August, as he’s hitting just .214/.699 in 83 plate appearances over 20 games. During that stretch, Martin has homered twice and driven in 10 runs. He’s also walked 11 times and struck out 34 times. Overall, Martin’s 21 home runs are tied for third in the Double-A Northeast division, three behind the leader, and his 66 RBIs lead the league. On the season, the 22-year-old slugger is batting .256/.868 in 377 plate appearances. He has struck out 131 times (34.7%) and has walked 32 times (8.5%).

No. 18 - Cal Mitchell

Mitchell has had a rough spell, hitting just .227/.634 over the last 30 days covering 109 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona. However, over his past 10 days Mitchell is at .306/.919 in 43 plate appearances with a home run and five RBIs. Overall on the year, he’s hitting .272/.772 in 348 plate appearances. The 22-year-old San Diego product has 12 homers and 48 RBIs to go with a 5.7% walk rate and a 17.5% strikeout rate.

No. 19 - Endy Rodriguez

Rodriguez, the Pirates’ No. 25 prospect, is at .273/.826 in 334 plate appearances, with 10 homers and 46 RBIs at Low-A Bradenton. He has an 19.2% strikeout rate and an 11.7% walk rate. Over the past 30 days, Rodriguez is at .273/.847 with three homers and eight RBIs.

No. 20 - Maikol Escotto

Escotto, the last piece in the Taillon trade, is hitting .244/.753 with 33 RBIs in 305 plate appearances at Low-A Bradenton. He has a 16.4% walk rate and a 30.8% strikeout rate to go with a .377 on-base percentage. He has made 16 errors in 58 games at shortstop.

No. 21 - Brennan Malone

The 20-year-old right-hander, who came over from Arizona along with Peguero in the Starling Marte trade, was limited to two innings again in his most recent start for the Pirates’ Gold team in the Florida Complex League. Malone gave up one hit, one run and one walk while striking out two. In three FCL games, Malone has given up four hits, four walks and five earned runs while striking out five in 4 1/3 innings. 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. 22 - Ji-hwan Bae

The 21-year-old middle infielder is hitting .264/.745 in 269 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona, with five home runs and 21 RBIs. So far in the month of August, Bae is hitting just .232/.648 in 82 plate appearances with one home run and six RBIs. On the season, Bae has a 9.1% walk rate and a 23.6% strikeout rate. Bae spent the first three months playing strictly at second base, but he has seen action in center field in four games this month.

No. 23 - Matt Fraizer

The Pirates’ third-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Arizona, Fraizer has even better numbers since being promoted from High-A Greensboro to Double-A Altoona. In 64 plate appearances covering 16 games with the Curve, the left-handed hitting outfielder is batting .379/1.112 with two homers and 10 RBIs. In 350 plate appearances over 75 games at Greensboro, Fraizer hit .314/.979 with 20 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also has 15 stolen bases on the season, with just one of those coming with the Curve. Fraizer has an 11.1% walk rate and a 21% strikeout rate combined on the season; at Double-A Altoona those figures are 4.7% and 20.3%, respectively.

No. 24 - Miguel Yajure

Yajure was reinstated from the injured list and made a start Thursday for Triple-A Indianapolis, going four innings and giving up just two hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out six. He threw 31 of his 51 pitches for strikes, and one of his two hits allowed was a home run to Kody Clemens – Roger’s son. 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 3.43 ERA in four starts with Indianapolis.

No. 25 - Hoy Park

The 25-year-old utility man went into a deep funk recently, and that cost him a spot on the big league roster, as he was sent down to Indianapolis Monday. Park was in a 3-for-34 skid entering Monday’s game. All three of those hits came in one game, meaning that he was hitless in10 of his last 11 games with the Pirates. In his first eight games with the club following the trade with the Yankees that brought him to Pittsburgh, Park was 9 for 28 with a home run and four RBIs.

No. 26 - Rodolfo Castro

Like Park, Castro found hits hard to come by lately and – like Park – he was also given a ticket to the minor leagues, specifically Double-A Altoona. For the month of August, a stretch of 59 plate appearances over 19 games, Castro hit .185/.458 and had just one extra-base hits and no RBIs. He struck out 21 times and walked four times during that stretch. So far on the season, Castro is hitting .198/.653 with five homers and eight RBIs in 93 plate appearances at the big league level.

No. 27 - Omar Cruz

Cruz is 2-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 10 starts since being promoted from High-A Greensboro to Double-A Altoona. Cruz has worked 51 innings and given up 51 hits and 22 earned runs to go with 40 strikeouts and 14 walks. The 22-year-old left-hander had his worst start of the season Saturday, as he gave up 10 hits and five earned runs in five innings in a 6-1 loss to Somerset. Cruz did not walk a batter, but allowed two home runs while striking out three.

No. 28 - Canaan Smith-Njigba

Smith-Njigba, the 22-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder who came over in the Jameson Taillon trade, has been out since July 27 with injuries. He was reinstated from the injury list Aug. 5 but returned to the list six days later with a thigh injury, according to cbssports.com. He is at .286/.830 in 248 plate appearances for Double-A Altoona. He has six homers and 40 RBIs to go with a 16.1% walk rate and a 25.8% strikeout rate.

No. 29 - 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. 30 - Jack Suwinski

The 23-year-old outfielder, who came over from San Diego in the Adam Frazier trade, is at .244/.758 in 96 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona since the deal with three homers and 11 RBIs. Overall on the season, Suwinski is at .262/.899 with 18 homers and 48 RBIs along with a 27.8% strikeout rate and a 16% walk rate.

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 .284/.724 in 81 at-bats. ... Michael Chavis, obtained from Boston for Austin Davis, earned a promotion to the big leagues Monday after hitting .246/.852 in 69 at-bats with the Indians. He had five home runs and 12 RBIs at the time he was recalled. ... Pitcher Shelby Miller, activated from the seven-day injured list earlier this month, has appeared in eight games and is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA. The 30-year-old right-hander, signed to a minor league deal in late June, is a one-time All-Star with the Braves. He has given up nine hits and three walks while striking out 19 in 12 innings.

Altoona: Carter Bins, obtained in the Tyler Anderson deal, is hitting .196/.528 in 51 at-bats. ... Diego Castillo, a shortstop who came in the Clay Holmes deal, is at .263/.773 in his first 95 at-bats with five home runs and 14 RBIs for the Curve but overall on the season he’s at .273/.827 with 16 homers and 46 RBIs. He has an 8.2% walk rate and a 11.9% strikeout rate in 353 plate appearances at the Double-A level.

Greensboro: Right-hander J.C. Flowers, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, is 5-2 with a 4.62 ERA in 12 appearances, nine of which have been starts, after being promoted from Bradenton. Flowers has given up 53 hits and 19 walks and has struck out 54 in 50 2/3 innings. ... Reliever Will Kobos is 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 27 games. The 24-year-old right-hander has yielded just 19 hits and has struck out 68 in 41 2/3 innings, but he’s also walked 23 batters. ... Third baseman Jared Triolo, the Pirates’ second-round draft pick out of the University of Houston in 2019, is at .292/.807 with 65 RBIs – third in the league – and 21 stolen bases, tied for sixth in the league. ... Outfielder Lolo Sanchez (.247/.807) is tied for the league lead in steals with 27 and also has 14 home runs.

Bradenton: Nick Garcia, last year’s No. 3 draft pick, is 5-3 with a 4.50 ERA over 60 innings spread out over 17 appearances, 10 of which have been starts. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander has struck out 62 and walked 29. ... 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. ... 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 – best among the club’s Top 30 prospects — and a 25.5% strikeout rate. ... Catching prospect Abrahan Gutierrez, obtained from Philadelphia for pitcher Braeden Ogle, is at .267/.756 in 55 plate appearances for Bradenton, and overall on the year Gutierrez is at .284/.830 in 274 plate appearances with five homers and 36 RBIs to go with a 14.2% strikeout rate and a 16.4% walk rate. ... Eddy Yean, who was ranked as the Pirates’ No. 13 prospect earlier this year, is 4-2 with a 5.77 ERA in 17 games, seven of which were starts. Yean has given up 42 hits and 34 walks in 53 innings while striking out 55.

Florida Complex League: Po-Yu Chen, an international signing who received a $1.25 million bonus last year, is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in six starts for the Pirates’ Black team. In 26 innings, Chen has surrendered just 18 hits and has not walked a batter while striking out 29. ... Juan Jerez, a 19-year-old third baseman, is the top hitter on the Pirates Black club at .292/.862 with three home runs and 20 RBIs in 113 at-bats. ... Outfielder Braylon Bishop, the Bucs’ 14th-round selection in this year’s draft, is 1 for 5 in two games. ... For the Gold team, Tsung-Che Cheng, a 20-year-old infielder from Taiwan, is at .284/.891 in 108 plate appearances. He leads the club in both home runs (four) and RBIs (23) and has drawn 16 walks while striking out 10 times. ... Geovanny Planchart, a 20-year-old catcher from Venezuela, is at .328/.897 in 70 plate appearances.