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
Noe Toribio, RHP, Greensboro – When he was promoted to Greensboro three weeks ago, I said that “Toribio is a real sleeper prospect, who might not be considered a sleeper anymore at this time next year”. I may have been off by about a year. After a solid start earlier in the week, Toribio put together a dazzling performance on Saturday night, throwing six no-hit innings, with the only blemish being a sixth inning walk. He retired the first 16 batters of the game. This performance shouldn’t have been totally unexpected because he previously had two starts in which he threw five shutout innings on one hit while with Morgantown. If you get a chance to watch him pitch, do it. He goes right after hitters with a fastball that currently sits 91-93 MPH and has hit 97 MPH in the past. He will get a lot of run on the pitch towards right-handed batters while throwing on a downhill plane. He uses the fastball to set up the slider, which is a true swing-and-miss pitch. His changeup is his third pitch, but it’s still a very effective pitch that gets swinging strikes. Toribio’s stock is on the rise because he’s throwing more strikes this year, with 12 walks in 46.1 innings, nearly cutting his walk rate in half from his first two seasons. Perhaps the best part of his scouting report after hearing all of that is that he’s still 19 years old.
Daniel Amaral, OF, Bradenton – Amaral gets lost in an outfield full of prospects, with Travis Swaggerty, Calvin Mitchell and Lolo Sanchez getting the attention. The 22-year-old Amaral was a 14th round pick last year. His dad Rich played ten seasons in the majors and his brother Beau is currently in his eighth year or pro ball. Daniel skipped over Low-A this season and has mostly been a backup for the Marauders, though he has also spent five weeks total on the injured list (two stints). In 24 plate appearances this past week, he put up a .400/.458/.650 slash line. He hit his first home run of the year and stole three bases. Amaral is a solid outfielder, who can play all three spots. He has above average speed, which has led to him going 40-for-48 in steals over 113 games as a pro. His .738 OPS is decent for the pitcher-friendly league and ranks ahead of the three prospects he shares the Bradenton outfield with right now.
Jonah Davis, OF, Greensboro – For the second week in a row, Davis received strong consideration for the Player of the Week. He has been on a tear recently after struggling badly through early July. He has homered in six of his last nine games, while putting up a 1.428 OPS in August. We are seeing the power we saw last year in Bristol. He’s still going to need to finish strong this season to really make a good impression towards next year because some big flaws still remain. Davis is striking out in 35% of his plate appearances, and even in this big week that just happened, he struck out ten times. That makes it tough to continue to all-or-nothing pace, especially once he starts facing better pitchers higher up in the system. His defense and speed have taken a step back from the reports we heard last year. At least with the speed, it shows in his 33% success rate in steals.
Samuel Inoa, 1B, Bristol – Inoa is a tough case to watch and an easy player to root for if you like players trying to overcome adversity. Signed as a catcher for $240,000 in July of 2015, his first season in the DSL didn’t go so well, with a poor showing at the plate and below average defense. He returned to the league the next year and completely turned around his game. He was one of the best hitters on the team and his defense took a huge leap forward behind the plate. People I talked to also called him a team leader on the field. It looked like we could be seeing a breakout prospect, especially after the Pirates promoted him late in the season to the GCL. Things went downhill from there though, and it actually started during his breakout year. He had three separate injuries in 2017, including getting hit by a fastball in the face, and taking a foul ball off his hand. In 2018, he was injured three different times again, with hamstring injuries and concussion-like symptoms pushing him to first base. He hit well in limited time, but that ended up being just 28 games. He isn’t catching anymore, and most of his time is at the DH spot. The bat is still there though, with a .319/.382/.435 slash line in his first 23 games this season. He took a seven-game hit streak into Sunday’s action.
Juan Jerez, SS/2B, DSL Pirates – Jerez made it here last week and in that summary I mentioned that his overall stat line wasn’t overly impressive, but the scouting reports were much better than what we saw on paper. The numbers are starting to catch up to those reports after a second strong week. He went 8-for-20 at the plate this week, collecting hits in all five games he played. Jerez collected his 12th double on Thursday, his sixth triple on Friday and his fifth home run on Saturday. He drove in a total of 12 runs during the week. He now has a .286/.339/.485 slash line in 51 games, giving him an .824 OPS, which is well above the .697 league average. The 17-year-old from the Dominican was signed to a $380,000 bonus on July 2nd last year due to the potential with his bat and his all-around athleticism. Jerez is a shortstop by trade, but he’s seeing a little more time at second base now.
Bligh Madris, OF, Altoona – Madris started his week off with his eighth home run of the season, then added three doubles, three walks and two multi-hit games to round out a solid week. Through 113 games this season, he has a .260/.331/.394 slash line. If you want to put those numbers in league perspective for the Eastern League, he 45 points ahead of league OPS, with the difference split fairly evenly between OBP and slugging. The Altoona Curve as a team has a .669 OPS. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates challenge him with a move to the International League next year. I’ve mentioned many times that the value here has to come from the bat. He’s an average runner at best and his defense at a corner spot is average as well. That combo require the bat to be very good to contribute in the majors, and the 23-year-old Madris isn’t at that point yet.
Alexander Mojica, 3B, DSL Pirates – Mojica missed the 20 plate appearance cutoff I usually use for this article, but he did so well in his 18 plate appearances than he deserved a spot. He had a nearly month-long drought without a home run snapped last week with his eighth round tripper of the season. He wasn’t struggling during that time though, as his average went up 30 points and he was drawing more walks. Mojica has a nine-game hitting streak going (.467 average), despite getting only one at-bat in two of those games. On the season, the stocky third baseman is hitting .376/.490/.624 in 49 games. He ranks third in the league in average, second in OBP, first in slugging, first in OPS and fourth in homers. He’s doing all of that while posting a 33:29 BB/SO ratio. Mojica just turned 17 years old ten days ago. He will most likely end up in the Fall Instructional League at Pirate City next month.
Jake Snider, OF, Bristol – Snider makes it here during the first week that he actually played enough to qualify for the article. He was drafted in the 20th round this year, but his Louisville team made it to the College World Series, so he was one of the last draft picks to sign. A minor injury in his first pro game kept him out of action for ten days, so he had in just five games before last week started. Snider went 4-for-12 at the plate, so he wasn’t exactly stinging the ball last week, but he drew six walks, including four on Friday night. Add in a hit-by-pitch and he was on base 11 times in four games. The 21-year-old Snider was a high OBP player in college, which was the big intriguing here, along with potential to add power. So far he’s continuing that trend of getting on base during his very limited time in pro ball. With all of the outfielders at the lower levels for the Pirates, he’s going to be among a large group fighting for a spot in Greensboro next year.
Jared Triolo, 3B/SS, Morgantown – The Pirates selected Triolo with the 72nd overall pick in this year’s draft and gave him an $870,700 bonus, which was his slot amount. He was called a solid defensive player at third base, who had patience at the plate and power potential in his bat. He was off to a slow start until he picked up things last week with hits in all six games and walks in each of his last five contests. His final game of the previous week was a three-hit effort, giving him a seven-game hitting streak going into play yesterday. Triolo is now one of the better hitters on the team with his .260/.343/.429 slash line through 40 games. He has piled up the doubles, ranking fourth in the league with 14, to go along with three triples and two homers. He has seen some action at shortstop, with 13 starts there, and 26 at third base.
Jesus Valdez, IF, Bristol – Acquired last year in the David Freese trade, Valdez skipped over the GCL this year and has been putting up big numbers lately for Bristol. He hit .464/.516/.536 in 31 plate appearances last week, and he took an 11-game hit streak into Sunday’s action. Even more impressive is that he lost a three-hit game due to a game being called (then canceled) due to rain just two outs before it became an official game. Valdez raised his average 68 points during this streak, and his OPS went from .691 to .823 during that time. He was a late signing on the international side, and at 21 years old (22 in December), he’s a little older than you want to see in the Appalachian League, but this is also just his second season of pro ball. The Pirates noted that they liked his versatility and athleticism when they acquired him. He’s mostly been playing shortstop this year, but he also has five starts each at second base and third base.
Cory Wood, IF, Morgantown – Like many of his teams, and really most of the New York-Penn League hitters, Wood was off to a slow start this season. He still only has a .653 OPS through 36 games, but he has picked things up in the last few days with a pair of three-hit games. The Pirates selected him in the 19th round of this year’s draft out of Coastal Carolina, one of three players they signed from the school this summer. He was a second baseman in college and the Pirates announced him at that spot, but he has also played nine games at shortstop. His defense fits better at second base. His main tool is the bat, but right now he has a .237 average, a .307 OBP and an 11:33 BB/SO ratio, so that’s not showing up yet.
Bear Bellomy, RHP, Morgantown – Bellomy got in two starts last week, going five shutout innings on two hits and a walk in his first game, followed by one run over four innings in his second contest. He began the season in relief at Bristol after being selected in the 28th round out of Wright State. He was a bullpen arm for three seasons, before switching to the rotation at a senior this year. Bellomy is 6’4″, 205 pounds, and throws a low-90s fastball, along with a curve and a changeup. He’s a strike-thrower, who is intense on the mound and goes right after hitters. His future is probably as a reliever, as his stuff plays up in that role, but the 22-year-old (turns 23 in November) should at least see multiple innings each time out of the bullpen.
Osvaldo Bido, RHP, Bradenton – After pitching well in Greensboro, Bido was promoted to Bradenton two weeks ago and he made his second start last week. He had a chance to put up some impressive weekly numbers, but he Saturday start got pushed back to Sunday due to rain. In his outing on Monday, he went 7.1 innings with one unearned run on four hits and two walks, with two strikeouts. He could have pitched a little longer, but rain came during his eighth inning and the game was suspended. I watched the previous outing (Bradenton debut) and Bido really mixed his four pitches well, throwing a mid-90s fastball, along with a slider, cutter and a changeup. With his promotion coming so late in the season, he’s probably going to start next year in the Bradenton rotation, but we could see a mid-season promotion if he continues to pitch well. Despite being 23 years old, he still has plenty of room to fill out and already holds solid velocity late in games, so we could see even better things ahead for him.
Cody Bolton, RHP, Altoona – Bolton had a strong outing on paper this week, but a review of the game replay told another story. He threw five shutout innings on four hits and two walks, with three strikeouts. The game included two base running errors by Richmond that resulted in outs. There were also three very loud outs, including a line drive double play hit right at first baseman Logan Hill. Bolton wasn’t hitting his spots often and he got very few swinging strikes, mostly because when he tried to get people to chase, he was too far off the plate. I also didn’t see his changeup enough, as he seemed to abandon it after he allowed a hit off of one early in the game. That’s despite the pitch showing some late movement and nice separation when he used it prior to the hit. The positive is that he battled through the outing and got the desired results. He’s limited in his pitches now (he’s over 100 innings on the season), so he wasn’t going to go any longer than five innings. The overall results have been a little disappointing in Double-A, but that’s only because he set the bar so high in Bradenton. Despite the 4.85 ERA, he’s holding batters to a .227 BAA. He’s going to start next year at Altoona and won’t turn 22 until mid-way through the season.
Jose Maldonado, RHP, Bristol – Maldonado made two starts, gave up one run total and threw no-hit ball in his second outings. Normally that would get you the Player of the Week in this article. Instead, he was my tenth spot for the pitchers because he wasn’t throwing many strikes last week. His first start was too bad, with one run over five innings, walking three batters. The second game was limited to four innings because he was already at 71 pitches. He gave up no hits or runs, but he walked five batters and hit two others. Maldonado has 23 walks in 34.2 innings this season, but there is good reason not to overlook him. He gets his fastball up to 95 MPH, throws a hard breaking ball with a sharp break and his changeup has improved a lot since last year. He was actually throwing a decent amount of strikes this spring and early in the season, but the control has gone downhill recently.
Yoelvis Reyes, LHP, Bristol – Reyes is a 19-year-old, 6’2″ southpaw from the Dominican, who was signed by the Pirates on July 2, 2017. He pitched in the DSL last year with mediocre results and then threw well enough this spring to skip over the GCL to Bristol. He’s not overpowering, sitting 88-91 MPH with his fastball, but he has a four-pitch arsenal (FB/CH/CV/SL) that he mixes well and he gets a lot of credit for being a smart pitcher. He made a spot start on Thursday during a doubleheader and he tossed five shutout innings on four hits and no walks, with six strikeouts. In that game, he pounded the bottom half of the strike zone, worked quickly and pitched inside effectively, keeping the opposition off-balance. More than half of the runs he has allowed this season came in back-to-back outings in mid-July. Those games skew his ERA to 4.79 through 35.2 innings. He has a 33:10 SO/BB ratio, a 1.29 WHIP and a 1.24 GO/AO ratio.
Domingo Robles, LHP, Altoona – Robles has had a very tough time in Double-A, though that wasn’t all unexpected. As a soft-tossing lefty, he’s in a group of players that usually tops out at Double-A. He does however have some things going for him that could help him get to the majors. Robles has above average control, along with a solid breaking ball and an excellent changeup. He has thrown slightly harder in the past and he just tuned 21 during this season, so we could still see more velocity ahead. He’s also very reliable, putting in a lot of innings last year and this year without any issues. Robles had a strong outing on Friday night, throwing seven shutout innings on seven hits and one walk, with three strikeouts. He will most likely begin 2020 in the Altoona rotation.
Colin Selby, RHP, Greensboro – Selby has been a regular here because he keeps putting up impressive outings. This last start was five innings without an earned run, giving up three hits and one walk. He has given up a total of 15 earned runs in his last 12 starts combined, with just one outing in which he allowed more than two runs. He doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for league leaders and probably won’t get there by the end of the season (he’s currently 12 IP short), but his 2.68 ERA and his 1.06 WHIP would both rank third in the South Atlantic League right now. Selby should probably be getting more attention. He has a fastball that sits mid-90s and has hit 97 MPH. His slider has become a solid out pitch, and his changeup is a nice third pitch. He has a curve that he used to use more, but he occasionally breaks it out to give batters a different look. Selby has been throwing a lot more strikes recently as well, going from 13 walks in his first 29.1 innings, to 12 walks in his last 54.2 frames.
Aaron Shortridge, RHP, Bradenton – Shortridge had a great outing on Thursday night, throwing eight shutout innings on two hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. It was the longest outing of his career and he did it on 90 pitches. This game showed why his prospect status has increased as the season has gone along. Shortridge was sitting 88-90 MPH with his fastball earlier in the season. He added some velocity recently and it looked even better here. He hit 94 MPH twice and had just a handful of pitches later in the game drop to 89 MPH. His final two fastballs of the night were both 93 MPH. It’s not just added velocity, it’s that he hasn’t sacrificed any of his above average control to get more velocity. He went heavy with a high-70s curveball in this game, which is different than in the past, when he relied on a slider as his second pitch. The slider was used sparingly and he rarely broke out the changeup.
Jesus Valles, RHP, Morgantown – Valles is here for a third straight time after a rough beginning to his season. The 21-year-old, 6’3″, righty from Venezuela, skipped from the DSL last year to Morgantown this season and was placed right in the starting rotation. He was recently moved to the bullpen as a long-man, but a doubleheader spot start and success in his last three outings has put him back in the rotation for now. Valles gave up one run over 5.1 innings on Thursday, allowing three hits and a walk, while putting up a season-high six strikeouts. Valles is a finesse pitcher at this point, who relies on control and mixing his pitches. Despite his age, he was only signed last spring and could still fill out some more, so we could see a little more velocity in the future. He currently hits low-90s with his four-seam fastball, mixing it with a sinker, changeup and a curve.
Gavin Wallace, RHP, Bradenton – Wallace lives here now, alphabetically landing himself at the bottom of each edition of The 21. He has pitched great since moving to the starting rotation and he’s actually had a very strong season since his first outing in May. Wallace has a 2.28 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in his last 67 innings. He added to those totals with one run on two hits and a walk, in 7.1 innings. He made it here last week when he struck out a career high 11 batters. Wallace mixes his pitches well and commands his fastballs (two and four-seam) around the zone. Since signing, his slider has become a more consistent pitch and his average velocity has increased. He hit 95 MPH in his last start multiple times, while holding his velocity later in games. You would like to see him miss more bats, but that might be happening already and it’s just the early stages. Wallace has allowed three runs in his last 20.1 innings, while picking up 22 strikeouts.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.