When looking at Bradenton’s rotation last season, most of the attention rightfully went to some of the other bigger names, like Anthony Solometo and Bubba Chandler.
As two of the bigger prospects in the system, it’s not a surprise they caught most of the headlines over the course of the season.
Valentin Linarez pitched the majority of the 2021 season in the Florida Complex League, making a brief cameo in Greensboro to close out the season. He began the 2022 season in Bradenton, and got off to a rough start.
As the year continued to unfold, Linarez kept getting better and quickly put that rough start behind him — over half of the earned runs he allowed throughout 2022 came in April and May.
Linarez finished the season with a 3.97 ERA, holding opponents to a .207 average while posting a 25.2% and 11.9 BB% strikeout and walk rate, respectively. His cameo with Greensboro went a lot better in 2022 than it did the year before (7.2 innings, 2 ER, 7 K).
While he didn’t put up the eye popping strikeout numbers that Luis Ortiz did back in 2021 with Bradenton, there are still a lot of parallels between the two.
Both were on the older end for Single-A (Linarez is 22-years-old), and have the typical starting pitcher frame (Linarez is 6’5″, 225 pounds).
The thing that really helped Ortiz’s rise in 2022 was the jump in his velocity, going from a consistent mid-90s all the way to be able to hit triple digits on a regular basis.
Linarez certainly has the frame that may allow for more velocity, and he does hit the mid-90s with his fastball right now. He also throws a pretty good slider, that also got some positive notes from FanGraphs, and has been working on his changeup as well.
It’s hard to predict the kind of jumps that Ortiz had onto anyone else, as a lot has to go right to see it.
If there is one player in the lower levels that has been throwing up the same kind of signs, it would be Linarez.
Highlight of the Day
Pirates Prospects Daily
By Tim Williams
**Wilbur Miller’s latest column looked at the service time manipulation concerns with top prospects like catcher Endy Rodriguez. I’ll have some thoughts on this below, in the P2Weekly section.
**Roberto Perez made his debut in Puerto Rico. The free agent catcher is looking to show he’s healthy in winter ball. John Dreker has more in his latest winter league updates.
**Missed yesterday? Anthony looked at how the rotations at each level are shaping up.
Song of the Day
Pirates Prospects Weekly
Wilbur Miller had some thoughts about giving Endy Rodriguez a chance to make the Opening Day roster.
I watched Rodriguez this year in Altoona, right at the start of his amazing finish to the season. If we are talking about whether his bat is ready for the majors, there is no question in my mind that he is ready for a shot on that side of the ball.
The thing holding him back right now might just be the lack of experience behind the plate. There’s not much the Pirates could have done about this. They had Rodriguez starting the 2022 season behind Henry Davis.
It’s a huge credit to Rodriguez that he not only planted himself clearly in the catching picture, but that he used the 2022 season to surpass Davis on the catching depth charts.
The defensive skills from Rodriguez are strong, with a flawless, almost second nature transfer ability on throws down to second.
I would imagine the Pirates want Rodriguez getting more work with pitchers, game calling, and managing the flow of a game at the higher levels.
Likewise, I would think it would benefit the younger pitchers in the Majors to work with a more veteran catcher — and it’s unfortunate they didn’t get that chance last year with the injury to Roberto Perez.
There is definitely a service time benefit the Pirates will receive in keeping Rodriguez down. That’s become pretty standard of teams to take advantage of across the game. This sucks for Rodriguez, but the blame here goes to MLB and the MLBPA for keeping this system in place.
The Pirates aren’t really in position to not use this tactic, unless they can find a way to start offering pre-MLB Debut long-term extensions.
At least Rodriguez can try to aim for the new Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool when he does arrive in 2023.
The biggest strength of Rodriguez is that he’s a quick learner and quick to implement new things. There’s a valid argument that he could accomplish a lot in a little bit of time in the minors.
It’s not unreasonable to think that Rodriguez could make huge strides behind the plate in just a single month in Triple-A in 2023.
I think he will be the starting catcher in Pittsburgh for more games in 2023 than anyone else, regardless of when he arrives.
Our latest Roundtable will go up on the site on Thursday.