9-13-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
By my count 12 Pirates Prospects have made their Major League Debuts during the current season; with a total of 28 doing so since Ben Cherington and Company took over in November of 2019. Yet somehow, there are still Pirates Fans that don’t seem to be satisfied; because the right guys haven’t been promoted. Or more succinctly put, the players that they want to be on the Pirates Active Roster; specifically Quinn Priester, Endy Rodriguez, Ji-hwan Bae and Mike Burrows.
Clearly much of this general dejection, and overall despondent attitude surrounding anything the Pirates do is deeply rooted in an overwhelming animosity toward the team’s owner-Billionaire Bob Nutting; along with the aura of another potentially impending 100 loss season.
Regardless, it would nice if there was a little bit more recognition of all the players that have been-and will be-called-up for before October 5th; not just the ones that we are truly in favor of.
Also as a gentle reminder…Altoona still has a week packed full of games against the Reading Fightin Phils, and Indianapolis doesn’t finish up until Wednesday September 28th; which is a little bit different than the way things have gone in the not so distant past.
1) Endy Rodriguez-C/2B/OF (Altoona)
I am sorry. I had to go back on my word. Just last week I stated, “It’s not even fair to keep putting him in the Top 5 anymore. What this young man has been doing this season is beyond this, and nearly any list that you could come up with.” However, with a number of game’s being cancelled in Bradenton and Greensboro due to inclement weather, the pool of players to choose from was a little bit shallow this week.
During the Curve’s most recent series against the Erie Seawolves-who along with the Bowie Baysox are fighting for the Eastern League Southwest Second Half Division Title-Rodriguez continued his hot streak by going 8 for 20 with three doubles in five games.
He is now slashing .354/.440/.707 with 8 homers, 11 doubles and a 204 wRC+ in 116 plate appearances, which could earn him sometime in AAA before the season ends. However, I don’t see even a cup of coffee in MLB as a likely possibility. Not with the sheer number of catchers in front of him between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
2) Blake Sabol-C/OF/DH (Indianapolis)
One such catcher that lies in front of Rodriguez-as somewhat of a surprise-is Blake Sabol.
Over the past two series, since being promoted to the Indians, he has collected 13 total hits-1 double, 1 triple and 3 homers-good for a .342 AVG, an 1.126 OPS and a 195 wRC+, all while splitting time fairly equally between catcher, left field and DH.
3) Anthony Solometo-LHP (Bradenton)
In previous years-especially prior to 2021-it is unlikely that Solometo would have gotten the extended look in Low-A that he has over the past few months. In essence, without the reorganization of the Minor Leagues it is probable that his 8 starts would have taken place between the FCL and Bristol.
Nevertheless, in these 8 starts-across 47.2 innings-Solometo has taken advantage of this opportunity by posting a 2.64 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with 51 strikeouts at only 19 years of age. This includes a scoreless, one hit, 5 strikeout, 3 walk performance over 5 innings, in his most recent outing.
4) Luis Ortiz-RHP (Indianapolis/Pittsburgh)
Prior to his placement on the Fangraphs Top Pirates Prospect List at #15, not many outside of the Altoona Beat Reporters were talking about the progress of and the potential for Ortiz as his season proceeded in an Altoona Curve uniform.
This included myself, as he didn’t find his way onto the Top 5 until the week of 8/9 to 8/14. Yet, since that time he has made the list for a second time, been promoted to AAA Indianapolis and is reportedly on his way up to Pittsburgh to start one of Tuesday’s games against the Reds as the team’s 29th Man; following 6 no-hit innings for the Indians this past Thursday.
Oh, and he was also named the International Pitcher of the Week for this 9 strikeout performance.
5) Quinn Priester-RHP (Altoona)
If we are being completely open and honest, it is completely possible-to at least a certain degree-that Priester might have followed Ortiz’s path to Indianapolis and then Pittsburgh had he been healthy the entire season.
Unfortunately for Priester he wasn’t, so I still see one more start in Altoona, another one or two in Indianapolis and then the Arizona Fall League as the most feasible outcome to end his year.
Yes, he just finished a 7 inning, 2 hit, 5 strikeout game against Erie on Friday; but, he also is quickly approaching his career high for innings on the season-71.2 to 97.2. Sure that doesn’t seem like a lot; however, after dealing with an oblique injury to begin this season I see them being very cautious with their Top Pitching Prospect.
On a side note, Priester also won Pitcher Of The Week Honors for the Eastern League for his efforts.
Bonus: Jared Oliva-OF (Indianapolis)
Back in 2019, when he was with the Altoona Curve, Jared Oliva turned the literal page on his season, beginning on June 1st. After slashing only .199/.292/.294 with 2 homers over the first two months, he went ahead and slashed .312/.378/.444 with 4 homers and 28 extra base hits during the rest of the year; earning Player Of The Year for the Curve along the way. He then went on to hit .312 in 109 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League to cap things off.
Sadly without a 2020 MiLB Season Oliva was sent to the Alternate Site, and participated in a fairly forgettable 6 games in the Majors slashing .188 across the board.
Then came the 2021 Season, his extra month in Florida with Jon Nunnally-who had helped him get back on track in 2019-and Cole Tucker. This was followed by a .249 season in Indianapolis, with a .175 output in 43 plate appearances with the Pirates; and ultimately, a DFA leading up to 2022.
For the first four months of the season 2022 looked much like the beginning of 2019, as he limped to a .214/.269/.359 slash line with 5 homers. Without warning the page turned again.
Over the last 22 games and 86 plate appearances Olivia has posted a .397 AVG with an 1.019 OPS and 10 total extra base hits.
What does this mean? Possibly nothing. Olivia is now 26-going on 27-and has an abundance of competition in the outfield, where he once was an automatic starter in Indy.
It’s an uphill battle, with a potential for a change of scenery in the off-season-Rule 5 and/or as a Minor League Free Agent if he chooses.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the 23rd week of 2022; with a little bit of a bonus!
Now remember, let me know I missed, who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday (or Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning) hopefully-during the Minor League Baseball Season!