We posted our 2018 season recap for Morgantown yesterday, so now it’s time to look at our top ten prospects from the team. Just like with the Bristol list, we used our short-season minimums to qualify for the top ten. Batters need at least 70 plate appearances to get on this list, while pitchers can either get on with 20 innings pitched or ten appearances.
Those minimums didn’t leave off any hitters of note, but there were some interesting names on the pitching side. Sixth round pick Michael Flynn made five starts, but some poor outings and limited pitch counts kept him at 16.2 innings. Argenis Romano made the Bristol top ten list, but he fell short on innings and appearances with Morgantown. Brad Case made the GCL list, then made two starts in Bristol, before finishing in Morgantown. Nick Mears was a late signing as a non-drafted free agent after pitching great during college summer ball. He was also impressive during his brief time with the Black Bears.
As for the players who did make the top ten, the first four players were in our updated top 50, which was released in our mid-season prospect guide. The fifth and sixth spots were in our “just missed” group in the book. Since we don’t do an updated top 50 until we release our 2019 Prospect Guide, we used that order for the list below. For the final four spots, we voted on those players after the season. The numbers next to the first four names below are their current rankings on our top 50 prospects list.
Before we get into the Morgantown top ten, here are links to the previously released top ten lists:
Morgantown Top Ten Prospects
1. Travis Swaggerty, CF – (#5) Swaggerty was the first round pick of the Pirates this year and he put up solid numbers in his somewhat limited time with the Black Bears. He had a .288/.365/.453 slash line in 36 games, before he was promoted to West Virginia. Swaggerty had 14 extra-base hits and went 9-for-12 in stolen bases with Morgantown. He did not have success in West Virginia after the promotion, posting a .451 OPS in 16 games. Swaggerty is a true five-tool player, though they wouldn’t all be considered plus tools. He’s a center fielder with a strong arm, who can hit for some power and steal some bases. His 58:22 SO/BB ratio was not ideal this year, but he did much better in college in both areas, so right now it shouldn’t be a concern. Despite the poor showing in West Virginia, he is very likely to begin next year in Bradenton.
2. Aaron Shortridge, RHP – (#29) Shortridge was the fourth round pick of the Pirates this year and he was having success in the Morgantown rotation before his season ended early. He didn’t pitch much in college during his freshman and sophomore years. As a junior, he improved his draft stock a lot later in the season and finished with 91 innings, which was 53.1 more than the two previous seasons combined. That increase likely led to him being shutdown early with Morgantown. The coaches noticed he didn’t have his best stuff during his start of July 28th, so Shortridge was pulled after 2.1 innings and didn’t pitch again. In watching the game, I didn’t notice any physical issues and I was told it was just late season soreness. In his eight starts, he posted a 2.67 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, a .231 BAA and 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. He’s a strike-thrower, with a low-90s fastball, an average slider and a changeup, plus some projection in his 6’3″ frame that you normally don’t get with a major college player.
3. Connor Kaiser, SS – (#37) Kaiser was the third round pick of the Pirates this year. He had opposite results of Swaggerty, putting up poor numbers at the plate in his time with Morgantown, then hitting much better after he was promoted to West Virginia. Just like Shortridge, Kaiser is a college player from a major program who still has projection. He has a 6’4″ athletic frame, but it produced very little power in college, and he had just four doubles, no triples and two homers in 47 games as a pro. That power will be the key to his future. He plays solid defense already, including just one error in 201 chances as a pro. He has some speed as well, but the real question is his bat and will he hit enough to make it to the majors.
4. Osvaldo Bido, RHP – (#46) Bido could make the biggest jump on this list if he continues to improve like he did this season. Last year he was just a starting pitcher who could hit 95 MPH, though his lack of control kept him from finding success in the DSL. Despite the poor numbers in 2017, he made the jump over two levels to Morgantown. We quickly learned why he made that move. Bido still has the mid-90s fastball, but he was throwing a lot more strikes this season. He also has a cutter, a hard slider and a changeup, giving him four pitches that he throws for strikes. He didn’t have the best results on the team, but this is the kind of leap you don’t normally see in one year, and he has quite the arsenal of pitches. Bido is 22 years old, yet he still has room to fill out his 6’3″ frame because he was very skinny when he signed early last year at a late age. There is a lot of potential here if he can continue to make progress.
5. Brett Kinneman, OF – Kinneman was drafted in the seventh round by the Pirates and looked like a potential steal in that spot. Some sources had him rated more as a 4th/5th round pick due to his power potential. Others were down on him because there is a lot of swing-and-miss to his game. He showed both sides in his debut as a pro. Kinneman got more plate appearances than anyone else with Morgantown. He hit .253/.344/.413, with 16 doubles, four triples and four homers. That .757 OPS put him among the top 20 hitters in the league. He also drew 30 walks in 60 games, which ranked him ninth in the league. The downside was his strikeout total. He racked up 74 strikeouts, which was the eighth highest total in the league. Controlling the strikeouts will be the key to his success. He hits for power and will take his share of walks, but he may not make enough contact for it to translate at the upper levels.
6. Grant Koch, C – Koch was the fifth round pick of the Pirates this year. He got a late start to his pro career because his team made it to the College World Series. When he did get to Morgantown, he had a tough time at the plate, hitting .188/.304/.263 in 40 games. He rated fairly high going into the draft, despite a decline in his stats as a junior. His value comes from being a catcher with power, though it didn’t show up in the pros and draft reports said that pitchers had a lot of success using the outer half of the plate against him. Koch rates as a decent all-around catcher, with an average arm, who still has room for improvement behind the plate. He’s probably going to get the starting spot in Low-A next year, since Deon Stafford should get the majority of the catching time with Bradenton.
7. Fabricio Macias, OF – Macias signed with the Pirates as an international free agent earlier this year and came right to the U.S. to play. He had experience in the upper levels while in Mexico and last year was voted as the best player in the country under 23 years old (he was 19 at the time). The Pirates had a few other teams competing to sign him as well. Macias was supposed to begin the season in West Virginia and even made the trip there in April, but MLB held up the contract approvals of players out of Mexico and he was forced to return to Extended Spring Training instead. He had two stints with Morgantown, though the first one was just a very brief stop while waiting for West Virginia to come home from a road trip. Macias struggled a little with West Virginia, though he put together a strong week in early August before the Pirates switched him with Travis Swaggerty. The playoff push didn’t work out, as Swaggerty struggled badly at West Virginia and Macias continued to hit at the lower level. He finished with a .325/.373/.429 slash line in Morgantown, just barely picking up enough plate appearances to qualify for this list. Macias has the potential to be a solid hitter with a high average and some pop in his bat.
8. Mike Gretler, 3B – Gretler was originally drafted by the Pirates late in the 2017 draft, but he decided to return to school for his senior year. That move sort of paid off, as he likely lost some bonus money, but he was able to win the College World Series and still got a $50,000 bonus to sign. Most senior signs receive $10,000 or less to sign. The Pirates obviously liked Gretler though, using their tenth round pick to select him and giving him a larger bonus that normal. He mostly played third base as a pro, but did show a little versatility with starts at shortstop, second base and even catcher. He hit .274/.372/.396 while finishing the season on a high note. Since he was a senior sign, he’s slightly older than most of the other college picks, turning 23 this upcoming New Year’s Day. Since he does have the added experience and handled his transition to pro ball well, it’s possible we see him make the jump to Bradenton next year.
9. Zack Kone, SS – Kone is a potential late round gem for the Pirates. He was drafted in the 13th round, but he rated much higher earlier in the year. The Pirates maxed out their draft pool when they signed him right at the deadline for a $166,700 bonus. At 6’3″, 200 pounds, he’s a big shortstop, but he should remain at that spot. He has the strong arm for the position, which would also help him if he moves to third base in the future. Kone started off slow with Morgantown, then really picked things up at the end of the season. He showed off a little bit of power, with potentially more in the future. He’s also an athletic player with decent speed. Basically, he plays a key position and can do a little bit of everything on the field.
10. Logan Stoelke, RHP – Just like with Mike Gretler, Stoelke was a senior sign who received a surprisingly big bonus considering what they usually get in the later rounds. He got $50,000 to sign, while being chosen one round earlier than Gretler. Stoelke dominated in his time with Morgantown, then finished his season in West Virginia. He had a 1.77 ERA, a .116 BAA, an 0.79 WHIP and 31 strikeouts in 20.1 innings before the promotion. All of the four runs he allowed came in one appearance. He made three scoreless appearances with the Power to finish off his year. Stoelke has excellent control of a fastball that gets up to 95 MPH, along with a changeup and a breaking ball that both rate about average. He should be able to begin the 2019 season in Bradenton.
Other Notables: Pitcher Alex Manasa was one of the better prospects in Bristol last year after the Pirates went slightly over slot to nab him in the 11th round of the 2017 draft. He led the league in innings this year (80.1), but his velocity was down from last year and he had a tendency to give up hard contact. He also doesn’t have a true swing-and-miss pitch yet. Edison Lantigua had a .770 OPS, which was tops on Morgantown among players who qualified for league leaders. He missed the top ten because he’s an average corner outfielder with limited power and average speed. He’s an excellent hitter, but this was his fifth season and he still hasn’t reach full-season ball.
Francis Del Orbe did well with the jump from the DSL to Morgantown in one year. The 19-year-old right-hander doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he still has projection left in his 6’4″ frame. Ryan Valdes could be a sleeper prospect in this group. He can hit mid-90s with his fastball and he mixes it with a palmball, which is a tough combo when he’s throwing strikes. Cam Alldred and Will Gardner posted excellent results, while John Pomeroy and Shea Murray both flashed high-90s velocity.