The Greensboro Grasshoppers have held their own in 2021 and displayed a season for the ages in the Pittsburgh Pirates Minor Leagues.
Leading the entire system with a 74-46 record— a .617 winning percentage— as 28 games over .500, the Grasshoppers leaped into the playoffs as a legitimate threat in the High-A playoffs.
Two cancellations due to inclement weather have legitimately rained on the team’s parade and prevented Greensboro from hosting the first round so far against Bowling Green.
The two teams were set to face off on Tuesday, then Wednesday, and will attempt to make third times a charm on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Greensboro fields four of Pittsburgh’s top five prospects. Injured catcher and first-overall pick Henry Davis leads the way, followed by right-handed pitcher Quinn Priester second, second baseman Nick Gonzales fourth, and shortstop Liover Peguero fifth.
Preister should see the mount relatively early to begin the playoffs, failing to miss a beat since three poor outings in his first five starts to begin the year.
Baseball’s No. 50 overall prospect, Priester has thrown 97.2 innings over 20 starts, registering a .224 opponent average, 1.24 WHIP, and 98 strikeouts in route to a 3.04 ERA. The 21-year-old earned High-A Player of the Week honors on August 30 after striking out 13 including the first nine he faced against Asheville.
Gonzales and Peguero have also had stellar seasons for the ‘Hoppers. Arguably High-A’s most gifted and talented middle infield duo, the combination is on course to flip double plays at PNC Park in the not-so-distant future.
Gonzales, a 2020 first-round pick, lists as MLB Pipeline’s 63rd best prospect, enters postseason play after a red hot final stretch earning August Player of the Month honors. Despite battling a right-hand injury in the early portion of 2021, the 22-year-old Gonzales completed his first year of pro ball slashing .302/.385/.565 with 23 doubles, 18 home runs, and 54 RBI in 80 games. He was on fire in August, batting .364 with 10 homers and 28 RBI in 24 games.
The Pirates’ fifth and final prospect in the Top 100, No. 87 Liover Peguero, is the heartbeat of the Grasshoppers’ emotional leadership and is a spark plug in the batters’ box and on the bases. Peguero hit .270 in 90 games, missing time in May with a knee injury, collecting 19 doubles, 14 home runs, and 45 RBI.
Gonzales and Peguero do strike out a lot—101 and 105, respectively— but both have the ability to drive in or score a critical run when necessary.
Greensboro has been the most exciting team to witness in 2021 throughout the Pirates system, with scouts including Ben Spanier of Baseball Prospectus raving about the team’s success.
“The lineup is basically loaded... the system is good and Greensboro is one of the better teams in the league. You never know how much to make of minor-league records, but some of the more successful systems at churning people out or being called good organizations, in general, do have good minor-league records.”
Priester, Gonzales, and Peguero may steal all the headlines, but keep an eye on Jared Triolo at third, Blake Sabol in the outfield or catching, and Lolo Sanchez in the outfield as well. These players, along with RHP Carmen Mlodzinski (10), Tahnaj Thomas (13), Michael Burrows (14), and bullpen arms Austin Roberts and Enmanuel Mejia have been key pitchers for manager Kieran Mattison’s 2021 Grasshoppers.
Bradenton Mauraders currently leads the Tampa Tarpons 2-0 in a best of five series as well in the Low-A playoffs.
The AA Altoona Curve have concluded their season, leading to AAA call ups for Oniel Cruz (53rd in MLB, Pirates 3rd) Roansy Contreras (6), Mason Martin (17), Cal Mitchell (18), Rodolfo Castro (25), and Canaan Smith-Njigba to conclude September.
The Pirates organization continues to have winning success in the Minor Leagues, instilling a winning mentality into player's minds the franchise hopes will transition one day soon to big league ballparks.