The most encouraging thing you want to see from the Pirates farm system are breakout performers.
The prospect game is a game of attrition, which means the more options you have, the more likely it is you end up with a productive Major League player.
The Pirates need to rely on their farm system more than, say, the New York Yankees. That makes it especially important for them to develop as much talent as possible.
This week we are reviewing the first half performances on Prospect Roundtable. The other article this week looks at which prospects gave us the most concern in the first half. This one looks at which prospects made the biggest jump in our rankings.
As usual, all picks were submitted without knowledge of anyone else’s picks. Ryan Palencer’s picks were limited to Indianapolis prospects.
JOHN DREKER: Carlos Jimenez, RHP
Carlos Jimenez impressed me from the first inning I saw this season. He has a chance to have three plus pitches, including a changeup that is the best I’ve seen in the system in quite some time. Coming into the year, I heard rave reviews about the changeup, and he had both youth and success on his side. There were question marks, with a frame that needed to fill out and early fastball velocity that was decent, but nothing special. Coming into the season, I wasn’t sure the rookie ball success would translate to the upper levels. At the lower levels, you really just need to throw off-speed pitches for strikes to have success. I thought about him briefly for my top 50 coming into the year, but he was more of a “I want to see him first” type of player. I knew immediately once I saw all three of his pitches that he was top 30 material, but the more I saw him this year, the more confident I was in that assessment, which pushed him into top 20 talk for the system. He throws mid-90s, with a changeup that neither lefties nor righties can hit, as well as a strong curve that got better (more consistent) in more recent starts. He has three pitches that he uses for strikeouts, and he can throw them in any count, especially the changeup. All of this coming from a 19-year-old, who is still building up stamina.
WILBUR MILLER: Matt Gorski, OF
This is pretty easy, because Matt Gorski wasn’t really on my list at all. In 2021 at Greensboro, he looked like a standard sort of hacker who wasn’t likely to make any headway against tougher pitching. Now, he looks like a guy who could play a role for the Pirates some time in 2023, assuming his injury recovery goes well. The caveat to all of this is . . . well, two words: Matt Fraizer. Gorski’s season has been a bit different from Fraizer’s 2021 season, albeit in a smaller sample size. Fraizer got off to a good start after being promoted to Altoona, but he began tailing off after a couple weeks. Gorski, on the other hand, so far has been almost the exact same hitter at the new level. In fact, his average at Greensboro and Altoona was literally identical, and his OBP dropped just three points. His slugging average dropped quite a bit, which isn’t terribly surprising as it wasn’t going to stay at .754. Most of the drop, though, resulted from some home runs turning into doubles. That’s readily explainable by the move from home run heaven in Greensboro to a very tough park for right-handed power hitters in Altoona.
Apart from the hitting, Gorski has some significant advantages. He’s a right-handed hitter, for one, which the Pirates desperately need. He’s a big, athletic guy with good speed. He’s shown that on the bases, going 17-for-20 in steals this year after going 18-for-19 last year. He should be able to play center at least some of the time, and in the majors could be a plus outfielder in a corner. Or, he could play first, which he’s been doing lately and did some in college. Given his athleticism, there’s no reason he shouldn’t ultimately be at least capable there. So you have a guy who, at least for me, wasn’t even on the map, who’s now on the short list of players who could help in the fairly near-term.
ANTHONY MURPHY: Carlos Jimenez, RHP
This one was easy, of all the players who have made a jump this season, Carlos Jimenez has stood out the most. What made it easy was how little we knew about him going into the season. There was some talk about his stuff, but I’m not sure anyone was expecting what we’ve seen. At just 19-years-old Jimenez has shown a feel for his secondary stuff that is way beyond someone with his experience. His changeup could very well be the best in the system already, and the curveball generates good spin and has a high whiff rate. In just a few months Jimenez has flashed the tools to make him arguably a top-20 prospect in the system, after not really being on the radar going into the year.
RYAN PALENCER: Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B
While he was certainly ranked fairly high, Ji-Hwan Bae has been nothing but consistent. He has been versatile, and handled himself well in multiple positions, both in the infield and outfield. Along with that, he has been that model of consistency at the plate. After a slightly slow start, Bae has not hit lower than .322 in a month. After April, he has not posted an OPS lower than .803. He told me at the beginning of the season he was looking to increase his power numbers. Through June, he’s one away from a career-high seven home runs. Along with the power, speed has continued to play well for Bae. He has four triples, and 19 stolen bases in 26 attempts. The only thing currently blocking Bae is not linked to his performance on the field, but the busy middle infield in Pittsburgh.
TIM WILLIAMS: Carlos Jimenez, RHP
I had a chance to see Carlos Jimenez on the same day as Anthony Solometo, and watching them back-to-back, I’m not sure there’s much difference in their overall values. Jimenez doesn’t have the crazy delivery, and he’s not left-handed, but he does feature several swing-and-miss offerings. The biggest is his changeup, which he uses as much as the fastball, and is way too advanced for the current level. His fastball averages 94 with good spin, and could increase in velocity as he fills out. His curveball is another swing-and-miss offering, with its movement providing a nice complement to the changeup. There have been some control issues, and Jimenez is one of the youngest in this league, so there’s no need to rush him. What I found most impressive was his demeanor on the mound. He carries himself with more confidence than your typical 19-year-old in A-ball, possibly due to his previous pro experience in the rookie levels. With a projectable fastball and two potential plus offspeed pitches, I think Jimenez has a good path to the majors as a reliever, at the least. He also has plenty of time to develop into a starting pitcher who could pitch in a contending rotation.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. 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.