Over the off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates changed their Low-A affiliate from the West Virginia Power to the Greensboro Grasshoppers. They remained in the South Atlantic League, so not much has really changed unless you were going to Power games. The team this year looks to be a solid group of prospects, with many players who could break out this season. The minor league season begins on Thursday for all four full-season affiliates.
We start with the starting pitchers. The Pirates are returning lefty Braeden Ogle to the level, after he was out for most of the 2018 season. The 21-year-old, who was the fourth round pick in 2016, is one of the top pitching prospects in the system when healthy. While some of the other young pitching prospects from the 2018 West Virginia squad will be moving up this season (Bradenton preview is tomorrow), Ogle will have to repeat the level, at least to begin the season.
Steven Jennings will join Ogle in the rotation. The 2017 second round pick pitched for Bristol last year, where he put up mediocre stats, but showed glimpses of success due to his ability to throw strikes, along with two solid breaking balls that showed more potential at times. His big goal is adding velocity, which scouts believe he can do with time. He was sitting 89-91 MPH this spring, but has been a little higher in the past.
A third top 50 prospect in the system will be making starts for Greensboro. Osvaldo Bido is a 23-year-old right-hander with outstanding stuff, who made major strides with his control last year. While he is older, this is just his third year of pro ball and he has a ton of upside.
The other two starters will be right-handers Alex Manasa and Brad Case. Manasa was the 11th round pick in 2017 and only started pitching full-time that season. He led the New York-Penn League in innings pitched last year, but he has also had his share of issues, while he works to improve his stuff. He’s a strike-thrower, as is Case, who was the 17th round pick last year. Case pitched over three levels last year, finishing up with a strong start at Morgantown. You can read more about him here.
The bullpen will include some big arms in Shea Murray, Samuel Reyes, Nick Mears and Logan Stoelke, who really impressed after being drafted in the ninth round last year. Reyes, who is the younger brother of Pablo Reyes, was able to make some starts at the end of last season and he pitched well in that role, though his stuff plays up in shorter outings. Murray has hit 99 MPH in the past, while Mears has mid-to-high 90s stuff, along with a strong breaking ball. Conner Loeprich was one of our player features this winter, as was lefty Joe Jacques. Cam Alldred, an NYPL All-Star last year, and Nicholas Economos, round out the bullpen.
On the offensive side, three big names will be returning from last season. First baseman Mason Martin, second baseman Rodolfo Castro, and outfielder Lolo Sanchez were three of the youngest players in the league last year. All of them had disappointing seasons in the sense that they were potential breakout prospects, who put up strong numbers in 2017. They are more age appropriate for the league this season, so they have a chance to prove themselves again.
The left side of the infield will include 2018 third round pick Connor Kaiser, and third baseman Pat Dorrian, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent last year, then put up huge stats between the GCL and Bristol. Kaiser has a chance to add power to his game, which would make him an extremely intriguing shortstop prospect. Dorrian was another of our player features this winter. Zack Kone, who received over-slot money to sign in the 13th round last year, should also see plenty of time between second base and shortstop. Chase Lambert, who posted an .888 OPS at Bristol last year, rounds out the infield.
In the outfield, Sanchez will be joined by Fabricio Macias, who spent some time in West Virginia last year. The 21-year-old was one of the top available players in Mexico when he signed with the Pirates last February, but delay issues with all signings out of Mexico last year caused him to miss half of the season. Brett Kinneman, last year’s seventh round pick, will also be in the outfield. He’s a potential power bat, who had a .757 OPS with Morgantown last year. Jonah Davis, who tore up Bristol last year, and hit two homers in a game for the Pirates this spring, will also be in Greensboro this year. All three of these players have potential to move up the prospect ranks this season.
The catching duties will be split between fifth round pick Grant Koch, as well as two other draft picks from last year, Zac Susi and Ryan Haug. Greensboro has 27 players currently, so we could see two extras being carried all year, with Haug as a possibility, and Raul Siri also around without a spot for him to get time. Siri can play multiple positions, so if he isn’t on the Opening Day roster, he’s a replacement option for numerous players. One of the relief pitchers could also be an extra at times.