I absolutely love it when people act like a prospect came out of nowhere. Sure, he might not have had the attention and/or the same prospect ranking as others, but it’s not like he was invisible either.
Can we really pretend like a player that was drafted in the 2nd round out of a Big Ten school just miraculously appeared on a roster, and immediately started smashing baseball’s like he never did before?
These types of players exist. We don’t have to create them.
Nevertheless, I digress.
Much like the Arms, Arms, Arms piece mentioned last week, power bats are inherently expensive.
You want 30 home runs from a player, you better be ready to open up your pocketbook. It’s either that or you have to develop a player that can produce at this level within a few years of him reaching the Majors.
For the Pirates, the latter option is the most likely scenario.
1) Matt Gorski-OF/1B/DH
Not surprisingly this is the aforementioned 2nd Round Draft Pick out of the University of Indiana; who came into the year, prepared for his second go-around with the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
Back in 2021, Gorski had struggled at the plate to the tune of a .224/.294/.416 slash line with a 31.2% K to 8.5% BB rate, as he shook off the rust from a lost 2020 Minor League Season. He did show some power by blasting 17 homers, but the other numbers were hard to ignore.
At a full year and half years older than the average player in the South Atlantic League, the former Hoosier jumped out to an extremely fast start. Through 37 games, Gorski was batting .294 with an 1.131 OPS, 17 homers and a 26.7% K to 11.6% BB rate; which ultimately lead to a promotion to Altoona.
With the Curve, the big power hitting righty didn’t slow down too much; slashing .294/.374/.560 with 6 home runs. His K rate did increase slightly to 29.6%, but his BB rated stayed slightly above 10%.
Then, unfortunately, his season nearly ended as his hamstring looked like it pretty much exploded as he stretched a double into a triple on June 29th against the Harrisburg Senators.
Gorski would return before the end of the year, but he clearly wasn’t himself. After 55 plate appearances across 14 games, he was eventually placed back on the IL; and, was withdrawn from participating in the Arizona Fall League.
Since then, we really haven’t heard much about Gorski’s rehab; although there have been some rumblings about him getting in a little bit more work at 1st Base once Spring Training starts.
To me it doesn’t matter where he plays, as long as the power stays and the K to BB ratio remains manageable.
2) Malcom Nunez-1B/3B
Nunez is a player that I already dug into during a recent post about prospects that were Peaking My Interest-yes I know it is Piquing; so, there isn’t as much of a need to break down the young man’s performance, both before and after arriving in the Pirates Farm System as part of the Jose Quintana trade.
What I will say is that, the more I look at Nunez’s power numbers, less I believe that they were overly exaggerated by playing in a smaller ballpark in the Cardinals Farm System. Sure, there could be a slight correlation; however, most of the homers I watched were complete no-doubters.
Is there anyway this isn’t out of every ballpark?
Plus, as I stated before in the previous post, the power didn’t really dissipate once he arrived in Altoona; as his ISO (Isolated Power) only dropped from .208 to .190.
Add in the fact that he was able to maintain his BB-rate of over 13% for the entire season; which could mean that he avoids the normal pitfall for power hitters.
A third baseman by trade, Nunez has started the move to first base due to some defensive concerns at the hot corner. However, if you ask Anthony Murphy from Pirates Prospects, these concerns might be a little bit overstated.
I can’t say I disagree.
3) Dariel Lopez
The first time I wrote about Lopez during the 2021-22 off-season, I mentioned the possibility of him moving across the diamond from 3rd to 1st, as well as how well he performed in comparison to the other players his age; but, mostly I focused on the concerns that existed with his extreme splits.
When facing right-handed pitchers- as a Marauder-he possessed an .662 OPS versus an 1.037 with a lefty on the mound. This past season with Greensboro it flip-flopped quite a lot as he had an OPS of .850 against righties and .643 opposing lefties. However, almost immediately another potential issue popped up.
Everyone knows that First National Bank Field is a bandbox, that often magnifies home-road splits in favor of the time that is spent in Greensboro. For Lopez, the situation was no different. At home he had a .915 OPS with 15 homers in 213 plate appearances, as compared to 4 homers with an .692 OPS on the road.
Be that as it may, Lopez still has a few things going for him; including youth, a track record of being able to make adjustments to correct extreme splits and some of the better center to opposite-field power in the system; even though he did start pulling the ball more with the Grasshoppers.
4) Henry Davis-C
When you initially look at the power numbers, they may seem slightly underwhelming. Yet, when consider that he has literally been healthy for-at most-67 games during his first year and a half of his professional career, things start to look more promising. .
Throw out the home run Davis hit on his rehab assignment in Bradenton and you have 9 on the season between High-A and Double-A. Obviously this isn’t going to jump off the page.
Now, think about him having a full season of at bats, without a broken wrist. The total easy jumps over 20, if you extrapolate it out to 500+ trips to the plate.
Yes, I realize that you can’t just ignore the facts as the exist. He hasn’t had a healthy season, since being draft. He gets hit by pitches so often that it has almost become comical; but, also could put him at high risk for re-injury in the same breath.
Still, I can’t reject the absolute violent swing I witnessed as Davis took the #1 Minor League Pitching Prospect-Andrew Painter-deep on his first offering.
With Davis, health is clearly the biggest concern. His ability to play catcher is a distant second.
But, Craig we don’t want to waste the 70 Grade arm at another position!
Well let me ask you this.
Would you care about a third basemen’s arm if he booted every ball into left field? Or a right fielder’s arm, who dropped every pop up the came his way?
Clearly this is an exaggeration. Davis’ defense behind the plate is lacking, but he’s not totally incompetent. Plus, what would it matter if he hits, or nails a runner-with a laser from them outfield-as he tries to stretch a single into a double? Or tags first, and then catches a runner on his way to the plate?
Would you think about his wasted arm?
5) Mason Martin-1B
The discussions surrounding Martin’s ability to take the next step-up onto the Major League Stage-always come back to the same topic; time and time again.
It’s the K-rate; plain and simple.
No one is doubting the power potential. I mean no one.
In 2019 Martin burst onto the scene with 35 homers between then Low-A Greensboro and High-A Bradenton. Then, when Minor League Baseball resumed in 2021, he mashed 25 balls over fence in Altoona and Indianapolis. Each of them in impressive fashion, with his raw power on full display.
Nevertheless-along with the power-there was always this constant nagging to check the stat-line to see how many times he struck-out; and, unsurprisingly the result was the same.
29% in Greensboro. 32.3% in Bradenton. 34.2% in Altoona. 37% in Indianapolis.
In conjunction with a walk rate that averages out to right around 10%-that had been decreasing over those years. This made 2022 a very crucial year for Martin; but one that also came with a lot of opportunity due to the lack of answers at the MLB Level at 1st Base.
Now-aside from the power-another that has never been questioned, is his ability to man 1st Base. Since being used as both a 1st Basemen and Outfielder in the Gulf Coast League-now the Florida Complex League-Martin has fully transitioned into a full-time guard of the other hot corner; doing very well in the role.
So, it’s back to the bat.
Unfortunately, during his most recent season with the Indians, he fell into a similar pattern; eventually posting the worst OPS of his career. On the year he slashed .210/.287/.410 with 19 home runs and 34.9% K to 9.6% BB ratio.
Man, do I wish this kid could find some balance; because there is no doubt his swing would play well at PNC Park.
It feels like potentially 1st Base options of the future became the theme of this post; even if it wasn’t entirely intentional. Although if you think about it, this position-more than many others-has lacked power and consistency throughout the recent history of the Pirates.
Another underlying-and unintentional-theme is that 4 of these 5 prospects will be Rule 5 Eligible again in December 2023; with Davis as the outlier.
I get that there are 38 spots on the Minor League Reserve Roster-granted that none of them end up on the 40-Man/Major League Roster-to end the season. But, in all honesty, how many 1st Baseman can you protect; with only one, or maybe two spots available on the Active Roster, if you keep the DH in mind?
In any case, it should be fun to watch this play out during the upcoming season.
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