Today, we’ll turn our attention to the Bucs’ two Class A clubs – Greensboro of the High-A South Atlantic League and Bradenton of the lower-level Florida State League.
Henry Davis, the No. 1 overall choice in last year’s first-year player draft and the Pirates’ No. 2-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is setting a torrid pace at Greensboro, as he’s hitting .323 with a .967 OPS with three homers and 15 RBIs. His OPS ranks as eighth best in the South Atlantic League.
The 22-year-old catcher, who hits from the right side, has walked seven times and struck out 17 times in 65 at-bats at Greensboro. He also has three stolen bases.
It figures to be just a matter of time before Davis is promoted to Double-A Altoona, although Blake Sabol is more than holding his own offensively there (.317/.826) while seeing duty behind the plate and in the outfield.
No. 7 prospect Endy Rodriguez, who spent most of his time catching last year during his first season in the Pirates organization after coming over in a trade with the Mets, is seeing action at first base, second base and left field in addition to catching at Greensboro.
The 21-year-old switch hitter is hitting .263/.723 in 80 at-bats for the Grasshoppers with two home runs and nine RBIs. Rodriguez has struck out 25 times and walked just three times.
Several of the Pirates’ top prospects have yet to make their professional debuts or haven’t seen game action at any level so far this year. They are pitcher Anthony Solometo, ranked No. 8, pitcher/shortstop Bubba Chandler (No. 9) and outfielder Lonnie White Jr. (No. 15).
Maikol Escotto, the No. 17 prospect, also has had trouble with the K, as he’s fanned 26 times while walking just three times in 67 at-bats at Greensboro. The 19-year-old Escotto, who is playing mostly at shortstop but also has played some second base, has shown some pop, as he’s hit four home runs and driven in 12 to go with his .224 average.
No. 21 prospect Hudson Head, a 21-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder, has struck out 27 times in 74 at-bats while drawing eight walks. Head is batting .250 with a .745 OPS, with one home run and six RBIs.
On the pitching side at Greensboro, Jared Jones, the 12th-ranked prospect, continues to flash put-away stuff, as he’s struck out 26 batters in 16 innings over four starts. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the 20-year-old right-hander, as he’s given up 13 hits and 10 runs – all earned — while walking eight batters and hitting two more. Four of the 13 hits he’s allowed have left the yard.
The lone Top-30 position player prospect to be assigned to Bradenton this spring is scuffling, as No. 25 Rodolfo Nolasco is hitting just .172 with a .524 OPS in 16 games. Nolasco, a 20-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder who hit .284/.961 in the Florida Complex League a year ago, has struck out 26 times and drawn six walks in 64 at-bats.
The hottest hitter at Bradenton is Jacob Gonzalez, the son of former major leaguer Luis Gonzalez, who is hitting .437/1.210 with four homers and 14 RBIs. A second-round draft choice of the San Francisco Giants in 2017, the right-handed hitting first baseman/DH was claimed during the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
Gonzalez, who turns 24 in late June and is nearly three years older than the average Class A-level player, has struck out just 10 times while walking seven times in his first 85 at-bats.
Also off to an impressive start at Bradenton is 20-year-old Taiwanese shortstop Tsung-Che Cheng. The 5’7”, 154-pound left-handed hitter is slashing .284/.803 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 92 at-bats. He’s walked 10 times and struck out 21 times.
Jase Bowen, who has split his time between the outfield and second base, leads Bradenton with five home runs and 15 RBIs. But the 21-year-old right-handed hitter also has struck out 30 times in 88 plate appearances.