The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted infielder Jesse Medrano in the 31st round of the 2017 draft. He was a senior at Fresno State, where he mostly played third base during his final two seasons of college, after splitting his time between the two middle infield spots during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Medrano was a late bloomer in college, who drew the attention of the Pirates during his senior season when he really put things together.
As a freshman at Fresno State in 2014, Medrano split his time between shortstop and second base. He played 37 games total, 24 as a starter, and hit at the bottom of the lineup, The Pirates were able to get a good look at him that season while they were scouting their 2014 third round pick, Jordan Luplow. Medrano hit just .220 in his limited time, walking once and collecting three extra-base hits (all doubles).
As a sophomore, the stats basically stayed the same, though he got slightly more playing time. His average went up slowly, but with no walks and just two doubles, his .503 OPS wasn’t drawing much attention. Once again, he split his time between the two middle infield spots, getting slightly more time at second base.
The first part of his breakout began as a junior when his playing time once again increased. He made just four starts at second base, spending the rest of his time at third base. Medrano hit .326 and cut down on his strikeouts. He wasn’t striking out a lot during his first two seasons, but the added contact led to much better results. It was between his junior year and senior year where things really clicked with a little help from summer ball.
“Having the opportunity to compete against high level competition in the Northwoods League and being around guys and coaches who were very talented helped elevate my game,” Medrano said.
While he didn’t put up big stats in summer ball, it was the experience that really helped him step things up and get notice in his senior season. After three years of college, he had 14 doubles, one triple and no homers. With a starting third base job in 2017, Medrano caught the attention of the Pirates.
“The Pirates showed interest during my senior year,” Medrano said. “I met with my area scout Mike Sansoe during the season and he made me feel as though I was a good fit for the Pirates.”
In 60 games for Fresno State this year, he hit .346/.390/.543, with 19 doubles, four triples and seven homers. The hitting really picked up, while the defense remained strong, but he also brought more to the table. Throughout college, he showed the ability to move runners along while at the plate and did a great job on the bases himself, despite having average speed. He went 20-for-22 in stolen bases over his four seasons and wasn’t caught stealing in six attempts this year. His senior season was basically everything you want to see from a player.
When you add in the jump in offense, along with the position versatility and baseball smarts, you get a nice player in the later rounds. The Pirates also picked up a smart player off of the field, as Medrano received academic honors during all four seasons of college.
After being drafted by the Pirates, Medrano went to a familiar face to get some insight about pro ball and the Pittsburgh Pirates in general. Jordan Luplow, who was also signed by area scout Mike Sansoe, helped him out back in June after the draft and throughout Medrano’s first season of pro ball.
“Jordan and I have kept in contact throughout the season,” Medrano said, while also heaping some praise upon his former college teammate. “I tried picking his brain as best I could, it was no surprise to me the year he had. He definitely let me know about pro ball and the Pirates organization and I would say it gave me a chance to prepare myself.”
Once he was in pro ball, Medrano was the starting third baseman on a young and talented GCL team. When we saw him play, he really stood out for his vocal leadership. That wasn’t something the Pirates asked from him, rather it was just his natural personality coming out, trying to help a team full of players who were either straight out of high school or coming over from the Dominican league. The coaches around him seemed to take notice of this quality.
“We were out there competing day in and day out,” Medrano said. “Being able to interact with teammates and do our best to win ball games was what it was all about. If there was anyway I could help I’d do my best to do so. The Pirates seemed to like how I go about my business.”
His time in the Gulf Coast League was quickly cut short. In his seventh game as a pro, Medrano fractured his hamate bone. That kept him out of action for nearly six weeks, which is quite a bit of time in a league that runs for ten weeks total. For someone showing power for the first time, it was also a tough injury. Hamate injuries are notorious for sapping power from a player for up to a year after they occur.
Medrano was able to return to action on August 15th, playing partial games at first to get back into game shape. He played another 13 games before the season ended and saw time at five different spots, including both corner outfield positions and everywhere except first base in the infield. That was a sign of things to come once he returned to Pirate City for the Fall Instructional League in mid-September. Not only did he get a chance to make up for some lost at-bats, Medrano also picked up a new position.
“During instructs I got the chance to get on the field at every position. I even worked with Espo [coach Brian Esposito] behind the dish,” said Medrano. “Growing up, being on the field was what was most important, so I always had a feel for all the positions.”
The versatility and athleticism make Medrano a player who can move all around the field. He grew up playing shortstop and that’s his favorite position, but the time spent at other spots in college helped him become a more interesting player once the draft came around. That helps when you’re a late round pick, who will have to fight for playing time at every level of the minors.
So now Medrano goes into his first off-season with an idea of what it takes to make it in this game. He also has a former college teammate who has already made it to the majors and will be there for advice along the way. The Pirates asked Medrano to work on conditioning this winter, while he plans to “put in the necessary work to play at the highest possible level”. He will go into next season competing for a utility role with the West Virginia Power.
As a college senior, the jump from the GCL to full-season ball is possible and the ability to play multiple positions is helpful in that quest. He will have to overcome the effects of the hamate injury on his power, but that won’t affect everything else he brings to the game.