4-25-23 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
The Minor League Leader in plate appearances is Michael Busch of the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers with 102; who on a completely unrelated point, was just called up to the Big League Club. In the Pirates Organization Miguel Andujar and Nick Gonzales are tied with 85 plate appearances a piece.
On the mound Chi-Chi Gonzalez-clearly not a prospect-and Easton McGee have both tossed 28.2 innings for their respective teams, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and the Tacoma Rainiers; both in Triple-A for the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners. Luis Ortiz is the only pitcher to throw over 20 innings in the Pittsburgh’s Farm System; coming in at 23.1.
That’s 23.1 innings over 5 starts, or not even 5 innings per start.
Yet, somehow we think we can judge a player’s performance on just over 20 innings, or less than 100 plate appearances.
Guess what? We can’t.
At the plate it takes around 200 plate appearances before a hitter’s average even starts to level out to what it really is going to be; and, not take ridiculously jumps up or down based on a good or terrible day with the bat.
For pitcher’s we see obnoxiously high-or low-ERAs and WHIPs based off of one bad-or good-outing.
Sure, at this point, you can start to tell if a player is trending in the right direction or not; but it’s impossible to extrapolate out their numbers for the remainder of the season.
A guy can get shelled early on and end up having a pretty nice pitching line at the end of the season.
Just look at Mitch Keller in 2022.
Through his first six starts of the season Keller posted a 6.61 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP across 32.2 innings, before being relegated to the bullpen for two outings. From that time, through the end of the year, his ERA and his WHIP were 3.21 and 1.36; allowing both to adjust to the respectable numbers of 3.91 and 1.40, that had us looking forward to what he could do in 2023.
From the batters box we only have look back at Bryan Reynolds for the first week of the season; or Jack Suwinski on the other side of the coin.
Did we really think Reynolds was going to bat .405 with a 1.334 OPS and a 240 wRC+ for the rest of the season; or, that Suwinski would bat .067 with a .317 OPS and a 10 wRC+ for the entire season?
Small sample sizes.
They are only useful if you are trying to prove a narrative that you already believe to be true.
1) Jase Bowen-OF (Greensboro)
Back in July of 2022, Bowen into MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Pirates Prospects with the graduation of outfielder Cal Mitchell, after tearing up the Florida State League. Over the previous month, which included 24 games and 107 plate appearances, the Pirates former 11th Round Pick-and Michigan State Wide Receiver Commit-slashed .309/.393/.553 with 5 homers, 11 total extra base hits and a 169 wRC+.
Ultimately, he would be promoted to High-A Greensboro; where he would struggle to gain traction over the last month of the season. Across 109 plate appearances, Bowen would slash just .176/.211/.324 with a 31.2% K to 4.6% BB-rate and a trio of homers.
So far this season that high K-rate hasn’t gone away; but we’ll get to that.
On the year, in only 56 plate appearances, Bowen has posted a .353/.411/.706 slash line with 5 homers and three doubles.
Now as many of you already know, I kind of throw out that last number in the slash line for the guys in Greensboro; focusing on the OBP (On Base Percentage), along with the K and BB-rates.
Well the first number is a solid .411; but the K-rate is still about 30%-landing at 33.9%. And, the BB-rate is below the 10% one would be hoping for; coming in at 7.1%.
In order for Bowen to remain successful with the Grasshoppers-and hopefully as he moves up from the system-those percentages are going to have to move closer together.
2) Luis Ortiz-RHP (Indianapolis)
23.1 Innings. Only 5 starts.
Yes those numbers are small, but to his credit, he has performed well most of the time.
Still, when he has struggled, it has gone down hill pretty fast; especially with his command/control.
On the season he has a 2.31 ERA with an elite .940 WHIP, but also only has 20 strikeouts across those 23.1 innings.
On a positive note-to wrap things up-he has started to become fully stretched out; lasting 6 innings during his last appearance, and consistently tossing 75+ pitches.
3) Enmanuel Terrero–OF (Bradenton)
Signed in July of 2019 to the tune of $600K, Terrero didn’t make his professional debut until 2021 in the Dominican Summer League; an assignment where he struggled slightly, yet did show patience at the plate by walking 33 times to 24 strikeouts.
Then last year in the Florida Complex League he showed a little bit more of the bat to ball skills that was the focus of his original scouting reports, while continuing to display his advanced eye. Across 130 plate appearances he struck out just 17 times, took 23 free passes and slashed .330/.446/.433.
Now, with the move to Low-A Bradenton-and set to be 20 years-old for the entire season-Terrero will look to take another step forward; which is looking pretty likely at the moment.
In 63 plate appearances-extreme small sample size-he is slashing .353/.460/.549 with 10 walks and 11 strikeouts.
4) Cody Bolton-RHP (Indianapolis)
Last season there was some uncertainty surrounding whether the Pirates would take the starter or reliever route with Bolton after missing the previous two seasons due to a pandemic, followed by an injury; using him in every role imaginable on the pitching staff.
This year things have become much clearer.
He’s a reliever. A role that he has embraced, and has been successful in thus far.
In 11.1 innings of work Bolton has a 2.38 ERA and a. 882 WHIP with 14 strikeouts to 2 walks.
5) Tres Gonzalez-OF (Bradenton)
Eduardo Alberto Gonzalez was selected by Pittsburgh in the 5th Round last year out of Georgia Tech, and signed to a bonus of $347,500 ($67,100 under slot); thanks mostly to a .314/.442/.461 slash line with 91 walks to 74 strikeouts in a Yellow Jackets uniform, and a .331 average in the Cape.
After only 37 games in a Marauders jersey-13 so far this season-Gonzalez is slashing .337/.447/.417 with 20 walks and 19 strikeouts.
To be honest, if this continues, a quick promotion to Greensboro might be in order.
Bonus: Braxton Ashcraft-RHP (Greensboro)
When the 2021 Minor League Season began, Ashcraft was set to be in the Greensboro rotation alongside Mike Burrows, Quinn Priester and Carmen Mlodzinski. Unfortunately as the year progressed every single one of them was placed on the IL at one point or another; with Ashcraft on the shelf for the longest period of time following Tommy John Surgery.
Now, he’s back; and still just 23 year-old.
So far, in two rehab starts and a return to the Grasshoppers, Ashcraft has yet to surrender a single run, while striking out 11 and walking one.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers-plus one-for the week of April 18th through the 23rd.
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!