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Pirates’ number seven prospect heating up in May

Versatile Endy Rodriguez on a hot streak at High-A Greensboro

Pittsburgh Pirates Photo Day Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Five full weeks are in the books for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ two lower-level Minor League teams, so let’s see how some of the organization’s top prospects are faring at Greensboro of the High-A South Atlantic League and Bradenton of the Class A Florida State League.

Endy Rodriguez, the highest-rated prospect – at least according to MLB Pipeline – at number seven, has gotten hot as the weather has heated up. Since the calendar turned to May, the 22-year-old Rodriguez is hitting.387 with a .525 on-base percentage and a 1.332 OPS. In 40 plate appearances, Rodriguez has walked as many times as he’s struck out – seven – and has three home runs and seven RBIs.

Overall on the season, Rodriguez is batting .283 with a .361 on-base percentage and an OPS of .861 in 106 at-bats. He has four home runs and has driven in 14 with 32 strikeouts and 10 walks.

Rodriguez has shown defensive versatility in his minor league career, both with the Pirates and the Mets – his original organization – but he might see more time behind the plate now that Henry Davis has been promoted to Double-A Altoona. So far this season, Rodriguez has seen action at first base, second base and left field in addition to catching.

Shortstop Maikol Escotto, at No. 17, is hitting just .206 with a .679 OPS. Escotto has shown some power, with five home runs, and has driven in 16. He’s struck out 34 times and walked only six times in 105 plate appearances.

Outfielder Hudson Head, at No. 21, has seen his numbers pick up in recent weeks. Since May 1, Head is batting .308 with a .911 OPS. Head has a home run and five RBIs but has struck out 15 times in 39 May at-bats. Overall, he’s at .266 with an .801 OPS.

The best offensive performer at Greensboro overall so far is outfielder Matt Gorski, who is seventh in the league in OPS at .944. Gorski, 24, was the Pirates’ second-round draft pick in 2019 and the 57th selection overall. The 6-foot-4, 198-pound right-handed hitter is third in the league in both home runs with nine and RBIs with 26.

The Grasshoppers’ hottest hitter, though, is a somewhat familiar name: Jacob Gonzalez. The son of former major league outfielder Luis Gonzalez, the younger Gonzalez tore up the Florida State League before his promotion, hitting .393 with a 1.128 OPS. Gonzalez slugged four homers and drove in 16 runs in 107 at-bats at Bradenton and he hasn’t skipped a beat since moving up to Greensboro. Gonzalez has 12 hits in 19 at-bats, with three of them leaving the yard, for a .632 batting average and a 1.930 OPS. He was voted the South Atlantic League’s player of the week last week.

Gonzalez, who turns 24 at the end June, was taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft during the offseason; he had been property of the San Francisco Giants, who selected him in the second round of the 2017 amateur draft out of a Scottsdale, Ariz., high school.

Jared Jones, the highest-ranked pitcher at Greensboro at No. 12, had his worst outing of the season in his most recent start, as he gave up eight hits and six earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against Hickory on May 11. The 20-year-old right-hander walked one and struck out four. In his first four starts, Jones was 2-0 with a 5.06 ERA, allowing 16 hits and 11 walks in 21 1/3 innings while striking out 32. Overall, Jones is 2-1 with a 6.85 ERA.

Another pitching prospect struggling at Greensboro is Adrian Florencio, 23, last year’s Pirates’ minor league pitcher of the year and the pitcher of the year in the what is now the Florida State League. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound right-hander has given up 28 hits and 17 walks in 22 2/3 innings and is 1-4 with a 7.54 ERA in seven appearances for Greensboro, six of them starts.

Greensboro’s top starter so far has been Sean Sullivan, a 21-year-old right-hander taken in the eighth round out of Cal in 2021. The 6-1, 175-pound Sullivan is 0-1 with a 3.63 ERA, and in 22 1/3 innings, he’s given up 17 hits and nine walks while striking out 22.

At Bradenton, outfielder Rodolfo Nolasco – the highest-ranked player at that level at No. 25 – is hitting just .194 with a .560 OPS in 103 at-bats. Nolasco has struck out 38 times and walked nine times. Nolasco has picked it up a bit in May; he’s batting .214 with four doubles and five RBIs in 42 at-bats this month.

The top offensive performer at Bradenton is second baseman Brenden Dixon, a 21-year-old right-handed hitter who is batting just .239 but has an .819 OPS in 92 at-bats. Dixon has hit four home runs and driven in 12.

On the pitching side at Bradenton, the numbers are not pretty. Of those with at least three starts, Carlos Jimenez has the only sub-3.00 ERA, as he’s 0-2 with a 2.51 ERA. Jimenez, a 19-year-old right-hander, has given up 15 hits and 11 walks in 14 1/3 innings while striking out 25.