In the last four months, we have had two Player of the Month winners. Matt Gorski destroyed the ball for the majority of May and June en route to back-to-back Player of the Month nods. In July, Endy Rodriguez took a decent first half of the season to another level. He put up a 1.253 OPS in 94 plate appearances, which including a .373 average, 23 runs, six doubles, eight homers, 21 RBIs and 17 walks (with only 11 strikeouts). He started the month of August in Greensboro, but after four games, including a five-hit game, he got promoted to Altoona. He hasn’t let up with the offense, despite facing older competition and going from a hitter-friendly park to a more neutral home field. Since getting to Double-A, he put up a 1.131 OPS in 76 plate appearances over the rest of August. The domination led to him being named as the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for August.
Rodriguez is having a season that is putting him in the discussion for the top prospect in the system, and for some he is already there. It’s not just two months of hitting that is getting him attention. He did well last year at Bradenton, and he had an .880 OPS in 45 games for May/June this year. He also wasn’t just piling up big numbers at home, which we have seen for some Greensboro hitters. Rodriguez has a .936 OPS on the road this year. He’s a 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher, with strong defensive skills, who has shown power with 31 doubles and 23 homers this season (through September 1st), in addition to maintaining his solid walk/strikeout rates from the previous season.
Rodriguez is a very athletic player, with the ability to play almost anywhere on the field, but he’s been so good at catching recently, that the Pirates are going to have a very interesting decision going forward. You don’t want to count any eggs before they are hatched, you are seeing year-long examples of that in Pittsburgh this year with rookies, but let’s just assume that Rodriguez and Henry Davis stay on the same path towards the majors in 2023. It’s possible that in a short time, the Pirates got from having a very weak situation behind the plate for basically an entire season this year, to having two catchers of the future together. They could both be ready mid-season next year.
There is recent word that Davis will take some outfield reps, and unlike some top prospects, he’s actually okay with that notion. Rodriguez is still getting second base reps, and it probably wouldn’t take him much to get back into playing outfield again. Along with the DH spot, you’re talking about these two being able to split the catching duties and it wouldn’t cut into their overall at-bats. It’s a good problem to have near the top of your system.
Rodriguez adapting so quickly to Double-A is speeding up his potential arrival to the majors. Granted, we are talking about less than a full month, but he just keeps looking better every time you see him. It’s amounting to a special season from a special player.
TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS
Player of the Month: Cal Mitchell .375/.438/.688, 4 HR, 1 SB, 73 PA
Analysis: Cal Mitchell earned his way to the majors early this season, then earned his way back when the rosters expanded by putting up a 1.126 OPS in 73 plate appearances in August. He has been the best hitter for Indianapolis this season, and while he wasn’t over-matched in Pittsburgh, his stats haven’t translated to the majors during his brief time with the Pirates. It wasn’t a great month for Indianapolis on the hitting side, as most of their best hitters played fewer than ten games. Jared Oliva did well, putting up a .959 OPS in 14 games, while going 5-for-5 in steals. Mason Martin had an .827 OPS in 23 games, fueled by eight doubles and 13 walks. He went the entire month without a homer.
On the pitching side, John O’Reilly has been one of the better pitchers in the system recently, allowing one run in 13.2 innings last month. Johan Oviedo allowed one run in 11.1 innings and struck out 13 batters, which helped get him promoted to the majors. Eric Hanhold had a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings. Cam Alldred had a 1.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts in ten innings. Mike Burrows had a strong month, with a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings, with 16 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP, but he ended up on the injured list at the end of the month, which may or may not be about controlling his innings. Osvaldo Bido pitched 20.2 innings, posting a 2.61 ERA and 22 strikeouts in four starts and a relief appearance. Cody Bolton had a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings over seven games (one start). He had 18 strikeouts.
DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE
Player of the Month: Endy Rodriguez .349/.434/.697, 5 HR, 1 SB, 76 PA
Analysis: Besides Endy Rodriguez, Altoona got some solid contributions from Jared Triolo, who got some Altoona Player of the Month consideration with his 1.042 OPS in 98 plate appearances over 22 games. He had seven doubles, four triples, four homers and five steals, along with playing strong defense at third base. His month ended with a knee injury, so he is currently out of action as the season winds down. Blake Sabol got promoted to Indianapolis off of the strength of a .908 OPS in 88 plate appearances, with seven doubles, two triples and two homers. Aaron Shackelford had an .833 OPS in 90 plate appearances, with four doubles and six homers. Malcom Nunez had a nice first month in the system, posting an .803 OPS in 17 games, with four homers.
On the pitching side, Tahnaj Thomas has been pitching well for three full months. He had a 1.93 ERA in 9.1 innings last month, and a 1.65 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 32.2 innings since June 1st. In seven relief appearances, JC Flowers had a 2.31 ERA, an 0.77 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. Enmanuel Mejia had a 2.35 ERA in seven appearances. Nick Dombkowski posted a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 innings. Kyle Nicolas walked ten batters in 18 innings, but still managed a 2.50 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00 for the month. Jeffrey Passantino had a 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings. Colin Selby had a 2.89 ERA and ten strikeouts in 9.1 innings. Luis Ortiz got promoted to Indianapolis after a 2.89 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 28 innings.
HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS
Player of the Month: Hudson Head .292/.393/.528, 2 HR, 6 SB, 84 PA
Analysis: It wasn’t a great month on offense for Greensboro, as they lost their top hitter to a promotion. Hudson Head was one of three players to get Player of the Month votes. He had a .921 OPS in 21 games, with five doubles, three triples, two homers and six steals in six attempts. The 21-year-old has had a nice season, which would look better if you could erase June when he had a .491 OPS. The other four full months have seen him post at least a .722 OPS. Francisco Acuna had a .925 OPS in 18 games, but his month ended with an 80-game PED suspension. Eli Wilson finally got a chance to play regularly and he posted an .843 OPS in 18 games. Yoyner Fajardo put up an .800 OPS on the dot, while batting .324 in 20 games.
On the pitching side, Sean Sullivan had the best ERA at 2.00, though he gave up five unearned runs and a 1.33 WHIP in his nine innings, so he has an odd pitching line, including a nice total of 13 strikeouts. Santiago Florez has had a rough season that saw a ray of hope in August with a 2.53 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10.2 innings. Cameron Junker had a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in ten innings. Domingo Gonzalez tossed 18.1 innings last month, finishing with a 2.95 ERA and 16 strikeouts.
LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS
Player of the Month: Tsung-Che Cheng .389/.517/.611, 2 HR, 10 SB, 117 PA
Analysis: Tsung-Che Cheng was the only thing standing between Endy Rodriguez and a unanimous vote for the overall award. He didn’t have the power numbers of Rodriguez, but Cheng got on base a ton last month. In 26 games, he had 35 hits, 23 walks and two HBP, leading to a .517 OBP that was 79 points higher than the second best mark of the month. He also led the system in runs, hits, doubles, steals and batting average. His .819 season OPS is 131 points over league average, coming from someone who adds extra value with his speed and defense. Out of the top 44 players in the league in plate appearances, he is .001 behind the highest OPS in the league. Norkis Marcos had the second best Bradenton OPS for the month, posting an .828 mark in 18 games, pushed by four homers. Brenden Dixon had an .815 OPS in 18 games, with three doubles, three homers and eight walks.
On the pitching side, Carlos Lomeli allowed one earned run over ten innings, with three hits, one walk and nine strikeouts. I’m mentioning Mitchell Miller here for his one run and 12 strikeouts in 9.2 innings, but he split the month between Bradenton and Greensboro. Johan Montero had a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings, though it came with a 1.39 WHIP. Anthony Solometo had a strong month, posting a 1.77 ERA and an 0.89 WHIP in 20.1 innings, with 21 strikeouts. Left-handed batters are 5-for-40 against him, with five singles. Wilkin Ramos had a 1.67 WHIP, but still managed a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. Through some control issues, Bubba Chandler had a 2.30 ERA in 15.2 innings, with 13 walks and 17 strikeouts. Another split-time player of note is Valentin Linarez, who started the month with Bradenton before being promoted. He had a 2.11 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
FCL: Antwone Kelly 0.00 ERA, 15:3 K/BB, 11.0 IP
DSL: Isaias Uribe 0.69 ERA, 15:5 K/BB, 13.0 IP
April: Mason Martin
May: Matt Gorski
June: Matt Gorski
July: Endy Rodriguez
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.
Put Endy in bubble wrap this winter, no motorcycles, nothing goofy. Spring training, let him show what he’s got.
I keep trying to come up with reasons why he shouldn’t be considered the top prospect in the org, but then I think of how he’s compared to who I previously thought was #1 , Davis. What Endy is doing offensively in AA right now is legitimately what we all hoped we’d be seeing from Tank at this point. Not to take away from Davis, as his injuries have prevented him from really gaining any traction this season, but give him Endy’s numbers this year and we’d all be stoked. Then you add in the fact that Endy is leagues above him defensively, AND that he’s a switch hitter.
Screw it, I think I just convinced myself.
I think Davis is really good; however, he wasn’t even the top catching prospect in the ACC coming into his draft year.
Pirates were fortunate to get him in the Musgrove (by way of Cole) trade
Not fortunate, this was the result of aggressive pro scouting. NH built it; BC improved it. Endy had no statistical indication of any offensive talent when the Bucs traded for him.
I read somewhere that Triolo is the Altoona clubhouse leader. Is that true?
Note to Endy…….please, please don’t be another AAAA player, but be the real deal. Hopefully, he’ll stay good enough to be in Pgh by next Junish.
He’s good enough to be in Pitt right now, but you’re probably right that next June or even later is more likely because of things that have nothing to do with his play.
Yes, this is true and I want them to get the extra year of control (of course the ideal would be to sign him to an extension that builds in that extra year but Endy is probably not at that level of certainty and the Pirates have shown no inclination to do such, though the extension of Hayes was a step in that direction). I wish they wouldn’t worry about Super Two as much as they apparently do.
Some like to focus on Cruz’s mediocre production in AAA this year, but last year he was among the batting leaders in AA despite being one of the younger players in the league and playing in a pitchers’ park, tore up AAA in a brief appearance, had a very impressive cameo in Pittsburgh at the end of the season, was one of our best hitters in ST (though in limited action), saw the guys ahead of him in Pittsburgh, and yet he found himself back in the minors. Yeah, he should have done better in AAA but he had to realize it probably wouldn’t matter until June anyway. It’s easy to say what Cruz did this year in AAA didn’t suggest service time manipulation but if there wasn’t the issue of service time, he almost surely would have been on the Opening Day roster.
What about Cruz’s 2022 AAA production screams service time manipulation?? On top of being AAA average at best prior to his promotion, he regressed considerably from 2021. This narrative is old wall media clickbait, and it got you hook, line, and sinker!
He also got benched two weeks before he came up due to his effort, then literally outed himself on one of his first days with the Pirates by saying that he’s been “working hard the last two weeks” to improve his defense. He came up to the Pirates when he deserved to. There was nothing wrong with how they handled him
A talented catcher who can hit and has 90 AA PAs. How could promoting him to the bigs to play second not be a great idea. Let me count the ways.
There’s no room for him. They have to keep Van Meter on the team AND start him.
Was there news as to why D. Lopez has disappeared?
7-day IL. No other word.
hiding him from the rule v draft
“There is recent word that Davis will take some outfield reps, and unlike some top prospects, he’s actually okay with that notion.”
If this is a dig at Cruz, then I don’t think that’s necessary. As emjayinTN pointed out and Fangraphs’ stats confirm, Cruz is doing just fine at SS. I disagreed with them moving him in the first place so can’t fault him for being resistant to the idea. And I give credit to Shelton (which is rare for me ;)) for playing him essentially everyday at SS since calling him up.
Davis maybe ok with taking some outfield reps but I heard that Shelton isn’t ok with taking some batboy reps.
To reply to myself, Reynolds has said he doesn’t want to move off CF, Cutch did the same. Over the years many starters have said they didn’t want to move to the pen (Kuhl being a recent example). It just seems we pick and choose who has the right to voice their opinion on a position switch. Someone may say minor leaguers shouldn’t complain, but I don’t think that just because someone is in the minors, he can’t voice an opinion.
And, similar to my comment about Shelton, kudos to the Pirates for not holding Cruz’s opinion against him.
That’s a really good observation.
It’s completely necessary; he wasn’t asked to SWITCH positions but rather take reps at another position. They weren’t moving him anywhere, and this has nothing to do with “stats”.
It was definitely a dig at Cruz. I definitely can understand the viewpoint held by those who believe players should do what they’re asked to do. However, in today’s world some players want to have input on decisions like this. I think Pirates would be best served to keep Cruz at SS until he shows he can’t handle it. As his bat could make him a true difference maker.
A leader who would needlessly criticize a member of the team? Immediate firing is the only proper response. But I don’t see this as the case. Cruz is a gifted (if atypical) SS who needs to improve his hitting. Davis is a gifted hitter who needs to find a defensive role that lets him be a star. And he knows it.
Do you own a business? Are you hiring? I would love to be your boss 😉
All is good with Cruz at SS for now …. I just hope he has the maturity to know, and move, when someone better comes along ….
When does he get national recognition? Or, is that reserved for big market teams when it comes to Latin players?
National media will always cater to bigger markets because that’s where more viewers and ultimately their ratings are. Once again it’s about ratings and the money that goes with it.
Why worry about what some talking head on ESPN or some other national source says? They most likely have never seen the player anyway and are just repeating what they’ve heard and catering to their audience.
Unfortunately, I can only upvote this once. It’s (not docdon’s comment) just stupid clickbait. Go fishing. Meditate. Go for a walk. Whatever. (If anyone knows how to do multiple upvotes, feel free to share.)
This is going to be a case where the national writers are going to jump on a bandwagon that already holds many of us. We can make room for them, though. 🙂
Actually I think a team’s fans who follow the their prospects closely (as on this site) will often see potential, and disappointments, before the national writers do because of our singular focus on our team. I can’t recall a time when a national outlet was promoting a prospect as a fast riser before people here were already touting that prospect.