Prospect Roundtable: Which First Half Performance Gives You Most Concern?

With half of the minor league season in the books, we’re recapping the first half of the season this week on Prospect Roundtable.

In the other article, we looked at which player made the biggest jump in our rankings in the first half.

This article explores the opposite, looking at the player who gave us the most concern going forward.

As usual, all picks were submitted without knowledge of anyone else’s picks. Ryan Palencer’s picks were limited to Indianapolis prospects.

JOHN DREKER: Matt Fraizer, OF

We did an article early in the year about concerns after the first month. My pick was Matt Fraizer, who got off to a rough start while repeating Double-A, with a huge strikeout rate. One month is too short of a time to pass judgement on someone who looked so great last year. It was chalked up to a slow start and just something to keep an eye on. Now just over halfway into the season, Fraizer is sitting there with a .621 OPS in his first 61 games, exactly 100 points below the league average OPS, coming from someone who is average age for the league. He had a decent month of May, but the poor results returned again in June. His strikeout rate is much higher than we saw in Altoona last year, and the walk rate is much lower. I’m not writing him off as a prospect, but there aren’t a lot of big league success stories that start with a player struggling in his second stint in Double-A at 24 years old. It’s important to remember that we are talking about someone who I rated tenth in a strong system, and the average votes of all top prospect sources had him as the #8 prospect in the system. He has not come close to that hype, and he would need an incredible finish to get close to that spot by the end of the season, even with some top prospects ahead of him graduating.

WILBUR MILLER: Nick Gonzales, 2B

There are a lot of candidates here. Quite a few are players who looked like very good prospects coming into the season and haven’t looked like prospects at all this year: Matt Fraizer, Tahnaj Thomas, Rodolfo Nolasco, Connor Scott, Maikol Escotto. If we’re talking about “concern,” though, I’ll go with Nick Gonzales. His carrying tool is supposed to be the hit tool. He didn’t swing and miss much in college, but he did in his debut last year. College stats obviously don’t translate directly to pro stats, but Gonzales’ strikeout rate went from 13% in his collegiate career to 27% in 2021. This year it’s 33%, and his OPS is down 200 points from last year, raising the concern that his stats last year were heavily dependent on the ballpark at Greensboro. He didn’t really improve this year before getting hurt; his OPS was .748 in April and .738 in May. Not only that, but his BB:K ratio got considerably worse, from 14:25 to 11:36. The injuries have to be at least a bit of a concern, too, considering that a supposedly minor injury at the end of May this year may keep him out for half or more of the season. Gonzales needs to be a plus hitter with at least reasonable power to be a major league regular, and as a supposedly advanced college hitter, he shouldn’t have an extended development track. Hopefully, he’ll get back into action soon.

ANTHONY MURPHY: Mason Martin, 1B

I don’t think there is anyone generating nearly as much concern for me as Mason Martin. We all knew strikeouts were a concern, and they would always limit his value, but I’m not sure we saw this coming. Martin struck out nearly 50% of the time in June and batted just .100. Even when he was off to his hot start, it was really an all-or-nothing approach at the plate. Even with the strikeouts, it was always assumed Martin could be someone you could at least platoon at the major league level this season. Without trying to sound too drastic with it, some sort of change is going to be needed if he even wants to get that shot in the majors.

RYAN PALENCER: Mason Martin, 1B

Mason Martin was absolutely ripping the cover off the ball in April. He was getting social media screams from the mountain tops for time in Pittsburgh. While strikeouts were still an issue, the power numbers were off the chart. In fact, through May 25, Martin had just completed hitting home runs and three straight games. This put his season total at 10. Since that point, Martin has only hit two more home runs for the season. As the campaign went along, the lack of consistent contact caught up to Martin. He has struck out nearly 45% of the time in June. Martin has had a difficult time making contact with pitches featuring vertical movement. He has been working on some swing adjustments, but that is still a work in progress as well. There’s still plenty of time to turn his season around, but things are not moving in the right direction. However, as Martin showed in April, he’s just one month away from righting the ship.

Mason Martin Working on Adjustments to Shorten Swing

TIM WILLIAMS: Nick Gonzales, 2B

The Pirates drafted Nick Gonzales with the first pick of Ben Cherington’s tenure as General Manager. His profile at the time of the draft was a pure hitter who had plus contact skills. The loftier expectations for him had him winning future batting titles. Gonzales has not come close to that hit profile in his time in pro ball. His 2021 numbers were heavily influenced by a hitter-friendly home park. His numbers on the road were worse. In his move to Double-A, he has seen his strikeout rate jump to 32.8%, with just a .247 average. This also comes with a very high BABIP of .374, which he probably won’t repeat in the higher levels. So, the lack of hitting we’re seeing will probably get worse, unless the strikeouts improve. What we’ve seen from Gonzales is nowhere near the player that was promised on draft day in 2020. Gonzales reminds me a lot of Kevin Newman — another no-power middle infielder who was highly regarded for a hit tool that didn’t show up in pro ball. Gonzales has more power than Newman, but not enough to make up for his current lack of hitting. You could dream about Gonzales developing into a starter with improved hitting skills. However, once you separate yourself from that former draft position, it’s hard to argue that the 23-year-old Gonzales should be given any preferential treatment over someone like Ji-Hwan Bae — who is a year younger in Triple-A, and putting up the type of numbers you hope for from Gonzales. It’s possible that Gonzales could turn things around and be a starter in the majors one day, but at this point he’s been passed by a few other internal options.


Williams: The Pirates Are Slowly Building in the Right Direction

Prospect Roundtable: Who Has Made the Biggest Jump in the First Half?

Prospect Roundtable: Which First Half Performance Gives You Most Concern?

Mason Martin Working on Adjustments to Shorten Swing

Tyler Samaniego: Lefty Among Top Performers From 2021 Draft Class

Sergio Umana: Secondary Pitches Key To Progress In Bradenton Return

+ posts

Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Gonzales. Martin never looked like anything more than a quad A guy so my expectations were never high.


Just want to point out that none of these articles even mentioned tank… the amount of hank davis concern i see is concerning me for my fellow fans


He’s done nothing but hit when he’s been healthy. He hasn’t been healthy in a bit and he was aggressively moved to AA. No reason for concern with him.


Gonzales’s K rate last year had raised such a red flag for me that he wouldn’t top my list this year. Martin is similar in that regard. So I might go with John on this one or go with Triolo—Fraizer and Triolo were two guys who I thought would be pushing for a promotion to AAA by now.


It’s Frazier in a landslide, others can point to youth or injury. Not him.


Gonzales has had plantar fasciitis all season. That’s not a fun injury


Nicky G. for sure.


Tim’s last sentence on Gonzales :


Painful to read, but appreciate everyone’s takes.

I think these are all relative to the expectations each of us had going into the year, so with that context I’ll say Jared Jones gives me the most concern.

I got no problem having patience with arm strength HS dudes who need to learn that max effort deliveries don’t lead to big league command. But what concerns me about Jones, who really fits in the context of this rebuild as one of the very few arms with potential to be better than a mid-rotation starter, is how damn much he gets hit around when in the zone.

A commenter asked about comps for Nick Gonzales, and I have the same question for Jones.

We’ve seen many big stuff-little command young dudes come through and every single one of them had no problem keeping runs off the board in A-ball…except for Jones. Who are the comps for kids like this?

Runner up, and this kills me, is Hank Davis. Again, all relative to expectations, but his defense is far worse than I anticipated and the poor quality of contact (popping up almost half of his fly balls!) starts to trigger a question of how much work his unorthodox swing needs to succeed at the highest level.


For Hank, probably need to hope for the robo ump sooner than later. I wonder how much the wrist injury may be playing into his hitting issues lately. He seemed to be fine prior to the injury.


We all hoped Kebryan’s power outage was a hand injury too but turns out it was a product of his swing, not strength.

Not gonna jump to any conclusions, just worth a watch for me.

I also wonder how much taking framing away from catchers impacts their value. It’ll almost certainly raise the bar on offense massively, as big bats no longer are forced to 1B. A blessing and a curse.


Off the top of my head I thought of Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede, and Kyle Crick. Their MiLB WHIP is similar to Jones. Stratton, Beede, and Crick were all first rounders so they have similar pedigree… just spitballing


Crick actually was doing quite well until he broke Crash Davis’s golden rule. He hit the Pitcher who shall remain nameless with his pitching hand in a clubhouse fight and tore tendons that needed surgery. Was never the same afterwards.


True. I was attempting to find high pedigree pitcher who got hit fairly hard in the low minors. I thought Crick might arguably fit the bill.


Yes you would be correct. I just could not resist pointing out the stupid thing that Crick did that basically killed his career.


He just went on the IL for the CWS. But his issue since 2019 remains too many walks.


ripping up the tendons in the index finger of his throwing hand no doubt has affected his grip on the ball and the spin for movement. Stands to reason that if his grip is changed, his control changed as well, hence the increase in walks.

Last edited 1 year ago by robertkasperski

Sorry, I meant at similar stages of development.

What dudes without supposed lights-out stuff got hit this hard in A ball.


Didn’t miss as many bats as he should have, but also never allowed an ERA over 4 in spite of pumping fastballs like 80% of the time.

Wonder how Jones would fair without leaning on his slider.


I think their minor league whip is comparable to Jones including A and A+ although Crick was the only one straight from HS.

Last edited 1 year ago by HeisenbergWW
John Dreker

You are definitely correct when you say it’s relative to expectations. I’ll use Jones as you mentioned him. When he was drafted I felt like he had reliever upside, and after watching him a lot last year, I felt the same. I hate how little Greensboro is online, but what I’ve seen still makes me feel the same, so he’s basically been stagnant since being drafted for me, just closer to reaching that power reliever upside.

The only reason I didn’t pick Gonzalez is because he was having better at-bats before he got hurt, but he’s a good choice here as well. Early in the year it just looked like he was guessing fastball a lot and swinging at anything that was in the zone for any amount of time, but I didn’t see that as much late. I think he started pushing himself when he got off to a slow start and took a long time to recover. Martin was ranked 34th for me I believe, maybe 35th, I don’t have the list. So he plays to exactly what you said. I didn’t have high expectations, so I don’t have high concern


Can anyone think of a successful comp for Gonzales at this point? Any guys with average power and average defense with +30% strikeout rate in AA ever have a successful major league career?(Joey Gallo, Mark Reynolds etc don’t count)

Last edited 1 year ago by HeisenbergWW

This has really been my argument over the past two seasons.

The comps you’re asking for literally don’t exist.

There’s a large groups of analyst types stubbornly holding onto their eye test of whatever a plus or better big league hit tool looks like when playing against the Little Sisters of the Poor while somehow refusing to accept performance against real competition.

Would anyone with eyes scout this dude as having even an average hit tool if they never saw him in college?


Yup. Last year counts too. AA pitchers are better, so plenty of players struggle. Some move forward; some don’t.


Keston Hiura if you squint? I’m not sure if he counts as successful.


Wow. That’s really good! Hiura actually struck out 35% of the time for his minor league career. I was not expecting to find anyone with a presence in an everyday lineup. I guess there’s some hope. I was expecting an unsuccessful, Cole Tucker-like trajectory for Gonzales’ future.

Last edited 1 year ago by HeisenbergWW

Oh for sure, I just don’t know that I’d call Hiura “successful” at this point. What an insane season he’s having, giving Mason Martin some hope lol.


Making the bigs counts as success. Doing well in the bigs is better. Repeated success is elite.


That ain’t gonna cut it, partner.


It may not cut it, but that’s reality. About 30% of first round choices never make the bigs. Most who do have really modest career numbers. If you’ve got a plan to change that, please share it with us and BC.


I do!

Hire Matt Arnold, who helped build a perennial winner in Milwaukee without a disastrously long rebuild based on accumulating talent you just said has a low probability of success.


Potentially missing on #1 picks always stick out the most especially when the next 3 or 4 guys behind him in that draft might be excelling. I don’t have the heart to check out exactly what those picks are doing, lol.


Well, they are not. Three of the next five were high schoolers. Detmers just got sent down and Crotchet sounds like a TJ candidate.

Pirates Prospects Daily


Latest articles

Latest comments