Endy Rodriguez started his season off slowly with a .652 OPS in April. Since then he has been one of the best hitters in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, all while moving around the field on defense and playing the toughest position on the field in most of his games. This past month of July was his best month. Rodriguez put up a 1.253 OPS in 94 plate appearances, which including a .373 average, 23 runs, six doubles, eight homers, 21 RBIs and 17 walks (with only 11 strikeouts). That performance earned him the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month award for July.
Rodriguez came into the season as the #7 prospect in the system for almost everyone who ranks prospects. He’s in the process of making a strong case for himself for the Player of the Year award for the system. His .923 OPS this season is tops in the Southern League among the top 46 hitters in plate appearances, and he ranks second among all qualified hitters in the league. He’s third among all qualified hitters in the Pirates system, and one of those players is Matt Gorski, who is out for the year and won’t qualify by the end of the season. The other is Jacob Gonzalez, who tore up Bradenton early in the year as one of the oldest players in the league.
Rodriguez could end up at Altoona before the season ends. He has certainly earned that promotion by now. The Pirates expect Henry Davis to return before the end of the year, so his presence might be the only reason that Rodriguez doesn’t see Altoona until next year. That’s something we will find out soon obviously, as the minor league season is reaching the homestretch, with just six weeks left for the two Class-A teams. His defensive versatility should allow for him to move up regardless of Davis being there, though Rodriguez has been playing catcher a lot more often recently. His last game in the outfield was a month ago, and he had just a handful of starts at second base in July.
It’s clear at this point that Rodriguez has solidified himself as a top prospect in the system. He’s doing better at home this year, but he had an .811 road OPS as well, so we aren’t seeing a season driven by big numbers at a friendly home park. He put up strong numbers last year in a pitcher-friendly park, so he’s proven himself in back-to-back years. It’s going to be a strong season regardless of his finish, but he has a chance to make it even better for his prospect rankings by the time it’s over.
TRIPLE-A: INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS
Player of the Month: Tucupita Marcano .362/.433/.500 , 1 HR, 1 SB, 67 PA
Analysis: It was not a good month for Indianapolis, as Tucupita Marcano was the runaway winner here while playing just 14 games. He did well in those games (except the 1-for-5 success rate stealing bases), putting up a .362 average and a .933 OPS. He had five doubles, a homer and eight walks. Jack Suwinski also did well, in a similar situation as Marcano, getting sent down from the Pirates during the month. He had a .982 OPS in ten games. Cal Mitchell went the opposite way, joining the Pirates mid-month from Indianapolis. He also played ten games and had an .831 OPS. Taylor Davis played nine games and had an .880 OPS, serving as a backup catcher and corner infielder. Rodolfo Castro is someone who was in Indianapolis for the entire month, and he had had an .822 OPS in 20 games.
The pitching side is just relievers among the noteworthy performers, and all of them finished under ten innings. Cam Alldred allowed two runs in 8.1 innings and he struck out nine batters. Cam Vieaux allowed one run over 6.2 innings. Zach Matson had one unearned run in 7.2 innings, with the only downside being five walks. Eric Stout did the best, with one run and 11 strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
DOUBLE-A: ALTOONA CURVE
Player of the Month: Quinn Priester 1.69 ERA, 25:7 K/BB, 26.2 IP
Analysis: Quinn Priester ran away with the Altoona Player of the Month vote. He made five starts and gave up five earned runs, throwing a total of 26.2 innings, with seven walks and 25 strikeouts. The 21-year-old has a 1.87 ERA in 33.2 innings over seven starts since joining Altoona. Tahnaj Thomas had a very impressive month of July, throwing ten shutout innings over seven appearances, with 13 strikeouts and an 0.70 WHIP. He’s been strong since June 1st. Tyler Samaniego allowed two runs over 9.2 innings in his seven appearances. JC Flowers had a nice month as well, posting a 2.51 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. He held batters to a .149 average for the month.
On the hitting side, Aaron Shackelford had the best month, finishing with a .929 OPS in 101 PAs. He had nine doubles, six homers and 11 walks. He has an .843 OPS in 74 games this year, with solid/strong months all year. Jared Triolo had an .832 OPS in 107 PAs, as he started to show more power as the season progresses. He had eight extra-base hits, 14 walks and six steals. Blake Sabol had an .831 OPS in 86 PAs, bouncing back nicely from a bit of a down month in June. Matt Fraizer and Fabricio Macias each just missed the cutoff, but they are close enough to mention. Fraizer had a .793 OPS in 95 PAs. Macias had a .786 mark in 80 PA.s
HIGH-A: GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS
Player of the Month: Endy Rodriguez .373/.489/.773, 8 HR, 1 SB, 94 PA
Analysis: Besides Rodriguez, Greensboro saw strong production from Dariel Lopez, who put up a 1.042 OPS in 101 PAs. He hit four doubles, a triple and seven homers. He has an .824 OPS for the year, though he’s getting a lot of help from the hitter-friendly home park, with a .946 OPS in Greensboro and a .665 mark on the road. Abrahan Gutierrez had a nice month of July as well, finishing with a .926 OPS in 20 games. He had five homers and drew 16 walks. He has a .777 OPS and is doing slightly better on the road this year. Francisco Acuna had an .864 OPS in 17 games. Jacob Gonzalez had an .861 OPS in 19 games. Hudson Head put up an .805 OPS in 22 games.
On the pitching side, Domingo Gonzalez did well in long relief, posting a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings, picking up 19 strikeouts. Cameron Junker had a 2.25 ERA in eight innings, with nine strikeouts. Wandi Montout made six scoreless appearances, though he totaled just five innings. Eddy Yean had ten strikeouts and a 2.70 ERA in ten innings.
LOW-A: BRADENTON MARAUDERS
Player of the Month: Po-Yu Chen 2.39 ERA, 25:7 K/BB, 26.1 IP
Analysis: Bradenton was the only team that came down to a tiebreaker vote, with Po-Yu Chen and Jase Bowen splitting the majority of the votes. Chen got the tiebreaker vote, with arguably the best month for any pitching in the system. Bradenton as a group had a strong month of pitching. In 26.1 innings, Chen had a 2.39 ERA, 25 strikeouts and an 0.80 WHIP, while holding batters to a .156 BAA. He won two Pitcher of the Week awards for the Florida State League. Mitchell Miller gave up one run over 11.2 innings, with 12 strikeouts. Yunior Thibo allowed one earned run in 9.2 innings, with nine walks and 13 strikeouts. Carlos Campos had a 1.59 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 11.2 innings. Wilkin Ramos had a 1.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts in ten innings. Valentin Linarez had a 2.25 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 20 innings. He had a 5.80 ERA in 45 innings prior to the start of July. Sergio Umana had a 2.70 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 14 innings. Johan Montero had a 2.77 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13 innings.
Jase Bowen had a .946 OPS in 107 plate appearances last month, with four doubles, two triples and five homers, in addition to 19 runs and 19 RBIs. He was our Player of the Week for last week’s action. Rodolfo Nolasco was having a big month until he landed on the injured list. He had a 1.250 OPS in 13 games, with five doubles, five homers, 13 runs, 14 RBIs and ten walks. His stats have improved every month since a slow start to the season in April. Sergio Campana had a very rough month of June and then completely turned things around in July, finishing with a .963 OPS in 61 PAs, which included two homers, 11 walks and seven steals, to go along with strong defense in center field. Juan Jerez started July in the FCL on rehab from his second minor injury of the season, but he ended up putting up an .837 OPS in 16 games with the Marauders.
FCL: Javier Rivas .344/.437/.557, 3 HR, 0 SB, 71 PA
DSL: Eddy Rodriguez .316/.460/.649, 5 HR, 3 SB, 74 PA
April: Mason Martin
May: Matt Gorski
June: Matt Gorski+ posts
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.