6-7-2022 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Every new beginning, comes from some other beginning’s end
If you are under the age of 45, chances are at least one of your nights out has been wrapped up with by the preceding phrase. That or you are a fan of the The Office, and remember Andy Bernard ending every work day in a particular fashion. Undoubtedly some of you just sang the lyrics to yourself. Nevertheless, in all likelihood most would probably incorrectly credit the one hit wonder Semisonic for penning this iconic lyric; when in fact Roman Philosopher Lucius Annenus Seneca spoke these words back in the mid-1st Century AD.
Obviously this really doesn’t matter as far as my current story is concerned; it’s just a little history lesson for anyone who needs to drop some random knowledge into a conversation.
As I was relaxing and watching/listening to the Pirates games over the weekend, word began to circulate on Saturday evening that former 1st Round Draft Pick-#10 Overall back in 2018-Outfielder Travis Swaggerty was getting the call-up to PNC for Sunday’s game. Over the past few weeks I had been making note of Swaggerty’s progress in the Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers blog posts; with the hope of potentially adding his name to the list very soon. In no way did I anticipate that his promotion would be coming this soon, due to the recent additions of Cal Mitchell, Tucupita Marcano, Rodolfo Castro and Jack Suwinski to the roster; not because he hasn’t earned it.
Ever since Swaggerty returned from a stint on the IL with a concussion-following an outfield collision in the beginning of May-his bat has woken up; as if he just turned on a light switch. Prior to the injury he was batting a meager .194 with a single homer, a 31.0% K-rate and a .544 OPS. After coming back, he has hit .357 with a 1.030 OPS, established a more reasonable 25.3% K-rate to attach to his near constant 11.3% BB-rate and blasted an additional 3 home runs; bringing his season slash line up to .280/.362/.439.
The corresponding move for Swaggerty was eventually announced as Castro; so, that’s where that storyline goes. However, my mind took another fork in the road, the moment it was reported that Cole Tucker has been claimed off waivers by the Diamondbacks; during the Pirates Sunday Afternoon contest with Arizona. Immediately the aforementioned refrain echoed from my memory.
Many times in baseball a young up-and-coming prospect ultimately replaces the grizzled veteran in a changing of the guard/passing of the baton moment. Yet, more often than not-especially for Pirates Fans-it has been the near constant churning of the next man up; with a couple of impact players mixed in.
Hopefully, the later is the case with Travis Swaggerty. And, even though I haven’t always been kind to Cole Tucker, I do wish him the best on this Arizona homecoming.
1) Tyler Samaniego-LHP (Altoona)
The last time we checked in with Samaniego he was only 13.1 innings into his season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers; having posted a .068 ERA and a .900 WHIP with 19 Ks and 9 free passes. Now, three weeks later he pitched another 3.2 inning in Greensboro, has been promoted to Altoona, added three appearances-all last week-for the Curve and still hasn’t given up an earned over his past 16.1 innings dating back to May 20th.
2) Joelvis Del Rosario-RHP (Bradenton)
This past off-season, when we were in the throes of an extended MLB Lockout, I did some deep dives into the Pirates Farm System; including a look at five prospects, who had carved up the Florida Complex League in 2021. Among these names was a then 20 year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic in the form of Del Rosario.
Originally signed by the Pirates in January of 2018, a few months before his 17th Birthday, Del Rosario spent two years in the DSL before finding his way to FCL once Minor League Baseball resumed last summer. Over 38.2 innings for Gold Team, he saw his K/9 jump up to 12.10, while his BB/9 and ERA remained consistent to what it had been in the DSL at 2.33 and 3.26.
At the time durability concerns were raised due his 5’11 170 pound frame; however, thus far into the season this really hasn’t been a issue for the Bradenton Marauders. In 8 appearances-the last 7 of them being starts-Del Rosario has posted a 2.78 ERA and a 1.206 WHIP with 36 Ks and only 8 Walks; including 10 strikeouts, no walks and zero earned runs in his most recent two starts.
3) Blake Sabol-C/OF/DH/1B-(Altoona)
When Tucupita Marcano graduated off the MLB Pipeline’s Pirates Top Prospects this past week, another player had the opportunity to slide onto the list. With his play this season, you can’t help but be happy for Sabol; who now slots in at #30.
On the year Sabol leads all qualified members of the Altoona Curve in AVG (.310) and OPS (.919), while coming in third on the team with 6 homers; winning the starting catching job from Carter Bins, and currently benefiting from Henry Davis’ absence.
During this past week he batted .333 with a homer, double and a triple along the way; throwing out a would be base stealer for good measure. Now, there continues to be some debate as to whether or not he sticks behind the plate; still, if he continues to hit the way he has the Curve, eventually the Indians and hopefully the Pirates will need to find a place for him to play. Maybe in the OF, where he has logged some innings in the past. Possibly as a DH, which has been his other spot in the lineup. Or, first base in a pinch. Although he hasn’t played the position since 2018 in the Cape.
4) Andres Alvarez-MI/LF/DH (Altoona)
It’s no surprise that a middle infielder from the Altoona Curve has found his way onto the Top 5 for the third time this year. The thing that probably is a surprise, is that the player isn’t Nick Gonzales or Liover Peguero.
After smashing his team leading 9th home run, hitting 3 doubles and a triple, knocking in 7 runs and scoring the game winner in @MLBPipeline’s Game of the Month Sunday Night in extra innings, Alvarez may have finally entered the conversation.
On the season the former Washington State Cougar is slashing .276/.370/.638; forcing his way into the lineup more often than not. For the record he has now played every position in the infield except for first, while roaming in the outfield from time to time.
And, he’s not just doing it with the bat. The kid has a pretty nice glove, too.
5) Anthony Solometo-LHP (Bradenton)
OK, I know that I am breaking my own rule about needing to have more than a small sample size to be eligible for this list. But, I bet you’ve heard the saying about rules. And, honestly I was just really excited to see the young man pitch. He was in my Top 5 Pirates Prospects: Peaking My Interest blog post prior to the start of the season.
Well, on Friday May 27th, the Pirates 2nd Round Draft pick-37th Overall-who was signed for nearly $1 million over slot last year, finally made his much anticipated professional debut.
Over 3 innings against a disciplined Mighty Mussels lineup, the funky lefty struck out 3 and walked two; surrendering zero earned runs in the process. Then this past Thursday he struck out 4 Flying Tigers, walked none and allowed one run across 4 innings.
Yes, it’s a small sample size. And yes, I am still excited to see what the Pirates #8 Prospect does for the rest of the season.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the ninth 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 the Minor League Baseball Season!
As most of you know, Swaggerty wasn’t the only prospect I had been keeping an eye on recently. Nick Gonzales, Mason Martin and Canaan Smith-Njigba also found their way onto my radar; so I thought I would take a look in on them as well.
Unfortunately for Gonzales he is on the 7-Day IL with heal discomfort; suffered while running to first base a week ago. And, as far as Martin and Smith-Njigba are concerned, they fell victim to the weather in Nebraska for the finale of their six game series. In the five games they did play Martin struck out 11 times, failed to walk once and got only 3 hits; good for a .130 AVG. Smith-Njigba on the other hand faired slightly better with a a .263 AVG and only 5 Ks.
As the season progresses, my main concern for him continues to be his lack of power. Prior to his acquisition in the Jameson Taillon deal with the Yankees he had hit 11 homers in his last full season in the Minors; albeit at High-A Charleston. Then last year with Double-A Altoona, Smith-Njigba tallied only 6; although he was on the IL with a thigh injury, and had a pretty solid bounce back in the Arizona Fall League. Still, I was hoping for more than 1 homer with a Slugging Percentage and an ISO higher than .375 and .113 at this point in the year. Luckily there’s still more than enough time to make improvements upon these numbers.