Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers

5-10-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)

Ever since I started ranking the Pirates Prospects following the first week of the Minor League Baseball Season back on April 12th, my main caution to those following the Pittsburgh’s Farm System has been to be wary of the small sample size. One three hit game can balloon a batter’s statistics in the same way a rough outing can make a pitcher seem like he is destined to have an ERA north of 8.00 or a WHIP above 2.00. As the season progresses these numbers will almost always regulate themselves back to the mean, and a clearer picture of exactly who the player is starts to emerge.

After almost 30 games for the Indians, Curve, Grasshoppers and Marauders, early season struggles at the plate have been shrugged off by some, seemly hot bats have quickly cooled, a dominant appearance on the mound becomes the anomaly and one rough outing is a thing of the past. Then there are the prospects who have remained consistent through April, and into the beginning of May; ultimately leading to several repeat top performers for the first time this year.

1) Henry Davis-C (Altoona)

Jack Suwinski made the list , and was promoted almost immediately; for Davis it took an extra week, but it finally happened. After slashing .342/.450/.585 with 5 homers and 9 total extra base hits in an even 100 plate appearances for the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers, last year’s number one overall pick is headed north to Altoona.

When it comes to Davis-as it is with the majority of prospects-the bat will be the primary factor in determining promotion through the system. So far this season he has spent nearly an equal amount of time behind the dish and serving as the team’s designated hitter. Obviously, it is possible that Davis eventually moves off the position, which is something I’ve heard rumblings of every since the Pirates selected him; still; it is far to soon to make that assumption.

2) Michael Burrows-RHP (Altoona)

Burrows earned his way into the inaugural Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers, and hasn’t looked back. During his first start of the season Burrows struck out 4, did walk a single batter and allowed two hits in 4 inning of work; needing only 48 pitches to dispose of the Harrisburg Senators’ lineup.

Since that time he has posted a 1.59 ERA and a .882 WHIP, while striking out 31 over 5 starts and 22.2 innings. During his most recent outing Burrows all but silenced the Sea Wolves bats in his 4 innings of work; giving up one hit, notching 6 strike outs and allowing one free pass.

Now, I have seen some concern circulating Pirates Fan Social Media surrounding the limiting of his-and other pitchers-innings, i in somewhat of a trickle down effect from the Major League Club. Nevertheless, as it pertains to Burrows, it is my belief that Pittsburgh’s developmental staff is just being overly cautious with an arm that pitched only 49 innings during the 2021 season due to an oblique injury; and one that had thrown 90 pitches during the previous start.

3) Liover Peguero-SS (Altoona)

Peguero was also recognized in my first Top 5 of the year; partially because I witnessed his first home run of the season in person. However, he has found his way back on account of his bat not slowing down.

In 23 games-and over 99 plate plate appearances-Peguero has slashed .333/.364/.548 with 3 homers and 13 total extra base hits, highlighted by a 4 for 5 performance during the previous week. Current riding a 6-game hit streak, he currently leads-or is tied for-the team lead in all major batting categories; including AVG (.333), OPS (.912), HR (3) and RBI (18); plus it should be noted that he is 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts.

Despite his overwhelming success with the bat this year-a point of concern I saw raised due to him only posting a slightly above average wRC+ (108) at the hitter friendly First National Bank Field-a new worry has started to surface for some in the Pittsburgh Pirates Fanbase. In 185.1 innings at short stop this season, Peguero has 9 errors and a .894 fielding percentage, which is leading to questions being posed pertaining to his ability to stick at the position.

If you ask me, I am really not concerned because this small sample size doesn’t automatically mean he won’t be able to develop into a Major League Short Stop. And, it won’t necessarily matter as much as anyone thinks it will if he eventually gets moved to the outfield; as long as the bat continues to progress.

4) Tahnaj Thomas-RHP (Altoona)

Coming into last season Thomas was the #5 Ranked Pirates Prospect(#108 Overall) according to Fangraphs. Then it all kind of fell apart. Thomas’ ERA ballooned up to 5.10, his WHIP rose to 1.582 and his walk rate followed along with them to 5.19 per 9. He was still throwing his fastball in the upper 90’s, touching 100 mph at times; he just seemed to have no clue where it was going.

As a result Thomas fell down or off the prospect boards, and was is discussion for possibly being selected in the Rule 5 Draft after not being added to the Pirates 40-Man this past off-season; although once the MLB Portion was eventually cancelled, the conversation shifted. Now the focus was on whether or not he and the Pirates would be better served by bringing him out the bullpen.

So far this year, in an extremely small sample size of 9.2 innings, Thomas has posted a 0.93 ERA and a .931 WHIP with 9 strikeouts and 4 walks. Clearly we will all need to see more before making any longterm projections for him as a reliever, but it’s progress; and worth noting.

5) Matt Gorski-OF (Greensboro)

Originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the 2nd Round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Indiana University, Gorski is in his second go around with the Greensboro Grasshoppers; following a season in which he blasted 17 homers, but batted only .224 with a 31.2% K to 8.5% BB rate.

This year he has started off with a 24.2% K to 14.1%, and has kept the power; already belting 8 homers, counting the two he hit this past week.

At 24 he is a full 1.4 years older than the average player in High-A, time is catching up with him; so, it’s pretty much now or never for the former Hoosier.

There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the fifth 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!

If you noticed four of the five players listed this week are with the Curve. Might be time to take another trip out to Altoona.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers

  1. I saw Peugero play in Erie and came away impressed. He is a very smooth fielder but his arm was erratic. If they can resolve that issue he is definitely a very good major league shortstop. His bat could make him an elite shortstop if he can fix his throwing and stick at that position.

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    1. Good to know, thanks! If he, Davis, or Thomas move off their positions, their values obviously decline sharply. Pirates really need them all to stick at their positions, even if they’re not playing SS, C, SP every time.

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  2. One thing I can’t understand why college baseball players have to stay in the minors so long but college football players go directly to the pros.

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    1. There are no minor leagues for football, which makes college de-facto best place to recruit from. Moreover, when the NFL started gaining steam, college football had already been well established across the country–the superior players actually tended to go to college instead of the pros because the pay in the pros was so unattractive, relative to at least getting a valuable education. There was no need for minors, because the colleges were already doing excellent development work.

      Baseball’s history was quite different: Minors started in 1901, still pretty early on but late enough in development that baseball was becoming the national pastime. Everyone and their uncles and nephews wanted to play baseball, and the best players made enough money to be considered an attractive salary for the many, many poor people of the time. Heck, even minors salaries appealed to plenty of people who desperately wanted a shot at the big leagues or simply needed money that badly. The interest and talent flowed so much into baseball (let’s say hypothetically 90%) that they needed several minor leagues in addition to colleges, just to fit the talent, while the other 10% flowed to football, basketball, etc. College baseball certainly existed but was not well coordinated at the time–didn’t have regular national championships until WWII, for instance. The minors boomed for a good half-century or more, as everyone seemed to want some level of pro baseball in their town and were often able to sustain the local team, and proprietors knew they had to be the next-best quality of play after MLB to maintain momentum and viability.

      We started seeing a shift in the numbers of minor-league and D-I teams (as well as the profitability of college baseball in some areas) in the 1960s and 1970s, but in part because college baseball introduced metal bats to increase excitement. MLB scouts believed (and still believe, which I agree with to a point) that the metal bats didn’t prepare college players well for the pros–and that’s largely held true. The level of competition has also been pretty consistently on a level equivalent to High-A and occasionally Double-A, in part because the best high-schoolers tend to skip straight to the pros–where in theory an MLB program focused 100% on baseball should always provide far superior development to a student-athlete situation. But it’s also because even in Division I there are 20-some guys per team across 300 teams, as opposed to across 120 teams in the minors–i.e., the talent pool is spread a lot thinner.

      There are other reasons too, I’m sure, but that’s the gist. We might see a shift emerging, though: MLB has been contracting its minor leagues in part because of COVID, but the owners also seem to want reduced overhead and to pay fewer MiLB players in general. If they contract MiLB further, to the point it’s just A, AA, AAA, and maybe Rookie, then there will be more and better talent in college baseball, which would probably put college more firmly around the AA level and see lots more college grads hit the MLB in September the same year as being signed.

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