Low-A title latest win for Pirates' farm in '21

September 25th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- Pirates manager Derek Shelton began his pregame media session on Saturday by acknowledging the Bradenton Marauders -- the club's Low-A affiliate -- winning the Low-A Southeast championship on Friday night.

"I just want to congratulate the Bradenton Marauders. Very cool," Shelton said. "Anytime you win a championship at any level, it's very cool. But that group of guys -- most of those guys didn't play last year -- that's really special. "

Along with Bradenton sweeping Tampa (the Yankees' Low-A affiliate) to win the title, Pittsburgh's High-A affiliate in Greensboro is also in the championship series against Bowling Green, the Rays' High-A affiliate. That best-of-5 series is tied at a game apiece, with Game 3 set for Sunday.

Though Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis haven't had that same level of team success, there has been plenty to like throughout the Pirates' system this season. That comes on the heels of the entire 2020 Minor League season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"No. 1, it speaks to the fact that I think we did a very good job outlining programs during COVID last year and through the winter time, and then preparing them during the year," Shelton said. "And then also managing the workload portion of it, becuase you have to be very cognizant of the fact that you have a bunch of 17-, 18-, 19-year-old kids who did nothing last year and be aware of that. But I really think it speaks to the testament to our players and the ability to stick with skill development at a time when they didn't have anything organized."

With that in mind, let's check in on some of the Pirates' top prospect performances of late:

Oneil Cruz (club's No. 3 prospect)
Cruz made his Triple-A debut on Wednesday -- and the promotion hasn't slowed him down one bit. He hit a towering home run in that Wednesday debut, then went 3-for-4 with another homer on Friday night. That comes after he posted a .292/.346/.536 slash line with 12 homers and 18 stolen bases over 62 games with Double-A Altoona.

"I did see the ball that Oneil hit [Wednesday] -- wow," Shelton said. "That's a long way for a left-hander. It's good to see."

Nick Gonzales (No. 4)
Gonzales, the seventh overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, has been on a tear over the last six weeks with High-A Greensboro. The 22-year-old middle infielder is hitting .341 with nine homers, 28 RBIs and a 1.110 OPS over his last 30 games. He's slashing .302/.385/.565 (.950 OPS) over 80 games in his first professional season.

Liover Peguero (No. 5)
Fellow Greensboro middle infielder Liover Peguero has also been a key part of the club's run to the championship series. The speedy 20-year-old shortstop has reached base safely in 17 of the last 18 games, while hitting .324 with two homers and 10 stolen bases during that stretch.

Roansy Contreras (No. 6)
Contreras also made his Triple-A debut on Wednesday, allowing just one run while striking out six over 3 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old righty had a 2.65 ERA in 12 starts with Altoona, all while racking up 76 strikeouts over 54 1/3 innings.

"It's good to see that group go up there and have some success," Shelton said of Contreras and Cruz. "Get a little taste of Triple-A baseball before the season ends."

Pirates mourn longtime employee
Jean Donatelli, who worked nearly 60 years in the Pirates' front office, passed away on Thursday -- just two days shy of her 91st birthday.

A lifetime resident of Bloomfield, Pa., Donatelli started with the Pirates on Oct. 16, 1948. She went on to spend the next six decades working as an executive assistant for general managers Joe L. Brown, Harding Peterson, Syd Thrift, Larry Doughty, Ted Simmons, Cam Bonifay, Dave Littlefield and Neal Huntington.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh at 6926 Hamilton Ave.