The Pittsburgh Pirates moved their low-A affiliate from the West Virginia Power to the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2019. They stayed in the South Atlantic League, but moved to a stadium that was a little more hitter-friendly. The Grasshoppers finished with a strong 79-59 record. Unfortunately for them, they were a third place team in their own division, with a record that would have been the best in the other SAL division. They play in a split-schedule league where the first half division winner and second half winner meet in the playoffs. Greensboro finished four games back in the first half and seven games back in the second half.
Below you will find a season recap for all of the noteworthy players on the team. We will post the top ten prospects list tomorrow, going in depth for the top players on the team.
If you missed any of them, here are the other season recaps that we have posted so far:
We start the recap on the offensive side here because they had some of the bigger stories in the minors this season. That starts with Mason Martin (pictured above), who put on a power display that got him promoted in July to Bradenton. Martin was repeating Low-A after a rough 2018 season. He still had major strikeout issues this year, but that didn’t stop him from putting up one of the better minor league seasons you’ll see outside of some of those ridiculous west coast cities in the PCL and California League where offense is off the charts. Martin hit .262/.361/.575 in 82 games, with 23 homers and 83 RBIs. Including his Bradenton stats, he finished with a .254/.351/.558 slash line in 131 games, with 35 homers and 129 RBIs.
The best story on offense after Martin was young shortstop Ji-Hwan Bae winning the SAL batting title. After missing a month while serving a suspension for a court case in his home country, Bae returned to Greensboro and hit well from the start, finishing with a .323/.403/.430 slash line in 86 games. He had 25 doubles, five triples and he stole 31 bases. Bae split his time between second base and shortstop. He had to catch and pass an injured player for the batting lead, then held onto it for the final two weeks to win by five points.
The Grasshoppers got 19-year-old outfielder Jack Herman at the end of May. He was in Extended Spring Training (EST), partly due to an injury that kept him out for a few weeks. Herman tore up the GCL as a 30th round pick last year and held his own three levels higher this year. His walk and strikeout rates were outstanding in his debut, then each took a huge hit this year, but he still managed a .257/.340/.464 slash line in 75 games, with 12 doubles, two triples and 13 homers.
Jonah Davis had a split season, with the first half being so bad (.461 OPS) that he ended up back in EST, then went to Morgantown briefly when he returned to regular game action. The second half saw him tear up the South Atlantic League (.943 OPS), which led to him winning the SAL Player of the Month award for August. He finished with 19 homers in just 80 games.
Outfielder Fabricio Macias was far and away the leader in a few offensive categories, but that was due to the fact that he played 28 games more than the second highest total on the team. He hit .280/.330/.396 in 122 games, with 25 doubles, eight homers and 18 stolen bases.
Outfielder Lolo Sanchez and second baseman Rodolfo Castro were each promoted at the All-Star break after they both did well in the first half. They were told of their promotion at the All-Star game. Castro hit .242/.306/.516 in 61 games, with 14 homers. Sanchez hit .301/.377/.451 in 61 games, with 20 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases. Both struggled a bit in Bradenton, but they will still be 20 years old when the 2020 season opens.
Kyle Mottice did an amazing job of getting on base during his time with Greensboro. After starting the season in EST and then briefly getting demoted to Morgantown in one of the most ridiculous transactions I’ve seen (he had a .528 OBP at the time!), Mottice put together a .316/.466/.363 slash line in 53 games, with more walks than strikeouts (26:25 BB/SO ratio) and 18 stolen bases. Getting on base via a hit, walk and HBP in the same game will forever be known as the Kyle Mottice trifecta. He was hit 23 times this season, and has been hit 37 times total in 93 games as a pro.
It was far from all being positive for the Grasshoppers this year on offense. The group of Connor Kaiser, Zack Kone, Luke Mangieri, Brett Kinneman, Michael Gretler, Zac Susi, Grant Koch and Justin Harrer went all college draft picks in 2018, with four of them being top ten round picks and another received an over-slot bonus. Harrer was the leader of this group with a .706 OPS. The rest finished somewhere between .520 and .671, with none of them hitting higher than .231 this season, and all eight were regulars for at least part of the season. That’s a lot of disappointing performances to offset the positives from the younger players on the team.
On the pitching side, the rotation had some strong starters throughout the season. We begin with 23-year-old right-hander Osvaldo Bido, who posted a 3.55 ERA in 111.2 innings over 20 starts. He had a 1.10 WHIP and 90 strikeouts. Bido was promoted to Bradenton near the end of the season, despite looking like he was ready to go up mid-season. Brad Case was the best pitcher for the team, which got him promoted to Bradenton in early June. He had a 2.45 ERA in 66 innings, leaving the league as the WHIP leader at 0.77, to go along with a 50:3 SO/BB ratio….yes, three walks in 66 innings.
Alex Manasa led the team with 139.2 innings pitched and 120 strikeouts. The 21-year-old righty made 25 starts and posted a 3.48 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Steven Jennings led the team with 27 starts, though some late season pitch limits kept him at 130 innings. He had a 4.71 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and 115 strikeouts. Jennings had a 4.23 ERA during the second half of the season.
Colin Selby took over the fifth rotation spot early in the season and he went on to post a 2.97 ERA in 17 starts and 88 innings, with 86 strikeouts and a 1.11 WHIP. Will Kobos, Noe Toribio (ranked #3 on our Morgantown top ten) and Winston Nicacio each finished the season strong in Greensboro, after beginning the year with Morgantown. None of them pitched enough to qualify for our Greensboro top ten prospects list, but they all impressed in their short time with the team.
In the bullpen, Yerry De Los Santos finally had a healthy season and he emerged as a prospect. The 21-year-old, who signed back in 2014 as an international free agent, posted a 1.44 ERA in 50 innings, with an 0.88 WHIP and 73 strikeouts. It wasn’t just the stats that boosted his prospect stock, it was the combo of a fastball that got into the high-90s and a breaking ball that was a legit swing-and-miss pitch. De Los Santos wasn’t the only impressive arm out there in the bullpen. Braeden Ogle and John O’Reilly both ended up with Bradenton after 20 relief appearances. It took Samuel Reyes ten games, Shea Murray eight outings and Nick Mears seven outings before they were promoted. Mears, Murray and O’Reilly all ended up at Altoona to finish the season. All six players here touched 96+ with their fastball during the season.
Finally, Cristofer Melendez didn’t put up the best stats with his 5.13 ERA in 47.1 innings, but he piled up 76 strikeouts and posted a .203 BAA. That 14.5 SO/9IP rate was the best among all Pirates pitchers in the minors, ranking ahead of Mears and De Los Santos, who were #2 and #3 respectively on that list. While he was a good age (21 years old) for Low-A ball, Melendez never pitched above the Dominican Summer League prior to 2019, so at least for the ability to miss bats and limit hits, he did a great job with the huge leap in competition.