Welcome back to our weekly Pirates minor league roundup, where we recap the top performances and noteworthy happenings within the Pirates organization. As always, every Monday we bring you the highlights from the past week, focusing on standout batters and pitchers making strides in the Pirates’ minor league system.
Last week’s top batter/pitcher were Tsung-Che Cheng and Osvaldo Bido. This week, we look at a top catching prospect and a pitcher who received a seven-figure bonus.
BATTER OF THE WEEK: Henry Davis
Henry Davis smacked three homers this past week, including two on Sunday. He also walked six times in 20 plate appearances, showing a great combo of power and patience that led to a 1.407 OPS, which was easily the tops in the system.
Davis had four homers and four steals on the season. He’s not hitting for average yet, as he had a .214 mark going into Sunday’s game. However, he also had 12 walks and a .429 slugging percentage at that time, so he wasn’t struggling. The Pirates planned to get him some outfield work, but so far he’s played just one game out there.
BATTING AROUND THE SYSTEM
Miguel Andujar – Andujar had a strong week, as he makes his bid to get back to the majors. He had a .381/.480/.667 slash line in 25 plate appearances, with three extra-base hits, four walks and just one strikeout. The Pirates are paying him a strong salary for someone in Triple-A, so don’t expect him to stay there if his hitting continues.
Josh Bissonette – Injuries have allowed Bissonette to get a chance to play regularly, and he’s taking advantage of the opportunity. He batted .333/.391/.429 last week in 23 plate appearances.
Aaron Shackelford – Shackelford falls into the same category as Bissonette. He needed something to happen to get more time, then capitalize on that time once it came to him. He hit .364/.364/.455 last week in 22 plate appearances.
Ryan Vilade – After being designated for assignment just as the season started, Vilade finally got a chance to put in a full week of work. He hit .300/.333/.450, as the last of ten players to qualify for this article. He reached base in all five games he played, while seeing time at third base and right field.
What made the performance by Davis so impressive is that the rest of his team collectively had a rough week. A rainout cost them a game, so only a few players had enough plate appearances to qualify, but it wasn’t a great week on offense for the Curve, even if you include what Davis did.
Jase Bowen – Bowen nearly pulled off the top hitter spot with his big Sunday, which included two homers, a double and a stolen base. He hit .381/.435/.857 in 23 plate appearances, matching the slugging mark put up by Davis. Bowen has a 1.117 OPS this year in 56 plate appearances.
Tres Gonzalez – Four Bradenton players made this list, but they really separated themselves from the rest of the team. No one else was anywhere close to making the list, and four of the regulars took four of the five final spots in the system. Gonzalez made it here by hitting .450/.607/.500 in 28 plate appearances. He went to a major college and got Low-A experience last year, so he’s supposed to hit at this level. The quality of play at Low-A isn’t what it used to be, making this a low placement for a player like him.
Alexander Mojica – In his third season at Bradenton, Mojica is off to a solid start. He hit .389/.542/.444 in 24 plate appearances, highlighted by a 5:3 BB/SO ratio. He’s still just 20 years old, but he’s an old 20 too, with plenty of pro experience for his age. Conditioning is still a major issue, and he’s mostly playing first base now.
Javier Rivas – Rivas had an awful week prior to this past week. His strikeouts were getting out of hand, which was a new development for him. He rebounded nicely, hitting .350/.409/.550 in 23 plate appearances, though he still had seven strikeouts. He has three walks and 25 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances this year.
Enmanuel Terrero – Terrero had a 1.227 OPS this past week, and he’s at a 1.009 OPS in 63 plate appearances. This is from a guy who started the year 0-for-17…and the year hasn’t even been going for three full weeks yet at Bradenton. He already has three games with four hits. Basically, he’s been on fire.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK: Po-Yu Chen
Po-Yu Chen made two starts this week for Greensboro this week at home. It’s a ballpark that can be hazardous to a pitcher’s ERA. He did a great job in both games by limiting the opponents to one run over five innings. He allowed a total of five hits, walked two batters and picked up 11 strikeouts.
Chen received a seven-figure signing bonus because of his potential upside, which we saw plenty of last year. He seems to have occasional bad innings that are either preceded or followed by dominant pitching. That happened in his first start this year when he gave up four runs in the second inning. Last year he had seven starts in which he threw shutout ball, to go along with a 4.58 season ERA.
PITCHING THROUGH THE SYSTEM
Cody Bolton – Before injuries sidetracked him, Bolton looked like he was going to make it to the majors as a starter, with potential upside for mid-rotation. Now he’s looking to make it as a reliever. This past week will help, with 3.2 shutout innings on two hits, no walks and six strikeouts. He has a 2.38 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 11.1 innings.
Luis Ortiz – Ortiz had a very strange week with great results that almost earned him the top spot. His first three starts this year had plenty of strikeouts and plenty of pitches to get those strikeouts, limiting him to 8.2 innings. He was efficient in both starts this week, allowing just two runs over 11 innings, but he was barely missing any bats in both starts, finishing with three strikeouts total. He allowed seven hits and two walks. A combo of early Ortiz and Ortiz from this week (aka somewhat efficient while missing bats) would be in the majors already.
Kyle Nicolas -Nicolas did poorly in his first two starts of the season, allowing eight runs over eight innings. He may have got on track with this past week’s outing, which included one run over six innings. His pitch count was basically the same in all three starts, which tells you a lot about how those first two games went.
Sean Sullivan – Sullivan went 4.1 shutout innings in his second start of the season, finishing with two hits, two walks and three strikeouts. He threw 2.1 shutout innings in his debut, which was limited due to a high pitch count.
Braxton Ashcraft – Ashcraft is returning from Tommy John surgery that has kept him out of action since late in the 2021 season. He made two rehab starts at Bradenton this year and both went great. He moved up to Greensboro, where he should spend most of this season. His first start with the Grasshoppers resulted in four shutout innings on two hits, no walks and six strikeouts. He has throwing 10.1 shutout innings this year on five hits, one walk and 17 strikeouts.
Julian Bosnic – The same thing I said for Tres Gonzalez applies to three of the players here. Bosnic is a 23-year-old from a major college, who is also a lefty. You don’t have to be that good to dominate the lower levels as a lefty. I’ve seen much worse, do great. He had a strong week by throwing 3.1 no-hit innings, while striking out seven batters. His issue so far this year is six walks in 6.1 innings.
Ryan Harbin – Injuries have kept us from really seeing why the Pirates gave Harbin an over-slot deal to sign away from college in 2019. The 21-year-old had a total of 40.1 innings coming into this season. So far he’s thrown 5.1 shutout innings on two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. He had two appearances this past week that were two shutout innings each.
Thomas Harrington – Harrington as a first round pick out of college shouldn’t even be in Low-A. He looked like it was a bad idea in his first game, when he cruised through five innings. However, his second start saw him give up six earned in 2.2 innings. He bounced back with five shutout innings this week on four hits, one walk and four strikeouts. You would hope he’s able to spend at least half of this season in Greensboro at minimum.
JP Massey – Massey is a bit different than the “major college pitcher shouldn’t be here” group because he had/has control issues to work out. The Pirates really like his upside, and we saw why this week, with five shutout innings on two hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. Keep an eye on him. If his control improves over a long-term, he could be a real sleeper prospect.
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.
Bolton and ortiz should both give some ML pitching reinforcements by midseason at the worst. Loving how the bottom two levels have all kinds of guys thriving and hopefully pushing for midseason promotion…
Thank you John. has Harbin’s ‘stuff’ progressed any as he has been re-habbing? High school arms are always intriguing given their potential for growth.
He was throwing 96-97 the first time I saw him this year, 94-95 the next. The radar readings at LECOM are out of order more often than not, so I haven’t always been able to tell.
Checked statcast for his outings. The readings are erratic. Sometimes he’s throwing mainly 4seamers, sometimes sinkers. Sometimes the 4seamer has greater velocity, sometimes the sinker does. Probably a cautionary tale about statcast data at this point in time.
Anyway, the most likely story seems to be his 4seamer sits at 96, his sinker at 94. Def an increase over . . . well, I’m not sure over when because he’s mostly been hurt throughout his 4-year career. But this is an increase for sure.
Speaking of Statcast, is Ortiz getting a lot of ground balls on his sinker or a different pitch?
He’s getting a lot of GBs period. Not many swings & misses. Velo is down 2 mph, but still between 96-97.
Not inclined to read much into it as long as the results are good.