Ji-hwan Bae did not get off to a good start this season, at least prior to the beginning of last week. He was hitting .225/.269/.265 in 15 games through April 24th. That’s better than some of his teammates, but that’s not saying much considering how had some Indianapolis hitters have struggled. Bae turned his month around with one huge game, but that’s not all he did last week. He batted .318/.348/.818 in 23 plate appearances, which was enough to earn him the Pirates Prospects Player of the Week for April 25th through May 1st.
On Friday night against the Iowa Cubs, Bae collected five hits in six trips to the plate. He had two singles, two doubles and a home run. He also homered on Wednesday and on Sunday, boosting him up to a .730 OPS in 20 games this season. He had the top OPS for the week among players in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. He already has six stolen bases this season, and he hasn’t committed an error in 14 games at second base and four games in center field. The one-game swing to his season shows you that it’s still early in the year, but there’s a chance that we see Bae in Pittsburgh before this season is over. At the least, he’s going to make his case for being added to the 40-man roster over the off-season.
The 22-year-old Bae is an intriguing prospect now that he has added some pop to his game. He failed to homer in the Gulf Coast League during his first season, then won a batting title with Greensboro in 2019 without hitting a homer. Last year he had a .771 OPS in 84 games with Altoona, where he hit seven homers. He also homered during a rehab game from an early season injury that cost him a month last year. After the season, he added two more homers in the Arizona Fall League, where he made some nice impressions on scouts.
Bae is a solid second baseman with above average speed that he uses well on the bases. He’s still fairly new to center field, with nine starts there last year for Altoona, followed by ten more starts there in the AFL. The Pirates hope to have second base filled long-term with one of their top minor league options, so the versatility could help Bae get a chance to play in Pittsburgh. He’s athletic enough to play multiple positions, and his speed helps him in the outfield. One big game isn’t going to get him to the majors this early in his Triple-A time, but his bat could now be on track for the season ahead.
TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS
Player of the Week: Ji-hwan Bae .318/.348/.818, 3 HR, 1 SB, 23 PA
Analysis: Canaan-Smith Njigba has a story similar to Bae’s season so far, with a nice week possibly getting him on track. He put up a 1.039 OPS in 21 plate appearances, with a double, homer and five walks. He has a .644 OPS for the season. Mason Martin had a .943 OPS in 22 plate appearances, helping him towards his Player of the Month honors. Osvaldo Bido allowed just one hit and an unearned run in two starts last week, but that 0.00 ERA came with a huge walk rate. Cam Vieaux tossed 6.1 shutout innings on one hit and one walk. Cam Alldred threw 3.1 shutout frames. Cody Bolton and Roansy Contreras each threw three shutout frames in their starts.
DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE
Player of the Week: Liover Peguero .375/.444/.625, 1 HR, 1 SB, 27 PA
Analysis: Liover Peguero had the second best OPS on Altoona last week, falling behind Andres Alvarez, who didn’t play as much. Peguero had a 1.069 OPS in 27 plate appearances, with three doubles and a homer. He has a .961 OPS in 18 games for the season. Alvarez put up a 1.159 OPS last week in 18 plate appearances. He had two doubles, a homer, three walks and two steals. Lolo Sanchez put up a 1.000 OPS in 26 plate appearances, hitting .400 with two doubles and five walks. Jared Triolo had an .833 OPS. Michael Burrows had a strong start last week, allowing two hits and two walks in five scoreless innings, while striking out seven batters. He has given up runs in one of his four starts this year. Kyle Nicholas had similar results, with five shutout frames on two hits, no walks and six strikeouts. Noe Toribio gave up one run in five innings over two relief appearances. Carmen Mlodzinski allowed two runs in nine innings during his two starts.
HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS
Player of the Week: Abrahan Gutierrez .357/.444/.571, 1 HR, 2 SB, 18 PA
Analysis: Abrahan Gutierrez is in an awkward spot, being a legit catching prospect buried behind two other top catching prospects. The 22-year-old has caught just three games this year, while playing first base and DH in the other games. This past week he had a 1.016 OPS, while connecting on his first home run. He has a .724 OPS for the year. Maikol Escotto had a week similar to Bae, with one big game pushing his entire week. He posted an .873 OPS. Matt Gorski homered twice, stole three bases and had an .826 OPS. Domingo Gonzalez threw 3.2 shutout innings, despite five walks in his lone start. Nick Dombkowski split his week between Bradenton and Greensboro, which cost him a Player of the Week spot I’m sure. In six shutout innings between both spots, he gave up two hits, two walks and he had ten strikeouts. Jack Carey tossed 4.1 shutout frames. Those pitchers did impressive considering that seven of the worst ten pitchers in the system last week were Greensboro starters/relievers.
LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS
Player of the Week: Po-Yu Chen 0.00 ERA, 7:1 K/BB, 5.0 IP
Analysis: Po-Yu Chen had a masterful outing that got off to a rough start. He walked the first batter. The second reached on an error, and the fourth (after a fly out) reached on a grounder off of the third baseman’s mitt for a hit and an unearned run. He then faced 13 batters to record the final 14 outs, getting a double play, followed by four straight 1-2-3 innings. He has a .155 BAA this year in four starts. Wilkin Ramos threw three shutout innings last week and didn’t allow an earned run in April. Christian Charle tossed 3.1 scoreless on one hit. Joelvis De Rosario allowed one earned run in five innings during his start. Valentin Linarez gave up one run in 4.2 innings. Brenden Dixon got consideration for the Bradenton Player of the Week thanks to his .313/.353/.688 slash line in 17 plate appearances over four games. He has a .912 OPS in 26 games as a pro after being selected in the 20th round last year. Jacob Gonzalez was the Florida State League Player of the Week for two weeks in a row. He didn’t win this past week, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. He had a .417 average and a .958 OPS, helping him to the best OPS in the Pirates system in April. Tsung-Che Cheng had a nice week as well, posting a .913 OPS in 28 plate appearances, hitting three doubles and a homer. Rodolfo Nolasco powered his way to an .864 OPS, despite a .222 average.
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.