4-4-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Whenever I went on social media after a jam packed weekend of watching the Pirates take on the Reds, and the Indians as they welcomed the Omaha Storm Chasers to The Vic, one particular comment caught my eye.
An obvious fan of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club questioned if people were really starting to live tweet Triple-A games.
First and foremost, the practice live tweeting games is not something I will ever understand. There are apps for both the Major and Minor Leagues, that can be used to follow along with your teams games in real time. You can even listen to the Indians, Curve, Grasshoppers and Marauders game’s absolutely free on the MiLB First Pitch app. If your not in the Pittsburgh area you can do the same for your beloved Pirates at a cost of only $2.99 a month.
Clearly this is not the same as watching the game with your own two eyes, but believe me, the broadcasters in the Pirates Organization are more than skilled enough to paint a mental picture of exactly what is going on in any ballgame you might be interested in.
Now, this overarching sentiment doesn’t apply to the ones out there showing actual game clips. Those are awesome; and everyone should truly appreciate your effort(s). Even while watching the games-which is what I did this past weekend-there may be highlights that need to be viewed a few more times beyond the customary replay.
Although this brings up another pet peeve of mine, that might actually be worse than tweeting, What A Great Catch, without any other context in the middle of a disjointed game summary; which is sharing someone else’s video, while giving the least amount of credit available to them on a social media platform.
If you don’t know what I am talking about just look at Jomboy Media’s Twitter account for like two seconds.
If you squint really hard, or pay close enough attention, you would know that this a video from a gentleman named Dillard Barnhart , who is an independent baseball content creator on YouTube.
Yes, I understand why people do this. There is an option to block retweets on Twitter, so their post wouldn’t be seen by as many viewers; even though they are essentially using the work of others to build their own content brand.
Sorry, I’ll get down off my soapbox. This was just some stuff that was on my mind as I was sitting down to write what I knew would be a recap of and/or impression(s) from the smallest of sample sizes.
I guess I should just be happy that there is a group of fans who find Minor League Baseball as fascinating as I do; and, some who choose to watch, follow or listen like me.
1) Tucupita Marcano-IF/OF
Ben Cherington liked the potential of Marcano so much that he made two attempts-the second of these being successful-to pry this young man away from the San Diego Padres.
Since arriving in the Pirates Organization, he has been seen as an underwhelming addition; tough he has performed fairly well in the Minors.
Over the past two seasons Marcano has posted a .265/.361/.389 slash line with 12 homers 40 total extra base hits, a 101 wRC+ and a 15.5% K to 13.3% BB-rate.
Unfortunately this has yet to transfer over to the Majors as he possesses a .206 AVG, a .562 OPS, a 57 wRC+ and a 24.9% K to 5.6% BB-rate across 177 plate appearances in Pittsburgh.
Given the opportunity to battle Ji-hwan Bae and Rodolfo Castro in Spring Training, Marcano was the one who ultimately ended up in Triple-A. Nevertheless, if one of them stumbles, he could be one of the next men up; granted he is performing well enough to justify it.
During the opening weekend, he went 4 for 9 with two doubles and a stolen base; all while playing a decent third and short.
2) Mike Burrows-RHP
This may not have been the start that most were hoping for from the Pirates Fans; especially after three decent outings in Spring Training, where he debuted his new slider. Yet, it clearly could have been worse if it wasn’t for Burrows ability to fight through not having his best stuff consistently.
Across 5 innings and 77 pitches-45 of them for strikes-Burrows allowed one run on 2 hits, with two free passes and one strikeout. He did generate 5 whiffs, mostly on his fastball; but, simply didn’t find the zone enough.
He will look to improve upon this when he likely takes the mound on, likely on Saturday in Louisville.
3) Chavez Young-OF
Young is definitely not the outfielder I would have expected to put on this list; even in the small sample size of one weekend, yet here we are. Sure he didn’t have the best series, but in all actuality none of them really did.
Travis Swaggerty struck out an astounding 50% of the time, Cal Mitchell got one hit-while walking 3 times-and Miguel Andujar struck out three times in 9 plate appearances.
Young has speed on his side and plays good defense, however, he’s going to have to hit better than he did in Buffalo last season; slashing .234/.331/.351 with 5 homers, 13 total extra base hits and a wRC+ of 86.
This past weekend he didn’t take much of a step in that direction by getting only 2 hits in 8 plate appearances; but he did get to show off his speed on a triple.
And, like I said before, he outperformed his counterparts.
4) Nick Gonzales-2B/3B
Each season Gonzales has seen his time cut short by injury; yet with every passing year he has been promoted up the Pirates Minor League Ranks one level at a time; landing in Indianapolis to start 2023, just a step away from the Majors.
Be that as it may, for me, Gonzales has to simply learn to hit or lay off the slow stuff. On Saturday I watched as he twice swung and missed at off-speed pitches that drifted out of the zone.
If you throw Gonzales fastballs, he hits. In his small sample size he got 3 hits in 13 at bats.,
He also looked very comfortable at multiple positions in the field.
5) Luis Ortiz-RHP
Much like Burrows, Ortiz didn’t have his best stuff going for him; plus he was actively trying to work his change up in. Unfortunately, it seemed as if he really didn’t know where it was going.
Lasting less than four innings, and throwing only 58 pitches-remember he is still getting built up from missing time due to participating in the World Baseball Classic-Ortiz struck out 4, but walked 3 and surrendered 3 hits as well.
As the season progresses-and the pitch count increases-I will be keeping a close eye on how polished his changeup becomes.
Honorable Non-Prospect Mention: Mark Mathias-IF/OF
Definitely not still a prospect-thanks to his 1.153 years of service time-Mathias was the most productive hitter for the Indians over the weekend; making the most of his 7 plate appearances by notching 5 hits.
Seen as a potential option to start the season with the Big League Club in a Super Utility Role, Mathias could continue to put pressure on Cherington to eventually make this move; much to the dismay of many Pirates Fans.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers-plus one-for the first week of the year.
Now remember, let me know I missed, who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday during Minor League Baseball Season!
As the weeks go on these posts will noticeably get more in-depth and cumulative based naturally on more statistics and trends beginning to emerge. And, they won’t all be from Indianapolis. Altoona is set to open the year on Thursday April 6th, with Greensboro and Bradenton right behind on Friday April 7th.
4 thoughts on “Top 5 Pirates Prospects: Opening Weekend In Indianapolis”
Even with the small sample size Mathias is looking better than Castro.
One of many reasons I am not interested in Jomboy.
1. More and more it seems utility is Marcano’s likeliest path. I am sad to say it’s very difficult to generate the power (even if doubles and triples) required to stick at his size. I like the abilities, just unfortunately for him they are in a small body. I hope he defies that, of course.
2. That’s definitely encouraging to see that strike-ball number and still end up with so few base runners and just one earned run. I really hope that group of pitchers continuously pushes each other to improve.
3. Young is interesting, just a question of whether he can be interesting enough with that package. Not only similar to aforementioned Marcano, but also Swaggerty. Not enough seats at the table even if they all did pan out.
4. Anyone clamoring for Gonzales to be in Pittsburgh hasn’t been paying attention. He’s way too far from even an incomplete MiLB hitter, let alone a complete one. Injuries are part of that, but whether it’s plate vision or plate discipline, it’s concerning.
5. Similar story, definitely going to try to keep abreast of his changeup progression. Has he committed to a specific grip on that or just trying one to see whether it sticks? I know with changeups there are several.
6. And sure enough, here we are.
Thanks, looking forward to what this MiLB year produces.