4-26-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
This past week the theme across the Pirates Farm System was walk-offs; with total of five across the organization, and only the Low-A Bradenton Marauders failing to win a game in the team’s final at bat. Obviously the most famous, or at least the one that received the most social media attention, was Oneil Cruz’s two-run bomb in the bottom of the 11th on Sunday afternoon to send the Indianapolis Indians home victorious.
Very often these tweets, posts, etc. were accompanied by cries to have Cruz promoted to the Pirates Major League Roster. Unfortunately, other than this home run-Cruz’s first of the season-the 6’7” top prospect has struggled to the tune of a .204/.295/.333 slash line with a 31.1% K rate in 61 plate appearances. And, before you jump to any conclusions, no I am not calling him a “bust”. It has just been an less than ideal start to the season, which is one reason why you won’t find him on this week’s Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performances in spite of this electric moment.
1) Justin Meis
Chances are that when the Pirates selected the 6’2” righty from Eastern Michigan University in the 10th round of last year’s draft, the first things fans became aware of was the fact that Meis is from Bethel Park. However, if you look beyond this, a pitcher that tore up the Cape Cod League by posting a 2.08 ERA, a .808 WHIP and 17K/3BB ratio in 17.1 innings will quickly be found,
Immediately following the draft Meis would go on to pitch 17.2 innings with the Low-A Marauders, putting up a 2.04 ERA and a 1.302 ERA while striking out 27 batters.
Due to his age and inexperience it was really no surprise that he would return to Bradenton to begin 2022. Regrettably this year started with a thud, rather than the anticipated bang as Meis gave up a couple of homers and 6 earned runs over 3.1 innings during his first outing of the season. However, over his next two starts he would settle in and settle down, including his 5 inning, 2 hit, 0 earned run, 0 walk and 10 strike out performance this past week.
2) Omar Cruz
Much like Meis, Cruz began his season in Altoona with a bit of a clunker. Over only 2.1 innings of work he struck out 4, but gave up a couple of runs on 4 hits. Since then he has taken to being the backend of the piggyback over his next 3 appearances-2 this week. In his last 10 innings he hasn’t allowed a run, while striking out 14 and walking 5.
Being the lone lefty as far as the Pirates top pitching prospects are concerned, as well as being a piece in the Joe Musgrove deal with San Diego, it feels like there could be some added expectations attached to Cruz, which made it all the more curious when the Pittsburgh chose not to add him to the 40-Man this past offseason. Yet, as it was with quite a few other players this decision became null and void with the cancellation of the Rule 5 Draft.
3) Jack Suwinski
Suwinski is another San Diego Padres product; just from a different trade-the Adam Frazier one. And unlike Cruz he was actually added to the 40-Man in November; a decision that I questioned at the time. For the most part this was less about adding Suwinski and more about the players that were left off.
Well, so far this season Suwinski is making me eat my words a little bit; although it’s happening in Altoona instead of Indianapolis, where one might have though a player-selected over others-on the 40-Man would reside.
In 13 games played, and over 57 plate appearances; Suwinski has a .353 AVG, a 1.107 OPS and 3 homers; two of which came during this past week. Currently he has a 9 game hitting streak, and was the man of the hour during the Curve’s contest with the Fisher Cats on Saturday night.
4) Henry Davis
One of Pittsburgh’s Top Prospects, the #1 Overall Pick in last year’s MLB Draft and now his first time on my list; which I’m pretty sure is an important box that he needed to check off as it pertains to his development within the Pirates Farm System.
Splitting time between DH and catcher, Davis is slashing .354/.475/.563 with 2 home runs and 5 total extra base hits; including a 5 game streak during the most recent series.
Behind the dish Davis has allowed 10 stolen bases, while only throwing out 1 batter; nevertheless it will be his bat that gets him to move up through the system as he continues to work on his defense.
5) Jacob Gonzalez
In the 3rd Round of the most recent Minor League Rule 5 Draft the Pirates selected Gonzalez from the San Francisco Giants. The son of former MLB home run hitter-57 for the Diamondbacks in 2001-Luis Gonzalez, Jacob has struggled to produce consistently since being selected in the 2nd Round of the 2017 Draft as a high school infield standout.
At almost 24 years old-nearly 3 full years older than average Low-A player-Gonzalez has been named the Florida State League Player of The Week two straight weeks thanks to his .447 AVG, 1.339 OPS and 4 home runs. Understandably this is something that should be celebrated, however Pirates Fans may need to pump the brakes until he performs above the lowest level.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the third week of 2022.
Now remember, let me know I missed, who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday during Minor League Baseball Season!