Our Pirates Winter Report will highlight one Pittsburgh Pirates prospect each week, then give brief notes from each country playing winter ball. This week, we feature outfielder Sammy Siani, who is among the best hitters this offseason in Australia
Sammy Siani played a little more than half of the 2021 season with the Pirates Single-A affiliate in Bradenton. He was slightly below the league average age, and he put up an OPS of .766, which was 52 points above league average.
Looking at age/OPS isn’t a perfect scouting technique, but it’s never been a bad thing to be younger than league average while at the same time hitting better than league average. The 2021 season was positive for the 2019 first round pick.
Siani still had that same age advantage in 2022 with High-A Greensboro. However, his OPS dropped to 99 points below league average. It gets even worse than that sounds, as Greensboro is a hitter-friendly park. Needless to say, it was a very disappointing season.
That performance led to Siani going to Australia this off-season. This league is a decent level for him, though it’s probably closer to Double-A than High-A as far as the competition level goes.
The league has used 13 players with Major League experience this season. It’s filled with players who have topped out at Triple-A, and the average age in the league is three years older than High-A was this season for Siani. It was probably the best level of winter ball for where he was at coming into the off-season. He took that opportunity to improve and ran with it.
Going into Saturday’s action, Siani ranked tenth in the league in OPS among qualified hitters. He hit his sixth homer on Friday, which is just one fewer than he hit during the regular season in 234 more plate appearances. He was doing an excellent job of getting on base and putting up power numbers.
There was one part of Siani’s game really stood out compared to the regular season.
Siani has struck out 19 times in 100 plate appearances this winter. He had a 36.2% strikeout rate during the regular season this year. I’ll note that the South Atlantic League average 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings this season, while the Australian league is at 8.3 per nine innings, but that 1.6 difference still doesn’t make it a pitch-to-contact league. His improvement is much better than it would be if he only adjusted to the league averages. He has nearly cut his strikeout rate in half.
It doesn’t look like Siani’s Sydney team will make the playoffs this winter, but that still gives him another 14 games this season. His improvements this winter might increase his chances of opening the 2023 season in Altoona, rather than a return to Greensboro.
Around the World
Fabrico Macias and Denny Roman are the only two players from the Pirates in Mexico. They got to face each other earlier this week and Roman came out on top. He has pitched strong this off-season in somewhat limited work. He was being used mainly as a lefty specialist until they gave him two starts. He’s limited the opposition to two runs in 17.2 innings. Macias appears to have lost his starting job recently, but he’s been around league average all season, so nothing has changed in the last month or so with his performance.
Young infielder Tsung-Che Cheng has been struggling at the plate with the jump in quality/age/experience from Single-A to Puerto Rico. He was a little better than where he was at a week ago, but still well below league average. It’s a good experience regardless, but this league is a bit too advanced for him.
Josh Palacios was doing decent until this week, but some rough games have knocked down his average. His brother Richie Palacios, who also has big league experience, has been playing on the same team in the league. In an odd form of managing, both brothers started on the same day, have had the same days off, while playing the same amount of games as well.
Shawn Ross has not played since they returned from a Christmas break.
Duane Underwood Jr. debuted this week by striking out the side in his first inning of work. There are just a few more regular season games left after this weekend, but his team will be in the playoffs.
Australia just returned from a 12-day Christmas break, so there’s nothing much to report, other than all six Pirates players are still with Sydney. The team put up 25 runs yesterday, with Pirates players combining for 17 runs, 17 hits, 16 RBIs and six walks. Check today’s Pirates Winter Leagues article for a recap and five video highlights.
The league in Colombia is led by Andres Alvarez, who is making a run at the Triple Crown. He was second in hitting and first in RBIs going into last night’s game. He fell in the home run race to fifth, though he’s only three behind the leader and one away from second place. There are just seven games left before the playoffs.
Rodolfo Nolasco has really struggled recently, dropping his stats well below league average. That’s not what you want to see, especially since this league is the perfect level for where he’s at in his career.
Francisco Acuna has been one of the better hitters in the league over the last two weeks, pushing his stats above league average. His PED suspension, which will carry into 2023, couldn’t have come at a worst time. He was playing well right before the suspension in Greensboro, and now he’s playing well in winter ball, but he will be limited to Extended Spring Training during the first two months of the 2023 season.
None of the Pirates pitchers in the league saw work recently, so it’s just been those three hitters getting all of the attention.
Venezuela returns to our report for one week due to a debut. Gustavo Armas, who has only played with the DSL Pirates up to this point, got to play a doubleheader on the final day of the season. Venezuela is the same as Double-A in competition, so the league is far too advanced for him now, but it was a nice reward in his home country for his play during the winter in the minor league version of Venezuelan winter ball.
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.