5-2-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement on Twitter)
This last week was a pretty exciting one for several prospects across the Pirates Farm System. Yet, anything they felt more than likely paled in comparison to the emotions experienced by outfielder Jack Suwinski and utility man Tucupita Marcano as they each received a surprise promotion to the Major League Club from Double-A Altoona when Bryan Reynolds and Cole Tucker were placed on the COVID-IL prior to the start of Pittsburgh’s three game series with Milwaukee. For Marcano this was his second trip to The Show; after beginning the 2021 season on the San Diego Padres Roster. However, for Suwinski this was his first taste of action on the biggest stage in professional baseball; ultimately being thrown into the starting right field slot mere hours after arriving from Akron.
In his MLB debut Suwinski would go 1 for 5 and score a run after reaching on a fielding error, while Marcano entered the contest in the bottom of the 8th as a pitch hitter; promptly smacking a double to the right field wall. Then in the bottom of the 9th, following Suwinki’s first Major League Hit, Marcano would be called out looking on a 3-2 heater from Josh Hader to end the game. Unfortunately this would be Marcano’s final plate appearance prior to him being optioned back to Altoona on Saturday the 30th when Tucker returned. Suwinski on the other hand remained on the roster, and in the starting lineup for all six games of the home stand. In these six games he would register 23 official at bats, five base hits, three strikeouts and no walks; good for an across the board .217/.217/.217 slash line.
Obviously these numbers won’t earn Suwinski back-to-back appearances on the weekly Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers; but, if I had to guess, I’m pretty sure he’s more than alright with it.
1) Nick Dombkowski-LHP (Greensboro)
Dombkowski made some Minor headlines of his own this past week; earning a promotion to the High-A Greensboro Grasshoppers for the last few games of their series against the Rome Braves.
Originally signed by the Pirates as a Non-drafted Free Agent on July 20th of last year from the University of Hartford, Dombkowski almost immediately reported to the Low-A Bradenton Marauders for the final month of the season. In 18.2 innings-across 11 appearances-the lefty reliever posted a 3.86 ERA and a 1.018 WHIP with 23 strikeouts and 6 walks.
To begin 2022 Dombkowski found himself back in Bradenton for the first 10.2 inning of the year. During this time he struck out 19 batters and walked only 2 on his way to a 1.69 ERA, a .844 WHIP and the aforementioned promotion.
Over the weekend he made his first trip out of the bullpen for the Grasshoppers in their eventual 8-5 loss to the Braves. Lasting 2.2 innings, Dombkowski struck out 4, walked 1, gave up 2 hits and didn’t allow a single run.
2) Po-Yu Chen-RHP (Bradenton)
Chen is one of those young Pirates Pitching Prospects that has some hype and expectations attached to him because of how and by whom he was acquired; which takes us all the way back to August 28, 2020 when the Pirates-and more specifically Ben Cherington-traded outfielder Jarod Dyson to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for an additional $243,300 of international bonus pool space. Cherington would then take this bump in available funds and put into signing the 22nd Ranked International Prospect of the 2019–20 Class, from Taiwan, for $1.25 million.
To begin his career in the Pirates Organization Chen would be assigned to the FCL at the end of June 2021; a situation in which he was nothing shortof dominating. Over 26 innings of work he did not walk a single batter, struck out 29-good for a rate of 10.0 K/9-and posted an nearly identical 0.69 ERA and .692 WHIP.
Unfortunately his transition to Low-A Bradenton did not go smoothly as put up a 5.63 ERA and a 1.688 WHIP, while walking 12 and striking out 15; although his one start was a 7 inning, 3 hit, 0 run and 6 K performance.
Due to these struggles, and limited time with the Marauders, it was really no surprise that Chen would start the season back in Bradenton this year; where he continued to scuffle through his first three outings of the season.
Luckily for Chen he would turn things around during his most recent start. In 5 innings this past Saturday he struck out 7, walked 1, allowed only 1 hit and didn’t give up an earned run.
Clearly this is only one start, but hopefully it get things going in the right direction for Chen, who now has a combined 3.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.
3) Blake Sabol–C/OF/1B (Altoona)
Coming into this season, the top catcher prospect that fans were focused on for the Curve would most likely have been Carter Bins-the #46 Pirates Prospect according to Fangraphs, who Cherington acquired in the Tyler Anderson Trade with Seattle. And, although he is not solely a catcher anymore, Blake Sabol is probably the one that has garnered the most attention thus far.
Across 15 games, and in 64 plate appearances, Sabol is currently slashing .317/.359/.467 with a couple of homers and 4 total extra base hits. Meanwhile, Bins has produced a .154/.233/.333 slash line with one home run and 5 total extra base hits in 43 plate appearances. Too be fair each of these are extremely small sample sizes, and neither have really set the bar very high when it comes to plate discipline. Sabol has a 25% K to 6.3% BB rate versus a 39.5% K to 7% BB one for Bins. Once again keep in mind, the SSS.
4) Andres Alvarez-SS/3B/2B (Altoona)
Remember all those walk-off that I mentioned in last week’s blog post; well, Alvarez was part of one of them.
At the time Alvarez was just starting to heat up, and didn’t necessarily have the stats to be a part of the Top 5. However, after a series in which he had a home run and two doubles he definitely qualifies. On the season he is sporting a .273 AVG and a 1.025 OPS with three homers-tied for tops on the Curve for the moment.
Obviously he has a lot to overcome due to his ever increasing age for a prospect, as well as the glut middle infielders at his current level and above; still, if anyone is up for a challenge, it’s Alvarez.
5) Yoyner Fajardo-2B/3B/OF (Greensboro)
Yes, that Yoyner Fajardo. The highly touted super utility man that many had been waiting to see take the field at First National Bank Field. Clearly you know I am joking; yet, as Fajardo has started to play himself into regular playing time with the Grasshoppers, his performance should be noted.
In 9 games and 34 at bats, the DSL standout from 2018, has a .324/.361/.471 slash line with a home run and 5 stolen bases on as many attempts.
Plus, Fajardo was also the man behind Greensboro’s walk-off from the previous week.
There you have it! My Top 5 Pirates Prospect Performers for the fourth week of 2022.
Now remember, let me know I missed (because I know I probably left off a couple), who your Top 5 is and be sure check back each and every Tuesday during Minor League Baseball Season!