4/18/23-By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
Early season injuries-and subsequently, sooner than expected promotions-seem to have become a running theme less than three weeks into season; with the majority involving guys that were likely being counted on to play major roles with the Big League Club, at some point during 2023.
To me this should be the focus of a blog post/article/piece all its own. And, actually as I type this I think it will be. Maybe an upcoming Through The Prospect Porthole, so keep your eyes peeled.
For now, I think the I’d like to concentrate on how the prospects are performing; as all of the Pirates Affiliates have a six-game series under their belts. Which honestly is interesting in it own right because I am always curious to see exactly how Minor League Managers decide to handle their pitching staff(s), rest days for position players and now catching assignments with Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis both in the upper levels.
If there is anyone out there that has just started following the Indians, Curve, Grasshoppers and/or Marauders, the six-game series-that has a scheduled off-day every Monday-is a fairly new set of circumstances; in that this is only the second season it has been utilized.
Obviously there is a lot more behind exactly how this came back. For reference please read the multiple articles Gary wrote on the subject back in the day-Friday Focus – MiLB Contraction is a Huge Story, Lost in a Bigger One and MiLB Clubs Scramble to Remain Part of MLB Development Pipeline.
In the case that you might be educated on the situation, an oversimplification of the 6-game series is saving money on travel-28% to 56% in costs to be exact.
Alright, I think that’s enough to digest for the moment. Let’s get into this past week in the Pirates Minor Leagues.
1) Lolo Sanchez-OF (Altoona)
It’s been almost 8 years since Sanchez was the Top International Draft Signee-inked to a $450,000 bonus-back in July of 2015, and 7 years since he made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League. Hell, he even played for the Low-A West Virginia Power back in 2018, before the Pirates packed up and headed to Greensboro. Yet, some may be surprised to find out that Sanchez is only set to turn 24 years-old this upcoming Sunday.
Once listed as a Top 10 prospect in the Pirates System by MLB Pipeline, Lolo (aka Kevin) has not taken the most direct path to Altoona; where he spent last season as well. During the 2022 season he slashed .231/.343./.330 with 5 homers in 254 plate appearances due to spending 6 weeks on the Injured List.
To say 2023 is a make it or break it season for Sanchez would be an understatement; and to be fair it has only been 32 plate appearances. Nevertheless, if he can add a little bit of power, to his already established plate discipline, it could be a very interesting development for the Pirates.
In an extreme small sample size, Lolo is batting .280 with an .838 OPS, a homer and 7 walks to 6 strikeouts.
2) Tsung-Che Cheng-SS/2B (Greensboro)
It was way back in January of 2022, when I first wrote about Cheng; somewhat predicting for him to have a breakout season for the Bradenton Marauders.
Clearly it wasn’t to the level that I had hoped for, but a .270/.376/.418 slash line with 6 homers and 33 stolen bases also isn’t something to be disappointed in either.
Then prior to the season, he rejuvenated that hope with his showing in the World Baseball Classic.
With Greensboro fully on track to begin the season this past week, Cheng exhibited all the tools that makes him one of my favorite prospects in the entire system; launching two homers, matching that with a couple triples and playing sound defense.
Man, I can’t wait until this kid makes his way up to Altoona, so I can watch him person.
3) Osvaldo Bido-RHP (Indianapolis)
To begin the season everyone was excited about a rotation including Luis Ortiz, Mike Burrow and Quinn Priester in Indianapolis; and rightfully so. Yet, there was one name that may not have been on the tip of everyone’s tongues…Osvaldo Bido.
Following a fairly uneventful 2022 with the Triple-A Indians-a 4.53 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and 122 strikeouts with 64 walks across 111.1 innings-Bido impressed in his final appearance of Spring Training; striking out 4 and walking only one in 2 innings versus the Tigers on March 17th.
Luckily for him this success has transferred over to his first three outings in Indianapolis; including his 9 strikeout performance this past week.
On the year he has .75 ERA with a .83 WHIP, 15 strikeouts and 4 walks across 12 innings pitched; while putting his name in the conversation for a promotion to Pittsburgh.
4) Michell Miliano-RHP (Greensboro)
When Ben Cherington and Company traded Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres back in July of 2021, Tucupita Marcano and Jack Suwinski were absolutely the most well known players in the return; and obviously the still are. However, a third player did come back in that deal in the form of then 21 year-old Michell Miliano.
Since coming over the Pirates-and even prior to that-Miliano has regularly struggled with command; walking over an average of 6 batters per 9 innings in each of his five Minor League Seasons.
In just 6.1 innings-in his third straight season with time in High-A-Miliano has not walked a single batter; while striking out 14.
If this continues the smart move would more than likely be to give him the quick bump up to Double-A Altoona to see if this new development is for real.
5) Jesus Castillo-IF (Bradenton)
Signed by the Pirates back in July of 2019, from Venezuela, Castillo had only accumulated 320 plate appearances prior to arriving in Bradenton to begin 2023; yet, had shown some promise as far as a patient approach at the plate, with some speed on the base-paths.
Through the first 9 games-across 42 plate appearances-Castillo is slashing .414/.571/.488 with a double, 11 walks and 5 strikeouts.
His progress this season is definitely worth monitoring closely.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers-plus one-for the first “full” week of the year.
Now remember, let me know if I missed anyone, and who your Top 5 would be. And, be sure check back each and every Tuesday during Minor League Baseball Season!
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t already, please go follow Anthony Murphy and the Florida Prospect Report for some of the best content out there. And while you are at give the Indianapolis Indians , the Altoona Curve, the Greensboro Grasshoppers and the Bradenton Marauders some love as well.