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Pirates Prospect Watch: Matt Gorski and Braxton Ashcraft Highlight May Performers

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The month of May is in the books, and there are two Pirates prospects who stood out in the upper levels.

Matt Gorski was the hitting prospect of the month, batting .281/.330/.720 for Indianapolis, with nine home runs in 95 plate appearances. Most of that production from Gorski came in the second half of the month, and the power has continued into the month of June.

Braxton Ashcraft was the pitching prospect of the month, with a 1.95 ERA in 32.1 innings, along with a 39:6 K/BB ratio. Ashcraft is looking like a candidate to move up to the Indianapolis rotation with more of this performance, and he’s got the stuff to pitch out of the MLB bullpen this year.

Below are the top performers in the Pittsburgh Pirates system during the month of May. In case you missed it, and want a long-term view of the system, the top prospect rankings on the site were updated during this time.

INDIANAPOLIS

TOP HITTERS

  • Henry Davis, C – .284/.430/.622, 6 HR, 93 PA
  • Matt Gorski, OF – .281/.330/.720, 9 HR, 95 PA
  • Ji Hwan Bae, UTIL – .379/.471/.569, 2 HR, 70 PA

The best hitters in Indianapolis also are the best depth options for the Pirates’ big league offense. Ji Hwan Bae is already getting a shot in that depth role. Henry Davis homered on May 16th, and has hit .339/.446/.790 with seven homers since that date. He’s getting the call back to the majors this week. Matt Gorski also homered on May 16th. He’s been hitting .328/.370/.906 with ten homers since that date. If Gorski continues hitting this way, it would make sense to also give him a shot in Pittsburgh.

TOP PITCHERS

  • Geronimo Franzua, LHP – 3.50 ERA, 25:11 K/BB, 18 IP
  • Isaac Mattson, RHP – 3.75 ERA, 17:13 K/BB, 12 IP
  • Quinn Priester, RHP – 2.45 ERA, 9:2 K/BB, 11 IP

The best performances in Triple-A mostly came from the bullpen. With the Pirates calling up Paul Skenes early in the month of May, the Indianapolis bullpen was left to handle starting a few games. Isaac Mattson and Geronimo Franzua stood out as the most consistent performers. Both had control issues, but struck out a high total and limited scoring opportunities during their appearances. Quinn Priester made two starts in Triple-A, and looked good prior to getting the call back to Pittsburgh.

ALTOONA

TOP HITTERS

  • Carter Bins, C – .200/.333/.550, 4 HR, 49 PA
  • Seth Beer, 1B – .310/.394/.448, 2 HR, 99 PA
  • Brenden Dixon, INF – .242/.324/.455, 2 HR, 37 PA

Altoona didn’t have a great month on offense. The leader was Carter Bins, who didn’t hit for average, but hit for power when he did make contact. Bins is good defensively behind the plate, and the fact that he adds power could make him a depth option for the majors one day. Seth Beer is older for Double-A, but continues hitting at the level to lead the Pirates’ offense. Brenden Dixon heated up at the start of the month, and got a promotion to Indianapolis by the end of May.

TOP PITCHERS

  • Braxton Ashcraft, RHP – 1.95 ERA, 39:6 K/BB, 32.1 IP
  • Sean Sullivan, RHP – 2.89 ERA, 25:9 K/BB, 28 IP
  • Drake Fellows, RHP – 1.59 ERA, 18:9 K/BB, 17 IP

The best pitcher in the entire system this month was Braxton Ashcraft. After allowing four earned runs in six innings during his first start of the month, Ashcraft settlked in for three earned runs across 26.1 innings the remainder of the month. This is his first season unrestricted from Tommy John, and Ashcraft looks to be settling in after a rough first month of the season. Sean Sullivan is returning to Altoona this year, putting up quality numbers out of the rotation, even if he doesn’t have the most dominant strikeout rates. He could be a candidate to move up to Indianapolis this summer. Drake Fellows was added in the Joe Musgrove trade in 2021, but missed a lot of time since with injuries. This is his first extended stretch of pitching with the Pirates, and he handled his time in Altoona very well. The 26-year-old has since been moved up to Indianapolis.

GREENSBORO

TOP HITTERS

  • Nick Cimillo, C/DH – .328/.418/.627, 6 HR, 80 PA
  • Charles McAdoo, 3B – .357/.414/.541, 2 HR, 111 PA
  • P.J. Hilson, OF – .333/.403/.667, 6 HR, 67 PA

Nick Cimillo is an offense first catcher who shows a lot of power, and he showed that in Greensboro this past month. Cimillo hit six home runs, with a 1.045 OPS, leading the High-A hitters. Charles McAdoo has been the most consistent hitter in Greensboro, and continued that across 111 plate appearances in May, with an impressive .414 OBP. The Pirates took P.J. Hilson in the minor league Rule 5 draft. He moved up to Greensboro in May, and showed some power from his game, with six homers. The offense in Altoona has struggled, and all three of these players are on the older side for High-A. If they continue hitting, they could be promotion candidates to move up to Double-A later this summer.

TOP PITCHERS

  • Hunter Barco, LHP – 2.74 ERA, 24:6 K/BB, 23 IP
  • Derek Diamond, RHP – 3.48 ERA, 22:4 K/BB, 20.2 IP
  • Luis Peralta, LHP – 0.73 ERA, 21:5 K/BB, 12.1 IP

Greensboro is seeing the first extended work from Hunter Barco, and the 2022 second rounder is looking great. He was the top pitcher at the High-A level in May, with a 2.74 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 23 innings. Barco has emerged as a top ten prospect in this system in my rankings. I wrote about his development in this month’s Baseball America feature. Derek Diamond doesn’t have the same upside, but has looked like a quality starter in High-A across two seasons, while taking a step forward this year. He was one of the best pitchers in a month where a lot of the top long-term prospects struggled. From the bullpen, Luis Peralta is emerging as a sleeper, striking out 21 and walking five in 12.1 innings of relief.

BRADENTON

TOP HITTERS

  • Braylon Bishop, OF – .323/.382/.645, 2 HR, 34 PA
  • Sergio Campana, OF – .286/.422/.429, 1 HR, 45 PA
  • Solomon Maguire, OF – .222/.310/.492, 4 HR, 72 PA

After returning from the injured list, Braylon Bishop finished the month of May on fire at the plate, reaching base at a .382 rate across 34 plate appearances, and hitting for some power. Sergio Campana is a speedy outfielder who reached base at a .422 rate in 45 plate appearances. In more significant playing time, Solomon Maguire showed off his power, with a .492 slugging in 72 plate appearances. All three outfielders are young, and will likely remain in Bradenton the rest of the season. This will give them the chance to put up similar numbers across larger sample sizes.

TOP PITCHERS

  • Carlson Reed, RHP – 3.00 ERA, 24:16 K/BB, 24 IP
  • Michael Kennedy, LHP – 3.91 ERA, 25:2 K/BB, 23 IP
  • Antwone Kelly, RHP – 2.35 ERA, 23:11 K/BB, 23 IP

Bradenton has some promising young pitching. Carlson Reed is moving to the rotation after pitching in the bullpen in college. He has control issues, but had a 3.00 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 24 innings this month. Michael Kennedy is the top prospect at the level, and showed off impressive control, with just two walks in 23 innings. I wrote about Kennedy last month for Baseball America. Antwone Kelly is one of the hardest throwers at the level, routinely sitting north of 95 MPH. He has some control issues, but used his plus stuff to post a 2.35 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 23 innings last month.

FCL PIRATES

TOP HITTERS

  • Yordany De Los Santos, SS – .406/.474/.565, 2 HR, 79 PA, 13 SB
  • Jhonny Severino, INF – .288/.405/.593, 4 HR, 74 PA
  • Tony Blanco Jr., DH – .297/.372/.514, 2 HR, 43 PA

The Pirates sent Yordany De Los Santos down to the FCL, after he struggled in Single-A last season. The infielder is off to a great start at the rookie level this year, highlighted by a .474 OBP and 13 stolen bases during the month of May. This is better than he performed after being sent down last year. With more of this performance, De Los Santos could be looking at another shot in Single-A. The Pirates added Jhonny Severino in the Carlos Santana trade last year. Severino has been one of the best hitters among the Pirates rookie ball players, showing off some of the best power at the level. Speaking of raw power, Tony Blanco Jr. is 6′ 7″, and has been hitting for power in the FCL, while also reaching base at a .372 rate.

TOP PITCHERS

  • David Matoma, RHP – 0.84 ERA, 18:4 K/BB, 10.2 IP
  • Zander Mueth, RHP – 2.51 ERA, 15:10 K/BB, 14.1 IP
  • Carlos Castillo, RHP – 3.00 ERA, 11:5 K/BB, 12 IP

There are some promising young pitchers at the rookie level. David Matoma is an 18-year-old reliever who can hit triple-digits, and has been mostly limited to 1-2 inning appearances. He’s handled those well, striking out more than a batter per inning. Zander Mueth was the 67th overall pick in last year’s draft, taken out of the prep ranks. He’s shown some control issues, but has promise with mid-to-upper 90s velocity from a lower slot delivery. Carlos Castillo is an 18-year-old starter out of Venezuela, signed by the Pirates in January 2023, and making his debut in the US this year as a starter.

PIRATES ROOKIE BALL MONDAY RECAP

The FCL Pirates beat the FCL Red Sox 13-8.

Jhonny Severino went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, while Tony Blanco Jr. went 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs, leading the offense. On the pitching side, David Matoma got the save, pitching two scoreless innings with no hits, two walks, and two strikeouts.

The Dominican Summer League began on Monday, with both Pirates teams in action.

The DSL Pirates Black won 5-1 against the Reds affiliate.

Top 2024 international signing Bralyn Brazoban made his debut, going 1-for-5. Michell Ojeda picked up two doubles. Angel Herrera, a 16-year-old starter from Venezuela, pitched three shutout innings.

The DSL Pirates Gold were suspended in the third inning with a 3-1 lead.

Adbiel Feliz, the second biggest international signing of the Pirates’ 2024 class, went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. First baseman Edward Florentino hit his first homer of the year.

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE

  • Triple-A: Indianapolis, 7:05 PM – LHP Michael Plassmeyer (1-4, 8.07)
  • Double-A: Altoona, 6:35 PM – RHP Bubba Chandler (1-4, 5.65)
  • High-A: Greensboro, 6:30 PM – RHP Derek Diamond (3-0, 2.70)
  • Single-A: Bradenton, 6:30 PM – RHP Hung-Leng Chang (2-3, 3.44)
  • Rookie: FCL Pirates, 12:00 PM – TBD
  • Rookie: DSL Pirates Black, 11:00 AM – TBD
  • Rookie: DSL Pirates Gold, 11:00 AM – TBD
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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
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.

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