1/10/23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Anytime I choose to write about, or have a podcast focusing on prospects, there is a contingent within the Pirates Fanbase that will always get themselves into a tizzy; incorrectly implying that I am guaranteeing success from each and every player I mention.
As a self-appointed prospect junkie, there are players I plan on watching during the upcoming Minor League Season. Some could take a step forward, others should have potential, a few may be on their last leg; while the rest have little to no experience. None are “picks to click”; and, many will never reach the majors.
These are purely the prospects am interested in, and will make a point to watch. It’s that simple. I like watching-and following- the Minor League Organizations in the Pirates Farm System.
Some will fail. Others may be traded. A few could succeed.
Last off-season when I wrote this blog post, I listed Anthony Solometo because we had yet to see him pitch in professional game, Alexander Mojica due to his youth and advanced placement during the previous season, Bubba Chandler out of curiosity as how he would split time on the mound and at the plate, Solomon Maguire on account of his underperformance versus the anticipation brought on by his high signing bonus and Kyle Nicolas, being that he was a pretty big part of the Jacob Stalling Trade.
For the season it was a mixed bag. A 19 year-old, more than 3 years younger than the average Low-A player, Solometo posted a 2.64 ERA and a 1.049 WHIP over 47.2 innings in Bradenton, Nicolas put up a 3.97 ERA and a 1.301 WHIP in 22 starts and 90.2 innings, and Bubba set on tone on the mound, to the tune of a 2.61 ERA and 1.234 WHIP across 2 levels.
On the other side of the coin Mojica only batted .185 with a .607 OPS, while Maguire slashed .217/.311/.278 in his second season in the FCL. Set to be only 20 years-old when the season starts, both young man still have a chance to bounce back and/or emerge. However, the road just will become a little tougher to navigate as each year passes. Much like trying to narrow down the field to only Five Pirates Prospects To Watch. Especially when Ben Cherington raises the difficulty level by trading away one of the players I had jotted down a few weeks ago-Nick Garcia.
Nevertheless, I persisted. Ultimately coming up with a list that has some similarities to the one from last year. At least when it comes to the reasoning for picking a few prospects.
1) Thomas Harrington-RHP
Listing Harrington at #1 gives me such Anthony Solometo vibes. Obviously this has nothing to do with the handiness and/or age; but mostly because, much like Solometo last year, I am anxiously anticipating Harrington’s first professional pitch.
Since being drafted at #36 Overall in Competitive Balance Round A, the former Fighting Camel from Campbell University, has risen the prospect ranks, without even stepping on the field. Currently the 6’2 195 pound righty sits at #10 on MLB Pipeline and #8 at Baseball America, while being listed at #23 on Fangraphs; which is fairly impressive considering he was a walk-on to his college baseball program just two years ago.
During his time on the mound at Jim Perry Stadium, Harrington posted a 2.94 ERA and a 1.069 WHIP with 186 strikeouts in 168.1 inning; including a school record 111 during his senior year, thanks to a plus (55 Grade) fastball that levels out between 90-95 mph, an upper-70’s (50 Grade) curve, a fading (55 Grade) mid-80’s slider and his best pitcher in the form of a mid-80’s swing and miss (60 Grade) changeup.
2) Scott Randall-RHP
Much like Kyle Nicolas last year, Randall arrived in the Pirates Organization via trade; although his was not as prominent, as Jacob Stallings leaving caused a slightly larger uproar than Diego Castillo. Still, it’s not like getting a starting pitcher that more likely slots into the rotation for Altoona-a place held by Nicolas in 2022-for a DFA’d player is bad thing. Plus, Randall didn’t really do anything wrong in the Diamondbacks System. He may just be a little old for the level at 24 years-old heading into 2023.
Selected by Arizona in the 7th Round of the 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft from Sacramento State, Randall pitched 19 innings in Low-A Visalia before being promoted to High-A Hillsboro to start this past season. In 21 starts, across 108 innings he put up a 3.82 ERA and a 1.163 WHIP for the Hops.
A 6’0” 172 pound righty, Randall relies on control/command and sequencing of his low-90’s fastball and above average changeup.
3) Jared Jones-RHP
With Nick Garcia’s departure, I couldn’t think of a better replacement than his fellow 2020 Draftee and 2022 Greensboro Grasshoppers teammate.
In Jones’ high school career he was a legit two way prospect, posting a. 89 ERA with 255 strikeouts in 181 innings pitched, while batting .394 with 7 home runs and a 1.040 OPS. However, when you throw a fastball that reaches 97 mph and two above average off-speed pitches, a full time move to the mound is almost a forgone conclusion.
Over two seasons-and across two levels in Bradenton and Greensboro-Jones has posted a 4.63 ERA and a 1.394 WHIP with 255 strikeouts in 188.2. Obviously one has to hope that the former numbers will steadily improve; but, you also have to remember he’s barely old enough to drink a beer, and was 3 full years younger than the average player in High-A last year.
4) Termarr Johnson-2B/SS
Sure it’s easy to say that Johnson being on this list is picking from the low-hanging fruit; however, being as he is only high school player picked in first round by Ben Cherington thus far, my interest-concerning how quickly-they will advance him through the system-is peaked.
Last August, a little over a month after being selected, Johnson was walking into LECOM Park to make first start at second base for the Bradenton Marauders; after only 29 plate appearances in the FCL.
Over the last few weeks of the season he slashed .275/.396/.450 with a homer and four doubles in an extremely small sample size; yet, more than enough to get at least somewhat excited about.
5) Malcolm Nunez-1B/3B
After Mason Martin’s extreme struggles during the 2022 season, any player that could fill the void at the first base position for the future, is one that I will keep a close eye on; even if he wasn’t added to the 40-Man leading up to the Rule 5 Draft.
Arriving in Altoona as part of the Quintana Trade with the Cardinals; expectations for Nunez were slightly muted due to his 17 homers potentially being aided by stadium dimensions similar to those found in Greensboro. However, in his short time with the Curve, his statistics didn’t take the hit many thought they would.
For comparisons sake Nunez slashed .255/.360/.463 with a 110 wRC+ and .208 ISO in Springfield, and then went on to slash .286/.381/.476 with a 134 wRC+ and .190 ISO in Altoona.
On another encouraging note, that lasted across both organizations, Nunez saw his walk rate surge to 13.7% and 13.5% respectively, while his strikeout rate pushed slightly over 20%; or not bad at all if he is to be considered a power hitter.
Now, Nunez just recently made the switch from third to first, so there is at least some concern that he will be able to play the position long term.
If you’ve made it this far, most likely you are a legitimate fan of Pirates Prospects. That or you are extremely desperate to find me making an incorrect guarantee on a player that fizzles out in Altoona. In that case you are wasting your time.
For the former group, please stick around for bi-weekly pieces on players with-in Pittsburgh’s Farm System. To anyone that may find their way into our company-even out of general curiosity-welcome to club; as we eagerly await the first pitch of the season from the DSL to Indianapolis.