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
Calvin Mitchell, RF, Bradenton – Mitchell went 7-for-17 this past week, with two doubles, two homers, two walks, six runs and seven RBIs. He is currently on an eight-game hitting streaking, and has a .259/.307/.429 slash line through 86 games this season. Mitchell has collected 18 doubles, two triples and 12 home runs, which equals the amount of home runs he hit during the 2017-18 seasons. The best sign from this past week is just two strikeouts in 20 plate appearances. Mitchell has 109 strikeouts on the season, which ranks fifth in the Florida State League and third among all Pirates. You don’t like to see strikeouts that high at this level, though you can live with it if the players is still getting on base at a decent rate and showing power. Mitchell doesn’t have defense or speed to add any value, so everything comes from his bat. It helps that at age 20, he’s very young for his level, but it would help him even more going forward if the walks showed a bit of an increase (he has 21) and he cut back a little on the strikeouts. This last week was a nice sign of progress, but overall just a very small sample size. One last note, he had a pretty big day yesterday, so he’s already on his way to possibly being the first back-to-back Player of the Week winner.
Jake Elmore, Util, Indianapolis – Elmore was a regular here early in the season until he was called up by the Pirates on May 13th. Things obviously didn’t go well during his brief time in Pittsburgh and he hasn’t been doing much since he returned to Indianapolis until this past week. Part of that was from missing just over a week due to a hit-by-pitch. Elmore took a nine-game hit streak into Sunday, with three hits in each of his last two games. His overall slash line is great at .358/.412/.507 through 69 games. He’s also seeing time at five positions. Elmore is in a tough spot due to his past in the majors. He’s seen time with six teams over parts of six seasons, but hasn’t had any real success anywhere. The versatility and stats make him someone who deserves a shot, but he’s had plenty of shots at this point already.
Jack Herman, OF, Greensboro – Herman picked up hits in all six games this past week, including his ninth home run of the season on Wednesday. The 19-year-old, who was a 30th round draft pick last year, has a .252/.333/.512 slash line in his first 36 games this season. Herman is showing nice over-the-fence power this season, though he only has one double (and two triples), so almost all of his extra-base hits have been homers. He’s putting up solid stats despite 43 strikeouts in 138 plate appearances (31.2% K rate). One of the great things about his rookie season was the BB/SO ratio (23:24 in 169 plate appearances), but his strikeout rate has doubled this season and the walk rate is less than half of last year’s number, so that’s something to watch going forward. If he maintained his current rates going forward, then that’s not an issue, but it rarely works out that way. Things will normally get worse at each level as players continue to move up unless they make the proper adjustments. On the positive side, being young for the level gives him a better chance going forward to turn things in the right direction. You wouldn’t want to see a 22-year-old at this level show those trends, but Herman has plenty of time on his side.
Fabricio Macias, OF, Greensboro – Macias was trending towards the Player of the Week spot until finishing slow on Friday and Saturday. Prior to those games, he was on a seven-game hit streak, with four three-hit games. Through his first 85 games this season, he has a .289/.342/.422 slash line, with 16 doubles, two triples and eight homers. Macias is a decent defender in the outfield, who has been taking turns at all three spots. He has above average speed, though his 13-for-23 record in stolen bases leaves a little to be desired. At 21 years old, Macias is at an average age for Low-A ball. He probably deserves a call up at this point, but no one in the Bradenton outfield full of prospects looks ready to move up yet, so we might just see Macias finish out the season at this level. If someone does get moved up late though, he seems like the obvious replacement.
Bligh Madris, RF, Altoona – Madris had four multi-hit games this past week, collecting a total of ten hits, including his sixth home run of the season. Through 91 games, he now has a .266/.330/.388 slash line, with 27 extra-base hits. The 23-year-old left-handed hitter has now put up a .795 OPS in 27 games during the second half of the season. Those are the type of numbers he needs to maintain going forward over the final six weeks of the season. As a player who is going to get all of his value from his bat, we have to see more from him. He has a nice line drive stroke and a manageable BB/SO ratio (32:73 in 333 plate appearances) so if he could be a little more consistent with his solid contact, then he would project better as a future MLB bench player.
Jason Martin, OF, Indianapolis – Martin collected hits in all six games last week, starting things off with his seventh home run of the season. He also drew a total of six walks during the week. Through 61 games with Indianapolis, he has a .257/.304/.439 slash line. In an up year for offense in the league, Martin is a below average hitter. Part of that is from a slow start after returning from spending April in the majors, where he put up a .613 OPS in 19 games. Despite the overall stats, Martin will probably get a September shot with the Pirates. Including his time last year with Indianapolis, he has a .669 OPS in 120 games at Triple-A, so he hasn’t been really beating the door down at the level. He gets a boost by his defense and speed, but you would really like to see more weeks like last week before this season ends.
Alexander Mojica, 3B, DSL Pirates – Mojica has to be the most exciting player to follow this season. Still just 16 years old, he is hitting .372/.482/.619 in his first 35 games as a pro, with seven doubles, seven homers and more walks (23) than strikeouts (21). Mojica is a stocky third baseman with a cannon for an arm. He has a little less projection than your normal 16-year-old because he’s already filled out some, though there is work to do in that area to get him in better shape. Despite that flaw, he runs well for his size (he’s listed at 6’1″, 195 pounds, but he looks 20+ lbs heavier). Mojica has been doing so well this season that his .998 OPS last week in 23 plate appearances actually caused his overall OPS to drop 25 points.
Jared Oliva, CF, Altoona – Oliva is becoming a regular here after not showing up much during the first 2 1/2 months of the season, partially due to missing time with a concussion suffered on Opening Day. Since the second half of the season started in Altoona, he has been on fire. He had a .659 OPS at the halfway point, but in his last 27 games, Oliva is hitting .406/.482/.615, with an impressive 16-for-16 success rate in steals. Along with his defense in center field, he has been a complete player during the last five weeks. We could probably see him in Indianapolis to finish the season, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to see him have a little longer string of success before you move him up because we are only a month removed from wondering if his strong first half last year was just a fluke.
Pablo Reyes, IF/OF, Indianapolis – Reyes has had a tough time this season overall. He struggled with the Pirates early in the year as a bench player. He didn’t hit well right after being sent down. He injured his hamstring in the outfield, missing three weeks, then missed more time after taking a fastball off of his hand. Reyes has been doing well since returning, taking an eight-game hit streak into Sunday’s action. Includes in that streak was a three-game stretch with four homers and eight RBIs. During his last 11 games, he has been splitting his playing time between left field and right field. With an .843 OPS in 42 games at Indianapolis and the ability to playing multiple positions, it seems very likely that we will see Reyes back with the Pirates later this year.
Lucas Tancas, 1B/OF, Bradenton – Tancas has lost his regular spot at first base with the promotion of Mason Martin, but he switched to the outfield and put up nice numbers on offense this week. He currently has a seven-game hit streak that includes a four-hit game on Wednesday and homers in back-to-back games early last week. Tancas is hitting .278/.328/.416 in 78 games, with 22 doubles and six homers. At age 25 (26 in November), he is old for this level and his 16/103 BB/SO ratio in 315 plate appearances won’t translate well at a higher level. The things I mentioned about Calvin Mitchell having all of his value in the bat and the walks/strikeouts being a current issue, would be the same problems here, except Tancas is 5 1/2 years older.
Luis Tejeda, SS, DSL Pirates – Tejeda was one of the prize players for the Pirates in the 2018-19 international signing class. His $500,000 bonus tied him for the second highest bonus handed out by the Pirates during that class. He has recently been on a hot stretch, putting together an eight-game hitting streak, with five multi-hit games. He also has no strikeouts in his last 24 plate appearances, which is a very positive sign from someone who had 30 strikeouts in his first 28 games. Tejeda is hitting .279/.338/.357 in 33 games, getting most of his starts at shortstop, while also playing second base five times. Perhaps the most impressive thing about everything he has done this year is that he will play the entire season as a 16-year-old. His birthday is August 26th, two days after the season ends.
Osvaldo Bido, RHP, Greensboro – Bido put together a solid start this past week, allowing one run one four hits and a walk, with four strikeouts in five innings. He hasn’t been dominating lately like he did early in the year, but it’s understandable that a pitcher could be wearing down at this point in their first year in full-season ball. While Bido is 23 years old, we have noted numerous times in the past that he is still filling out his 6’3″ frame, as the Pirates got him in February of 2017 at a very low weight for his size. He’s up to 105.2 innings, which ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League going into Sunday. Overall, Bido has a 3.58 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, with the latter ranking him fifth in the league. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get some type of limit on his innings the rest of the way.
Cody Bolton, RHP, Altoona – Bolton had a rough beginning to his Double-A career. There were no horrible starts among his first three outings, but he gave up four runs each time and wasn’t going deep into games. He actually started off great in his debut with four shutout innings until things went bad in the fifth. Those were odd results coming from someone who just dominated High-A for the first 2 1/2 months of the season. On Thursday, Bolton finally got on track and pitched a gem. Over six shutout innings, he gave up one hit and walked one batter. The only odd part about his outing was that he picked up just one strikeout, but he was getting some swinging strikes early in counts and a lot of soft contact throughout the game. From my personal view in the two games I saw that he struggled in, it looked like he was trying to do too much instead of relying on what got him there. He was overthrowing his fastball often and consistently missing his spots. We didn’t see any of that during his time in Bradenton, so it’s possible that this last outing could give him some confidence going forward that his stuff is already good enough to get out Double-A hitters.
Kelvin Disla, RHP, DSL Pirates – Right before the 2018-19 International signing deadline on June 15th, the Pirates spent the small remainder of their bonus pool to sign three players. One of them was Disla, a 6’0″, 170 pound right-hander from the Dominican, who was three weeks short of his 18th birthday at the time. He has made four appearances since signing and thrown 6.2 no-hit/shutout innings on one walk and 11 strikeouts. This past week he retired all 14 batters he faced, eight on strikeouts. Disla throws 88-91 MPH now with a good feel for his slider. He’s an athletic player, who throws a lot of strikes. He’s not the biggest pitcher, but has room to fill out still, so along with nice arm speed, there is still plenty of projection here.
Nicholas Economos, RHP, Bradenton – Economos has been pitching great all season, putting up a 2.48 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 32.2 innings at Greensboro before receiving a promotion to Bradenton in late May. He has been even better since the promotion, posting a 2.01 ERA and an 0.91 WHIP in 67 innings. The unsustainable strikeout rate from Low-A has dropped, nearly cut in half (13.8 to 7.3) but he is still getting outstanding results. This past week he gave up one run on three hits and a walk in seven innings. It was his third consecutive outing of seven innings and three hits allowed. Here’s the scouting report I’ve repeated a few times, with only his age changing since I first posted it a month ago: The 6’6″, 24-year-old right-hander works his fastball 88-90 MPH, getting up to 91. He gets by with solid control and deception in his delivery, turning his back slightly to batters and hiding the ball well. He also relies heavily on off-speed pitches, throwing a solid curveball and a changeup that is hard for batters to pick up, which results in some awkward swings.
Will Kobos, RHP, Morgantown – Kobos got off to a rough start this season, giving up four runs, with four walks in four innings. In his four starts since then, he has walked just three batters. The other outings prior to this past Saturday were nothing special, though the better control was a nice sign. In this last start, he came into the night with an 8.16 ERA and threw five shutout innings on three hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. The Pirates drafted Kobos last year in the 18th round out of George Washington and thought highly enough about him to give him a $125,000 signing bonus. He did not pitch well last year at Bristol, posting a 7.11 ERA in 31.2 innings. There were two positive signs though. He had 42 strikeouts and a .238 BAA, despite the poor ERA. I’ve watched two of his starts this year and nothing has really stood out, but the Pirates like him enough to have him in the rotation, so there could be some hidden potential for the 6’2″ right-hander, who turns 22 years old in two weeks.
Quinn Priester, RHP, GCL Pirates – This year’s first round pick has put up some nice starts already in his first taste of pro ball. He started with one run over 2.1 innings in his pro debut, which was limited as he gets his pitch count higher. That was followed by one run over four innings, with five strikeouts. Just three starts into his career, he made this week’s top performers by throwing five shutout innings on three hits, with no walks and seven strikeouts. He now has a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings, with 14 strikeouts and an impressive 2.80 GO/AO ratio. We were able to get a report from his first start and he was sitting low-90s with his fastball, but having some trouble landing his curve for strikes. The third start was witnessed by Wilbur Miller, who liked the two-seam fastball and curve displayed by Priester on that day. He’s probably going to be limited to five innings per start and it appears that he will be starting every Monday, which would give him six more starts, including today.
Aaron Shortridge, RHP, Bradenton – Shortridge made one start last week, throwing five shutout innings on four hits and no walks. It was his second start back after getting hit on the arm with a line drive, which kept him out for two weeks. Wilbur Miller was at the outing and noted that Shortridge was sitting 91-93 MPH, which is a nice improvement over the 89-91 MPH we were seeing earlier in the year. That increase shows that velocity isn’t everything, because in his last three starts combined, he has one strikeout in 13.1 innings. Prior to those starts, he had 66 strikeouts in 79.2 innings this season. Shortridge is a strike-thrower, who mixes his pitches well and can throw them all for strikes in any count. The velocity improvement was always a possibility because he didn’t have much pitching experience in college and he has a big frame with room to fill out a little more.
Listher Sosa, RHP, DSL Pirates – Sosa pitched six shutout innings last Monday, allowing two hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. In was his second straight start in which he tossed six scoreless frames, each time with no walks. Prior to these last two outings, he had a 6.88 ERA in his first 17 innings, with ten walks. Sosa was signed by the Pirates last July for $150,000. Just 16 years old at the time (he turns 18 in September), he already stood 6’4″, 208 pounds. From the pictures I’ve seen, he looks like he has a strong lower half, with room to add muscle up top. He already hits low-90s with his fastball and the Pirates see room for more. He also throws a curveball and changeup, with feel for both pitches. After a slow beginning to his pro career, he has really put things together in these last two performances.
Noe Toribio, RHP, Morgantown – Toribio threw five innings last week, with no earned runs and seven strikeouts. It was the third time in three starts that he has picked up seven strikeouts. His overall stats are solid in 25 innings, posting a 2.88 ERA, with 28 strikeouts, a .207 BAA, a 1.04 WHIP and a 1.81 GO/AO ratio. Toribio was a noteworthy signing during the 2016-17 international signing class. He hit 97 MPH that year, though as a starter he was sitting in the 91-92 MPH range. He held his velocity late in starts, which you usually don’t see from a 17-year-old. Toribio didn’t have a lot of success in the DSL in 2017 or the GCL last year, but now the 19-year-old is showing improvements in both his walk and strikeout rates, which has led to better results. He has a fastball that has nice run down and in to right-handed batters (away from lefties), as well as a breaking ball that he can use as his out pitch. His velocity has only ticked up slightly since 2017, now sitting 91-93.
Jesus Valles, RHP, Morgantown – Last year Valles was described as the best pitcher on either DSL Pirates affiliate by numerous people. That’s a bit of a difference between best pitching prospect, but the fact that he skipped from the DSL to Morgantown in one season shows that he really was advanced for the level. Usually if you see that kind of jump, which is rare, it’s from a reliever, not a starter. So far in Morgantown it’s been a rough beginning to his time in the U.S., with no real positives to his performances, other than a solid walk rate. His ERA is high, the strikeouts are very low, the opponent’s BAA (.301) is high and he’s been an extreme fly ball pitcher. That helps in Morgantown, where the park seems to do a pitcher-friendly job of containing long fly balls, but that won’t help going forward in Greensboro. Valles has a positive start last week, allowing one run over five innings, on three hits and a walk, with a season-high four strikeouts. He hits low-90s with his fastball and has yet to develop a swing-and-miss pitch, but he can throw strikes with any of his offerings in any count.
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.