Our Pirates Winter Report will highlight one Pittsburgh Pirates prospect each week, then give brief notes from each country playing winter ball. This week, we feature infielder/outfielder Jase Bowen, who is spending this off-season in Australia.
Our last Pirates Winter Report looked at how well Sammy Siani is doing in Australia. What stood out was the sample size, along with how much better his stats were than comparable teammates.
One of those comparable players is Jase Bowen, a toolsy 22-year-old prospect, who the Pirates have been getting experience at multiple positions. His athleticism allows him to play any position on the field not named catcher or pitcher. He has continued that moving around in winter ball, though he’s beginning to favor the outfield recently.
Bowen spent the 2021 season with Bradenton, where he played five positions. He put up a .220/.309/.384 slash line, with 14 homers and 16 steals in 17 attempts. He repeated Bradenton to start 2022. He was still age appropriate for the level, so it wasn’t the worst thing for him to return to the team. He played much better this past year, hitting .278/.355/.450 over 98 games in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Bowen was promoted to High-A Greensboro with enough time left to get in 27 games. He was going from a league that pitchers thrived in, to a ballpark that caters to hitters. Things did not go as you would expect. He hit .177/.211/.324 in 109 plate appearances for Greensboro, with 35 strikeouts. He combined for 17 homers and 25 steals (in 27 attempts) during the season.
The competition in Australia is good for players like Bowen, due to his two years of experience in A-Ball. He’s seeing some pitchers who are much better than what he saw during the year, including a handful with big league experience, but there’s also a great mix of similar experience pitchers, along a few who would be below him.
So far Bowen is hitting .241/.303/.361 in 120 plate appearances this winter. That’s a nice improvement from his Greensboro numbers, but his OPS is 73 points below league average, ranking him 58th among the OPS leaders in the eight-team league. There’s one bright spot, and that’s the same success that Siani is seeing. Bowen has a 19.2% strikeout rate in Australia. He had a 27.6% rate during the regular season in 2022.
You expect some kind of improvement from the regular season, as the Australian league averages 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Bowen’s Sydney team has the worst among strikeout rates for pitchers. They are dragging down that average a little, but there’s still a gap between his two leagues from the 2022 regular season, which combined for 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. His numbers still show a nice improvement when adjusting for leagues.
Bowen isn’t playing much infield in winter ball, and that’s with a Pirates scout as his manager, so you can bet that they have some say in where he’s playing. He has made 15 starts in center field, ten in right field, two at first base and three at second base. That change actually started in Greensboro, where 25 of his 27 starts came in the outfield. Before that point, he had a fairly even split between center field and second base, with occasional starts elsewhere.
The Australian league has one full week and two days left, so there’s a chance for Bowen to finish strong and end up above league average. He seems destined for Greensboro to start 2023, regardless of the finish, but he should be better equipped for the level. We could also see better results if he’s not moving around as much in the field. He has the athleticism to pick up other positions at a later point if he’s able to fight his way to the majors.
Around the World
Winter ball is done in Mexico for Pirates players.
Fabrico Macias finished the regular season with a .252/.298/.358 slash line in 60 games. He went 9-for-23 with a two doubles and a walk in six playoff games.
Denny Roman allowed just two earned runs in 17.2 innings this winter, making two starts and 12 relief appearances. He had a 1.02 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 18 strikeouts. His only playoff appearance didn’t go well, with three earned runs over two innings.
Tsung-Che Cheng hit .182/.270/.242 slash line in 19 regular season games. He had two doubles, a triple, two steals and a 7:12 BB/SO ratio in 74 plate appearances. His 16.2% strikeout rate was better than the 20.7% strikeout rate he had during the regular season. His team made the playoffs, where he is 3-for-9 with two walks in his first five games.
Josh Palacios hit .214/.291/.329 in 81 plate appearances over 20 regular season games. His team made the playoffs, where he is 5-for-19, with a double, homer and walk in five games.
Duane Underwood Jr. made three scoreless appearances before the season ended, picking up six strikeouts in three innings. His team made the playoffs, where he has thrown two scoreless innings.
Chavez Young was added to the winter coverage when he was acquired in a trade for Zach Thompson. Young played 13 regular season games in Puerto Rico, putting up a .289/.385/.422 slash line in 52 plate appearances. He is 5-for-18 with a double, homer and four walks in five playoff games.
Sammy Siani has been the best hitter by a wide margin among the six Pirates in Australia. We wrote recently about his improved contact skills, and then he finished the last weekend off strong. He’s still among the league leaders in hitting, ranking 12th in OPS (.857) going into Saturday’s games.
While Siani has put up big numbers, Ernny Ordonez, Jase Bowen and Dylan Shockley are all putting up below league average numbers. This is a good level for all three of them in winter ball. They still have time left to finish strong and get their numbers up to league average. Ordonez had hit two homers recently, his first two of the winter, so he’s getting hot late. Shockley has shown some power, but it comes with a low .203 average.
Solomon Maguire and Jesus Castillo are both below average in the league as well, though this league isn’t a good level for them. They only have FCL/rookie level experience, and history with Pirates players has shown that those players will struggle in this league. Maguire had a huge game last week that pushed his numbers up towards the other group of Pirates players below Siani. However, he isn’t playing this week. Castillo picked up two hits yesterday to push him to a .143 average in 30 games.
The league in Colombia wrapped up the regular season. Andres Alvarez, was making a run at the Triple Crown, but he slowed his pace in the last two weeks, and one player had a huge game (eight RBIs) to pass him by a lot in RBIs. He finished with a .354 average and a 1.010 OPS, while leading the league with 56 hits. He went 3-for-11 with a walk in the first three playoff games.
Francisco Acuna is also in the playoffs, where his team won the first two games. He went 1-for-9 with a walk in those contests. He had a .240 average and a .780 OPS in 37 regular season games.
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.