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Monday, December 5, 2022

Prospect Roundtable: Second Half Surges We’re Buying Heading Into 2023

The minor league season is about development.

You want to see a player perform well, but if he isn’t performing well, you want to see him at least trending in the right direction. You want to see hope that better results will come with a larger sample size of that trend.

This week, we’re taking a look at players who struggled in the first half, and surged in the second half. Not all players who have strong second half results are primed to continue those results in the following season. Here are the players we are buying to repeat their success, and why we like them going forward.

JOHN DREKER: Jared Triolo, 3B

Jared Triolo was a name that I heard mentioned a lot during the spring as someone who could have a potential big year with Altoona. Between his defense, offense and speed, there was a chance for him to have a special season. Then the season started and he had an average April, finishing with a strong .292 average, but low power numbers led to a .725 OPS. That OPS dropped down to a .613 mark in May, and he had zero homers through the first two months of the season. June started off well, but it didn’t end that way. On July 1st, 68 games into his season, Triolo had a .259/.361/.331 slash line. Things really turned around after that point.

In his final 44 games of the season, before suffering a knee injury in late August, Triolo put up a .316/.398/.546 slash line, with 23 extra-base hits, ten stolen bases, and a 17.5% strikeout rate. That was while continuing a strong season on defense that earned him the Pirates minor league award for their best defensive player. Lost in the early season struggles is that he showed nice improvements in his walk rate and strikeout rate, while moving up a level. That’s with him building on BB/SO numbers that were both decent last year in Greensboro. He showed a nice speed/power combo late this year, which is something we should see more of during the 2023 season in Indianapolis. The adjustment period to Double-A took longer than expected, but over the final two months, we saw what had people with the Pirates excited about his potential future. He might not have a big league future in Pittsburgh at third base, but he’s an athletic enough player to put up solid defense anywhere on the infield or in the outfield.

WILBUR MILLER: Nick Gonzales, 2B

I’m saying Gonzales here with considerable trepidation. I’ve been concerned all along with the swing-and-miss. That’s all the more true because, when I’ve seen him, he’s swung through a lot of pitches over the center of the plate.

On the plus side, in 2021 he finished with monster showings in August and September, although the whiffing (25% of PAs) remained very high. This year, he had an OPS of .748 and .738 in April and May, respectively, but after returning from injury posted numbers of .862 and .981 in August and September. Maybe more importantly, he cut his K rate from 33% before the injury to 23% after. Then he put up an .851 OPS in the AFL, with a 17% K rate.

So it’s a consistent pattern of making adjustments, or upping his game, or . . . something. It’s just not possible for a guy to rake the way he does in extended stretches without the talent being real . . . right?

ANTHONY MURPHY: Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP

One player I will always hold out hope on will be Carmen Mlodzinski. I could find multiple small sample sizes throughout the season that try to prove my point, but that’s kind of the deal with Mlodzinski.

He show’s flashes here and there, but really what it comes down to is consistency. The Pirates played around with how best to utilize him, even using an opener in front of him as well as starting him out of the rotation. Mlodzinski may end up in the bullpen, but there probably isn’t a rush to move him there just yet.

Mlodzinski did finish strong down the stretch, posting a 2.57 ERA (1.91 FIP) in his three September outings, striking out 15 batters in 14 innings pitched (just three walks). Zooming out a little bit more, He struck out 24.3% of the batters he faced, walking 6.5%, and posted a 3.16 FIP in nine games from August on.

He seems on the verge of figuring things out, and if the Pirates find the right role for him, he could start translating more on the field consistently.

TIM WILLIAMS: Nick Gonzales, 2B

I was never really sold on the draft profile from Nick Gonzales. He was lauded for his contact skills, but I really think there’s a widespread lack of understanding of what this translates toward. My concern with Gonzales was that he would always rely on those contact skills, leading to an outcome not unlike we’ve seen with Kevin Newman — who was also lauded as a first rounder for his contact skills in college.

This wouldn’t be a bad outcome for Gonzales. Newman has looked like an MLB starter for a few seasons, and could be a reliable bench option going forward for a contender. Right now, you want more from Gonzales, if possible. You’d like to see him develop into an above-average or better second baseman, giving the Pirates someone who can be an MLB starter for a contender.

Gonzales seems to be heading in that direction. Over the final six weeks of the 2022 season, he hit for a .287/.404/.513 line, with a 22.7% strikeout rate and a 13.5% walk rate. The easiest way to describe what the Pirates have been working on with Gonzales is using his contact skills — fueled by elite hand/eye coordination and quick hands — in a more aggressive way. Gonzales can make contact with a lot of pitches. It’s not always going to be good contact. The Pirates are teaching him how to attack the pitches that will lead to the best results. Looking at the small sample from the end of the season, Gonzales is getting the results you’d want to see from such an approach.

One of the hardest workers in the system, Gonzales has seen his playing time limited by injuries. I was impressed by the work he put in this year, even through recovery from a torn plantar fascia in his heel, to get to those end result numbers. He went to the Arizona Fall League and hit .279/.351/.500, repeating his success in a showcase setting. I think that Gonzales has made the adjustment that will make him the second baseman of the future in Pittsburgh. He might not be a batting champion, but he will be a well-rounded hitter who can be a core member of a future contender.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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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.

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Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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pittsburghbob69

Austin Roberts; he brought his ERA from 5.94 on July 31st down to a respectable 4.28 on September 18th(just 49 days).

He let up 1 ER(on a solo HR) in his last 15 IP; with 17 K.

Austin Roberts was on a lot of peoples sleeper list after his 2021 season. He started off badly but like I said, he ended up with respectable numbers.

He should be in AAA next season for his age 24 season and still on a good path to be a legit MLB RP with swing and miss stuff.

Last edited 9 days ago by pittsburghbob69
skliesen

For all our sakes let’s hope it’s Nick G.

Pirates need players who create runs. Approximately 1 run/game more if they want to be a legitimate playoff contender. Last year they scored 591 runs, and the average of the 12 playoff teams was a bit more than 750.

With the impending rule changes almost certainly favoring hitters, I’d wager most playoff teams will be north of 775 runs scored next season. So I say again, for all our sakes let’s hope it’s Nick Gonzales who has figured out how to be a more consistent offensive threat.

pittsburghbob69

I think Nick Gonzales is a gonna be a solid MLB 2B.

If he can put up .260 -.275 average, .320 -.350 OBP, and 8-15 HR, that’s solid for an MLB 2B. Especially if he plays good defense and has acouple seasons at the top range of those predictions.

And I could see one of Nick Gonzales or Termarr Johnson moving to 3rd base and KeHayes being traded in say 4 years, around age 30 and around the 2027 season.

Last edited 9 days ago by pittsburghbob69
leefieux

I KNEW WE SHOULDN’t have traded Newman. 🙂 🙂

Last edited 9 days ago by leefieux
leefieux

Nobody picked Gorski?? I’d love to see if his 2022 is for real. I love Triolo and if he had some power, he could replace Hayes. Still not a fan of Gonzo. When you look at the videos of his big hits, they seem to all be off of of FBs. I got to see a couple of his post injury games and curves/off speed ate him alive. Quick hands mean nothing if you can’t hit the ball.

Not a fan of Mod-Jeski either.

It’s Gorski, Triolo or ‘bust’ for me. But, then I don’t like vegetable casseroles or apple pie, so there’s that. 🙂

Cocktailsfor2

No apple pie?
Oh, Lee – I’d always liked you until now. Now?
I… I just don’t know, man.

leefieux

Fresh apples, yes. Cooked apples, no. Blueberry, Pecan, Pumpkin and Lemon are my go-tos. And Pizza Pie.

Cocktailsfor2

Fair enuf.

John Dreker

Gorski was injured for most of the second half, there was no surge for him. In fact, he had a .567 OPS in the second half and a 1.039 OPS in the first half. He got injured right at the halfway mark, so his second half was all of 14 games

leefieux

SSS for Gorski for that second half falloff, at least?
Missed that qualifier of ‘surge’. I focused on injured players. Because of my eyes (AMD), I have to skim articles. Thankfully, I am a fast reader, but I still miss too much stuff.

John Dreker

I always tell Tim not to hide key details in the title like that 🙂

leefieux

Are you picking on an old blind man? Have you no shame?

Last edited 9 days ago by leefieux
PirateRican21

I’m not high on Triolo, but I will love to see him start the season as the SS in AAA with Peguero back in AA. With the hope that he debuts as the main RH bat to backup Cruz. That’s assuming that he is able to play an average to above average SS.

leefieux

He’s looking more and more like a util player, but I keep hoping he can beat out Hayes and make John (and me) look good.

Last edited 10 days ago by leefieux
PirateRican21

Gonzales on the Newman path……

bianco599

Boy I would love a Freddy Sanchez type on the team. That was what I was hoping for when they drafted him. What ever happened to Tim Alderson?

PirateRican21

That’s a comp I could live with!

John Dreker

Alderson lost some velocity right before he joined the Pirates and never regained it. The bad part about that is that he was still young enough when it happened that scouts thought there could be more, but he went the opposite way. He was mid-to-high 80s after that happened and didn’t have the stuff or command to compensate for poor velocity

Last edited 10 days ago by John Dreker
bianco599

Thanks for the response. Would love another Sanchez and Jack Flash on the team. Man I live in the past.

roberto

To me this feels like an analogy that needs work. It compares a player with power and contact issues to one without power and good contact skills.

leefieux

Now, if only he could hit a curve ball. 🙂

I, too was thrown by his pre-draft write-ups. I thought we were hopefully getting another Freddy Gonzalez!

Last edited 10 days ago by leefieux
robertkasperski

Maybe Nick needs Jobu 😁

b mcferren

He will be as good as Altuve

leefieux

Bobby Altuve? 🙂 🙂 🙂

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