Williams: The Growing Pains of Single-A

It might not be obvious by the numbers, but the Pirates have some good young talent in Single-A Bradenton.

There is talent on offense. It’s mostly raw, and isn’t easy to see in the stat lines, but it’s there.

There are several players who started off hot in April and struggled in May, with Alexander Mojica and Jase Bowen being two of the big cases. There are the opposite cases, who started slow and rebounded, like Rodolfo Nolasco recently. Inconsistent performance is a characteristic of younger hitters, and one of the earliest things to learn in pro ball.

“You look to just get them to be as steady as possible, and that’s really what separates, in my mind, the good players, is they’re able to bring it every day, regardless of what happens,” said Bradenton manager Jonathan Johnston. “Bring it every pitch, regardless of what happened the pitch or at-bat before.”

The pitching talent has been more apparent in the stat lines, with a lot of live arms that now includes 2021 second rounder Anthony Solometo. Still, there have been inconsistencies. One example is Luis Peralta, who is on the development list to work a few things out, despite posting incredible strikeout numbers. He’ll be working to fix the control issues that come with those strikeouts.

“You play the games because it shows you what you need to work on,” said Johnston. “It tells these guys a lot about themselves, how they handle situations, how to react to certain situations, and you remember now, this is the first league.”

In the past, there would be short-season teams between Single-A and the Florida Complex League. Those levels were also hundreds of miles apart.

Now, the levels are in the same city, and there are no more short-season leagues. The bigger jump has led to some prospects getting an earlier push to the full season level, knowing the trip back down can be a temporary journey across town. The overall ages of the level are similar, but younger players will cycle in and out to focus on their development.

The Pirates have been treating the FCL almost as if the games don’t matter and are more of an inconvenience to the actual work — which happens during practice. The same approach applies to the work day in Single-A, though these guys have games to play that do matter.

“It’s always about the work and the focus,” said Johnston. “During our work day, these guys are high energy, working hard, trying to get better.”

Johnston said that the coaching staff can help the players by providing consistency and striving to improve in the areas where the game has revealed struggles.

“These guys are trying to win,” said Johnston. “They are learning to win, and they’re trying to win… We just have to continue to push to win. That’s the whole goal. In doing that, we’re getting better. That’s kind of the process. Go out there to win the games, and the games reveal why you didn’t win, and then you go work on those things.”

The Pirates have talent on their Single-A roster, even if that talent has been more raw ability than numbers on the stat sheet.

By the end of the year, I’d expect that talent will be more apparent as players gain more consistency with a full season of work.


Williams: The Growing Pains of Single-A

Carlos Jimenez Has Emerged As One of the Pirates’ Best Lower Level Pitching Prospects

Anthony Solometo: High Changeup Usage Highlights Debut

Bradenton Statcast: Who Is Hitting The Ball Well?

Tsung-Che Cheng: “He’s the type of guy who has an elite level of focus, an elite level of drive”

Joelvis Del Rosario is Starting to Make a Name For Himself

Brenden Dixon: Approach Leading To Success As Bradenton’s Table Setter

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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I can sympathize with the issue of being young but what does that really mean? these players were put at this level because in the eyes of management that is where they belong. Otherwise they would not be there. If the level is to much for them here then what will they do next year if they are moved up? a player needs 100 at bats to adjust to the level he is at. After that initial 100 at bats changes need to be made to improve outcomes. Strikeouts at alarming rates is not an age issue but a failure to adjust. Think of it this way, the other teams are placing players in this league, not because they want them to dominate the Pirates but because their ability says they belong there.


Tim, if you were commissioner for a day, how would you organize the low minors/rookie leagues? Would you leave it as is, with just the complex leagues under single-A, or would you add a half-step league like the NYP to separate high school/Dominican graduates from JuCo/college draftees? Or something else entirely?

I ask because I think the result of compressing the leagues so far has been a huge disparity in performance and experience, first at low-A and now at high-A, and it’s distorting how the rest of us who don’t get to scout the team daily try to make sense of who’s good and who isn’t.

Wilbur Miller

I’ve thought for some time that the corporate raiders running MLB are moving toward a system where each team has just one or two MiL affiliates, much like hockey, and everything else gets done at the complex. And I think the Pirates’ current FO is very much on board with that, although for different reasons, i.e., not totally financial. Some of it is developmental and some is a desire to do as much as possible in secret.


Given their struggles, I was initially surprised that Bradenton’s average age for position players is slightly older than league average and for pitchers is right at league average.

But then when you’re young at the higher levels there’s bound to be enough of a logjam that some older players are held back.


The current Bradenton team is concerning, I do not see a lot of exciting pieces, but Solometo’s cavalry is coming.


Some of it could be a function of the reduced draft in 2020, though of course every team had the same situation.


These are the clubs where those vaunted international classes were supposed to start showing up. Just isn’t coming together.

Last edited 7 months ago by NMR

Definitely behind the chains for hitters – that ’18 class had Gavilan (still in Dominican), Luis Tejeda (hit poorly at FCL), Campana (.594 OPS at Bradenton), Jerez (.499 OPS at Bradenton), Mojica (league average OPS, but below .200 BA), and Nolasco (.600 OPS at Bradenton). Only Dariel Lopez, who’s sorta holding his own at GBO, could be called a modest success at this point.


I like this:

“You play the games because it shows you what you need to work on,” said Johnston. “It tells these guys a lot about themselves, how they handle situations, how to react to certain situations…”

But it doesn’t seem to quite jive with this:

The Pirates have been treating the FCL almost as if the games don’t matter and are more of an inconvenience to the actual work — which happens during practice.

In any case, the Pirates have a great setup in Bradenton to be able to shuttle guys back-and-forth and for the low A players to have access to the spring training facilities as needed. It should significantly help with development long-term.


The focus on practice makes sense–I’ve coached youth (mostly recreational) soccer for years and while the large majority of families make the commitment to get their kids to practices, there are a few who will say things like ‘my kid will miss practice this week but don’t worry, they’ll be at the game!’ Not only does that undermine our ability to play our best but it ignores that practice is the best opportunity for them to get better.

OTOH, practice without games can get monotonous and we have a saying that “the game is a great teacher”, so you need both. In fact, one of the most useful parts of practice are scrimmages where they can try things in a lower stress situation.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Your last paragraph is what I align with more, personally. After a while, practice does feel monotonous, and as if you’re just going through the motions. Anecdotal, but again me personally, I have another gear in gameplay than I do in practice. Practice builds the muscle memory, and gameplay is going to require split second decisions/reactions that you aren’t necessarily going to be able to always mimic in practice.


And once again I binge on Tuesday morning, and come out waiting for a good Friday drop again…

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