Merriam-Webster’s defines a freak of nature as a person or thing that is very unusual or abnormal. In many situations this could potentially be seen as a negative, except when it comes to sports. In the sports world a freak of nature or athletic freak has attention showered on them, is celebrated at times and is often put on a higher plane. These types of athletes are known for either their size, strength, abilities or feats that can be performed with what seems to be limited effort. One such person that fits this criteria exists within the Pittsburgh Pirates Farm System and has gotten little to no attention, in spite of his 6’5” 245 pound frame. I should also mention that this young man is only 19 years old.
Shendrik Apostel was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent for $80,000 in July of 2017 out of Willemstad, Curaçao. His older brother Sherten had been signed by the Pirates two years earlier and given a $200,000 signing bonus to play third base. He is likely the more famous Apostel brother due to the fact that he was the Player To Be Named Later in the trade with the Rangers that brought Keone Kela to Pittsburgh in August of 2018. Earlier that year the younger Apostel, Shendrik, had made his debut for the DSL Pirates 1. The raw power that he possessed was on display from the beginning of his professional career has he smashed 6 home runs and 12 doubles, while compiling a .825 OPS and a .221 ISO in 41 games. The downside of this type of output was shown by a lack of plate discipline at times as evidenced by a 29.1% Strike Out Rate. He did balance it all out with an above average OBP of .354.
At the start of 2019, the DSL Pirates first baseman was looking to build upon an impressive debut season, but was limited to just 27 games. No concrete reason(s) given for this shortened season; the whispers that have been heard all point to Apostel’s conditioning as a question mark. In 14 less games than the previous year he was able to hit 5 home runs, only one less than 2018. He also maintained an .800 plus OPS, landing at .872; mostly because of an increased OBP of .421. The big differences between years were his Strike Out Rate, which dropped significantly from 29.1% to 16.8% and his Walk Rate that rose from 10.8% to 19.6%. For a power hitter these are actually some pretty impressive and unexpected improvements; especially since his average barely changed at all, going from .250 to .256.
Going into this season the mostly likely prediction would have been Apostel starting the year with a promotion to the Bristol Pirates (Pittsburgh’s Advanced Rookie Level Affiliate) of the Appalachian League, following the same steps his older brother took two years earlier. However, with the season currently being delayed it is difficult to say what will happen with Apostel or any of the other Pirates Prospects for that matter. This alone won’t stop me from have an opinion though. Due to him turning 20 years old in less than a month I would almost want to see Apostel start the year with the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh’s Low A Affliate) of the South Atlantic League with the possibility of earning a mid-season promotion, if he continues to maintain his power and OBP from 2019.