Matt Gorski had an incredible month for power with Greensboro, which resulted in him getting promoted to Double-A Altoona for the last week of May. Before leaving Greensboro, he put up a 1.409 OPS with 12 homers in 71 plate appearances in the first three weeks of May. He then homered in his first game with Altoona. He finished the month with a .306/.388/.824 slash line in 98 plate appearances, which gave him an OPS 220 points higher than the second best mark among the 30 Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguers who had at least 70 plate appearances in May. Those power numbers, along with a strong average/OBP, led to him being named as the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for May.
Gorski was a second round draft in 2019 out of college. He went to Morgantown after signing, where he put up a .643 OPS in 49 games. After the canceled 2020 season, he skipped to High-A Greensboro in 2021, along with most of the other college players from his draft class. He had a rough season, hitting .224 with 125 strikeouts in 95 games, though there were some nice signs. He hit 17 homers and he had 18 steals in 19 attempts. When he came to Spring Training this year, he was getting some rave reviews, then he surprisingly ended up back in Greensboro. Part of the reason was a crowded outfield situation in the upper levels, but he was determined to join his 2021 teammates in Altoona.
Gorski had a nice month of April, so the strong May didn’t just come out of nowhere. He had an .870 OPS, with five homers, an improved strikeout rate, and he went 8-for-8 in steals in April. He reached base safely in all but two games in May, and one of those was a pinch-hitting appearance. He homered in the first three games of the month, then had an eight-game streak from May 15 to May 24 in which he homered ten times in 33 at-bats. The only downside to his May is that the strikeout rate returned to 2021 numbers, with a 31.6% strikeout rate in May, after a nice 21.3% rate in April.
Gorski now gets to show if he can handle Double-A pitching, and there’s enough time left this year to get a large sample size. If he does well, then that will set him up to start at Indianapolis next year. Unless he keeps having months like this May, then he might get there sooner.
TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS
Player of the Month: Ji-hwan Bae .322/.427/.556, 3 HR, 5 SB, 110 PA
Analysis: Ji-hwan Bae had himself quite a month, posting an .983 OPS in 110 plate appearances. His 25 runs scored led all Pirates players, as he hit for both power and average, while drawing his share of walks. Out of all of the prospects at Indianapolis right now, he’s probably the closest to being big league ready. On the season, he has an .866 OPS in 43 games. Travis Swaggerty could have made a better case for himself as the Indy Player of the Month if he didn’t miss the start of the month due to a concussion. In 72 plate appearances, he put up a .339 average and an .895 OPS. Due to a strong finish that earned him Player of the Week honors, Bligh Madris finished the month with an .878 OPS in 73 plate appearances. Oneil Cruz powered his way to an .868 OPS, with 20 runs, six homers and 19 RBIs. Canaan Smith-Njigba walked his way to a strong month. He had 21 free passes, helping him to an .852 OPS in 103 plate appearances. Before he got promoted to Pittsburgh, Cal Mitchell had a .308 average and a .795 OPS in 16 games. Clearly it was a strong month for Indianapolis hitters.
On the pitching side, Aaron Fletcher allowed one run in ten innings. Cam Vieaux quietly had a strong month/season, posting a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings, with a .106 BAA and an 0.48 WHIP. Hunter Stratton wasn’t as unhittable as Vieaux, but he matched that 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings, while striking out 23 batters. Before he got called up, Yerry De Los Santos allowed two runs and had ten strikeouts in 8.2 innings. Cody Bolton had a 2.30 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. Jerad Eickhoff had a 2.66 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.1 innings.
DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE
Player of the Month: Noe Toribio 1.37 ERA, 25:3 K/BB, 19.2 IP
Analysis: In the middle of May, we had an article noting how Noe Toribio was having plenty of success, yet he added a new pitch to his arsenal right in the middle of the month. He finished off May strong, allowing three runs in 19.2 innings, with an 0.76 WHIP, a .174 BAA and a 25:3 SO/BB ratio. He’s holding batters to a .178 average on the season, to go along with a 1.80 ERA, 39 strikeouts and an 0.90 WHIP in 30 innings. Travis MacGregor wasn’t far off of the performance of Toribio, just allowing more base runners, which getting similar results. MacGregor gave up three runs in 19 innings and he had 23 strikeouts. He had flipped a switch since changing to relief, after posting a 10.38 ERA in three starts. Mike Burrows finished strong to give him a 2.55 ERA in 24.2 innings, with 31 strikeouts. He led the Eastern League and all Pirates in ERA, while ranking at/near the top for both (Pirates and EL) in WHIP, BAA and strikeouts. JC Flowers had a 2.60 ERA in 17.1 innings while pitching in long relief.
On the hitting side, Tucupita Marcano had a 1.056 OPS in 17 games before getting called up to the Pirates, where he has continued to hit well. Andres Alvarez earned extra playing time later in the month by putting up a .989 OPS in 16 games. Blake Sabol had a .905 OPS in 21 games, with ten extra-base hits and 14 walks. Liover Peguero posted a .792 OPS in 24 games, with ten extra-base hits and six stolen bases.
HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS
Player of the Month: Matt Gorski .328/.409/1.000, 12 HR, 1 SB, 71 PA
Analysis: After Gorski, the best hitter was Jacob Gonzalez, who had a 1.073 OPS in his first 16 games with Greensboro. That was after posting a 1.128 OPS with Bradenton in 24 games to start the year. Endy Rodriguez had a strong performance in May, batting .296/.398/.563 in 21 games, with five homers. Dariel Lopez also homered five times in 21 games. He posted an .869 OPS in May. Yoyner Fajardo hit .333/.404/.429 in 11 games.
On the pitching side, Tyler Samaniego tossed 9.1 scoreless innings without allowing a hit, which got him promoted to Altoona over the weekend. Wandi Montout worked around a 1.55 WHIP to throw 9.2 shutout frames. Michell Miliano had a 2.00 ERA and 14 strikeouts in nine innings. Nick Dombkowski had a 2.53 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 10.2 innings.
LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS
Player of the Month: Joelvis del Rosario 1.35 ERA, 19:5 K/BB, 20 IP
Analysis: Joelvis del Rosario was recently featured here because of his impressive stuff, to go along with strong stats for the month. He finished the month allowing three runs in 20 innings, with five walks and 19 strikeouts. That gave him a season ERA of 3.34 in 29.2 innings, with 29 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP. He did not allow an earned run in either of his last two starts, throwing five innings each time. A bunch of relievers had strong months. Denny Roman went ten innings without an earned run. He has a 1.48 ERA for the season. Cristian Charle allowed one earned run in 8.1 innings, with 13 strikeouts. Sergio Umana gave up one run in eighth innings, and Dante Mendoza allowed one earned in 7.1 frames. Johan Montero had a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 innings.
On this hitting side, it was not a good month at all. The offense really suffered after Jacob Gonzalez left. Brenden Dixon was the best hitter and even he fell just below the magic .800 OPS mark I like the use here. He was close enough though, posting a .798 OPS in 103 plate appearances, helped along by 21 walks. No one else was close to him.
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.
Joelvis TCB in May, baby!
Brandenton is going to get temporary offensive help with players coming back from injuries, beginning with H. Davis!
Wonder if all the guys at Altoona and up feel like they could get a big league opportunity at any point based simply on the names on last night’s major league team.
At the same time, I’m sure part of the reason some AA guys are jumping to the bigs instead of Bae, Cruz, et al is because the club is trying to manipulate the super 2 calculation — every rookie day contributes to that 17% (or whatever number) service time calculation that determines who qualifies as super two. Much easier to spend that time on Suwinski, Castillo, etc., assuming the club doesn’t believe those guys will ever be in the super 2 mix.
Even so, it’s great to see the kids play and get that experience.
Dude was a beast in May. Just locked in finding barrel
This made me miss the Black Bears. High quality stream of games.
I forget her last name but I miss Abby doing the writeups and coverage of the Morgantown team for this site. She was very detailed and knowledgeable.