5-17-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
When it comes to Major League Baseball the word prospect has a fairly simple definition of any player that has yet to exceed the rookie eligibility requirements. The implications and expectations often attached to the term are a completely different story; especially when numbers are introduced, in order to rank specific players. As the numbers get smaller, the larger these expectations become. Add in how, when or by whom they were acquired, and you might start to feel like you are opening Pandora’s box. Even using the label Top 5-like I do in each of these posts-can start garner a reaction.
To a degree this certainly understandable because the feeling of hope-particularly within the Pittsburgh Pirates Fanbase-is regularly tied to these prospects; which in turn causes an almost visceral response when a player does not meet the anticipated level of production.
Take the recent demotion of Cole Tucker for example. After being drafted in the 1st Round of the 2014 MLB Draft (24th Overall), Tucker found himself in the Top 10 Pirates Prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, for the next five years; eventually earning an unexpected promotion to the Pirates in 2019, and hitting what would be the game winning home run in only his third professional plate appearance. During the 432 at bats that followed he would hit only another 4 homers, while slashing .211/.259/.314 and accumulating -2.1 WAR; or -1.8 fWAR if that’s the number you subscribe to. This season alone he struck out 25 times, hasn’t walked once and put up a 11 wRC+. Now he’s down in Triple-A focusing on batting strictly from the left side of the plate after being a switch hitter for his entire career.
His direct replacement in the transaction was the current 35th Ranked Pirates Prospect on Fangraphs, Rodolfo Castro. Yes, the same Rodolfo Castro that hit a Major League Record five homers in his first five hits last year; but, was ultimately optioned back down to Double-A Altoona more than once because he was hitting .198, was striking out at a 29% clip and made some costly errors in the field. Well he’s back after working in a 17.2% walk rate with Triple-A Indianapolis this year, and having a .856 OPS at the level going back to last season.
Will he stick this time, the next, or at all? Well on that, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not in the business of making predictions. Not even when I make these Top 5 Pirates Performers each week. They are simply to give you guys an idea-or a snapshot-of what’s going on in the Pirates Farm System.
With that said, here’s your weekly snapshot.
1) Cal Mitchell-OF (Indianapolis)
The last game of the series probably didn’t go like Mitchell wanted it to as he went 0 for 5; still, hitting streaks all end at some point. This latest one went 5. His longest of the season.
During the remainder the Indians six-game showdown with the Charlotte Knights, Mitchell tallied 8 hits in 23 at bats; including a two-homer outing on Friday Night.
On the year he is slashing .294/.365/.510 with 5 home runs, 12 total extra base hits, a 13.0% K to 8.7% BB rate and 6 stolen bases in as many attempts.
As Gary stated in his Weekly Five Pirates Thoughts At Five, “It’s becoming hard to ignore how Cal Mitchell has performed…”
2) Tyler Samaniego-LHP (Greensboro)
Signed by Pittsburgh for $75K as the 433 Overall Pick in the 15th Round of last year’s MLB Draft out of South Alabama-home of Pirates 2018 1st Rounder, Travis Swaggerty.
After almost a month, and following his initial assignment to the FCL Pirates Gold team, the former Jaguar got his first action for the Low-A Bradenton Marauders. In 5 appearance and across 7 innings of work Samaniego posted a 1.29 ERA and a .86 WHIP, while striking out 15 and only walking 2.
Due to this success the 6’4” lefty received a promotion to the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. Deployed mostly as closer/high leverage reliever, he has continued to deal to the tune of a .068 ERA and a .900 WHIP with 19 Ks and 9 free passes in 13.1 innings; thanks to a mid-90’s 4-seam fastball, paired with a plus slider.
3) Jacob Gonzalez-1B/DH/3B/OF (Greensboro)
Gonzalez has followed up his Two-Time Florida State League Player of The Week and Player of The Month for April Honors with a South Atlantic Player of the Week after his first taste of High-A in the Pirates Organization. In 5 games and 19 at bats, he blasted 3 homers, a double and a triple; good for an otherworldly OPS of 1.930.
Yes he is 24 years old, and yes this is his second go-around at High-A; however, if he continues to hit-especially if he moves up again-we might not be able to make statements like this anymore.
4) Travis MacGregor-RHP (Altoona)
When you first glance at MacGregor’s stat line for the first month and change of 2022, I doubt you would be very impressed. A 5.40 ERA, with an accompanying 1.450 ERA is less than ideal. Nevertheless, if you look at his last 4 outings-all from the bullpen-the potential for a different story starts to emerge.
Over 11.1 innings-including a full 4 in his last appearance-the 2nd Round Pick from 2016 out of East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs. Florida, has a 1.59 ERA and a .882 WHIP. During this time he has only allowed 4 walks, while striking out 14 batters- 8 in the aforementioned 4 inning relief appearance.
Of course, it’s a small sample size. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth noting the immediate change in his new role.
5) Colin Selby-RHP (Altoona)
The last, and really only time I wrote about Colin Selby was back in April of 2020, while waiting for a Minor League Baseball Season that would never come. At the time Selby was preparing to more than likely take a spot in the High-A starting rotation due to his 2.97 ERA and 1.114 WHIP the previous year in then Low-A Greensboro.
When baseball finally returned in 2021, Selby finally did find his way to High-A, but only now he was back in Greensboro; and, he wasn’t going to be used as a starter anymore. Needless to say this was a tough adjustment for the young man as he fought through 31 appearances and 59.2 in order to achieve a 4.37 ERA and a 1.240 WHIP; ultimately earning a promotion to Altoona-serving as the team’s closer-to begin 2022.
In 10 appearances-5 of them save opportunities-Selby has posted a .73 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with 13 strikeouts in 12.1 innings; with his one major struggle being the 7 free passes he has given up. Luckily for now this has only resulted in one blown save, which took place almost a month ago at this point. Since then he has allowed only 3 walks-the same number he did during that outing-and has struck out 8; including a season high 5 in Friday night’s contest with the Somerset Patriots.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the sixth 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!
With 3 of the players listed playing in Greensboro, I really wish more of their games would be streamed on MiLB.TV.