Rodolfo Nolasco was our Bradenton Player of the Week last week. In his small summary, I talked about how he makes a lot of hard contact, but it’s mixed with a low walk rate and high strikeout rate. The basic summary was that a combo of walking a little more and striking out a little less often, could help him reach his upside. I wasn’t figuring on him doing that the very next week, but in 28 plate appearances, Nolasco had six walks and four strikeouts. Those are huge improvements on both of those numbers compared to his season totals. He also hit .455/.571/1.176 in those 28 plate appearances, which included four homers and three doubles, to go along with ten runs scored and nine RBIs in six games. All of those stats helped him to become the Pirates Prospects Player of the Week for July 4-10. Nolasco also earned Florida State League honors as their Player of the Week.
Nolasco was signed as a bat-only corner outfielder, though he has a strong arm, even if the defense and speed lag behind. The initial reports said if he makes it, he will slug his way to the majors. Those reports have been dead on so far. In 2019, he got off to a slow start in the Dominican Summer League, but the scouting reports said that he was hitting the ball hard and had a lot of bad luck. His numbers quickly turned around and he finished strong, as those hard hit balls were finding holes, or making their own holes is more appropriate. Late in the season, it was said that he had more 100+ MPH exit velocities that the rest of the hitters on the two DSL Pirates teams combined.
Nolasco came to the Florida Complex League in 2021 and was once again making hard contact, putting up strong stats for the season. Within those stats we started to see a potential issue, as his strikeout rate doubled over the previous results. He still had a decent walk rate and the stats were strong overall, with a .961 OPS. He jumped to the Florida Complex League this year and he was struggling through mid-June until these last three weeks. The strikeouts were increasing at an alarming rate, and the walks were down, though still acceptable, just not good in comparison to the strikeout rate. Through 50 games, he had a .191 average, a .599 OPS, and 75 strikeouts in 210 plate appearances. He was closer to being sent back to the FCL than he was making an appearance in our Player of the Week series. Things have changed.
Since June 15th, Nolasco has hit .373/.507/.729 in 18 games, with six doubles, five homers, 15 walks and 20 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. It’s obviously a small sample size, but it’s him heading in the right direction, including putting up power numbers in a league that isn’t hitter-friendly. Nolasco figures to move slowly through the system due to the strikeout issue. However, he’s still 20 years old, so the one level per year approach isn’t the worst route to take with him. While he could really make the Greensboro park look smaller than usual next year with his power numbers, the pitchers are just going to keep getting better as he moves up. He should be good in Bradenton for the rest of this year, and then you can reassess the approach with him mid-season next year.
TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS
Player of the Week: Mason Martin .278/.350/.611, 2 HR, 1 SB, 20 PA
Analysis: Mason Martin has been extremely quiet since winning our Player of the Month in April, but he had a decent week this past week thanks to two homers, which gives him 14 homers on the season. He had a 1.021 OPS in April and a .585 OPS in his last 57 games, including a .961 mark this past week. Martin leads the system with 111 strikeouts this year (Nolasco is second with 95), but he also moved into second place with 14 homers this past week. He needs more weeks like this one to get back on track. Carter Bins led Indianapolis last week with a 1.067 OPS in 16 plate appearances. He has a .722 OPS in 32 games with Indianapolis. Travis Swaggerty powered his way to an .833 OPS in 24 PAs last week, batting .250 with no walks, a double, two triples and a homer. Rodolfo Castro just squeezed into the article with his .802 OPS in 21 plate appearances.
On the pitching side, Miguel Yajure had a nice start, giving up one run over five innings on three hits, no walks and six strikeouts. That was a nice bounce back from allowing seven earned over three innings in the previous week. Noe Toribio gave up one run over five frames on two hits, with no walks and two strikeouts. He made two relief appearances. The veteran Jerad Eickhoff had the best start, allowing one run over seven innings, with seven strikeouts. Dillon Peters tossed 3.1 scoreless over two relief outings on rehab.
DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE
Player of the Week: Quinn Priester 0.00 ERA, 6:0 K/BB, 5.0 IP
Analysis: Quinn Priester battled it out for the top spot here with Matt Fraizer, with a tiebreaker vote at the end to decide it. Priester won with his five shutout innings on four hits, no walks and six strikeouts. That’s his best start since returning from a late Spring Training oblique injury, and the first time he got stretched out to five innings. Continuing with the pitching, Tahnaj Thomas has been strong recently, including facing the minimum in 3.2 innings over two appearances. Since the beginning of June, he has a 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings, with 20 strikeouts and a .200 BAA. JC Flowers also pitched well, facing one over the minimum in 3.2 scoreless. In two relief outings, Bear Bellomy allowed one run in four innings. Kyle Nicolas gave up one run over 3.2 frames in his start.
On the hitting side, Fraizer had a .958 OPS in 24 plate appearances, with a double, triple, four walks and four steals. He has an .800 OPS so far in July. Blake Sabol had a .963 OPS in 23 PAs, with two doubles and a homer. Jared Triolo hasn’t shown any power this year, but he’s been doing well otherwise. He had a .902 OPS in 30 PAs last week, picking up four steals to give him 18 on the season.
HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS
Player of the Week: Hudson Head .444/.500/.833, 2 HR, 1 SB, 20 PA
Analysis: Hudson Head won over Dariel Lopez in a split decision that came down to the final vote. Head put up a 1.333 OPS in 20 plate appearances last week, with two homers out of his eight hits. He really needs to stay on track now and finish strong in the second half, because his numbers this year are lagging behind last year when he hit .213 and played in a pitcher-friendly league, yet his OPS is still 62 points lower this season. Lopez put up a 1.274 OPS in 21 plate appearances, collecting ten hits last week, including two doubles and a homer. Lopez has improved his OPS 38 points over last year so far, going from .735 in 98 games to .773 through 68 games. His only downward trend is a low walk rate (13 walks) this season, compared to a decent one last year. Francisco Acuna put up a 1.071 OPS in limited action last week. Endy Rodriguez was our Player of the Week last week, and he returned this past week with a .941 OPS. He has an .830 OPS in 70 games this year.
The pitching side is quiet this week for Greensboro. Jared Jones is the only performer of note with his 6.1 innings in which he allowed two runs on five walks, three hits and six strikeouts. He has a 5.06 ERA in 74.2 innings, with 94 strikeouts.
LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS
Player of the Week: Rodolfo Nolasco .455/.571/1.136, 4 HR, 0 SB, 28 PA
Analysis: Besides Rodolfo Nolasco, Bradenton got offensive production from Maikol Escotto, as he tries to work his way back to Greensboro, where he started the year. In 29 PAs last week, he had a 1.064 OPS, which included three doubles and a homer. Jase Bowen feels like he has been a regular here lately, either as the winner overall or the Bradenton winner. He put up an .867 OPS in 30 plate appearances last week, collecting two doubles and a homer. He has an .809 OPS in his last 33 games, which is well above league average. Wyatt Hendrie gets a mention two weeks in a row. This week it is for an .815 OPS in 25 plate appearances. Tsung-Che Cheng had an .807 OPS in 30 plate appearances.
On the pitching side, Valentin Linarez had an impressive outing, especially considering how the rest of the pitching staff did as a group. He tossed 6.1 scoreless innings on four hits, one walk and five strikeouts. He’s had three games of 5+ shutout innings this year and three games in which he has allowed 5+ earned runs. Johan Montero did great in relief, with one run and ten strikeouts in five innings over two appearances. Sergio Umana allowed one run on three hits, no walks and four strikeouts in 3.2 innings. He has a 1.14 ERA in 23.2 innings this year.
FCL: Esmerlyn Valdez .636/.692/.909 0 HR, 0 SB, 13 PA
DSL: Axiel Plaz .500/.533/.857, 1 HR, 0 SB, 15 PA
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.
Request – a chart listing all of the players who have won a player of the week and how many they have won
The write up on Nolasco is fantastic btw!
What is Jase Bowen still doing in Brandenton?
I think we can retire the DSL award until Plaz moves up.
System is making me feel like we just have an entire farm of second half prospects lol
Or maybe we’re getting to the results portion of “trust the process”