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
Nicholas Economos, RHP, Bradenton – In his first start during this past week, Economos went seven innings, giving up one run one two hits and three walks, while striking out ten batters. The only run came on a home run by Didi Gregorius, who was there on rehab. It was just his second start since being promoted to High-A ball. Economos pitched again on Saturday and matched those results, giving up one run over seven innings. He allowed six hits, with one walk and five strikeouts. On the season between Greensboro and Bradenton, he has a 2.26 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, with 68 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. With those numbers, you’re probably thinking he’s a power pitcher, but he’s not. The 6’6″, 23-year-old right-hander works his fastball 88-90 MPH, getting up to 91. He gets by with solid control and deception in his delivery, turning his back to batters and hiding the ball well. He also relies heavily on off-speed pitches, throwing a solid curveball and a changeup that is hard to pick up.
Will Craig, 1B/RF, Indianapolis – The most interesting part of Will Craig’s week is what happened on the last day. In Saturday night’s game, he started in right field, playing outfield for the first time as a pro. He only ended up playing five innings out there and making three plays, moving to first base due to a double switch. It’s a move designed to open another spot for him. He isn’t going to play much first base with Josh Bell around, and probably won’t start often in the outfield, but the Pirates have some DH games coming up in Houston and Craig would be a good power bat off the bench. He actually had a great week at the plate (best among all hitters here), hitting .407/.478/.778 in 31 plate appearances, but the big story is adding versatility to get that bat to Pittsburgh.
Robbie Glendinning, SS, Bradenton – Glendinning had a .950 OPS through play on Saturday night. Since he spent some time with Altoona, he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for league leaders, but he isn’t far from joining that group. He was just two plate appearances short going into Sunday. The current league leader had a .907 OPS, so you could say that Glendinning has been the best hitter in the FSL. He went 8-for-21 last week, hitting two doubles and two homers, while drawing three walks. He’s an athletic player, who can be used at any of the four infield spots and could probably handle the corner outfield spots if needed. Bradenton has been using him strictly at shortstop since Oneil Cruz went down with a foot fracture in late April. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Glendinning end up at Altoona after the All-Star break in two weeks, if not sooner.
Justin Harrer, OF, Greensboro – Harrer was down in Extended Spring Training (EST) this year, where he was considered the best hitter of the group. Part of that comes from him being a 22-year-old drafted out of a major college playing against mostly younger players, but he was far from being the only college player in EST. Harrer joined Greensboro recently and after starting off 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his first two games, he has been solid since. He put up an .890 OPS last week, which included his first home run of the season. He’s batted .306 in his last ten games and gone 4-for-4 in stolen bases. Harrer showed some power last year in his debut in the GCL, which is a low level for a major college player. He also did a decent job of getting on base, but all of that got lost due to his age/level and a .183 batting average. His .725 OPS was actually well above league average.
Logan Hill, OF/1B, Altoona – Hill hit .368/.500/.632 in 24 plate appearances last week. He had three doubles, his first triple, three walks and he got hit twice. This is his third season at Altoona and he’s currently putting up his best stats at the level. In 51 games, he’s hitting .290/.362/.454, with 16 doubles and four homers. He’s mostly been playing corner outfield, but he’s also getting spot starts at first base. The big issue here is that he just turned 26 years old, so between his age and the amount of experience he has at the level, you sort of expect him to be putting up these types of numbers as a corner outfielder. The other issue is that all of his value is in the bat. At best right now, he’s at least earning a shot to show what he can do in Triple-A. His strikeouts are down a lot from last year and he’s showing more power, but not as good as we saw in Bradenton in 2017 to originally get him to Altoona.
Fabricio Macias, OF, Greensboro – Macias hit .304/.370/.522 last week in 27 plate appearances. After batting .083/.167/.167 through his first 16 games, he has been one of the better hitters in the system. In his next 28 games, Macias has hit .355/.402/.598 in 117 plate appearances, with eight doubles and six homers. The 21-year-old from Mexico was considered one of the top prospects in the country when he signed with the Pirates last year. He was slow to adapt to life away from his home country, but he’s now been on quite a tear over the last five weeks. I would expect Macias to stay at Greensboro this season, partially due to the fact that he’s behind Lolo Sanchez right now in the promotion line, and that line hasn’t moved yet.
Jason Martin, CF, Indianapolis – After spending 25 days in the majors in April, Martin returned to Indianapolis and got off to a slow start. He has picked up his stats recently, thanks to a .318/.385/.682 slash line in 26 plate appearances last week. That got him up to a .787 OPS through 27 games at Triple-A. Indianapolis had been using him strictly in center field since he returned, but he recently made a start in left field. Being used to all three outfield spots wouldn’t hurt him at this point. The 23-year-old Martin will probably have a tough time getting back to Pittsburgh before September, or possibly right after the trade deadline, if that clears up some roster space. The Pirates already have four outfielders, including Bryan Reynolds and his .984 OPS, plus Corey Dickerson has just ten days at most left on his rehab assignment.
Mason Martin, 1B, Greensboro – Martin was recently named as our Player of the Month for May. He’s the only person who has been named our Player of the Week twice this year, earning it in late April, then again in late May. While he wasn’t the best hitter this past week, he hit .333/.407/.762 in 27 plate appearances, with three homers and four walks. On the season, Martin is batting .264/.357/.591 in 52 games, with 55 RBIs. The big concern here is the 75 strikeouts, which leads all Pirates. He’s obviously getting along well despite the strikeouts, and it would be an acceptable total if it translated to the majors, but players tend to increase strikeouts and show a decrease in walks, unless they make an adjustment. Basically, you don’t want to see a high strikeout total in the low minors. The part that helps here in the case of Martin, is that he just turned 20 years old on Sunday, so he is still very young for the level.
Hunter Owen, 3B, Altoona – Owen hit .348/.375/.652 in 24 plate appearances last week. Through 52 games, he has a .306/.374/.579 slash line. He ranks seventh in the Eastern League in average, ninth in OBP, third in slugging and second with 12 home runs. As mentioned before, he has shown improvements defensively at third base. Part of that can be seen in his .977 fielding percentage because he’s making better throws, but what that doesn’t tell you is that he’s getting to more plays this year than in the past and making them look easier. The flaws are still there, with a 52:13 SO/BB ratio, the lack of speed, and he turns 26 in September, making him old for the level. He’s putting up strong stats though, and it’s no longer a small sample size. Add in the improved defense and his prospect stock is trending up now.
Pablo Reyes, IF/OF, Indianapolis – Reyes had a tough time in the majors to start the season. He was being used as a bench bat for the first time in his career, doing it with very little big league experience. When he went down to Indianapolis a month ago, he got off to a slow start there as well. Reyes has really taken off since May 24th, batting .359 in his last ten games, with two homers and five doubles. Since being sent down, he has mostly been at shortstop, getting 14 starts there, five at second base, with one each in left field and center field. With the Pirates before being sent down, he mostly played right field. Ten games is still a small sample size compared to the first eight weeks of his season, but he’s trending towards getting back to the majors quicker than we thought he would just a week ago.
Chris Sharpe, OF, Bradenton – Sharpe has been on fire since getting snubbed for the Florida State League All-Star game. He saw two of his fellow outfielders on Bradenton get picked for the team, yet he has the best stats of the four-man outfield rotation for the Marauders. Sharpe was given an over-slot bonus in 2017 due to his tools, including some raw power that he occasionally flashed in games in college. He went 11-for-22 this past week, with a home run, double and three walks. He also stole two bases, giving him a team-leading 12 steals on the season. Sharpe’s .792 OPS ranks ninth in the league and is 70 points higher than the OPS he put up at West Virginia last year. He has already tied last year’s extra-base hit totals, surpassed his stolen base total and has shown a huge decrease in his strikeouts, going from a 29.4% strikeout rate last year, down to 20.2% this season.
Dario Agrazal, RHP, Indianapolis – Agrazal was just named as our Pitcher of the Month, so it should be no surprise to see him here again. After throwing six shutout innings on four hits and two walks, with five strikeouts, Agrazal now has a 2.17 ERA since being promoted to Indianapolis. That was after allowing one run over his final 13 innings at Altoona, so he has been on quite a run over the last six weeks. What makes it even more remarkable is that the International League is using juiced baseballs this year, so offense is up a lot around the league. It will be interesting to see how long the Pirates wait before calling on Agrazal to help out. He doesn’t have the velocity he had at his peak before three significant injuries cost him a lot of the 2017-18 seasons. He still has decent velocity though and commands all three of his pitches, making him a very tough pitcher to hit when he’s on his game.
Cody Bolton, RHP, Bradenton – Bolton had a dominating performance last week, throwing six shutout innings on one hit and two walks, with a career best ten strikeouts. The only hit was a soft, low liner that shortstop Robbie Glendinning just missed on a dive to his right. Bolton is having an outstanding season, that looks just as good in person as it does on paper. He has a 1.81 ERA in 54.2 innings, with 62 strikeouts, a .184 BAA and an 0.90 WHIP. Bolton is sitting 93-97 MPH in starts, topping out at 98 MPH this season. He mixes two versions of a slider/cutter, throwing the hard cutter more often, while taking about 5-6 MPH off of it for the effective slider. He also mixes in a mid-80s changeup that get solid results. The only problem seems to be that Bolton is doing so well with just his fastball and cutter, that he can get away from using the other two pitches. It’s great for results, but not as much for development.
Sean Brady, LHP, Altoona – The Pirates signed Brady as a minor league free agent just five days after he was released by the Cleveland Indians. He remained in the same league with his new team, going from Akron to Altoona. Brady did not do well in his first two starts with the Curve. He gave up ten runs on 16 hits in 11 innings. His third start had just one run allowed over 6.1 innings, though he surrendered ten hits and struck out just two batters. Brady’s two starts last week have been his best two outings. He gave up two runs each time out, throwing a total of 13.1 innings. He allowed just eight hits total, after back-to-back ten hit games. He turns 25 years old next week, which is top end for what you want to see at Double-A, though he does have three Triple-A starts to his credit already. Brady is going to need a run of games last these last three for him to get a legitimate shot with the Pirates. That is his last year before six-year minor league free agency.
Jake Brentz, LHP, Indianapolis – Brentz has been extremely impressive this season and he’s coming off of a week in which he allowed one run over six innings, while striking out nine batters. The Pirates acquired Brentz as part of the return in the Arquimedes Caminero trade back in late 2016. Incidentally, the second part of that deal (Pedro Vasquez) is also listed here this week). When they got him, he threw high-90s, touching 100 MPH, and had very little control. Now he has more of a low-90s fastball, that touches 94 MPH, while using a slider as his primary pitch. He’s also shown huge strides with his control, walking just four batters in 26 innings this season. Left-handed batters are hitting just .151 against him this season. So while his fastball is down about 6-7 MPH on average, he is currently a much better pitcher.
Brad Case, RHP, Greensboro – Case just missed out on being our Pitcher of the Month in a close three-way battle that also included Domingo Robles in addition to Agrazal. Case was right there due to his 0.77 WHIP over 32.1 innings, with an incredible 28:0 SO/BB ratio. In his lone start last week, Case gave up two runs over 5.1 innings, on three hits. Two of those hits were first inning home runs and they came in Hickory, which is a tough park for pitchers. On the season, Case has a 2.21 ERA in 61 innings, with a .197 BAA, an 0.77 WHIP (same for both April and May) and a ridiculous two walks compared to 46 strikeouts. Perhaps the best part for his scouting report is that he saw huge improvements in his cutter recently, which has become an effective fourth pitch to go along with his 89-92 MPH fastball, low-80s slider he uses as an out pitch, and a solid changeup.
Luis Escobar, RHP, Indianapolis – We had Escobar rated higher in our winter release of the 2019 Prospect Guide than we did in the spring update. That was because he was a starting pitcher with Double-A experience going into Spring Training, compared to a reliever in High-A when the rosters were announced. His stock could rebound significantly by the time we do our mid-season update. That’s because the relief version of Escobar dominated, causing the Pirates to push him to Indianapolis, where he has now been stretched out to start. Escobar made two starts this past week, giving up one run on one hit in four innings, followed by one run on three hits in five innings. He struck out six batters in each game. He has the three-pitch mix to be a starter, but might rely too much on batters chasing for him to stick in the starting role in the majors. Either way, he would at least be a long man out of the pen, with a chance to be a late innings option. He’s also having success in Triple-A, so that alone will make his stock rise.
Tyler Lyons, LHP, Indianapolis – Lyons was signed as a minor league free agent this off-season and was given a chance to win a bullpen spot. He had prior success in the majors over a three-year stretch with the St Louis Cardinals, but he was coming off of a very poor 2018 season that included big league struggles and some injuries. Lyons didn’t win a job in the spring, but he did make a brief stop in Pittsburgh earlier this year. It was an odd stint because they believed her was big league ready, but quickly decided to designate him for assignment after just five days. Lyons hasn’t given up a run since returning to Indianapolis. In seven appearances, he has allowed just two hits and two walks, with ten strikeouts in eight innings.
Alex Manasa, RHP, Greensboro – Manasa’s performance this past week was a flashback to his previous version that we saw last year. That’s not really a compliment or a bad thing, but he wasn’t the strikeout per inning pitcher that we have seen the season. Instead, Manasa was efficient with his pitches by inducing a lot of soft contact, going seven shutout innings on six hits, with no walks and one strikeout. Manasa is showing a slight uptick in velocity this season, while flashing a slider that has become a very effective out pitch due to his command and late movement on the pitch. That has led to a 3.22 ERA in 58.2 innings, with 53 strikeouts, a 1.16 WHIP and a 1.28 GO/AO ratio. Even with this last game dragging down his strikeout rate, he is still averaging 2.9 strikeouts per nine innings more than last year.
Pedro Vasquez, RHP, Indianapolis – Vasquez has to be one of the oddest stories to make it into The 21. He had an outstanding outing on Thursday for Indianapolis, throwing six shutout innings, with one hit, one walk and a season high seven strikeouts. On Friday, he was demoted to Altoona. You usually don’t see a player put together an outing like that and then end up a level lower for his next start. Vasquez was just a short-term replacement, caused by three Indianapolis starters being called to the majors over a short time. When Mitch Keller returned to Triple-A, Vasquez lost his spot. It should be pointed out that in his previous outing with Indianapolis, which happened last Saturday, Vasquez allowed eight runs over 3.1 innings. The decision to send him back probably happened before he even took the mound on Thursday and it just looks bad now due to his dominance.
Blake Weiman, LHP, Altoona – Weiman has quietly put together a nice season, which started late due to a Spring Training injury. Last week he had two very similar outings. He went two innings each time, with no hits and three strikeouts. His only blemish was a walk in the second outing. Overall on the season, he has a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings, with an .073 WHIP, a .145 BAA and 21 strikeouts. He’s given up four earned runs and they all came in the same outing. Weiman throws 93-94 MPH and works a slider well against left-handed batters and his changeup is effective against righties. He has some of the best control in the entire system. He’s likely to end up at Indianapolis some time this season, but the late start to the year has definitely held him back.