Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provided additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis, Altoona and West Virginia this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis and Altoona in the past week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. We go with the top ten hitters and pitchers, giving you the 20 best players from last week.
Phil Gosselin, INF, Indianapolis – Gosselin had a very tough time in Pittsburgh off of the bench, despite seeing MLB time each year since 2013, including 122 games with the Arizona Diamodbacks last year. He had some success in that role as well, but in 19 games with the Pirates, he had a .339 OPS and some major issues on defense. That got him demoted to Indianapolis earlier this month and he’s been hitting the ball well since day one in Triple-A. Gosselin has a 12-game hitting streak going, which has led to a .392/.418/.490 slash line in 51 at-bats, which is 22 more at-bats than he got with the Pirates. He has played second base seven times since being sent down, while getting five starts at shortstop and two at third base. Gosselin has made one error in those 14 games, so he’s basically playing like someone who should be in the majors. His trip to Indianapolis could be a nice wake-up call. With Gift Ngoepe struggling badly at the plate for the Pirates, Gosselin is fighting with Max Moroff and Chris Bostick as better MLB options for that infield spot. – John Dreker
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Bradenton – Heading into the last week, Hayes had a .662 OPS in 129 plate appearances. He raised that total up to .728 by going 10-for-23 with a double and a triple. Part of the low OPS has come from a lack of power from Hayes. He had a strong .346 OBP heading into the week, and a respectable .261 average when you consider the league factors in the pitching friendly Florida State League. But his ISO was .054, leading to lower numbers. He did have the double and the triple this week, but his ISO was still only .130. Hayes had a cracked rib last year, and lost a lot of weight during the off-season as a partial result. That could be the reason for the lack of power production, and he could show better signs when he adds the weight back on and adds some muscle to his skinny frame. For now, the positive sign is that he’s getting on base, hitting for average, and adding extra vale on the bases. – Tim Williams
Connor Joe, 1B/RF, Altoona – After a tough first two weeks of the season where he posted a .194/.306/.290 slash line, Connor Joe has been one of the most consistent hitters in a very good offensive Curve lineup. Since April 18th, Joe is hitting .353 with a .992 OPS, and that included three multi-hit games within the past week. The exclamation point came on Saturday with his first professional four hit game, going 4-for-4 with three doubles. Joe does a good job using the whole field, and he has good opposite field gap power. On a team filled with good hitters, Joe could be the most athletic out of all of them. Not only has the bat played well, his defensive work – both in right field and at first base – has been extraordinary. He is quick, makes a strong first move at first base, and has not looked overwhelmed switching back-and-forth between positions at all. –Sean McCool
Jordan Luplow, LF, Altoona – Luplow recorded a hit in every game this week, giving him a modest seven game hitting streak dating back to last Sunday. During that span, he is 10-for-21 with a double and two home runs. He homered on back-to-back games days in Binghamton, and he leads the team in homers with eight total on the year. His pull power in evident, displaying the best home run potential on the team so far this season. He has even hit quite a few bombs just barely foul. Luplow is hitting over 50% flyballs or line drives, with most of those balls heading towards left or center field. If he can continue to develop as a power hitter like he’s been so far this season, he could become a very interesting prospect for the Pirates. He has a good walk rate, and he doesn’t strike out often, giving him the great combination of power and OBP. –SM
Wyatt Mathisen, 3B, Altoona – Seemingly coming out of nowhere and in undramatic fashion, Wyatt Mathisen has steadily kept improving as the season progresses. He has a .378 average and .926 OPS in the month of May, good for .318/.413/.398 total slash line for the season. He falls just a few plate appearances short of qualifying for league leaders; however, he will be in the top ten if he stays where he is and plays most games this upcoming week. This past week, he went 8-for-17 with three straight two-hit games. He has mostly been a singles hitter, but he has good hand-eye coordination, puts together strong at-bats, and does a good job going to right field. –SM
Ty Moore, LF, West Virginia – Moore started his week with an 0-for-3, three strikeout game and ended it by going 0-for-5 on Sunday. In between, he reached base 11 times in four games and drove in five runs. Those games included two doubles on Tuesday and a bases clearing double on Saturday. On the season, Moore has a .314/.378/.423 slash line in 34 games, which is pretty good for someone who was in Extended Spring Training on Opening Day. Moore has been a key component at the top of the batting order for West Virginia due to his ability to get on base, along with 12 doubles and a homer this season. A hamstring injury to outfielder Victor Fernandez during the first week of the season opened up a spot for Moore. Now Fernandez is set to return, possibly rejoining the Power today, so we will see how that affects the playing time in the outfield for them. – JD
Max Moroff, INF, Indianapolis – Moroff had a big week due to his plate patience and his new found power. He hit three homers, including two on Wednesday, and he also drew eight walks last week. Moroff got a brief trial with the Pirates this year and picked up his first career base hit. He has done nothing but hit since he was returned to Indianapolis. The power surge is impressive with 12 on the season, which is four more than his previous career high. He has shown the possibility of more power in the past, including Altoona in 2015 when he had 41 extra-base hits, and his 30 doubles the previous season in Bradenton. Moroff just turned 24 years old this month, so he is still filling out some, which could account for some of the extra power. The other explanation seems to be his aggressiveness at the plate compared to past years. He’s still taking his share of walks, but he’s letting fewer strikes go by early in the count. His long-standing habit of taking too many good pitches early in the count, left him at the mercy of experienced Triple-A pitchers last year. Now those get-me-over strikes early in the count are getting deposited over the fence. He hasn’t started swinging for the fences, instead he’s capitalizing on pitches in the zone and letting his natural swing do the work. Don’t expect him to turn into a power hitter though, but he could get his share of extra-base hits – JD
Jason Rogers, 1B, Indianapolis – During his last game of the previous week, Rogers picked up two hits and a walk. With a doubleheader last week, he ended up playing eight games and had at least one hit in every game to give him a nine-game hit streak. On Saturday and Sunday, he hit his fifth and sixth homers of the season. Rogers really helped out Indianapolis by driving in 11 runs last week, which earned him the International League Player of the Week honors. In 38 games this season, he is hitting .291/.342/.468 in 141 at-bats. He’s looking like the player the Pirates thought they were getting when they acquired him. Rogers has been splitting his time between first base and DH this year. He doesn’t give the Pirates many options as far as positions and versatility. He’s played third base and some outfield in the recent past, but neither seems like it’s anything more than an emergency option at this point. Rogers plays first base well and he was used quite often as a pinch-hitter during his strong season with Milwaukee in 2015, so it would appear he could fill that same role now if needed by the Pirates – JD
Eric Wood, 3B, Indianapolis – Wood has been spending most of his time at third base recently, after moving around with third base, first base and both corner outfield spots early in the year. He hasn’t played any outfield in the last two weeks and just two games at first base during that time. It may not be a coincidence that he’s been hitting better over that time, possibly feeling more comfortable when he’s at his natural position. This past week, he homered twice on Wednesday, hit another on Sunday, and also drew seven walks. While he is sporting a low .227 average through 38 games, he has still put up a .793 OPS due to nine doubles, six homers and 20 walks. One of the big controversies this off-season was Wood being left off the 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft. If he continues to hit the way he has recently, that won’t be an issue this off-season. The 24-year-old has solid defense and a power bat, which could get him a shot in Pittsburgh this September. – JD
Cole Tucker, SS, Bradenton – Tucker has been swinging a hot bat lately. After starting the season with a .196/.276/.255 line in 59 plate appearances, he fired off a ten game hitting streak, and is currently riding a 27 game on-base streak, along with an active nine game hitting streak. In the last week he has gone 10-for-27 with two doubles, a triple, and a home run. The impressive thing with Tucker lately is that he’s starting to hit for more power. He had four extra base hits in his first 27 games of the year, and has 12 in his last 13 games, including all three of his home runs during that span. He also continues to steal bases, although he’s not stealing as frequently due to the extra base hits. Tucker came into the season looking like a guy who could hit, and provide some power from the middle infield spot, although with raw skills that made him inconsistent. He is showing much more consistency this year, and could reach Altoona by the end of the year if he keeps this up. – TW
Dario Agrazal, RHP, Bradenton – If his last two starts are any indication, Agrazal has suddenly become an interesting prospect. He made last week’s The Twenty by allowing one run over six innings, while tying his career high with seven strikeouts. Known as a pitch-to-contact pitcher, Agrazal backed up that seven strikeout performance by striking out eight batters in his last start, this time allowing one run over seven innings. He has slowly taken steps in his development over the years. He always had promise as a young pitcher who commanded a fastball that hit low-90s, keeping the ball down, while also pitching inside to keep hitters honest. He did that from an easy delivery with clean mechanics, and a 6’3″, 215 pound frame, so there always seemed like there could be more velocity. He did just that last year, throwing harder without losing any of the command. We’re now talking about a 22-year-old, who sits 94-95 MPH, with a sharp, late-breaking curve and a changeup with good separation. He’s working down in the zone, getting a high ground ball rate, plus he’s starting to miss more bats. As a pitch-to-contact pitcher, his ceiling would be a spot starter/middle reliever, but if he continues to miss bats, that ceiling gets higher. – JD
Steven Brault, LHP, Indianapolis – He’s turned a corner and looks like the pitcher that put together numerous dominant outings together last season, prompting a late-season promotion to the Pirates. Brault wasn’t awful early this season, but he also wasn’t dominant. That changed this week in two starts, in which Brault allowed one earned run in 13 innings, which earned him International League Pitcher of the Week honors. He allowed one run on two hits and three walks in six innings against Columbus on Tuesday. That outing was topped by what Brault did on Sunday, throwing seven shutout innings against Toledo. Brault allowed three hits and walked just one, striking out four and throwing 65 of his 98 pitches for a strike. In his last four starts, Brault has allowed three earned runs in 24 innings. One of the keys to his recent pitching: be aggressive and don’t try to throw pinpoint pitches. Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett has said Brault needs to use his athleticism and attack hitters, and not try to pitch with the precision of someone like Tom Glavine. In recent weeks, Brault has taken heed of that advice and is once again developing into the top starting pitcher option at the Triple-A level. – Brian Peloza
Blake Cederlind, RHP, West Virginia – Cederlind made a spot start on Monday, then pitched multiple innings on Saturday. In the start, he threw three shutout innings without allowing a hit. That followed up two hitless innings in his previous appearance. On Saturday, he gave up one run over three innings. Cederlind was showing his strong velocity in that game, as the announcer said that he was between 94-96 MPH. Last year with Bristol, he was 92-95 MPH, ocasionally touching 96-97. He’s had an average season so far, with 25 strikeouts in 24 innings, along with a .244 BAA and a 1.56 GO/AO ratio showing the good side, but he’s also issued 13 walks and had a few poor outings. Cederlind relies on his fastball for now, as he works to improve his secondary pitches, including a changeup he started throwing after joining the Pirates as the fifth round draft pick last year. He’s a big arm with upside, who should continue to see multiple innings in relief and occasional starts throughout the season. – JD
Cody Dickson, LHP, Indianapolis – Dickson had an impressive week, throwing five shutout innings as a starter on Tuesday, then finishing off Sunday’s win with a scoreless 11th inning in which he retired the side in order on ten pitches. That has not been the norm for Dickson this season, as he has struggled to throw strikes. In 20.2 innings, he has walked 16 batters. He also has 19 strikeouts and a .230 BAA, so there are some signs of potential. That has always been the story with Dickson though. He doesn’t attack hitters and rarely throws inside. He tries to hit the outside corner a lot. Sometimes it gets chases and sometimes batters lay off of the pitches outside the zone. He has the pitch arsenal to be better, but he has never consistently shown the willingness to challenge hitters and that makes it tough to have success in the upper levels. –JD
Matt Frawley, RHP, West Virginia – Frawley looked impressive this Spring Training, throwing plenty of strikes with a low-90s fastball that he gets great downward plane on and keeps it down in the zone. He carried over that spring performance into the regular season, where he leads West Virginia with an 0.81 WHIP. He also has a 1.93 ERA, a .185 BAA and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio, along with 22 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. Not many relievers make The Twenty due to limited innings, but Frawley pitched three times this week, including a three inning outing. He went 5.1 innings total, allowing one run on three hits and he struck out seven batters. The 2016 17th round pick could be a possibility to move up to Bradenton during the season. The Pirates gave him a late promotion to West Virginia last year, so that’s a good sign for a possible promotion this year, along with the terrific numbers he is putting up. – JD
Clay Holmes, RHP, Indianapolis – Holmes struggled with his command in the first two innings of his start against Toledo on Friday, throwing just 18 of his 41 pitches for a strike. A conversation in the dugout, and a visit on the mound from Indianapolis pitching coach Stan Kyles, quickly turned things around. Holmes threw 37 of 58 pitches for a strike after that point, putting together four efficient innings to finish his start. Holmes allowed one run on five hits in six innings. He struck out seven batters, but walked three. But again, after those first two innings, his command improved. Holmes has struck out seven or more in five of his last six starts. He is continuing to show more and more glimpses of the ability that makes him one of the top starting pitching prospects in the organization — with the ability to throw hard and mix in an improving slider-cutter pitch. Holmes has made four starts in May, just as he did in April. And his quick progress shows in the splits of those two months. He had a 3.68 earned run average in April, but is 2.70 in May; while his WHIP this month is 1.24, compared to 1.84 in April. – BP
Drew Hutchison, RHP, Indianapolis – After giving up nine earned runs over his first two starts of the season, Hutchison has quietly put together some solid performances. In his lone start last week, Hutchison allowed two earned runs on four hits in six innings against Columbus. He struck out four and walked just one. He’s thrown 18.2 innings over his last three starts — going at least six innings each time — and allowed just four earned runs in those starts. His command seems to be getting better, allowing just one walk in each of his previous two starts. That’s after allowing at least two walks in all of his previous starts. His earned run average (3.74) and WHIP (1.25) are at season-low marks and have been continually dropping. Hutchison is showing glimpses of why the Pirates traded for him last season in the Francisco Liriano deal. He’s considered one of the top starting pitching options as Triple-A in case of any injuries, but would likely be ranked behind Brault in terms of who gets the first call. – BP
Nick Kingham, RHP, Indianapolis – His return to Triple-A after Tommy John surgery in 2015 wasn’t lost on Kingham, who knew how many days it had been since he left Indianapolis to begin his long journey back. After joining Indianapolis a few days prior, Kingham made his first start at this level in more than two years against Columbus on Wednesday. Kingham allowed two earned runs on six hits over 5.2 innings, striking out four and walking three. He threw 61 of his 95 pitches for a strike. That was a positive start for his Triple-A season by nearly finishing six innings and throwing a fairly high pitch count. Kingham takes the place of Cody Dickson in the starting rotation, assuming the Pirates don’t make any further promotions. Kingham could work himself into the mix of potential call-ups if he progresses at a quick rate in Indianapolis. Being able to last nearly six innings in his first Triple-A start in just more than two years is a good start in that direction. – BP
Pedro Vasquez, RHP, Bradenton – Vasquez is becoming a regular in this weekly article by limiting runs, walks and going more than five innings each outing. We mentioned that he was getting the right results, but things could be going better for him. He wasn’t striking out many batters and he wasn’t getting many ground balls. That can work well in the Florida State League where fly balls go to die, but it wouldn’t work well at a higher level. This last start was his best one so far, attacking both of those problem areas by picking up seven strikeouts and posting a 6:3 GO/AO ratio. That’s coming from a pitcher who has an 0.68 GO/AO ratio and never struck out more than four batters in a game this season. Vasquez is just 21 years old and the FSL is an advanced placement compared to his experience. He’s still a little raw with his secondary stuff, but he seems to be handling the challenge great so far. If we see more of the pitcher from last week, while continuing to put in innings and get results, then he becomes a solid prospect by the end of the season. – JD
Cam Vieaux, LHP, West Virginia – The only reason Vieaux hasn’t made every single The Twenty article this year is because he missed a start due to tightness in his pitching arm. That short break had zero effect on his performance last week, as he went 5.2 innings, allowing one run on six hits and one walk. In seven starts this season, he has allowed a total of six runs and never more than one in a game. He has been the most impressive starter in the system so far when it comes to consistency. He isn’t going to wow anyone with his stuff, which is evident by 21 strikeouts and an 0.80 GO/AO ratio in 39 innings, but Vieaux knows how to pitch and he’s extremely efficient with his pitch count. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him pitching in Bradenton sometime soon. At 23 years old, the 6’4″ lefty needs to move up for a better challenge. – JD+ posts
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.