Top Performers: Aaron Shackelford and Caleb Smith Lead the Way

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.

This week, we look at two older players at Indianapolis, who had big weeks, along with a mix of prospects at lower levels who did well.

BATTER OF THE WEEK: Aaron Shackelford

This wasn’t a great week for the system as a whole, but Shackelford would have still ran away with the Batter of the Week title regardless for what he did in 21 plate appearances for Indianapolis. He put up a .533/.667/1.200 slash line, with five extra-base hits and five walks. His hitting was below league average just three games ago, but now he’s a .975 OPS in 93 plate appearances over 24 games.

Shackelford has always been a low average guy, with mediocre walk rates, high strikeout rates and plenty of power. He had 26 homers last year in 114 games, yet he finished with a .788 OPS. He was nearing 23 years old when he was drafted, so he has always been old for the level until this year in Triple-A. He’s on a good path so far, but we will see how it plays out over a bigger sample size. As I said above, his OPS was two points below league average just a few days ago, so those early season hot streaks can skew numbers.



Cal Mitchell – Mitchell made it here two weeks ago based off of one huge game. It looked like a fluke, because he was struggling badly before the game, then didn’t do well shortly after either. He had a nice run this past week, hitting .304/.304/.609 in 23 plate appearances, with two homers. He has a .624 OPS through 29 games this year.

Josh Palacios – Palacios started in a platoon role with Altoona. He’s been on quite a hot streak since joining Indianapolis when they were having injury issues. He was our Batter of the Week last week, then came back this week with the third best OPS in the system, posting a .462/.482/.577 slash line in 27 plate appearances. His 1.274 OPS over 60 plate appearances for Indianapolis is nearly twice as high as his OPS with Altoona this year.

Ryan Vilade – Two homers helped Vilade make another appearance in this weekly article. He didn’t tear the cover off of the ball this week, batting .250/.296/.542, but he did improve his season OPS to .795 over 18 games. He played left field, third base and first base this past week.


No one from Altoona made the top ten. Henry Davis had an .892 OPS for the week, which was easily enough to get here, but he fell just short of the 20 plate appearances minimum. Liover Peguero and Lolo Sanchez reached the minimum PAs, but their OPS placed them 11th and 12th among the qualified players, with both finishing slightly over the .800 OPS mark.


Tsung-Che Cheng – Cheng might as well buy a house here, because he lives in this article. He hit .278/.458/.500 over 24 plate appearances, with six walks and one strikeout. He did have an odd week for a guy with some of the best speed in the system. He went 1-for-5 in steals. He was 7-for-8 before that stretch, as well as the second place finishes in steals last year for the Florida State League. He has a .923 OPS this season, with significantly better road numbers than home, which means he’s probably going to continue to do well once the hitter-friendly Greensboro numbers kick in.

Jackson Glenn – The 25-year-old Glenn hit .313/.478/.500 last week, with one homer, six walks and two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances. His last game from the previous week saw him hit three homers. He has a 1.022 OPS in 20 games, though he’s seeing the benefits of playing his home games in Greensboro, with a .481-point difference between his home and away OPS.

Tres Gonzalez – Gonzalez earned a promotion to Greensboro by putting up strong numbers with Bradenton to start the year. As a high round draft pick out of a major college, he had no business repeating Bradenton, so the numbers meant little in Low-A. In his first week with Greensboro, he hit .316/.381/.464 in 21 plate appearances, with a homer, two walks and two steals.

Hudson Head – Head hit .350/.350/.650 this past week in 20 plate appearances, going 7-for-20, with two doubles and two triples. He has an .805 OPS this year in 22 games, with no home/road splits (.804 OPS vs .806 OPS). He’s showing a slight improvement in his numbers over last year at Greensboro.


Rodolfo Nolasco – Nolasco hit .300/.462/.600 last week in 26 plate appearances. Last time he made it here, he had power numbers and a high strikeout rate. This week he did a much better job of combining power/walks and solid strikeout numbers. This type of player over a month or so probably gets him to the next level. He has a .966 OPS in 11 games, thanks in part to collecting seven doubles already.

Shalin Polanco – Polanco didn’t have a great week. I almost skipped over him to include someone with a lower OPS. He had four hits all week, resulting in a .174 average. He’s here because those four hits were a double and three homers. He’s playing this entire season at 19 years old, so you can expect some growing pains. The homers are nice, but his .182 average and 33.3% strikeout rate through 18 games are not. We are only seeing glimpses of why the Pirates gave him such a big bonus at 16 years old so far.


While I wouldn’t say it was a strong week for pitchers compared to what we usually see in these weekly articles, I will say that it’s nice to see it spread around the system. Each team had 2-3 pitchers make the top ten, and it would have been three for each team if I extended this article from a top ten to 12 spots.

Caleb Smith led the way with seven shutout innings in a complete game victory. Even with shortened doubleheaders, we don’t see many complete games throughout the entire season. He did it on three hits, no walks and five strikeouts. The 31-year-old Smith was really struggling up to this point, posting a 10.13 ERA in his first four starts. While one start isn’t even enough to call it a small sample size, it’s a step in the right direction for the veteran lefty. Smith was named as the International League Pitcher of the Week



Osvaldo Bido – Bido pitched five innings, allowing one run on a solo homer. He gave up two hits and two walks, while striking out six batters. He started this season off strong, then gave up ten earned runs over 7.1 innings in his last two starts combined. He has a 4.44 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 24.1 innings this year.

Quinn Priester – Priester has a story much like Caleb Smith. He came into this game struggling this year, posting a 7.78 ERA in his first five starts. He then tossed six shutout innings on two hits, no walks and four strikeouts. It was a nice showing, though it had a possible hidden issue.

In an era where you don’t need great stuff to miss bats, he had five swing-and-misses all night, which included three in one at-bat. It’s hard to replicate six shutout innings without missing bats BUT the outing is still a great sign from Priester. He threw a lot of strikes and mixed his pitches well.


Matt Eckelman – The 29-year-old Eckelman has seen a lot of Triple-A time, but he’s working this year back in Altoona, where he allowed one run over eight innings this past week. He has a 1.42 ERA over 19 innings this year, though it comes with a 12:10 BB/SO ratio, so that needs some work.

Cameron Junker – Junker threw 3.1 scoreless innings on one hit and no walks. The 25-year-old has been seeing very limited work this year, pitching 8.1 innings total in his eight appearances.


Brad Case – Case started the season in Extended Spring Training rehabbing a minor issue from early in the spring. He went to Bradenton to begin the year, then recently moved up to Greensboro, where he allowed one run over 3.2 innings last week, while picking up six strikeouts. He finished out the previous week with a scoreless appearance as well, but that was after two rough outings to begin his Greensboro time.

Will Kobos – It was surprising to see Kobos get demoted to Greensboro to start the year. He pitched with Altoona last year between injuries, then did outstanding during winter ball in Puerto Rico. He’s been spotless this year, with 13 shutout innings on four hits, four walks and 13 strikeouts. This past week saw him throw 3.2 perfect frames.


Alessandro Ercolani – Ercolani just turned 19 years old two weeks after the season started. He’s been showing some control issues early in his full-season time, but he’s had two starts without an earned run, including five innings last week. He’s one to watch going forward.

JP Massey – Massey is basically the college version of Ercolani. Control issues so far, check. Threw shutout ball this week, check. One to watch, check. Keep an eye on Massey, the Pirates were very high on him this spring. I’ve seen glimpses of why, but not the consistency yet. He has 26 strikeouts in 18.1 innings, which comes with a 1.64 WHIP.

Dominic Perachi – Perachi threw five shutout innings, while striking out six batters. Last year’s 11th round pick threw 4.1 shutout innings in his prior start, but he does have a .290 BAA so far, so we will see how the 22-year-old goes the rest of the way.

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.

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Shack is the 2023 “Sabol”. A hitter without a position, but somebody who gives it all every time he’s on the field.




John: You must have put the evil eye on Caleb. 3.2 innings last night, 7 hits, 4 walks and 8 earned runs solidifying that high 8’s ERA. Not sure he is holding anybody back, but he sure needs to string together some good outings quickly.


WTM – you still do the depth chart?. I miss that page

Last edited 26 days ago by bradlej31

WTM will have to let us know how often / if he is still maintaining it.


Uh chris owings coming up i believe


They just said on The Fan that Mathis was sent back down. And Ortiz was promoted to the taxi squad.

Wilbur Miller

I knew Shelton would be counting the days until he could install Owings as the everyday SS. Career OPS+ of 72, other teams gave up on him as a SS six years ago. He’s perfect.

Last edited 26 days ago by Wilbur Miller

Yeah, in 2017, the last time Owings was a regular SS, he was 32nd out of 39 in RAA and dead last in UZR/150. Surely his range hasn’t gotten better in the last six years. He better be a bench player that is being called up so that one of their young players can get regular ABs in AAA.


Think about what you just typed…

They’re calling Owings up so he isn’t blocking players in AAA.

Do you really think they’re using a spot on the 26 so he’s not blocking Jason Bissonette and Aaron Shackleford in AAA?


Not at all what I meant. In an earlier post, I suggested one possibility for calling him up was to send Bae or Marcano down so that they could get regular ABs. Bae in particular is in a tough spot–despite some spectacular plays, he’s been below replacement level overall and therefore hasn’t earned regular playing time but needs regular playing time to develop. I like Bae a lot, but I could see him benefitting from some time in AAA.


I’m guessing it’s Andujar who gets DFA’s…or Cutch to the IL.


If he’s coming up as a bench/role player, I don’t have a problem with it. I just don’t want to see him slotted into the starting lineup on a regular basis.


He’s going to be in there tonight as I think Freeman is starting for Col.


Have you watched Castro, Bae & Marcano try to play SS?

Aside from that, Owings has a 121 wRC+ in AAA.

At this point, he’s worth a shot.


While Castro’s defense at SS hasn’t been what we want, his metrics are comparable to those that Owings put up the last time he was a regular SS. If Owings replaces Castro, we’ll likely see fewer errors and less range with a similar overall effect, though one that isn’t as noticeable. The average fan might be happy because nothing is more frustrating than an error while it’s easy to overlook those balls that the SS was a step or two too slow to get to. But the best (and only) argument I can make for Owings at SS is that it would allow Castro to move back to his long-term position at 2B and if that makes him more comfortable, then perhaps we’ll see an uptick in his offense.

Wilbur Miller

Um, seriously? He’s hit well in a handful of games in AAA after batting .187 over the past five years in the majors, and he’s “worth a shot?”


In 2021 he had a 157 wRC+ in 21 games for the Rockies, maybe they’re seeing something in AAA that thinks he can go on a nice heater.

Castro isn’t the answer. He looks defeated out there.


When I looked at the fielding stats for Indy, I think Marcano was the better defensive choice at SS. Owings has been the last choice of last chance teams since 2019.

I would rather play the kids who are 8 or 9 years younger, and who, if nothing else, become more valuable trade pieces, if they perform well. There’s no now or future value I can see in playing Owings regularly.


Terrible, if true. Would much rather watch the current struggle bus


It will be interesting to see who he replaces. Have they given up on Mathias already? Have they decided Bae needs more time in AAA? Or maybe they think Marcano needs regular ABs? If the latter two, then I’m fine with the call-up. If replacing Mathias, then I don’t see the point.


Owings in his age 32 season, Mathias age 29 season, and Palacios up there around 27 or 28 also. This is ’20, ’21, and ’22 revisited. We started ’23 in a rebuilding mode with some key veteran players complementing the youth movement. STAY THE COURSE!


I think it takes maggi spot but still need to move someone on the active roster, so i agree will be interesting to see

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