Every Monday during the minor league season, we take a look at the top performers in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, giving scouting reports on the top ten pitchers and top ten hitters from the previous week. The column was originally called Top Performers until last year when we changed it to The Twenty. The number 21 obviously has a lot of significance for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans, so we expanded this article to include one extra player.
Each Monday, we will highlight one Player of the Week, who will be followed by ten pitchers and ten batters who excelled during the previous week. This isn’t a top prospect list, so any player in the system can make the list if he has a strong week. Our scouting reports are based on first-hand views throughout the system, where we have coverage for all four full-season affiliates. We also get extra views via MiLB.tv, giving us a look at the entire farm system throughout the season.
Player of the Week
Jonah Davis, CF, Bristol – We haven’t had too many repeat winners here for Player of the Week, but Davis is now one of them. In fact, he’s the second one this year and the first position player, joining Oddy Nunez in the two-time winner’s circle. Davis picked up nine hits this past week, with five of them being homers, two being triples and two being doubles. He apparently doesn’t like singles, although he did walk four times. He now has a .326/.411/.658 slash line through 45 games, as he tries to help Bristol to the playoffs over these final ten days of the season. His 31 extra-base hits leads the league by six over the next highest total. No two 2018 Pirates draft picks combined have that many extra-base hits. Davis is likely going to remain with Bristol at this point, mostly because they have a playoff chance. If they miss the playoffs though, Morgantown would still have five games remaining when the Appalachian League ends, and then you could see him move up a level to finish the season.
Carlos Arroyo, INF, DSL Pirates – When the Pirates signed Arroyo on his 16th birthday last year (July 11th), he was considered one of the top available prospects in Colombia. In fact, when the winter league held their annual draft that year, he was selected third overall. Arroyo has been one of the better DSL hitters for the Pirates since a slow start to the season back in early June. He had seven hits, four walks, five runs scored and three stolen bases last week. He’s currently hitting .294/.409/.322 in 56 games, with 31 walks and 15 stolen bases in 19 attempts. He’s a small player at 5’9″ and 170 pounds, and obviously with that .322 slugging percentage, he’s just a singles hitter at this point, but he’s also one of the youngest players in the league and possesses a lot of tools that could lead to future success.
Dylan Busby, 3B, West Virginia – Busby has had a tough 2018 season. He started off slow with West Virginia, then when it looked like he might be getting on track, he got hit in the face with a pitch. Six weeks later, he was in the middle of a rehab with the GCL Pirates that wasn’t going well at the plate and he took a pitch off the helmet. That sidelined him again for over three weeks. Busby went to Bristol for four games before returning to West Virginia on Wednesday. He had hits in all six games he played this week, including his seventh home run of the season. He is showing some power this year, which is why the Pirates selected him in the third round. His draft report said that he had a lot of swing-and-miss to his game and that’s been true since he signed, with a .204 average in 86 pro games, striking out 102 times in 313 at-bats.
Pat Dorrian, 3B, GCL/Bristol – Dorrian has been one of the best hitters in the GCL this season, and when the Pirates traded Sherten Apostel to the Texas Rangers, that opened up third base for Dorrian in Bristol. He collected 12 hits, drove in six runs and scored seven runs for the GCL Pirates this past week. He made his Bristol debut on Sunday and went 1-for-4 with a double. Dorrian left the GCL with the second most RBIs (34) and his .941 OPS ranked fifth in the league. The GCL obviously isn’t a great level for a college player, but he did as much as you could ask at the plate and earned a promotion to the next level. He will now get to play longer this season due to Bristol having more games remaining on the schedule, plus they are competing for a playoff spot.
Mikell Granberry, DH/1B, Bristol – Granberry has been the semi-regular DH for the Bristol Pirates, getting occasional starts at first base when Mason Martin isn’t playing. Despite catching all spring and still working bullpens, Granberry has caught just one game this season. He has been taking grounders at third base and fly balls in the outfield, but hasn’t played either position yet. What he has done all season is hit the ball. Granberry celebrated his 23rd birthday on Sunday by collecting a single and his ninth double, driving in a run. He reached base safely five times on Friday and hit his fifth homer on Thursday. Through 36 games, he’s hitting .302/.422/.508, with 25 walks and 15 extra-base hits. His .930 OPS would rank tenth in the league if he had a few more plate appearances to qualify.
Jack Herman, OF, GCL Pirates – Herman has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates, who took him in the 30th round of this year’s draft and gave him a $50,000 bonus. He had nine hits, two walks, seven runs scored and seven RBIs this past week. Herman is now hitting .378/.465/.546 in 31 games. He leads the GCL in batting average by 19 points with just six days left in the season. Herman is second to teammate Kyle Mottice in OBP and he’s third in slugging percentage. He’s second in OPS as well, though the leader isn’t in the league anymore and doesn’t appear to have enough plate appearances to qualify at the end of the season. The Pirates have him playing mostly in right field, though he does have ten games in center field and he hasn’t committed an error in 57 chances.
Ryan Lavarnway, C, Indianapolis – Lavarnway has been putting up big numbers at the plate, getting more playing time than expected due to Jacob Stallings making four trips to the majors already. The 31-year-old with 140 games of big league experience, is hitting .304/.392/.526 in 67 games, with 22 doubles and nine homers. If he had enough at-bats to qualify for league leaders, Lavarnway would lead the International League in slugging and OPS. He’s probably not going to get a chance in the majors this season, although with Indianapolis likely making the playoffs, he would be their starting catcher in September with Stallings most certainly coming to the majors on the 1st of the month. That would put Lavarnway one injury to any of the three catchers away from joining the Pirates to finish out the season.
Calvin Mitchell, OF, West Virginia – Mitchell has been in a slump for most of the second half, but he had a decent end to last week to stop the slide. After putting up an .883 OPS in the first half, he’s down to a .605 OPS since he played in the South Atlantic League All-Star game in June. Mitchell connected on his ninth home run on Saturday as part of a three-hit game. After a single and a walk on Sunday, he had a .282/.347/.426 slash line in 105 games. As a 19-year-old in full-season ball, he’s having a solid overall season, which should be more than enough to get him to Bradenton next year. That might not be true about any of the other three teenagers (Mason Martin, Rodolfo Castro and Lolo Sanchez) who also got the aggressive push from the GCL to full-season ball this season.
Pablo Reyes, Util, Indianapolis – Reyes has been batting lead-off with Kevin Newman in the majors. He had a seven-game hit streak last week that included three doubles, a triple and four walks. With minor league free agency closing in on him, he has stepped things up as the season gets closer to ending. Reyes put up an .886 OPS in 28 games last month and now he’s at .966 in 18 games this month. On the season with Indianapolis, he has a .299/.351/.450 slash line in 100 games. At this point, you would think there is no way that they could let a versatile 24-year-old (turns 25 next month) leave via free agency. It wouldn’t be out of the question that they bring him up to the majors after the Indianapolis season ends, just to get a longer look to decide whether to keep him around.
Rayvi Rodriguez, OF, DSL Pirates – Rodriguez was a rookie in the Dominican last year and had a lot of trouble at the plate, posting a .510 OPS in 39 games. He was also 19 years old already, so that seems like a really bad sign as far as his potential. The scouting reports said he had three plus tools in his speed, defense and arm. It’s tough to get anywhere with no bat though, and Rodriguez hasn’t shown potential in that area until just recently. He had eight hits this past week and scored seven runs. He now has a .296/.358/.377 slash line in 55 games. Because he does have three above average tools, if he can continue to get on base at higher levels, then he could eventually turn into a prospect. Due to his age, it will be tough to gauge whether he has really improved his hitting a lot since last year, or he’s just an experienced older player in the league doing well against younger kids. An indication of his potential will be whether or not he’s invited to the Fall Instructional League next month.
Raul Siri, Util, Bradenton – Siri has traveled quite a bit since June. He began the season in Extended Spring Training and was hitting the ball well down there, albeit as one of the older and more experienced players there. Siri reported to Morgantown, but shortly after was promoted to West Virginia to fill in for an injury. He returned to Morgantown, was called up to the Power again due to an injury, but when the two injured players returned, Siri went to Bradenton instead. He’s been an infielder as a pro, but Bradenton had some outfield injuries and Siri has been filling it out there. After five seasons in the system, spent all in short-season ball, he would probably pitch both ends of a doubleheader if Bradenton asked. This past week he has made the most of this chance, collecting eight hits, two walks and driving in five runs. He hit his third home run of the season on Saturday and he has an .809 OPS in ten games with Bradenton.
Dario Agrazal, RHP, Altoona – Agrazal had two nice starts this past week. On Tuesday he threw six shutout innings. On Sunday, he gave up two runs over six innings. It might seem odd to say it just based on those stats, but he needs to be more like the Sunday pitcher to be successful. Agrazal recently returned from a shoulder strain and pitched well in Bradenton before rejoining Altoona. He has allowed just four runs in 29 innings (I’m including three innings from a game that was canceled due to rain) since returning. The problem is that until Sunday, he had ten strikeouts in 24 innings. It’s very difficult to be successful in the majors with a strikeout rate anywhere near that low, even for someone with Agrazal’s ability to command the strike zone and get ground balls. On Sunday, he picked up six strikeouts while getting 7:2 GO/AO ratio and he was still efficient with his pitch count. More games like that would increase his chances of making it as a starter in the majors.
Osvaldo Bido, RHP, Morgantown – We rated Bido as the 50th best prospect in the system during our mid-season update and due to some players leaving since then, he is now up to 47th place. That was despite stats from a 22-year-old still in short-season ball that didn’t match the expectations of a prospect. He was there on projection and a four-pitch arsenal that has the chance to get him to the majors as a starter. Bido has shown that potential since the guide was released. Back on August 7th, he allowed one run over five innings and picked up a career high nine strikeouts. Cut to this past week and he went seven innings for the first time in his career, throwing shutout ball on three singles, with no walks and seven strikeouts. Bido still has room to fill out, but he’s already shown the ability to hold his mid-90s velocity late in games, mixing in a cutter, slider and changeup that all have potential. He was considered more of a project coming into the season due to his control, but his walk rate last year was three times higher than it is now.
Brad Case, RHP, GCL Pirates – Case was the 17th round pick this year out of Rollins College, so at first it seemed like an odd placement for him to go to the GCL. The Pirates gave him a $100,000 bonus, so it’s obvious that they thought he had potential. We found out that he went to the GCL to work on a mechanical adjustment, which helped him stay on his back leg longer during his delivery. He immediately saw an increase in velocity and his slider was better. It made more sense to work on an adjustment at the lowest level, because you want to make sure that he’s also able to get his innings in at the same time. Case has been dominating lately and that led to him being promoted to Bristol last week. He will make his debut there today. Before leaving, he finished with an outing in which he gave up one run over six innings. In his last three starts combined, he allowed one run over 17 innings. In 40 innings total in the GCL, Case had a 3.38 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, with just four walks and 33 strikeouts. He’s now in a league better suited for his pitching ability.
Nicholas Economos, RHP, Morgantown – Economos almost made The 21 last week, just missing out for the last spot. He threw five shutout innings and picked up a career high seven strikeouts. That personal best strikeout total lasted just seven days. On Wednesday night, Economos threw six shutout innings and struck out nine batters. He put up a strong strikeout rate last year, but that was as a reliever, when he had 38 strikeouts in 33.1 innings for Morgantown. Economos has moved slowly through the system, but the Pirates like him enough to give him starts right now with two of Morgantown’s regular starters out of action. He’s taking advantage of his opportunity. He was an interesting draft pick back in 2015 when he was taken in the 21st round out of Mercer County CC. He was young for a player with some college experience and we heard he could get up to 94 MPH. We didn’t see that velocity after the draft, but as a guy with a solid 6’6″ frame, the intrigue was there. Economos was working high-80s in his last start and going heavy with off-speed pitches.
Steven Jennings, RHP, Bristol – Jennings had his best career start on Thursday night. He has pitched well at times during the 2018 season, but he has a lot of starts where he gets hurt by one big inning. Going into his last start, he had allowed 13 earned runs over his previous 17.1 innings. He got some help by facing a Burlington team with easily the worst team OPS in the Appalachian League and just 17 wins to their credit. That obviously helped him out a little, but the turnaround from his previous three starts is what really stands out. Jennings went seven innings, giving up one unearned run on five hits and a walk, while striking out seven batters. Through 11 starts, he has a 4.58 ERA in 57 innings, with a 45:24 SO/BB ratio, a 1.44 WHIP, a .259 BAA and an 0.91 GO/AO ratio. He’s been sitting low-90s this year, working in the 89-92 range mostly, using a slider, curve and changeup.
James Marvel, RHP, Altoona – Marvel earned a spot in The 21 last week with a strong debut for Altoona. After leaving the Florida State League as the leader in innings pitched, he allowed two runs over 6.2 innings in his first Double-A start. That’s a tough game to improve on in your second outing, but he did that on Wednesday night. Marvel went seven innings, giving up one run on four hits and a walk, with five strikeouts and a 12:5 GO/AO ratio. He has now thrown 148 innings this season, tops among all Pittsburgh Pirates. Marvel will likely open 2019 in the Altoona rotation, but he’s getting some added experience at the level, including a very good chance at making the playoffs the way things stand right now. He doesn’t really have the upside of a starter unless he can increase his strikeout rate, but there’s a good chance we can see him in a Major League bullpen at some point as a ground ball specialist. He entered our top 50 yesterday.
Oddy Nunez, LHP, West Virginia – Nunez has now appeared here two weeks in a row after being demoted from Bradenton due to poor results. He’s pitching more like the guy we saw last year, showing efficient pitch counts in each of his two starts and getting solid results. He went seven innings on Thursday night, giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk. We mentioned that the velocity was down this season, but more importantly for Nunez, who is 6’8″ and hides the ball well in his delivery, his control has been poor this season. He’s able to get away with lower velocity due to deception and movement on his pitches, but if he isn’t throwing low-90s like last year, then he needs his control to be above average. While a demotion obviously isn’t something you would like to see, he’s still age appropriate for Low-A ball and he appears to be getting back on track. We will see if that trend can continue.
Samuel Reyes, RHP, West Virginia – Not only did Pablo Reyes make The 21, his younger brother also has an impressive week. On Monday, he threw three shutout innings. He pitched again on Sunday and went five innings for the first time in his career. He threw shutout ball again, allowed five hits (all singles) and didn’t walk a batter. Reyes now has a 2.25 ERA in 32 innings with West Virginia after joining the team mid-season from Extended Spring Training. He’s 22 years old, but it’s important to remember that just 14 months ago, he was making his pro debut in the DSL and now he’s already spent half of a season in Low-A ball, four levels higher. The Pirates cut him down from six pitches to three after he signed. He gets his fastball up to mid-90s in short outings, but in long relief like this week, he works 90-93 MPH, with an above average curve and a changeup.
Domingo Robles, LHP, Bradenton – Robles made his Bradenton debut at the same time James Marvel was making his Altoona debut. In fact, the 20-year-old lefty took Marvel’s spot in the rotation. His first start in High-A could be classified as a disaster. In 3.1 innings, he allowed nine earned runs on 11 hits. So it wasn’t hard to improve on those numbers, but Robles took the improvements to the extreme. He threw seven shutout innings while allowing just three hits and one walk. We have been seeing strong outings from Robles all season. He has excellent control over a fastball that gets in to the low-90s, along with a curve that he can throw for strikes early in the count and use as a put away pitch late. He also has a solid changeup, giving him a nice three-pitch mix. He doesn’t have a huge strikeout rate, but the potential is there for more, making Robles an intriguing prospect.
Gavin Wallace/Mike Wallace, RHP, Bradenton – When you write the article, you can bend the rules a little. On Friday night, Gavin Wallace threw five shutout innings against Jupiter, striking out seven batters. Approximately 14 hours later, his older brother Mike allowed one run over six innings against the same Jupiter club. Gavin has been piling up more strikeouts lately, with 19 in his last 16 innings. That’s coming from someone who had 59 strikeouts through his first 106.2 innings this season. He credits the success with better pitch sequencing, as he gets adjusted to the better hitters in High-A ball. The Wallace brothers have very similar results, but get there in different ways. Gavin throws harder, getting it up to the mid-90s, while Mike sits high-80s and goes very heavy with off-speed pitches. Both throw a lot of strikes and get their share of ground balls.