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, then 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. The stats listed below will cover from Sunday-Saturday each 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 reports and views via MiLB.tv, giving us a look at the entire farm system throughout the season.
Player of the Week
Will Craig, 1B, Indianapolis – Craig hit 20 homers last year in Altoona, then led the Arizona Fall League with six homers, so it’s no surprise to see him showing power. However, he has already blasted six home runs through his first nine games of the season. The best part about the power display is that he has also drawn seven walks. That has led to a .314/.455/.829 slash line to begin the season. Craig has shown the ability to hit for power and the ability to get base, just not at the same time. It’s obviously very early in the season, but the early results are encouraging. If he keeps it up, the biggest problem will be finding a place for him because Josh Bell doesn’t look like he’s giving up his spot. That’s a type of problem that every teams wants.
Daniel Amaral, OF, Bradenton – Amaral started just two of the first six games, but played the last four games of the week. He has four multi-hit games, leading him to a .421/.522/.579 slash line through his first six games. Amaral is a speedy outfielder with solid defense, whose main asset is his ability to steal bases. He is 2-for-2 this year and went 25-31 last year. The 14th round pick out of UCLA in 2018 is the son of long-time Major Leaguer Rich Amaral, and his brother Beau is in his eighth season of pro ball, so he comes from good baseball genes.
Dylan Busby, 3B, Bradenton – Busby had about a 1% chance of making this list through games played on Thursday. He went 1-for-16 with ten strikeouts. That was followed by two doubles, a triple and two homers in his next six at-bats. Busby was the third round pick in 2017. He has a long swing, which has led to some strikeout issues in pro ball. He also dealt with two injuries last year, so he has been limited to 93 pro games so far. His slash line over three levels since 2017 is .209/.297/.367, with 113 strikeouts in 335 at-bats.
Jake Elmore, Util, Indianapolis – Elmore was a late pickup by the Pirates, who looked like he would be playing a bench role for Indianapolis, but he has been seeing regular playing time. That’s partly due to Kevin Kramer being called to the majors, allowing Elmore to play second base. He has also been playing some left field, with Jason Martin being in the majors. The 31-year-old hit .400/.441/.467 through his first eight games. While he’s in a tough spot with so many prospects on the team and players like Martin and Kramer expected to return, Elmore has played parts of five seasons in the majors. That means that he could be a bench depth option at some point during this season.
Robbie Glendinning, INF, Altoona – Glendinning was originally scheduled to begin the season in Bradenton, but he moved up to Altoona on Opening Day and he has put up a .333/.381/.556 slash line in his first seven games. He got his chance when Stephen Alemais wasn’t ready for Opening Day, then when Alemais returned, Alfredo Reyes was promoted to Indianapolis. Glendinning put up some big offensive stats this winter in Australia, and also got the chance to work alongside MLB vet Peter Kozma on the left side of the infield. Glendinning has already been at second base, third base and shortstop this season.
Logan Hill, OF/1B, Altoona – Hill is now in his third season at Altoona, with a new wrinkle to his game this year. He will be playing some first base, in addition to his corner outfield play. The 25-year-old made the list this week by showing a little bit of power and patience, leading to a .303/.425/.515 slash line in ten games, with four doubles, a homer and seven walks. Hill showed some nice power last year with 17 homers, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a low average, to go along with below average speed and average defense in a corner spot. If he can get on base more, without losing power, then he should eventually get to Triple-A, where the extra defensive spot will help him get playing time.
Hunter Owen, 3B, Altoona – The 25-year-old Owen is off to a fast start, with three homers and three doubles, helping him to a .333/.421/.697 slash line in ten games. Owen’s biggest issue has been the plate patience. The power has been there, but the 19:114 BB/SO ratio in 111 games last year left a lot to be desired. He has struck out 14 times already this season, but his five walks puts him well ahead of any previous pace. While his defense at third base is average at best, he has improved. He has also played some first base briefly this year and he can serve as the emergency catcher.
Bryan Reynolds, CF, Indianapolis – With Jason Martin in the majors, Reynolds has had a chance to play center field full-time and he’s played well out there, including one highlight sliding catch in the gap near the wall. He made this list due to his hitting though, as we have seen some early power from the 24-year-old switch-hitter. Reynolds has hit three homers already, after coming into this season with a career high of ten round trippers back in 2017. He also had hits in each of his first eight games going into play on Sunday. Reynolds needs to be added to the 40-man roster by this winter, but he’s positioning himself to get that call later this season.
Trayvon Robinson, OF, Indianapolis – Robinson spent part of the 2011 and 2012 seasons in the majors with the Seattle Mariners. He hasn’t been back there since. Now 31 years old, he is off to a fast start for Indianapolis. Robinson had back-to-back four hit games, though they were vastly different performances. He had four singles the first day, then hits two doubles and two triples the next game. He was hitting .500/.556/.773 through his first seven games. Like Jake Elmore, he’s currently seeing regular time now, but could lose time once players start returning from the injured list, so it’s important for him to continue to hit well early on.
Lolo Sanchez, OF, Greensboro – It hasn’t been a good start to the season for the hitters at Greensboro (until 11 runs on Sunday), but Lolo Sanchez was the lone exception. He hit .345/.412/.586 in ten games and drove in eight runs. The next best regular in the lineup had a .708 OPS over that stretch. Sanchez was moved to the ninth spot in the lineup last year to take some pressure off of his bat in the lead-off spot. He was trying to do too much at the top of the lineup and the later spot led to a .751 OPS over 61 games. The Pirates are sticking with what worked last year for the young center fielder, who doesn’t turn 20 years old until next week. Due to his experience already in Low-A, Sanchez is in line for a mid-season promotion if he continues to show improvements over last year.
Cole Tucker, SS, Indianapolis – Tucker is off to a fast start in all aspects of his play. He’s hitting .325/.413/.525 with two doubles, two homers and five walks. He already has four steals, and he has made some highlight plays in the field (check today’s Morning Report for the latest). The Pirates don’t have anyone blocking the 22-year-old switch-hitter in the majors at shortstop, so at this point it’s just a matter of getting him more experience at Triple-A and seeing how he adjusts once older pitchers start adjusting to him. He will arrive in the majors at some point this year, but the first half of the season will decide whether it’s as early as June or will he have to wait until September rolls around.
Cam Alldred, LHP, Greensboro – While the Lolo Sanchez report above told how bad the start of the season has been for Greensboro hitters, the same can’t be said about the pitching. Five of their pitchers were among the top performers over the first ten days of the season. The 22-year-old Alldred, who was taken in the 24th round last year, made four relief appearances in the first ten games. He had back-to-back outings of one shutout inning each. That was followed by his longest performance, where he gave up one run in 2.1 innings. On Saturday night, he threw two shutout innings with four strikeouts. Alldred has six strikeouts and an 0.95 WHIP in his 6.1 innings. He was an All-Star last year at Morgantown, where he posted a 1.63 ERA and an 0.90 WHIP in 18 appearances.
Osvaldo Bido, RHP, Greensboro – Bido has a great background, signing when he was already 21 years old, then struggling to throw strikes in the DSL. We had him among the top prospects on that 2017 DSL Pirates team because he had a mid-90s fastball and a nice mix of pitches. That control improved dramatically in just one year, leading him to jump to Morgantown last year. This year he’s at Greensboro and looked to be improving his prospect stock even more. Bido tossed five shutout innings in his season debut, serving up just one hit and no walks. He followed that up with six shutout innings, this time allowing three hits and one walk. He’s holding batters to a .111 average and he has an 0.45 WHIP. Despite being 23 years old, the 6’3″ right-hander signed at a very low weight and still has room to fill out.
Cody Bolton, RHP, Bradenton – The reports on Bolton from his first outing were excellent. He threw five innings, allowing one run on two hits, with no walks and six strikeouts. His fastball was sitting 94-97 MPH that day. We found out later that he’s been working on a new cutter using his old slider grip (it’s basically a hard slider). On Saturday, we got a chance to see him and Bolton looked outstanding. He was getting swinging strikes with all of his pitches, overpowering hitters with his fastball, while mixing in his other pitches to keep hitters off-balance. It was a dominating performance in which he picked up eight strikeouts over six innings. Bolton still has to prove that he can keep up this pace over the course of the season, but if he continues to look this good, he’s going to move up some spots from currently being the 13th overall prospect in the system.
Brad Case, RHP, Greensboro – Case made two starts for Greensboro and was strong in the first, then dominated his second appearance. He debuted with one run over 5.2 innings on three hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. That was followed up on Saturday night by six shutout innings, in which he allowed four hits (all singles), with no walks and seven strikeouts. Case was pounding the outside corner against right-handed batters with his slider and fastball, then tying them up inside for weak contact or swinging strikes. He had to work around three errors and one other infield hit that could have been an error, but he handled those miscues nicely. Case worked hard this off-season and arrived at camp early to compete for a starting rotation spot this spring. Early on he’s taking full advantage of his opportunity.
Joe Jacques, LHP, Greensboro – Jacques has an interesting background, which was covered in our player feature on him over the winter. He was a college walk-on, who suffered two injuries during college ball, and also dealt with a change in his mechanics suggested by the coaches that didn’t work out. He ended up as a 33rd round pick and didn’t put up the best stats in his pro debut. Despite that start, he made the Greensboro bullpen this spring and has given up one run over 6.1 innings so far. Jacques is holding batters to a .143 average, with seven strikeouts and an 0.95 WHIP. Since last year, he has added a four-seam fastball and a cutter to his two-seam/slider/changeup mix.
James Marvel, RHP, Altoona – Marvel didn’t have an ideal outing in his second start, allowing four runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings. It was his debut on Opening Day that got him on this list. Marvel tossed six shutout innings on one hit, with no walks and nine strikeouts. He has a 2.29 GO/AO ratio through 11.2 innings. Marvel received a late season promotion last year to Altoona and put up solid stats in five starts. The 25-year-old has the stuff to be a Major League middle reliever, but he has shown improvements in the starter role.
Samuel Reyes, RHP, Greensboro – Reyes pitched well at West Virginia last year, so it was assumed that he would move up to Bradenton this season. That didn’t happen, but his early pitching is making it look like they made a mistake by having him repeat the level. Reyes has thrown seven shutout innings over three appearances this season. He has ten strikeouts, a .125 BAA and an 0.71 WHIP. Reyes was up to three innings in his last appearance, and he made some starts late last year, including seven strikeouts over six innings with no earned runs. It’s possible that he could step into a starting role if a spot opens up, but his pitches play up in relief, with a mid-90s fastball, an above average curve and a solid changeup. His velocity dips to 90-93 as a starter.
Domingo Robles, LHP, Bradenton – Robles got a taste of Bradenton late last year after pitching well at West Virginia. He got hit hard in his first start, then pitched well over the final four outings, allowing six runs in 25 innings (2.16 ERA). He returned to High-A this year and is still two weeks shy of his 21st birthday. Robles has started off strong with a 2.25 ERA, an 0.50 WHIP and a .122 BAA in 12 innings. He had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning of his second start. Robles gets by with excellent control off all three pitches, including his curve and a nice changeup. The big issue here is that he showed an improvement in his velocity in 2017, then dropped off a tick since then. The hope was that the improvement at 19 years old would just be the start. It’s tough to make it to the majors with high 80s velocity, so at least a return to the 90-92 MPH we saw would help his case.
Aaron Shortridge, RHP, Bradenton – Shortridge was the fourth round draft pick last year and looked good in his limited innings. He didn’t pitch much during his first two years of college, so he really increased his inning total in 2018, which led to him being shut down early. He skipped over Low-A this season and has pitched well in his first two starts. On April 5th, he threw five shutout innings on three hits, with no walks and three strikeouts. That was followed five days later by one run over six innings, and again he had no walks and three strikeouts. Shortridge has a big frame with limited pitching miles on it. He doesn’t throw hard, sitting 88-89 MPH in his second start, but he mixes his pitches well and fills the strike zone. There could be more velocity in there, as he has shown slightly better in the recent past.
Cam Vieaux, LHP, Altoona – Vieaux has started off strong this year with 10.2 shutout innings in two games. He has given up just three hits, but has run up his pitch count each game with some minor control issues. Vieaux started 2018 in Bradenton, moving up to Altoona after ten starts. In 15 games with the Curve, he had a 3.59 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He’s now returned to the Altoona rotation, where he could be the next man up if Indianapolis needs a starter. Vieaux is probably going to end up as a middle reliever in the future, but he has a nice mix of pitches that makes him likely to reach that upside in the majors.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.