2-7-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
In 2021 the Pittsburgh Pirates deployed 64 players to be able to make it through the season. Then just last year the number grew to 68. When you consider the size of an active roster-with the taxi squad at times-it is still pretty astonishing that the Pirates used over twice as many players than is allowed on a day to day basis. Even if you expand the scope to the full 40-Man, the overall number could make you do a double-take.
Throughout these rosters you could find several prospects scattered in; amidst the curious off-season additions, an almost constant waiver claim cycle, Quad-A depth fillers and a handful of regulars.
Obviously this method of roster construction could continue to a certain degree; however, as you scan the depth chart-as it currently stands-there is a whole lot less of the in-between and/or questionable players, and more of the everyday regulars with budding prospects on the cusp.
Yes, I understand that not all of these prospects will develop into what we hope they could be. Yet, I’d much rather give these guys a shot, to find out what they might be; rather than continuing the usual roster churn that has taken place over the past two seasons.
And, in my opinion, that process begins with these five players.
1) Luis Ortiz-RHP
Looking across Pirates Social Media, it seems like a lot of fans would like to see Ortiz competing for the 5th rotation spot in Spring Training; with many of them wanting him to come north with the team.
Sorry, to disappoint you, but I am pretty sure you can see what’s coming; and no I don’t think it has anything to do with service time manipulation. [Ducks and covers from things being thrown at me.]
Luis Ortiz was sent into the off-season by Oscar Marin with the goal of working to polish his changeup-as was Roansy Contreras.
Now the two offering that Ortiz does have are lights out, when he is locating them. With an upper 90’s fastball that touches 100 mph, paired with a mid-80’s slider, missing bats is pretty much a guarantee.
It’s the underlying numbers I pointed out in a previous blog post that give me pause; but they are also something that can be helped out by a nicely located change-up, which he can work on in Triple-A.
But, Craig he can work on the same pitch in MLB!
Sure he can. Except, what happens if, or more likely when he gets shelled like he did in his last outing with the Pirates, or his first outing in Triple-A? Right, he ends up getting sent back down.
So, honestly just chill. He will be up at some point this season; and hopefully with a more polished change-up.
2) Endy Rodriguez-C/OF/2B/DH
Second verse, same as the first.
Yes, Endy was the best performer in the Pirates Farm System this past year; rocketing from High-A Greensboro, through Altoona and on to Indianapolis.
Across three levels he slashed .323/.407/.590 with 25 homers, a 166 wRC+ and a 19% K to 11.3% BB rate. The kid just hits; and I believe the bat could play in MLB today.
Nevertheless, he’s not going to be on the Opening Day Roster. Shelton made that abundantly clear, when asked by Alex Stumpf-Pirates Beat Writer from DK Pittsburgh Sports-about Endy, and fellow catcher Henry Davis back in December.
Of course, this set Pirates Fan Social Media on fire.
However, once again I kind of understood it; and not because I have been beaten down by the Pirates approach often deployed in dealing with prospect promotions.
In Endy’s case he has slightly over 210 innings behind the dish above High-A; meaning he’s kind of green when it comes to handling a more advanced pitching staff.
Clearly it is possible that Endy could eventually move off the position; however at this moment he is the Pirates Top Catching Prospect, with the next man in line-Davis-coming off two injury shortened season.
Endy simply needs to get in more work behind the plate.
And, it’s not a bad idea to have him doing it with Quinn Priester, Mike Burrows, Luis Ortiz, etc. on the mound.
I know, I know; here’s your boot sir!
3) Jared Triolo-3B/SS/OF
Having just written about Triolo in the Good With The Glove Top 5 last week, and discussing his defensive ability, so I thought this time I would focus on the bat.
In 2022-all with Altoona-Triolo put up a respectable .282/.376/.419 slash line, with 9 homers and 35 total extra base hits; a solid encore to his .304/.369/.849 line with 15 homers and 44 extra base hits in Greensboro.
However, the most positive aspect of his game-aside from his defense-is likely his 18.6% K to 10.8% BB rate between the two levels.
4) Colin Selby-RHP
Anyone calling Selby a dark-horse or under the radar prospect obviously wasn’t paying attention this past season.
Prior to suffering an oblique injury, and ending up on the IL in mid-May, Selby put up a 1.26 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. When he returned he went on to post a 2.95 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP; although he cut his BB/9 nearly in half, by going from 5.02 to 2.53.
Still, it was Selby’s pitch mix-especially his fast ball in the Arizona Fall League-that got people to take notice.
The upper-90’s eye opener, is slickly pair paired with a low-90’s changeup to keep batters on their heals. And, when they think it may be time for that change to come, his mid-80’s sharp-breaking slider is waiting to wipe them out.
Somewhat surprising, to many-yours truly not included-Selby was added to the 40-Man this off-season; which puts him on the doorstep to making his MLB Debut.
The path for Gorski is not as clear as the other prospects on this list. Not added to the 40-Man-in spite of some concerns that he could be selected-he currently sits in a potentially crowed OF with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians; looking to leapfrog Cal Mitchell, Travis Swaggerty, Canaan Smith-Njigba and the IF/OF tandem of Tucupita Marcano and Ji-hwan Bae along the way.
None of these players have quite the power potential as Gorski, and probably only Swaggerty has the ability to cover the outfield grass like he can. But as always, we have to keep that hamstring injury in mind; especially since it caused him he to go back on the IL at the end of the season.
Another factor in what ultimately might. happen with Gorski is that he just turned 25 around Christmas. That more than anything makes me want to see Gorski get his shot, sooner rather than later.
That, and his power potential.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Samaniego-LHP
Just this past season, Samaniego was awarded with the Kent Tekulve Reliever Of The Year, for being the best bullpen arm in the Minor Leagues for the Pirates.
Plus he’s a lefty.
In 38 appearances-across 47.2 innings of work-in Greensboro and Altoona, Samaniego posted a 2.45 ERA and a 0.797 WHIP.
If there was a negative about his game, it would be his lack of strikeouts; only 47 in 42.7 innings. Nevertheless, he also only allowed opposing hitter to bat .111 against him; so, there’s that.
Also, with newly acquired Jarlin “The Elephant” Garcia and Rule 5 Selection, Jose Hernandez being the only lefties on the 40-Man, Samaniego could easily see himself sliding into the a relief role; if the former is injured and/or the later doesn’t end up sticking on the Active Roster.
It is tough to imagine the Pirates-and more specifically Ben Cherington-churning through the Major League Roster as much as they have over the past few seasons. On the other hand, we can’t act like there aren’t going to be any injuries, underperformances, demotions and trades.
As these occur decisions will need to be made concerning how to fill the holes in the field, rotation and/or bullpen.
Look for these prospects to be among the players called upon at some point in 2023.
My biggest hope is that, when it happens, it is because they are playing so well with Indianapolis; forcing their way onto the roster.
2 thoughts on “Top 5 Pirates Prospects: Next Men Up”
Terrific list, bright future ever closer indeed!