The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a lot of lower-level outfielders the last few years with significant tools. The progress has been lacking in many cases, even absent in some.
That leaves the organization in a quandary. You want to play the guys who are performing. You also want to give opportunities to the guys who aren’t, because you saw enough to acquire them in the first place.
This will be a challenge for the Pirates with their Greensboro outfielders. Or, more accurately, the outfielders I think are likely to be at Greensboro — no doubt the Pirates will have other ideas in some cases.
I think these decisions are especially challenging at the High-A level. Teams seem willing to promote their more highly regarded prospects up to that point even when they’re not performing, in the hope that they’ll “figure it out”. Teams don’t seem as willing to promote struggling prospects to Double-A.
Another factor that could affect outfield assignments is some upward pressure in the system.
Bradenton figures to have some good outfield prospects: Shalin Polanco, hopefully Lonnie White, Jr., Enmanuel Terrero, Esmerlyn Valdez, maybe Braylon Bishop.
You don’t want those guys sitting much behind somebody who’s repeating the level. Altoona could be a bit short on outfield prospects, possibly just Hudson Head and Matt Fraizer, unless Connor Scott repeats the level after a mediocre 2022 season.
So here are some outfielders who could be with the Grasshoppers in 2023:
Tres Gonzalez: The 2022 fifth-rounder could be a candidate to open 2023 at Altoona. He has a strong hit tool and an advanced approach at the plate. The place he’s really short is power and that doesn’t seem like a reason for him not to be in Double-A. In any event, at the least he’ll be a regular for the Hoppers.
Tanner Tredaway: Different story with tenth-rounder Tredaway. He only got 50 at-bats at Bradenton in 2022, but he batted just .160 with little power. He did have a 14:10 BB:K ratio. Tredaway was drafted as a fifth-year senior; he’ll turn 24 near the end of the 2023 season. Going to Low-A wouldn’t be an encouraging step.
Sammy Siani: Siani struggled badly with the Hoppers in 2022 (36.2% K rate, for starters), which got him some time in development purgatory. He looked for sure like a guy who’d have to repeat the level, but he’s had a big winter in Australia, so maybe not.
Rodolfo Nolasco: One of the more impressive exit velocity hitters in the system, Nolasco started 2022 with a couple bad months for Bradenton. Then he started hitting and was in the middle of a monster month of July when he got hurt. If he makes decent contact, he could be a lot of fun in Greensboro.
Jauri Custodio: I’m just guessing that Custodio could be a candidate to skip Bradenton (mostly . . . he got 14 at-bats there late in 2022). He’s 21 now but has only 128 at-bats the last three years, due to injuries and the plague, but he’s always hit very well, with very good control of the strike zone.
Jack Herman: Now 23, Herman’s had a tough time the last couple years. He was badly overmatched at Greensboro in 2021 and the Pirates demoted him to Bradenton. He was back with the Hoppers in 2022 and didn’t hit very well, but went out for the year in mid-June after running into a wall making a great catch.
Jase Bowen: Bowen’s made slow but steady progress, spending most of two years at Bradenton before struggling late in 2022 with the Hoppers. He’s done just decently in Australia. He plays all over the field and could be more of a utility player for the Hoppers.
Sergio Campana: One of the more frustrating players in the system, Campana is a good defensive center fielder who gets an 80 for speed from FanGraphs and puts up good exit velocities . . . when he makes contact. After showing very little most of the way through 2021-22 with the Marauders, he started hitting for some power in the second half of 2022, but the Ks remained a serious issue.
Luke Brown: Drafted in round 9 in 2021, Brown just hasn’t hit. That includes batting .165 in 91 at-bats with the Hoppers in 2022. It’s hard to see how he gets much playing time in 2023.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
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.