6-21-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement On Twitter)
For a short time-a little while back-daily calendars were all the rage. You know, the ones that had an inspirational quote, a piece of trivia or a fun fact about your favorite team, show or hobby. Walking around the office one could find at least a few with completely incorrect dates because the person forgot to pull them off for weeks at time, and then had to play catch-up; in a complete form of data-overload, where barely any of the information was actually processed. Then you had the person who walked around each day asking every single person to answer some obscure question about a topic that most couldn’t even come up with a education guess for. But, if by chance anyone did, they would launch into a conversation about the subject matter like they had just found their new best friend. In my case I had a Pirates, Simpsons and Steelers tear-off daily calendar for three consecutive years; with a few of my favorites from each still thumbtacked to my cork board.
Now, if you were a member of the upper echelon of daily calendar owners, a word of the day waited as you entered your place of business to start a new work day; in an attempt to expand your already vast vocabulary. Obviously I’m joking, and these mostly became almost like gag gifts; as a recipients of such presents would make fun of how they could actually weave enigmatic verbiage into their routine dialogues.
Obviously this trend still exists in an very specific subsection of our society; however, for the most part they have gone the way of the Beany Baby, Tomagotchi or Chain Letter. Yet, for some reason I was reminded of them over this past week as I watched promotion after promotion occurring throughout the Pirates Organization; not just at the Major League Level. In my mind I imagined Greg Brown using some off-the-wall terminology to describe the influx of youth into the system, or a player making his 2022 and/or Big League Debut. Kind of like, “Many Pirates Prospects has been bestowed with an aggrandizement because they have wrought through the drudgery that is Minor League Baseball.” When one could simply say there have been a bunch of promotions this week, month and year; with some that have possibly gone unnoticed due to the players like Oneil Cruz making their way to PNC Park for the first time this year. Or, Liover Peguero getting a cameo appearance, thanks to an unexpected COVID-IL stint for Tucupita Marcano.
During just the previous 5 to 7 days, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Jason Delay, Cam Vieaux and Bligh Madris have all made their MLB Debuts. Unfortunately for Smith-Njigba his time with the Pirates was short lived due to being placed on the 60-Day IL with a right wrist fracture; and Delay is already back in Indianapolis after a move from the Taxi Squad, as Duane Underwood, Jr. also found his way to the COVID-IL.
During this same time, down in the Minors, Michael Burrows was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis; making his second start of the week for the Indians on Sunday, after towing the rubber for Altoona on Tuesday. Then after the Curve’s most recent contest Manager Kieran Mattison announced that pitchers Travis MacGreger and Noe Toribio would be joining Burrows in the Circle City. Finally, in the lower levels, Luke Brown went north to Greensboro after 33 games with Bradenton.
And, if I have to be honest I am probably missing at least one; which is pretty easy to do with all of the promotions, demotions and injuries to keep track of.
That’s why the word of the day, week, month and maybe even year for the Pirates could be recrudescence. Or, maybe maladroitness, depending on what side of the aisle you fall into.
Look them up. Use them in a sentence. Impress your friends, family and colleagues.
1) Bligh Madris-1B/OF (Indy/The Burgh)
Yes, I realize Madris just recently got a unexpected promotion to Pittsburgh, in the bylines of Cruzamania. I also am aware of the fact that he went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI, stole a base and made a beautiful sliding catch in right field in his MLB Debut. But, these aren’t the reasons he made this list for the second week in a row. His name already had an asterisk beside it on my note sheet before any of this took place. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to.
Over the past 6 games with the Indians, Madris batted .391 with 4 doubles; following up a .409 AVG and 5 extra base hit performance from the previous week. On season in Indianapolis-prior to his call-up he was slashing .304/.385/.519 with 5 homers and a 141 wRC+.
However, if you want to focus on the Major League Highlights from the first Palauan player, here they are.
2) Nick Garcia-RHP (Greensboro)
It’s hard to be an under the radar-I hate that term-Top Prospect; still, if forced to make that distinction, Garcia could easily fit the mold. Currently ranked #36 for the Pirates on Fangraphs,the former the 3rd rounder-79th Overall-from Chapman University (D-III).
Starting 2021 out of the bullpen in Low-A Bradenton, he ultimately transitioned to a near full-time role in the Marauders Rotation; ending the season with a 4.22 ERA, a 1.353 WHIP and 83 strikeouts across 74.2 innings of work. Obviously, none of these numbers really jump off the page; which could be a good or bad thing depending how you choose to look at it.
This year in Greensboro began much like the last, with Garcia getting the relief piggyback his first two outing; and while most of his stats continue to be somewhat underwhelming to some, it hard not to be impressed with his last 3 starts for the Grasshoppers.
As stated he has a 1.62 ERA for the month. But, he also has a 3.31 ERA overall and a 1.103 WHIP to go along with it. Profiling as a relief arm at times, it’s possible that’s the direction he ultimately takes. Still, it’s nice to imagine the 6’4” 215 pound righty taking the mound, and putting up 7 scoreless with 4 strikeouts and no walks; like he did on Saturday night at First National Bank Field.
On a side note I continue to wish that more Greensboro games were televised. Hear me Pirates! Make it happen!
3) Travis MacGregor-RHP (Altoona/Indy)
MacGregor made two solid appearances in 3 days and got a promotion to Indianapolis; and made the list for the third time-his second in a row. Enough said.
4) Ji-hwan Bae-IF/OF (Indianapolis)
Much like Madris, Bae was penned in for this week’s list; and pretty early on in fact after this triple in the third game of the series versus Gwinnett.
On the week, Bae batted .304 with two additional extra base hits. Currently he is second on the team with a .851 OPS-second to only Madris at .904-and is tied with BlighGuy with .304 AVG.
5) Travis Swaggerty-OF (Indianapolis)
This last spot-not that it’s a matter of life or death-was a very close call the newly demoted between Swaggerty and Matt Gorski of the Altoona Curve.
In Red Corner out of Altoona, Pennsylvania, Matt Gorski added his 20th, 21st and 22nd home runs on the season for your Curve.
And in the…uh…Other Red Corner out of Indianapolis, Indiana, Travis Swaggerty hit a go-ahead homer against the Stripers on Sunday.
In my eyes this one could have gone either way, so let’s just call it a draw.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the eleventh 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!
Of the players I have been regularly keeping track of recently, Smith-Njigba was promoted and injured, Swaggerty “made” the list, Nick Gonzales is still injured and Mason Martin has continued to tumble to the tune of a .000 AVG on the week; with 13 Ks and 2 Walks In 20 plate appearances.
Update On Nick Gonzales: