I was in Greensboro this past week, getting my first live look this year at the High-A players in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. The pitching at this level is the standout, and there are a few position players who could have success in the upper levels and reach the majors.
I’m trying to avoid projections for players at this level. There are some players here who you could dream about with high upsides. There are some players who could be knocking on the door to the big leagues by this time next year. Around this time last year, I was covering Jared Jones in Greensboro. Two years ago at this time, guys like Nick Gonzales and Jared Triolo were at the level.
Below is a look at the standout players from my trip, ranked into tiers based on their chances of simply reaching the big leagues.
TIER ONE – THE BEST IN THE SYSTEM
TERMARR JOHNSON, 2B
Johnson was drafted fourth overall in the 2022 draft, largely due to his hitting skills. I was impressed by his overall approach at a young age. He’s a bit too aggressive at times, with a power swing that leads to the lower average and high power numbers he’s seen at both A-ball levels. He’s batting .222/.364/.444 in 66 plate appearances with Greensboro. There was one hit this week that showed he’s not just gripping the bat and ripping it every time up. Facing a slider, he adjusted to the offspeed pitch, threw his bat over the zone for a check swing, and allowed the ball to do the work — carrying to the outfield for a single. Johnson is 5′ 7″, and stands in a crouch position at the plate. His strike zone must be a nightmare to opposing pitchers, especially when they have to adjust between Nick Cimillo and Josiah Sightler — two very tall, upright corner players. Defensively, Johnson showed issues with his glove work at second base. He’s 19-years-old, so there’s plenty of time to focus on that. However, left field seems like a better long-term option if the Pirates want to push the bat to the majors quicker.
BUBBA CHANDLER, RHP
Chandler didn’t have the best outing when I saw him. He was hitting mid-90s with his fastball, pairing a mid-80s slider that he’s learned this year. There were a few times that he let the game speed him up. You could visually see him rushing through his motions on the mound after giving up damage. I’ll say that I was impressed with Chandler’s growing maturity level off the field, based on the conversation I had with him. I’ll be writing about him this week, but for now, he’s got the talent to reach the majors as a pitcher, with a higher upside than the next three guys.
TIER TWO – MLB TALENTS
THOMAS HARRINGTON, RHP
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Harrington this year. He’s a confident player both on and off the mound, who knows how to pitch and isn’t afraid to attack the strike zone. He worked with a fastball that was 90-92, which he used to get ahead earlier in the game. Harrington features a changeup that sits 86-88 MPH, and can generate swings and misses. His slider is low-80s with good tilt to the bottom of the zone. Both of these offerings were generating strikeouts, and weak, off-balanced swings. He was never in trouble when I saw him. Of this group, he has the best chance to jump up to the next tier. This group lacks velocity, which raises questions as to how they’ll perform against advanced upper level hitters.
J.P. MASSEY, RHP
Massey pitched in the MLB Future’s Game this summer, which was a bit of a surprise assignment for last year’s seventh round pick. He mixes an upper 70s curve with a low-to-mid 80s slider, which both worked to generate swings and strikes. I only saw three innings from Massey, but came away impressed of his knowledge of the game and his development path this year. I’ll have more on Massey later this week.
PO-YU CHEN, RHP
Chen had two starts this week. He was hurt by fielding in the first outing, which extended a frame. He escaped without any damage. That wasn’t the case in the second outing, where his pitches were elevated. He was 88-91 MPH with his fastball, but mostly works backwards, filling up the zone, and doing a great job of changing speeds and locations when he was on. His curve is mid-to-upper 70s, the slider is low-80s, and his split changeup is his best offering, working mid-to-upper 80s.
TIER THREE – UPPER LEVEL SUCCESS
JASE BOWEN, CF
Bowen does a lot of things well. He hits for power, he has good instincts and movements in center field, and he’s got speed on the bases. Bowen currently has 22 homers and 22 steals this year. He does have a bit too aggressive of an approach, which leads to a 28.8% strikeout rate and a lower average.
JACK BRANNIGAN, INF
I was really impressed with Brannigan’s fielding, at all three positions. He’s more naturally a third baseman, but has been getting work on both sides of the bag up the middle. He shows good range, glove work, and a strong and accurate arm. There was one play he made from deep in the hole at short. He’s a plus defender in the infield, and has some power at the plate. He’s got a few holes in his swing that might be exploited at a higher level, but average to above average power and plus defense at many positions gives him a good shot at the big leagues.
TRES GONZALEZ, LF
The approach from Gonzalez stood out to me. He’s a patient hitter, leading to a .398 OBP, ranking second this year to Tsung-Che Cheng. The patience from Gonzalez comes in the form of early decision making to bail on bad pitches, and late adjustments to stay alive in the count. He doesn’t give up when he’s in a pitcher’s count, showing a few times where he bounced back. He lacks power for a corner spot, but is currently working on maximizing his chances when he’s in a hitter’s count.
DEREK DIAMOND, RHP
Diamond allowed six runs in 5.2 innings, getting hurt by the long ball to the tune of three homers. He had a 90-92 MPH fastball, touching 93, but was better controlled below the max. He throws a low-80s slider which can generate strikes, but doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses. The curveball averaged around 77, and generated a few swings and misses as he threw the pitch down in the zone and in the dirt. It’s his best pitch, but relies on executing the fastball at the top of the zone. Diamond generates a lot of fly balls because of this approach, which is going to hurt him in Greensboro.
TIER FOUR – SLEEPERS
JOSHUA LOESCHORN, RHP
Loeschorn pitched twice this week, throwing three shutout innings with one hit and two strikeouts on Sunday. His fastball sat 89-91, with late cut on the sinker. The slider was his best pitch, sitting 77-80 with good sweeping action. His changeup was 82-86, and paired well with his slider against lefties. He got strikeouts on a 90 MPH fastball and an 80 MPH slider, both swinging.
VALENTIN LINAREZ, RHP
I was impressed with Linarez out of the bullpen this week. He went two perfect innings with three strikeouts to close out the game on Friday. He went three shutout with six strikeouts, no hits, and one walk on Tuesday. Linarez has a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings this month, with a 20:4 K/BB. His fastball is 95-96 working on a steep downward plane from his 6′ 5″ frame, and he has a mid-80s slider that is a swing and miss pitch.
WYATT HENDRIE, C
Hendrie is a strong defender behind the plate, who added a bit of power this week, to go with his on-base ability. He’s got a .235/.348/.380 line. The defense should get him to the upper levels, where he might have an eventual shot at a backup role.+ posts
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.