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Pitching Led the Pirates System in the First Month of the 2023 Season

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One month into the season, there is already plenty to digest across all levels of the minor leagues. The storylines that have appeared so far give a lot to watch for the remainder of the season.

With April finished, and the calendar turned to May, here are a few things that stood out during the first month of the season.

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

I’ve mentioned it before on here, and just about everywhere else I have a platform to talk about it, but the pitching depth is really starting to show itself here early on.

Things can change, yes, but the Pirates have so many promising arms in their system, especially in the lower levels, that the next few years should be really exciting to watch.

It seems like on a nightly basis there is either someone new, or different, stepping up and really putting in a solid performance on the mound. Both Bradenton (second) and Greensboro (fifth) have top-5 pitching staffs when it comes to team ERA respective to their league, and are loaded with arms that the front office invested heavily in.

Thomas Harrington has looked really good in Bradenton, and could be one of the first players promoted off that squad. He seemed advanced enough to start in Greensboro, but the sheer amount of starting pitching prospects in the lower levels blocked him from doing so.

It would have made sense if the Pirates slow rolled Owen Kellington his first couple of years in the minors, especially after only throwing 10 innings in the FCL last season. They gave him a push to Bradenton this season, and recently made his first start after coming out of the bullpen to begin.

Greensboro isn’t an easy place for pitchers, especially young ones, so it would be easy for some of the early numbers to be less than ideal, but Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo have really answered the bell so far. Solometo has a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings over five starts, while Chandler has a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings over four starts.

There’s work to be done, but they have shown flashes at a level where it isn’t always easy to showcase talent, especially at their age.

Braxton Ashcraft got beat up a bit in his last start, and probably won’t be let loose too much in his first year back from Tommy John, but he has still looked good (19 strikeouts to one walk) despite the long layoff.

There might not be a player who could better describe the hardships that come with pitching in Greensboro than Sean Sullivan, and what a player can potentially do once leaving. He’s begun his season with three scoreless outings that has spanned 11.2 innings, striking out 12 batters in that time.

Jared Jones was my ‘sleeper’ pick for this season, and while that wasn’t a ‘spicy’ selection, I still believe there is more there from the righty granted he continues to take steps with his control. He missed his start last week, but pitched five innings without allowing a walk the prior outing against Bowie.

The depth will only get stronger, too, as Carlos Jimenez and Hunter Barco will eventually make their season debuts, and all of this has been with one of their top prospects (Mike Burrows) going down with Tommy John surgery.

Depth Guys Showing Up

The Pirates have been hit pretty hard in the minors when it comes to injuries, and when that happens, you need your depth guys to step up and cover the games that were lost.

There have been several players that have stepped up and have had really strong starts to the season. I talked about Jackson Glenn (165 wRC+) and Mike Jarvis (173 wRC+) and how their strong start fueled Greensboro’s rise to first place in their division at the end of April.

The injury to Dariel Lopez opened up an infield spot in Altoona, which has been filled in by Domingo Leyba (166 wRC+) and his .350/.426/.500 slash in the month of April.

Josh Palacios was promoted to Indianapolis and immediately started mashing in Triple-A, hitting four home runs while driving in 13 over his first seven games played, and was named the International League ‘Player of the Week’ for his efforts.

Henry Davis Was Always Going To Be Ok

There were a lot of questions about the former first overall pick, as injuries had derailed the first portion of his professional career. When he was playing, it never quite seemed like it was at 100% and his numbers suffered.

I’ve talked about Davis multiple times since the start of the season, and for good reason. Of all hitters with at least 50 plate appearances, it’s Davis that leads the system in wRC+ with a 206 mark. He’s hit six home runs, and stolen four bases as well. Davis was our Player of the Month for April.

He’s also looked solid behind the plate, which was a big question mark heading into the season. Opponents haven’t tried to run on him much, throwing out one base stealer on three attempts. Last year he only threw out 13% of base stealers the entire season.

Position Change For Liover Peguero?

Although he’s walking more, and striking out less than he did in Altoona last year, it’s been a rough start to the season for Peguero. I’m less worried about the hitting than his fielding right now — thanks to the increased walks, and the cut down on strikeouts, as well as his swinging strike rate (8.6%).

Peguero has the range, and arm, to play shortstop. It’s just been something about the throwing itself that he hasn’t been able to correct. In 11 games at shortstop this season, he’s already committed five errors. There was a play against Bowie that wasn’t charged an error, but certainly could have gone that way depending on the scorekeeper.

He’s looked a lot better at second this year, even making a couple of fantastic plays — both in the same inning. Peguero is super talented, and still just 22-years-old, so there’s still time to turn things in the right direction.

It just may come with a position change so he can focus on the finer details of his game.

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Anthony Murphy
Anthony Murphy
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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