In our Greensboro season preview, we mentioned that the team had a lot of potential upside, with numerous players who would qualify as potential breakout prospects. I wanted to look a little deeper into that to show the reason why we believe those players have breakout potential.
Greensboro has just one prospect among the top 20 prospects in the system. Lolo Sanchez currently ranks 17th among Pirate prospects. That’s actually a drop in his rankings from the previous year. Sanchez turns 20 years old later this month, which makes him young for Low-A ball. The potential here is a strong defender in the outfield, with plus speed and the ability to drive the ball. He had trouble with the jump from the GCL to Low-A at a young age, but that happens often.
Sticking in the outfield, Brett Kinneman is off to a hot start. We debated putting him in our top 50, and he could make it in soon depending on how many players in the majors right now lose their prospect status (Kevin Newman, Pablo Reyes, Nick Burdi). If he keeps up his strong hitting, then he will certainly make our mid-season update. Kinneman’s one drawback was strikeouts. If he keeps them at an acceptable rate, while hitting for power, then there is a lot of upside here.
Fabricio Macias is also in the Greensboro outfield and he comes from Mexico with a lot of potential. At age 19, he was voted the best player in Mexico who was 23 years old or younger. This winter, he picked up the game-winning hit to give Mexico the title in the U23 (23 and under) World Cup. He also homered earlier in the tournament and reached base four times in another game. I heard last year that he had trouble being away from home, which is normal for first year players from other countries, but with age comes maturity, and we should see better results from him going forward.
Moving to the infield, a group of five players has potential. Mason Martin and Rodolfo Castro are repeating the level. Both have a lot of power for their position, but they also have strikeout issues for different reasons. Martin is too patient at the plate, Castro is a free-swinger. Both are still 19 years old. Castro has some athleticism and plays solid defense, while the raw power is the main selling point with Martin, and he has a lot of it.
The other side of the infield are all college players, so you have a better sense with these players, though they all have big league upside. Connor Kaiser provides solid defense and shortstop and he still has some raw power to his game. At third base, Pat Dorrian and Zack Kone both had success in college at the plate. Kone provides more defensive potential, while Dorrian has more pop in his bat.
On the pitching staff, scouts can dream on the offerings from Osvaldo Bido, who greatly improved his control last year to put him on the prospect map. He has a mid-90s fastball, and three average or better off-speed offerings. He’s older than your normal potential upside player at 23, but he was painfully skinny, with no control, prior to signing at 21, so it’s no wonder scouts passed on him.
Braeden Ogle has the upside of a big league starter, but he needs to stay healthy so he can get some innings. The 21-year-old lefty has had a lot of success in his 87.2 innings of pro ball, but the combination of a knee injury in 2017 and shoulder inflammation last year, has really limited him. You don’t get too many lefty starters who can get up to 97 MPH, so that alone is intriguing. His slider has also shown a lot of potential to be a strikeout pitch.
Steven Jennings is obviously the wild card here. He was selected 42nd overall in 2017 because he was already showing a lot of potential, despite not concentrating on baseball full-time. Scouts see a lot here, but he hasn’t shown a lot of progress since signing. That’s partially due to an off-season injury going into 2018 that cost him a lot of prep time for the season, but his velocity has been mediocre at times, not even matching pre-draft reports. This is about the upside though and you have an athletic 20-year-old, with a solid frame and two off-speed pitches that flash plus at times.
There are more pitchers who qualify as intriguing, such as Brad Case, Conner Loeprich, Nick Mears, Logan Stoelke and Samuel Reyes. It gives the teams more potential for breakout than just the players who are getting the most attention.
This group of players could move as a team up the system, and while players will top out at levels here and there, it’s always nice for an organization to have a larger group of players to dream on because not all prospects will make it to the majors, let alone reach their ceiling.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates swept the Cincinnati Reds with a 7-5 win on Sunday. The Pirates now travel to Chicago for three games, where they will take on the Cubs in their home opener at Wrigley Field. Jameson Taillon will make his third start of the season. He allowed one run over seven innings in his last start against the St Louis Cardinals. The Cubs will counter with Jon Lester, who has given up two runs over six innings in each of his two starts this season.
The minor league schedule includes the season debuts of Braeden Ogle and Cody Bolton. Both need to be added to the active roster prior to the game, so they are just the probable starters for now. Pedro Vasquez will start for Altoona in place of Gage Hinsz, who was placed on the disabled list today. Vasquez debuted in relief last week. Indianapolis has off today.
The full 2019 Pirates Prospects Prospect Guide is now available, up to date as of April 3rd, with every player in the minor league system. Includes full reports on the top 50 prospects, reports on over 150 other players, as well as looks back at the recent drafts and international signing classes.
MLB: Pittsburgh (5-3) @ Cubs (2-7) 2:20 PM
Probable starter: Jameson Taillon (3.46 ERA, 9:2 SO/BB, 13.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (1-3) @ Toledo (3-1) 6:35 PM 4/9 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (NR)
AA: Altoona (4-0) @ Erie (2-1) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (0.00 ERA, 1:0 SO/BB, 1.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (3-1) @ Charlotte (2-2) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Bolton (NR)
Low-A: Greensboro (3-1) vs Hickory (3-1) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Braeden Ogle (NR)
From the big league game, Jason Martin collects his first hit
Another prospect from that same game, finished off the day with a double
4/7: Gage Hinsz placed on injured list.
4/6: Eduardo Vera promoted to Indianapolis. Beau Sulser promoted to Altoona
4/5: Jared Oliva placed on injured list. Ryan Peurifoy added to Altoona roster
4/5: Kyle Crick placed on disabled list. Jason Martin recalled from Indianapolis.
4/4: Corey Dickerson placed on injured list. Jordan Lyles activated from IL
4/4: Jake Barrett claimed off waivers by New York Yankees
4/4: Rookie Davis and Stephen Alemais assigned to Extended Spring Training
3/30: Pirates trade Aaron Slegers to Tampa Bay Rays
3/29: Pirates sign Jorge Ramos and Geovanny Planchart
3/29: Pirates sign Eric Wood
3/28: Pirates acquire Jake Elmore from Chicago White Sox
3/28: Pirates set Opening Day roster
3/27: Pirates release eight minor league players
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
The list of former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date includes shortstop John Peters, who played in the first game in franchise history back on May 2, 1882. He played 77 of the team’s 79 games at shortstop that season and finished seventh in the American Association in batting average.
Also born on this date, pitcher Tom Butters, who had a promising career derailed by a back injury. He pitched for the Pirates from 1962 until 1965.
Reddy Gray, left fielder for the Pirates on May 28, 1903, which ended up being the only game of his big league career. He had a single, walk, RBI and run scored in that game.
Pete Daniels, pitcher during the 1890 season, who won the season opener for a team that ended up going 23-113 that year.
Kirby Higbe, 1947-49 pitcher who won 22 games for the Dodgers in 1941 and made the All-Star game in 1946. Went 19-26 in 39 starts and 70 relief appearances for Pirates.
Brian Burres, 2010-11 pitcher. He had a 4.82 ERA in 93.1 innings with the Pirates. Burres played six seasons in the majors.