MiLB Transaction Analysis: The Pirates are Starting to Promote Some of Their Best Performers

This is the first year that Ben Cherington has had a minor league system to work with in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.

Despite being on the job since late-2019, Cherington has not had a chance to oversee a minor league season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic removing the 2020 season. As a result, we’re now getting our first looks at how the Pirates might operate with promotions throughout the system.

We’re not getting a great look. The impact of the lost 2020 season definitely plays a role in player movement this year. However, at this point the minor league season is more than halfway over, and the Pirates hadn’t promoted some of their best performers in the system.

Until this past week.

Outfielder Matt Fraizer was promoted to Altoona this week, giving one of the most deserving players in the system the bump that his numbers warranted.

In the past, under Neal Huntington, such a move would set off a chain reaction of moves. It seemed like the Pirates, under Huntington, waited to move players in groups.

Will Cherington act the same? Or, will players move individually? Is Fraizer’s promotion a sign that more are coming soon?

I guess we will find the answers to these questions over time. This feature, running every Saturday on Pirates Prospects, is meant to track the weekly moves, and add some analysis to what the bigger ones might mean.

All transactions in this week’s article run from 7-31 to 8-6.

Promotions

Indianapolis

2B Hoy Park – The Pirates added Park to the majors shortly after acquiring him for Clay Holmes. Park is 25-years-old, and already has seen a good amount of playing time in Pittsburgh, going 7-for-17 in his first week with four doubles. He’s already played both middle infield positions and all three outfield positions in the Pirates’ system. His versatility should keep giving him plenty of opportunities to stick in the majors.

RHP John O’Reilly – Promoted from Altoona on 7/31. O’Reilly had a 5.09 ERA in 22 appearances for Altoona, with a 22:8 K/BB. He will serve as depth for the Indianapolis bullpen.

Altoona

LF Matthew Fraizer – This is the big promotion of the week. Fraizer had been raking in High-A, but also was a 23-year-old player who was drafted out of college in the third round in 2019. Despite the lack of pro experience and the layoff, Fraizer mashed with a .314/.401/.578 line and 20 homers in Greensboro. I wrote about him this week over at Baseball America. He will now get a chance to move into the upper-level outfield mix with Cal Mitchell, Canaan Smith-Njigba, and newly acquired Jack Suwinski.

Greensboro

C Eli Wilson – Moved from Bradenton to Greensboro around the time the Pirates added an influx of new catchers to the system. Wilson had previously been splitting time with Endy Rodriguez, hitting for a .328/.480/.474. Prior to the influx of catching prospects over the last eight months, Wilson was the top option in the system, and is a sleeper candidate to one day reach the majors.

Bradenton

RHP Carlos Campos – Added to Bradenton after five appearances in the FCL. He’s a reliever, and could just be moving across town for depth.

Demotions

Indianapolis

OF Jared Oliva – Optioned from the majors on 7/31.

RHP Max Kranick – Optioned on 8/5.

RHP Shea Spitzbarth – Optioned on 8/5. He was previously called up on 8/2 as depth.

Altoona

None

Greensboro

Jonah Davis – Moved from Altoona to Indianapolis, swapping spots with Matt Fraizer. Davis had some good numbers at times in A-ball, but didn’t fare well in Double-A.

RHP Alex Manasa – He was assigned to Indianapolis at the start of this period for depth, and sent back down to Greensboro on Friday.

C Dylan Shockley – The Pirates moved Shockley to the FCL on 7/31.

Bradenton

None

IL Assignments

Indianapolis

3B Erik Gonzalez – Assigned to Indianapolis for an MLB rehab assignment on 7/31.

RHP Miguel Yajure – Assigned to Bradenton for an Indianapolis rehab assignment on 8/6.

Altoona

C Jason Delay – Was placed on the 60-day IL on 8/3 (left knee).

OF Brendt Citta – Placed on 7-Day IL on 8/6 (left leg).

Greensboro

RHP Ricky DeVito – Added to the system and placed on the 60-day IL. DeVito was one of two pitchers the Pirates acquired from the Braves for Richard Rodriguez. He had a sore elbow before the trade, but profiles as a potential MLB reliever in the future, with a mid-90s sinker and a split-change that could be a plus offering.

Bradenton

RHP Drake Fellows – Placed on the 7-day IL (7/31)

OF Jake Snider – Transferred from the 7-day IL to the 60-day IL (8/6)

Rehab Assignments

Indianapolis

RF Dustin Fowler – Activated from his 7-day assignment on 8/5.

RHP Tyler Bashlor – Activated from his 7-day assignment on 8/3.

Altoona

OF Canaan Smith-Njigba –  Activated from the 7-Day IL.

Greensboro

None

Bradenton

None

Added to the System

Indianapolis

RHP Keury Mella – The Pirates signed Mella as a minor league free agent on 8/3, after he was previously released by Arizona. Mella will likely be used as bullpen depth out of Triple-A for the remainder of the year.

Altoona

C Carter Bins – Activated in Altoona on 7/31 after coming over in the Tyler Anderson trade. Bins is ahead of the other catchers in the system, and could eventually get the first crack at being MLB depth and eventually a backup to Jacob Stallings (then later, hopefully, Henry Davis).

Greensboro

None

Bradenton

C Henry Davis – This addition came at the FCL level, which is still in Bradenton. Davis has gone 3-for-7 with two doubles and a homer in his first two games. I’d expect him to move up to one of the A-ball levels once he’s acclimated to pro ball. The High-A level would make a lot of sense, giving an advanced bat more of a challenge, and putting Davis ahead of the other lower-level catching prospects in Bradenton.

C Abrahan Gutierrez – The Pirates acquired Gutierrez from the Phillies for Braeden Ogle, after a previous deal sending Tyler Anderson for Gutierrez and one other prospect fell through. His assignment in Bradenton will mean he splits time with Endy Rodriguez, after Eli Wilson moved up a level to vacate that role.

RHP Justin Meis – The Pirates are starting to activate their 2021 draft picks. Tenth round RHP Justin Meis was added to Bradenton. Meis pitched at Eastern Michigan this year.

LHP Nick Dombkowski – The Pirates added Dombkowski as a non-drafted free agent a few days after the draft, and assigned him to Bradenton.

Released

2B Dee Strange-Gordon – The addition of a few upper level middle infielders at the trade deadline made Strange-Gordon expendable.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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