Every Monday during the minor league season, we take a look at the top performers in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, giving scouting reports on the top ten pitchers and top ten hitters from the previous week. The column was originally called Top Performers, then The Twenty. The number 21 obviously has a lot of significance for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans, so we expanded this article to include one extra player.
Each Monday, we will highlight one Player of the Week, who will be followed by ten pitchers and ten batters who excelled during the previous week. The stats listed below will cover from Sunday-Saturday each week. This isn’t a top prospect list, so any player in the system can make the list if he has a strong week. Our scouting reports are based on first-hand reports and views via MiLB.tv, giving us a look at the entire farm system throughout the season.
Player of the Week
Logan Hill, OF/1B, Altoona – Hill had quite an impressive hit total last week, putting up a .600 average thanks to 15 hits. It wasn’t a typical showing for him. He’s a power hitter, with a higher than normal strikeout rate. Hill had 12 singles last week (two doubles and a homer), with three walks and zero strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. He was off to a slow start this season, so this stretch really boosted his OBP. Hill now has a .304/.376/.464 slash line in 39 games. He’s getting some time in at first base to add to his versatility. Hill turns 26 later this week and he’s in his third season at Altoona, so part of his success can be chalked up to being both old and experienced for the level. He’s going to need to keep getting on base to finally make the jump to Triple-A. He’s been a very one-dimensional player, with power being his carrying tool, but not enough of it to get him to Indianapolis yet.
Jason Delay, C, Altoona – Delay only had 16 trips to the plate this past week, which isn’t enough to get players listed here 99% of the time. The reason I’m making an exception is because he also had 16 plate appearances the previous week and during that two-week stretch he was the second best hitter in the system, posting a combined .346/.370/.808 slash line. Since he is splitting time fairly evenly with Arden Pabst, neither is getting enough plate appearances per week to qualify for our articles. Delay is batting .355/.420/.661 in 18 games this year. Not a huge sample size, but it’s still very encouraging. He did not do well in Bradenton last year (.627 OPS), but there was still a lot of value to his game. Delay gets plenty of praise for working well with young pitchers, and his overall defense is outstanding. The Pirates have a group of catchers with strong defense and not enough offense to make them future MLB starters. It’s possible that Delay has become a better hitter, but it’s best to wait to see how his hitting stands up over the rest of this season before getting too excited, because he has a much longer track record of mediocre hitting.
Pat Dorrian, 3B, Greensboro – Dorrian was signed as a non-drafted free agent last week and hit well against younger competition in the Gulf Coast League, then got a late push to Bristol and crushed the ball over a short sample size. He won a spot with Greensboro this season and has been a steady hitter throughout most of the year, with one dry spell in the middle. He’s mainly been at third base, but has started at least once at each of the other three infield spots. Dorrian is batting .239/.305/.462 after collecting six hits and three walks last week. He picked up his fourth home run, giving him 16 extra-base hits. The biggest difference so far this year has been a lower walk rate and a higher strikeout rate. That was an area he excelled in last year, but needs to improve on this season.
Robbie Glendinning, SS, Bradenton – Glendinning just keeps hitting this season. He’s also getting a chance to play shortstop regularly. After picking up nine hits last week, including his sixth home run of the season, he has a .356/.398/.667 slash line in 23 games with Bradenton. He also hit .300 during an early season stint with Altoona. With Stephen Alemais out for the season due to shoulder surgery, and both Adrian Valerio and Brett Pope struggling at the plate in Altoona, it seems like a good time to get Glendinning back up there and see what he can do. He was one of the top hitters in Australia this past winter, and that success has carried over to pro ball early this season.
Kevin Kramer, 2B, Indianapolis – Kramer has been one of the better hitters in the system over the last three weeks, bringing his stats up to last year’s standards after a slow start. He hit .421/.450/.526 last week. He’s up to an .810 OPS on the season, with 11 doubles and two homers. The Pirates planned to use him in the outfield this year, but he has 25 starts at second base and two at third base, not even giving him a shot yet at shortstop, where he played 15 times last year. If Kramer keeps hitting, he will get a shot with the Pirates. His debut last September was awful, but it amounted to about ten days worth of action over four weeks, which is the ultimate small sample size when talking about someone getting their first shot in the majors.
Jose Osuna, IF/OF, Indianapolis – If he didn’t injure his neck during Spring Training, Osuna would surely have some Major League playing time this season already. He played first base and third base during a rehab assignment in Bradenton, but he has only been playing corner outfield so far in Indianapolis. His overall slash line is .314/.410/.510 in 14 games, and last week’s .833 OPS was actually a slump compared to his previous numbers. He was the 11th best hitter this week, only making the list because a batter was named the Player of the Week. The Pirates will probably give him a shot sometime this season, unless the unthinkable happens and they have all of their players healthy. He could still be a September option though.
Hunter Owen, 3B, Altoona – Owen is in the same class at Hill. He’s old for the level, turning 26 in this upcoming September, and he’s used his power as his carrying tool throughout his career. The difference here might be that Owen is starting to show some defensive value, with better play at third base. It’s not plus defense by any means, but he used to be a below average fielder, who looked better in the outfield. He put up a 1.047 OPS last week thanks to nine hits, including two doubles and two homers. On the season, he has a .308/.365/.580 slash line in 40 games. There’s still the issue of an 11:43 BB/SO ratio, but he’s always had that problem, which has kept him from being a better prospect. It will be worth watching to see if he can maintain the high stats without changing his approach.
Lolo Sanchez, OF, Greensboro – While he hasn’t been here every single week, hitting .317/.388/.521 through his first 39 games has led to Sanchez being a repeat guest in The 21 this season. He has been hitting since day one, ranking among the league leaders in batting (sixth), on base (tenth), slugging (seventh) and OPS (sixth). Sanchez also leads the league with five triples and ranks second with 14 stolen base. He’s played all three outfield spots, with no errors and seven outfield assists. He did all that while turning 20 years old three weeks after Opening Day. Sanchez will likely end up at Bradenton sooner than later, though the problem remains that the Marauders have four outfielders playing well, but none of them are ready to move up yet.
Deon Stafford, C, Bradenton – Stafford was injured during Spring Training and didn’t join Bradenton until April 28th. He went 0-for-12 with six strikeouts in his first three games, but has been on track offensively since then. Stafford had six hits and six walks last week, giving him a .208/.333/.250 slash line through his first 14 games. His defense has had some majors issues so far this season, after showing some improvements last year. Stafford gets praise for his work with pitchers and he moves well behind the plate, but he has already committed four errors, while runners are 13-for-13 in steals against him. As we have said before, his value is in the bat, and with a large group of strong defensive catchers ahead of him in the system, he’s really going to need to hit a lot to jump over that group.
Travis Swaggerty, CF, Bradenton – Swaggerty has been heating up lately after a slow start to his season. He hit .400/.500/.560 last week in 30 plate appearances, with his first two triples of the season. The big key here is drawing five walks and five strikeouts. Swaggerty has an aggressive approach, looking for first pitch fastballs he can drive, which doesn’t lead to many walks. Despite an acceptable strikeout rate, he has some swing-and-miss to his game, being susceptible to off-speed pitches in the zone. Swaggerty has his OPS up to .720 now, with seven stolen bases and solid defense in center field. The over-the-fence power isn’t showing up yet, as he’s more of a line drive hitter. He had two homers in 157 plate appearances.
Mitchell Tolman, 2B, Altoona – Tolman had a nice week, picking up eight hits, including his third home run of the season. He raised his average 32 points over the final four days of the week. He’s getting a chance to play second base full-time and through 40 games, he has a .267/.331/.400 slash line. Tolman really had a lost season last year due to his 50-game suspension and being demoted to Bradenton for the entire year. The Pirates are giving him a chance to earn his way back though, just as they did with Montana DuRapau, who was serving a 50-game suspension at the same time for a second failed drug of abuse test. DuRapau is now in the majors as putting up some strong numbers in relief, so Tolman doesn’t have to look far for a positive sign coming from a negative situation.
Brad Case, RHP, Greensboro – Case was our Player of the Week last week after he gave up two runs over seven innings in his first start, then finished his week with near perfection over seven innings in his next outing. He gave up just one bloop single in that game and it came off an awkward swing, as the batter was fooled on an off-speed pitch and was well out in front of it. If we did a Pitcher of the Week here, it would be Case for the second week in a row. On Saturday night, he threw seven shutout innings on six hits, with no walks and a career high eight strikeouts. He mostly throws a fastball and a slider, but he has recently seen improvements with his cutter, which sits 86-88 MPH and has a lot more movement than in the past. He used the cutter effectively as a strikeout pitch on Saturday night.
Blake Cederlind, RHP, Altoona – Cederlind is an example of why you don’t give up on big arms. He was signed as a fifth round pick, who would hit 97 MPH, but didn’t have a solid secondary pitch. He kicked his velocity up last year, topping out at 101 MPH, while reaching triple digits throughout the season. The problem was that he wasn’t throwing as many strikes, so the added velocity didn’t make him any better of a prospect. Things have changed this year. After four no-hit innings last week, he now has an 0.56 ERA and a .130 BAA this season, splitting his time between Bradenton and Altoona. The velocity has remained, hitting 100 MPH, while the control is much better. He also matches that fastball with a low-80s slider that is nearly unhittable for batters after they see the heat. It’s not a plus pitch, but it’s improving and already extremely effective. He also mixes in a changeup that hits 90 MPH and has late sink.
Rookie Davis, RHP, Indianapolis – Davis had his best start of the season on Saturday and thanks to schedule team days off and a rain out, it was on 11 days rest. He went seven innings, working around eight hits and a walk to limit the opposition to one run. It was similar to his previous game, which included nine hits, but only two runs allowed. That’s not a recipe for success over the course of a season. Davis has a 5.35 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in 37 innings. The more telling numbers are his 27 strikeouts and an 0.54 GO/AO ratio, which is as low as you’ll see for a ground out rate, and not a good strikeout rate. He will likely get a long look this season, with the hope that he can get on track.
Nicholas Economos, RHP, Greensboro – Economos has used deception, control and a lot of off-speed pitches to put up some impressive strikeout numbers. He’s not a hard-thrower, but that hasn’t mattered this season. The 23-year-old, who was a 21st round pick in 2015, has 50 strikeouts in 32.2 innings. In his lone start last week, he piled up a career high 11 strikeouts in five innings. He has a 2.48 ERA, a .200 BAA and a 1.13 WHIP this season. Those numbers earned him a promotion to Bradenton on Saturday night. It took him a while to get going in the system, especially for someone with some college pitching before he was drafted, but once he reached full-season ball, Economos made quick work of Low-A. His style should still work in High-A, but Altoona will be a real test.
Mitch Keller, RHP, Indianapolis – Keller had his second best outing of the season on Tuesday, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks in six innings, while striking out eight batters. That was just the third time that he has pitched six innings this season, with no longer starts. It was a nice rebound from his shortest outing of the season (three innings) in his previous start. Keller has a 3.83 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 40 innings this season. He has been working on a new pitch for his last three starts, bringing along a hard slider that has shown mixed results so far. It’s likely that we will see him in the majors some time within the next 2-3 weeks, but for now, he could use the work on the slider and his changeup, which has also had mixed results.
Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP, Indianapolis – Neverauskas made two appearances last week, throwing 3.2 shutout innings with six strikeouts, picking up a save in each game. He has a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings in the minors, with 21 strikeouts, a .111 BAA and an 0.59 WHIP. The 26-year-old right-hander has shown big league stuff in Triple-A, but it hasn’t translated over to the majors yet, with a 7.00 ERA in 52 big league games. The potential is obviously there, which is why he keeps getting chances, and likely will be in Pittsburgh at some point later this season. Eventually, things could click.
John O’Reilly, RHP, Greensboro – O’Reilly was signed as a non-drafted free agent last year and didn’t particularly have much success in college. Reports on his pitches also didn’t impress, so he seemed more like someone who was there to fill innings. His scouting report changed drastically over this off-season and he has become a bullpen arm to watch. O’Reilly is sitting 93-95 MPH with his two-seam fastball, which is better than his previous high-end as a starter. He’s also improved his cutter to the point it’s an out pitch, sitting in the high 80s. O’Reilly pitched his way out of Extended Spring Training earlier this month. In two appearances this past week, he threw 3.1 shutout innings. That gives him 5.1 shutout frames to start his season.
Domingo Robles, LHP, Bradenton – Robles had two starts last week, giving up two runs over six innings on Monday, followed by two runs over seven innings on Sunday. Except for five runs over five innings back on April 14th, all of his other starts were Quality Starts. He has a 2.57 ERA in 56 innings, with an 0.98 WHIP and a .206 BAA. The odd part about his season so far is that eight of his nine starts have been on the road. Robles isn’t an overpowering pitcher, so he’s probably going to have some trouble in Double-A, where finesse control lefties usually run into a wall. He hits 92 MPH with his fastball, mixing it with a low-80s slider, which is a difference from the loopy curveball he threw previously. He also has an above average changeup.
Colin Selby, RHP, Greensboro – Selby was needed for a doubleheader start last week, so he was added from Extended Spring Training. He allowed one run over four innings, on two hits, with no walks and four strikeouts. Our last report on him from Bristol last year had him hitting low-90s, mixing in a slider and a curve. That report needs to be updated this season because last year’s 16th round pick is showing some big improvements. On Wednesday he was sitting 94-96 MPH early in the game, down to 92-93 in his fourth inning. He was using his slider more often and it showed a nice sharp break. His changeup is also showing progress this year, while the curve has become his fourth pitch. All reports on Selby have said that he’s an intelligent player, with solid control of his pitches.
Cam Vieaux, LHP, Altoona – Vieaux had a 2.20 ERA in the month of April. His May didn’t get off to a good start, with seven runs allowed on 12 hits and six walks in his first two outings. He made it on the list this week after throwing seven shutout frames on Thursday, with six hits, one walk and five strikeouts. In an odd pattern, he has given up six hits in each of his last four games, with two being strong seven innings starts and two being poor outings. Vieaux showed a nice improvement in his strikeout rate last year, which helped his prospect status. After 8.2 SO/9IP in 2018, he’s down to 5.5 this season, which is below his career rate.