Yesterday, we took a look at the progress from the top ten prospects for the 2018 GCL Pirates. If we did that list over, it would still have the same ten players, just a slightly different order. Today we go back to the 2017 GCL Pirates, which has more time for things to change. I’ll start with the original list, then look at how those players have progressed since then.

  1. Shane Baz
  2. Lolo Sanchez
  3. Calvin Mitchell
  4. Mason Martin
  5. Cody Bolton
  6. Rodolfo Castro
  7. Steven Jennings
  8. Jeremias Portorreal
  9. Austin Shields
  10. Samuel Reyes

Baz was the obvious #1 choice back then as the first round pick, with four pitches, who hit 99 MPH in high school. Sanchez was the top international prospect signed during the 2015-16 international signing period. Mitchell, Martin, Bolton and Jennings were all 2017 draft picks, who received high bonuses. Bolton was an over-slot deal in the sixth round and Martin actually received more for signing in the 17th round. Portorreal and Castro were top international prospects from the 2016 DSL Pirates, while Samuel Reyes signed in 2017 and made the mid-season jump to the U.S. Shields was an over-slot signing in 2016, with a mid-90s fastball and a huge frame.

Since this list was put together, Cody Bolton has made the huge leap to Double-A. That initial leap began in spring of 2018 when we were waiting for Shane Baz to get to Low-A (as planned in early spring), but Bolton showed up there first because he made so much progress. When we made this 2017 list, he looked good in his brief time in the GCL. That actually got him pushed over Steven Jennings, who signed a much bigger deal in the second round (more on him below).

Baz was traded away last year and didn’t make it to full-season ball until last month. His pure stuff has looked great and he’s throwing more strikes. If he was still in the system, fans would be cautiously excited right now. It took him a year longer than expected and he just missed three weeks of action, but he’s showing why he was a first round pick.

Sanchez got an aggressive push to Low-A last year and he started off slowly before finishing with a solid second half. He put up big numbers during the first half this season and recently got promoted to Bradenton. He has some pop in his bat and plus speed, with the latter helping him in the outfield, where he doesn’t always take the best routes. That makes an “interesting” pair right now on the side of Travis Swaggerty in center field, because Swaggerty is basically the same way with the speed making up for bad reads off the bat. Sanchez was a potential breakout prospect in 2018, but that may have been aggressive thinking due to his age (He turned 20 earlier this season).

Mitchell is going through a rough patch right now in High-A, but he’s one of the youngest players in a pitcher-friendly league, so at least his OPS is perfectly fine. The problem is the walks and strikeouts. The numbers last year were acceptable. He was drawing a walk once every 12 plate appearances and striking out 22% of the time. This year, we are seeing a walk every 19 plate appearances and his strikeout rate is up to 30.9%. You give him slack due to his age, but those numbers need to start improving because it’s only going to get worse the higher you go in the system against better pitchers.

Martin showed tons of power in 2017, which helped push him up the list. He had a lot of trouble last year, especially with strikeouts, which got him knocked down mid-season from West Virginia to Bristol. The strikeout rate is lower this year, but still high at 31.2% of the time. This difference this year is that when he makes contact, he’s crushing the ball more often. Going into last night’s action, he led the South Atlantic League with 20 homers and was third with a .563 slugging percentage.

Castro was promoted to Bradenton along with Sanchez. He also received an aggressive push last year to West Virginia and the results were mediocre. He showed some power, some defense, but the overall stats weren’t great and his BB/SO rate needed work. This year we saw more power, which includes a recent two-HR game for Bradenton. Castro has a solid all-around game, with nice defense at second base and the ability to fill in at shortstop. He has power and a little bit of speed. He’s not going to be a high OBP guy, but everything else he offers could make up for that.

Jennings was a second round pick then with high upside potential, which we really haven’t seen yet. I did see a recent start of his and was impressed with his ability to hit spots with his fastball. He also had a nice looking curve and threw 2-3 really nice changeups. He has two main issues that keeps his stock low right now. He hasn’t added any velocity and can often sit in the 80s later in games. He also has trouble letting innings get away from him quickly. He’s usually done in each game by one inning and the rest of his start goes fine.

The next two players on the list are no longer in the system. Both were sort of a surprise release last year due to their age and upside, but neither had a good season. Shields got on the list because mid-season 2017 he was throwing his best by far, before a very minor injury shut him down for a week. When he came back, everything was gone. He couldn’t throw strikes again and then the results were really bad last year. Without that mid-season improvement in 2017, he wouldn’t have made the top ten list back then. Portorreal had a nice season at the plate in 2017, which followed a strong 2016 season in the DSL. His spring last year was awful from what I was told, which led to limited time at Bristol in 2018 and no job in 2019.

Reyes was a hard-thrower, with a six-pitch mix, who skipped to the U.S. during his rookie season. The Pirates had him concentrate on three pitches last year and that got him to West Virginia mid-season. He’s already at Bradenton this year, with strong results. His curve is one of the better ones in the system and he sits 94-96 MPH in relief, with a solid changeup.

If we updated the list now, my choices would be: 1. Bolton, 2. Baz, 3. Sanchez, 4. Mitchell, 5. Castro, 6. Martin, 7. Jennings, 8. Reyes, 9. Roger Santana, 10. Victor Ngoepe

The top seven are all of the same players, but a slightly different order, with Bolton jumping to the top and Baz right behind him. Reyes moves up to #8 because the other two aren’t in the system anymore. Roger Santana made a nice leap in Spring Training last year, but he has been sidetracked this year due to an injury. Victor Ngoepe gets the final spot because no one else eligible for the list back then is still in the system. It’s nice that the top seven remaining players all have potential because 18 of the 27 eligible prospects from that team (based on playing time) are no longer in the system.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 3-2 over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night. Jordan Lyles returns from the injured list to pitch tonight. He went three innings in his last start on June 8th against the Brewers, before leaving due to left hamstring tightness. His previous start was also against Milwaukee. In the two outings combined, he allowed seven runs over nine innings. Lyles made a rehab start with Indianapolis and allowed one run on two hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. The Brewers will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who has a 4.01 ERA in 94.1 innings, with 114 strikeouts and a 1.17 WHIP. He faced the Pirates twice in a row earlier this month and gave up a total of nine runs over ten innings.

The minor league schedule includes Mitch Keller making his 13th start for Indianapolis. He leads the International League with a 2.89 ERA and trails the strikeout leader by eight, despite making three of his starts in the majors. Altoona has a doubleheader, with Brandon Waddell make his third start. Waddell has thrown four innings in each start, giving up a total of three runs. Beau Sulser was originally listed as the game two starter, but he pitched two innings last night. Bradenton has a doubleheader today after a rain out last night. Nicholas Economos gets the start in game one. He tossed six shutout innings in his last outing. Game two is likely to be a bullpen effort, with Saturday’s starter (Brad Case) being pushed back to Sunday.

Greensboro will send out Alex Manasa, who is coming off of a start in which he threw seven shutout innings, but failed to pick up a strikeout. Bristol’s Adrian Florencio gets his second pro start. The 6’6″, 20-year-old right-hander signed as an international free agent and skipped over the lowest two levels. He allowed five runs in five innings during his debut. Morgantown sends out fifth round pick Grant Ford for his first pro start. In his only appearance, he threw 1.2 innings without a hit, but five walks led to three runs.

MLB: Pittsburgh (39-41) @ Brewers (43-39) 8:15 PM
Probable starter: Jordan Lyles (3.64 ERA, 66:24 SO/BB, 64.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (41-37) @ Gwinnett (44-34) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (2.89 ERA, 80:25 SO/BB, 65.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (40-36) vs Binghamton (39-36) 4:30 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (3.38 ERA, 9:2 SO/BB, 8.0 IP) and TBD

High-A: Bradenton (40-36) @ Ft Myers (42-34) 4:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Nicholas Economos (2.75 ERA, 33:16 SO/BB, 39.1 IP) and TBD

Low-A: Greensboro (49-29) @ Lakewood (31-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (3.01 ERA, 64:15 SO/BB, 77.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (7-7) vs Williamsport (3-11) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Grant Ford (16.20 ERA, 0:5 SO/BB, 1.2 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (3-7) vs Princeton (5-5) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Florencio (9.00 ERA, 1:1 SO/BB, 5.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (1-3) vs Orioles (4-0) 10:00 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (10-14) vs Red Sox2 (11-11) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (20-4) vs Giants (12-11) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona, Cody Bolton records his first Double-A strikeout.

Here’s Robbie Glendinning’s third home run (11th on the season, counting Bradenton)

Jerrick Suiter’s third homer

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

6/28: Pirates release Nick Franklin.

6/28: Daniel Amaral placed on injured list. Ike Schlabach activated from injured list.

6/28: Pirates sign Orsen Josephina.

6/28: Oliver Mateo placed on injured list.

6/27: Jake Elmore activated from Indianapolis injured list.

6/27: Pirates sign Gift Ngoepe.

6/27: Zack Kone and Jonah Davis added to Greensboro roster.

6/27: Dario Agrazal optioned to Indianapolis. Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas

6/27: Aaron Shortridge placed on Bradenton injured list.

6/25: Pirates send Pat Dorrian to Baltimore Orioles to complete Yefry Ramirez trade.

6/25: Pirates recall Dario Agrazal. Option Jason Martin to Indianapolis.

6/25: Cody Bolton promoted to Altoona. Blake Cederlind placed on the temporary inactive list.

6/25: Daniel Amaral activated from Bradenton injured list.

6/24: Oneil Cruz assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

6/24: Yandy Vega and Hai-Cheng Gong assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/23: Jordan Lyles assigned to Indianapolis on rehab. Trayvon Robinson activated from Indianapolis injured list.

6/22: Gregory Polanco placed on injured list. Jason Martin recalled from Indianapolis.

6/22: Braeden Ogle promoted to Bradenton. Cody Smith promoted to Greensboro.

6/22: Jesus Liranzo assigned to Altoona.

6/21: Tate Scioneaux and Vicente Campos released.

6/20: Hunter Owen promoted to Indianapolis.

6/20: Lolo Sanchez and Rodolfo Castro promoted to Bradenton. Scooter Hightower assigned to Bradenton.

6/20: Chris Sharpe promoted to Altoona. Kyle Mottice promoted to Greensboro.

6/19: Pirates sign Jase Bowen and Ryan Harbin

6/19: Trevor Williams activated from injured list. Mitch Keller optioned to Indianapolis.

6/19: Hai-Cheng Gong and Yandy Vega assigned to Bristol. Emilson Rosado, Norkis Marcos, Nick Garland and Yoyner Fajardo assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/19: Daniel Amaral and Ryan Valdes placed on Bradenton injured list.

6/19: Jake Elmore placed on Indianapolis injured list.

6/18: Blake Weiman promoted to Indianapolis. Brandon Waddell sent to Altoona.

6/18: JT Brubaker and Brandon Maurer assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

6/18: Chris Stratton activated from injured list. Yefry Ramirez optioned to Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one trade of note involving the single-game strikeout king. The players born on this date include pitcher Tony McKnight (2001), second baseman Burgess Whitehead (1946), second baseman Heinie Reitz and pitcher Patsy Flaherty, who played for the Pirates in 1900, and then again during the 1904-05 season. You can read a bio of Reitz and his time with the Pirates here. Whitehead has a very interesting career stat. He played nine season in the majors, seeing time with three different teams (also Giants and Cardinals). Whitehead hit 17 homers in his career and all of them were hit at the Polo Grounds.

Also born on this date, third baseman and current broadcaster John Wehner. He played for the Pirates from 1991 until 1996 and then again during the 1999-2001 seasons. He has been a broadcaster with the Pirates since 2005. Wehner set a record with 99 consecutive errorless games at third base. In 1997, he won a World Series ring with the Florida Marlins. While in Pittsburgh, he hit .250 over 364 games.

The one trade of note happened on this date in 1961 and the Pirates gave up young pitcher Tom Cheney in exchange for veteran Tom Sturdivant. The two players put up similar stats while with their new teams, but Cheney had a very memorable game. On September 12,1962, he threw 16 innings and struck out 21 batters, which is a Major League record. It was a complete game win and one of the best pitching performances of all-time. You can see the boxscore of that game here.

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