Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews: Bradenton Marauders

The 2023 minor league season fully kicks off this weekend. To get you prepared to follow the prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, we’ve put together previews for every level.

Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews

Triple-A: Indianapolis Indians
Double-A: Altoona Curve
High-A: Greensboro Grasshoppers
Single-A: Bradenton Marauders

The Bradenton Marauders will be highlighted by 2022 first round pick Termarr Johnson, and several other top ten round picks from the most recent draft. They also have several players repeating the lowest full-season level.


Did somebody mention “repeater?”  The main catchers figure to be Wyatt Hendrie and Nick Cimillo.  Hendrie spent all of last season with the Marauders, putting together a solid season at the plate in the context of the Florida State League, and playing very well defensively.  But he’s back.  Cimillo played for the Marauders only very briefly in 2022.  A 16th-round draft pick as a Rutgers senior, he seems to have some upside with the bat.  The other catcher is Geovanny Planchart, who struggled with the Marauders last year, got demoted, and struggled in the Florida Complex League.

Nick Cimillo


The big name here is Termarr Johnson, but he’ll be out at least until some time in May with the dreaded ailment known as Pirates First Rounder Discomfort.  Johnson supposedly showed the best hit tool of any prep prospect in ages, so look/hope for a breakout once he’s on the field.

With Johnson out, the primary infielders should be Javier Rivas, Jack Brannigan and Jesus Castillo.  Rivas had a good year at the plate in the FCL last year and probably is even better defensively.  He’s one of the stronger breakout candidates on this team.  Castillo hit .352 in the FCL, with strong plate discipline but no power.  He’s solid defensively.  Rivas and Castillo rotated between second, short and third last year, but long-term Rivas should be at short.

Jack Brannigan

Brannigan was the Pirates’ third round draft pick last year.  Most teams liked him best on the mound, where he has impressive stuff, but it’s not clear when or whether the Pirates will try him there.  He’s very strong defensively at third and has power, but he swings and misses (aka, “Haineses”) a lot, including late last year for the Marauders.  It’s common for early round picks to head to High Class A for their first full seasons and should be even more so now, with the quality of play in Low Class A lower since MLB whacked the minors.  So it’s disappointing to see Brannigan back at this level.  He seems likely to play mainly at third, but he was getting some time at second in camp, so the Pirates may shuffle infielders all around, as is their wont.

The remaining infielders are Alexander Mojica, Rayber Romero and Deivis Nadal.  Mojica is a repeating repeater, back for his third try at this level.  Ostensibly a third baseman, he’s the most likely candidate to play first.  Romero is a speedy infielder, primarily a second baseman, who got on base a lot two years ago in the FCL.  He missed last year due to a PED suspension.  Nadal is a strong defensive player who hasn’t hit much yet.

Deivis Nadal


The marquee player here should be Lonnie White, Jr., who got a $1.5M overslot bonus back in 2021.  After missing essentially all of last year, though, he’s going to miss around half of this year following thumb surgery.  The team also could have Rodolfo Nolasco, who’d be repeating the level.  He got red hot last summer but then got hurt, and he’s hurt now.  Of all the players who could appear with Bradenton, these two have the most power potential, probably by far.

That leaves a bunch of potentially interesting outfielders.  The most prominent are Braylon Bishop and Shalin Polanco.  Bishop is a speedy, overslot guy who struggled with swing decisions in the FCL last year.  Polanco was the Pirates’ top international signing in the 2020-21 period.  He has some pronounced Hainesian tendencies, but he’s tended to improve as he’s seen more of the pitching at each level so far, and he was better in 2022 than 2021.

Shalin Polanco

The most surprising assignment here is Tres Gonzalez.  Drafted in the fifth round last year from Georgia Tech, he has a very advanced approach at the plate.  In fact, when he was hitting in games at Pirate City this March, there were audible comments from the bench about how good his swing looked.  He got 80 ABs with Bradenton last year and had little trouble, but now he’s back.  I thought he might have a shot at going to Altoona, so this is extremely disappointing.

The other outfielders are Jauri Custodio and Enmanuel Terrero.  Both put up strong numbers in the FCL last year with impressive walk and K rates.  Custodio showed good power, but he’s gotten only a small number of ABs the last two years due to injuries.  Terrero showed only gap power, but he’s still just 20.

Jauri Custodio

So, no big-time prospects in the outfield for now, but everybody above has some potential.  All of these outfielders can ostensibly play center, but Bishop and Polanco are the ones who potentially have futures there.


It’s always hard to figure out in advance which pitchers are going to be the starters at this level.  Most of these guys have prior track records numbering in just the dozens of innings and we don’t know what the Pirates are seeing in camp.  But the Pirates do seem to try to maintain an actual rotation in Bradenton.  I think I can make some reasonable guesses about who might be in it.

The obvious choices, I think, are Thomas Harrington, Alessandro Ercolani, Bladimir Dotel and Owen Kellington.  Harrington was the Pirates’ supplemental first round pick last year and has yet to debut as a pro.  He has a plus change and low 3/4 motion.  He seems to have been regarded more as a finesse guy, but he was throwing 94-95 mph in camp.  Ercolani is a strong-looking righty from the microstate San Marino.  He had an impressive season last year in the FCL at age 18 and still looks like he could add velocity.  His secondary stuff needs to get better.

Alessandro Ercolani

Dotel has had two good years in the FCL and is gradually improving his command.  Kellington was another overslot guy in 2021.  He hails from Vermont, which is about as big a baseball hotbed as San Marino.  He looked great for a couple of outings last year, then got hurt and was terrible when he returned.  Hopefully his assignment to Bradenton is an indication that he’s OK now.

Some other potential starters are Derek Diamond and J.P. Massey.  Diamond was last year’s sixth rounder, out of UMiss.  He showed impressive stuff back in 2021, but fell off sharply in 2022, hence the draft round.  Massey, a seventh rounder has always been regarded as having a big arm, but control problems consistently undermined him in college. He’s been emerging as a sleeper this spring, and will be a guy to watch for improvements.

The rotation could change quite a bit part way into the season.  The Pirates have long had a practice of managing workloads of inexperienced pitchers by moving them up to Bradenton in May or June.  Highly touted South Korean righty Jun-Seok Shim is expected to reach Bradenton at some point.  Antwone Kelly and Hung-Leng Chang, both of whom showed promise last year in the FCL, also could move up at some point.  Both pitched only slightly over 20 innings last year.

Apart from Harrington, Diamond and Massey, a bunch of other guys from the Pirates’ college-pitcher-heavy 2022 draft are in Bradenton now.  It’s hard to know what plans the Pirates have for any of them. 

Two lefties are Dominic Perachi and Julian Bosnic, drafted in round 11 and 14, respectively.  Perachi, who’s from Australia, was drafted out of DIII Salve Regina University.  Like a lot of the pitchers the Pirates draft, he did well in summer ball.  He throws 93 with some projection and a high-spin curve.  Bosnic was drafted as a senior out of South Carolina, but has only limited experience as he missed 2022 with a flexor strain.  His fastball has reached 98 and his three secondaries all miss bats.  I’m guessing, with the injury history, the Pirates will go easy on the innings.

Other 2022 draftees on the roster are Mike Walsh (round 9), Elijah Birdsong (18) and Joshua Loeschorn (20).  The big attractions with Walsh are high spin rates and a lot of strikeouts in summer ball, but he had a very difficult time throwing strikes in brief action last year in the FCL and for Bradenton.  Birdsong is a Tommy John survivor who throws in the low 90s.  Loeschorn went to Long Island University and also got some experience in independent ball.

Joshua Loeschorn

Most of the rest of the pitchers are returning from last year.  The lefties are Luis Peralta and Yoldin De La Paz.  Peralta started for Bradenton last year and consistently accounted for huge numbers of strikeouts, walks and pitches thrown.  He obviously needs to minimize those last two.  The Pirates could try him as a starter again.  De La Paz, the only remaining non-returnee, is the kind of mystery guy you get at this level.  He had a good year in the DSL in 2021, then threw only two innings in the FCL last year due to injury.

Yoldin De La Paz

Some returning relievers are Yunior Thibo, Darvin Garcia and Luigi Hernandez.  All three have a history of missing bats and the plate.  Thibo throws the hardest, generally 94-97.  Garcia especially had a tough time with walks last year for the Marauders.  Hernandez pitched only briefly for Bradenton after fanning over 14 per nine innings in the FCL.

Yunior Thibo

The other pitchers are Ryan Harbin and Carlos Lomeli.  Harbin was a prep draftee way back in 2019.  Due to injuries and the pandemic, he pitched very little from 2019 to 2021, and struggled badly in rookie ball when he did.  Last year he mostly pitched well in the FCL and made one good appearance for the Marauders.  Lomeli was one of Bradenton’s regular relievers last year and was mostly ineffective until he finished the season well.

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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Regarding the repeating repeaters repeating this level, I too am really repulsed by this result.


Does this mean they have Mike Kennedy on the 5-yr plan to full season ball?


Was somewhat worried that last year’s altoona group which is now mostly in Indy would be the last big surge in the pipeline for now, but the greensboro and bradenton rosters have so many interesting names that I am switching my tune


Any one ever play Dusty Diamond’s All-Star Softball on Nintendo back in the day? My friends and I would play winner stays on that game for hours back when controllers only had 2 buttons.


Termarr is clearly #1 here, but I still have hopes for Bishop, White (if he can ever stay on the field), Kellington and Harrington (Two ‘tons’ of pitchers?).

And, Derek Diamond HAS to make it to the majors, right?

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Looking at the four full season rosters as a whole, I’m a little less worried about repeats, as it’s mostly from overfill at the top and then filtering down. I think it should mostly play itself out in the first couple months. And that’s considering the handful of injuries to start the year with prospects like Triolo, D-Lo, and the mentioned Lonnie White.


For Gorski it does?

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

It’s almost like they decided they were going to bring in a bunch of bodies — “competition” — and hit reset back to the start of 2022 season.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

There was no room to move up into Indy, cause they’re apparently dead set on Swaggerty staying there and Cal still getting OF time. Then they added more OFs this off-season in Chavez and Vilade, while keeping Andujar and throwing him out there. Plus they’ll likely want to give the dozen utility guys on Indy’s roster time out there too. There was no room to go up. I was fully expecting Altoona’s OF to be repeats, with MAYBE a Hudson Head promotion.


Nah I think the explanation is far more simple.

The lower level repeats were all kids – every one of them – who received aggressive promotions and responded by getting their teeth kicked in. Those repeats seem wholly earned, and hopefully at an early enough stage where their development can get back on track.

The upper level repeats seem to stem from a lack of confidence in the specific players, not some strategic error in which they brought in worse players to block the better internal options.

They of course may be wrong, but in much more obviously ways than some roster mismanagement conspiracy.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Yeah, they’re whole lingo is growing really old. Cause they immediately contradict it.


They’re operating in a completely banal manner that is indistinguishable from the other 29 teams if not for trying to sound like the smartest f*cking guys in the room all the time. So annoying.


Hopefully the flotsam and jetsam at the top of the system is on a short leash and won’t unnecessarily block those warranting more advanced placement for too long.


Who is warranting a more aggressive placement?

25 yo Matt Gorski, who most recently accounted for one of the worst in-zone whiff rates in all of minor league baseball?

26 yo Andres Alvarez, who cratered with a .27 OPS in the second half of last year?

Liover Peguero, whos utter disdain for any semblance of plate discipline was clearly exposed by AA pitching while showing zero ability to adjust?


Forgive my grammar. I didn’t mean advanced placement “now” but in the future. As in a month or two.

I’m hoping they don’t hold on to veteran placeholders at AAA for too long, eh?


I’m hoping the prospects earn their promotions.

The rest will take care of itself.

Last edited 1 month ago by NMR

Agreed, and I’m hoping they aren’t blocked unnecessarily.

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