Here are 5 Pirates prospects on the rise
This story was excerpted from Justice delos Santos’ Pirates Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
To briefly recap the Pirates’ Minor League season that was ...
Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras, among others, officially graduated from prospect status.
Termarr Johnson, whom many pundits dubbed the best pure hitter available, headlined the Pirates’ 2022 Draft class.
Henry Davis, Quinn Priester and Nick Gonzales, a trio of top-five prospects, all missed significant time due to injury.
And finally, Endy Rodriguez.
While we can’t summarize everything that happened over the course of this season, here’s a look back on how Pittsburgh's Minor Leaguers fared, as well as a look ahead to next year.
3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year
C/OF Endy Rodriguez (Pirates' No. 6 prospect, No. 97 overall)
It’s not that Rodriguez wasn’t on anyone’s radar coming into this season, but by year's end, he evolved from one of the Pirates’ better prospects to one of baseball’s better prospects. The numbers speak for themselves. In 125 games across three levels, Rodriguez hit .323/.407/.590 with 25 home runs and 95 RBIs. From July onwards, he posted a 1.181 OPS and 211 wRC+. He put up those numbers while playing an uber-premium position.
OF Matt Gorski (No. 22)
For Gorski, the blend of power and speed was always there. In 2021, Gorski hit 17 homers and stole 18 bases in 95 games. The concern lay in a subpar average (.223) and on-base percentage (.294). In 2022, Gorski not only hit 24 homers and stole 21 bases, but he also posted a .956 OPS. By season’s end, Gorski earned a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis for his efforts.
SS Andres Alvarez
Want to grab attention? A 20-20 season should do the trick. Alvarez was a bit of a curiosity heading into this season, having only played 40 games last year with High-A Greensboro. With Double-A Altoona, Alvarez orchestrated one of the more surprising performances by any Pirates prospect this season, hitting 20 home runs and stealing 21 bases while posting a 111 wRC+. Alvarez also played all across the diamond, spending time at second base, third base, shortstop and left field.
2 possible breakout players to watch in 2023
RHP Jared Jones (No. 18)
With Jones, the stuff isn’t the question. He features a mid-90s fastball with great spin, a tantalizing slider and other budding secondaries. The big question mark is command. While Jones’ ERA (4.62) and FIP (4.85) were merely solid, he walked nearly one fewer batter per nine innings in 2022 (3.74) compared to 2021 (4.64). The long ball bit him, but some of that might be a function of playing in hitter-friendly Greensboro.
OF Hudson Head (No. 26)
Head may have put some pieces together in the season’s latter months. From July onwards, he hit .264/.355/.472 with seven home runs, eight steals and a 125 wRC+. Head also seemed to get better at picking his spots on the bases; the outfielder was successful in just five of 11 steal attempts in April, May and June, but successfully stole eight of 10 bags in July and August. Head’s 33.6 percent strikeout rate -- a career worst -- remains a concern, but if he can trim that down, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do in Double-A.
1 big question for next season: How many prospects will make their debuts?
The Pirates have a plethora of prospects who are knocking on the door of the Major Leagues. Rodriguez, Priester and Mike Burrows ended the season with Indianapolis. Davis, Gonzales and Liover Peguero ended the season with Altoona, but could potentially begin the season with Indianapolis. There are also many prospects who will start the season in Triple-A who might be worthy of a look as well, such as Gorski and Blake Sabol.