Prospect Roundtable: Who Was Your Favorite Prospect Story in 2022?

As we wind down to the end of 2022, I wanted to thank everyone who read our new Roundtable series this year.

This has been a fun exercise, as each week I email a question to our writers, and have them submit their answers blindly. What has been shown over time is how rarely everyone is in agreement. In fact, with some Roundtables, we end up covering every angle of a topic.

To wrap up the year, we’re looking one more time at what happened during the 2022 season. The question will probably make you think there’s only one answer. However, the Roundtable came through again with a few surprises.

Who was your favorite prospect story in 2022?

JOHN DREKER: Endy Rodriguez

The continued development of Endy Rodriguez was my favorite prospect story of 2022. I considered him to be just outside the top 100 prospects in baseball coming into the 2022 season, so I was already as high on him as most people. Shortly after the draft in July of 2022, I still had him as the sixth ranked prospect in the system, though I noted the important fact that I thought Rodriguez was a no doubt top 100 prospect, while no one in the system had a top 20 prospect feel. So there wasn’t a huge separation between first and sixth. They could have all easily been in the 25-75 range for me.

By the end of the 2022 season, I had Endy as my top prospect in the system. As the numbers show, that’s not a huge jump. Guys move up and down top 100 lists all year. What is huge is that he passed five other Pirates players in my mind to get there. All players who I was high on.

I kept waiting for Rodriguez to hit that adjustment period at a new level, where the better pitchers adjust to him and he hits an inevitable slump. I got to see a lot more of him at Altoona than I did at Greensboro thanks to the magic of MiLB.tv. I already liked what I saw before that point, but what I was seeing was more consistent quality at-bats and a better defensive player as well. Then he went to Indianapolis at the end of the year and the change in the level had no effect on him.

I’m looking forward to his 2023 season. It would be nice to see him get off to a fast start at Indianapolis and carry over that success from late last year. That didn’t happen in 2022 at Greensboro, which is one of the reasons I think they’re making the right decision by announcing early that he’s slated for Indianapolis. The other more obvious reason is that he doesn’t even have a half season above A-Ball yet. A fast start would put him in a spot to be called up earlier in the season.

WILBUR MILLER: Javier Rivas

The too-easy answer is Endy Rodriguez. He was possibly the biggest breakout prospect in the minors. Not only was he the best hitter in the minors in the second half, over three levels no less, he’s a potential plus defender at a premium position. And the intangibles are great. And it was especially good after seeing so much of Rodriguez at Bradenton in 2021, and being thoroughly impressed.

But I’ll go with Javier Rivas. Considering where he started from, he probably made even bigger strides than Rodriguez. His 2021 debut in the DSL couldn’t have been worse — .133/.214/.173. When I saw him at the beginning of the 2022 FCL season, he just didn’t look like the basket case his 2021 stats suggested.

Among other things, Rivas looked like he had the bat speed and leverage to hit for some power, which his debut didn’t suggest at all. He started off 2022 going 2-for-21, but then started to hit and finished at .265/.337/.419 in a league that hit .232/.342/.350. He has quite a ways to go, as he does chase a good deal, which is reflected in a poor BB:K ratio.

Best of all, like Rodriguez, Rivas is potentially a plus defender at a premium position. He has the range, hands and actions to make it in the majors at short. I’m looking forward to seeing him at Bradenton in 2023.

ANTHONY MURPHY: Endy Rodriguez

Back in 2021, I watched a lot of the Bradenton Marauders, way more than any other team in the system. From the get go you can tell it was a special group of players, as they eventually went on to win the division championship.

A lot of that had to do with Endy Rodriguez, who at the time was just added to the system as a ‘throw-in’ to complete a three team trade that included Joe Musgrove.

He quickly rose to be not only one of the best hitters on the team, but also in the Florida State League.

So, watching him jump all the way from Greensboro, all the way to Indianapolis was the best story to follow during the 2022 season. Not only did he jump a couple of levels, he rose to where his name is mentioned with some of the best catching prospects in all of baseball.

It’s easy to get lost when looking at his near-video-game-type production offensively, that he is still a legitimate catching prospect. For every stride he took with the bat, he did as well with the glove.

While seeing Endy succeed isn’t a surprise, the next level that he found offensively was amazing to watch and at the same time, a huge win for the front office when it comes to their development.

JEFF REED: Matt Gorski

Favorite prospect story of 2022 feels as it mostly comes down to two players: Matt Gorski or Endy Rodriguez. Since we all love a good underdog story, I have to go with Gorski.

This story for me begins in the off-season leading up to 2022. Cody Potanko, Anthony Murphy, and I had the opportunity to interview Altoona Curve manager Kieran Mattison for a podcast. One of the questions I had for Mattison was who he thought had a chance to break out, with the caveat that Blake Sabol was the only correct answer. 

Going into the question, I honestly expected that he would answer with a broader generalization of how there were a handful of promising prospects in camp, but he settled on Matt Gorski. 

Gorski is the perfect encapsulation of a “tooled-up prospect” who had yet to put those tools on full display in the box score. He was reminiscent of a John Dreker former favorite prospect, Casey Hughston (IIRC, John would still say he was surprised they gave up on Hughston and thought he may have actually had a HIGHER ceiling).

2022 would be the season Gorski put it together. He began back in Greensboro where he was considered old for the league, so his page-jumping numbers still gave pause. Through 37 games, he had a 1.131 OPS and 17 homeruns, before finally receiving his bus ticket to Altoona.

The jump to Double-A and more age-appropriate competition, Gorski did not slow down. In a total of 38 games, he carried an .843 OPS while hitting another six homeruns. The numbers don’t jump off the page as much, but he went from one of the minor’s friendliest hitter parks, to a much more pitcher friendly park in Altoona. 

Unfortunately, as things were going amazing for Gorski, he had an abrupt hamstring injury. He actually managed to work his way back to make his Triple-A debut, but then reaggravated his hamstring, ending his season for good. 

Luckily for Pittsburgh Pirates fans, he wasn’t selected in the Rule-5 draft, so we can continue to sing his praise going into the 2023 season. The thing to keep an eye on will be if he can parlay his 2022 season into a big league opportunity. Questions will hang of whether his breakout was true, or whether he’ll fall back down the depth chart as Matt Fraizer did after a huge 2021 season. 

TIM WILLIAMS: Endy Rodriguez

I had a chance to see Endy Rodriguez play in Altoona in August. Coming away from that trip, I saw Rodriguez as the best prospect in the Pirates’ system. At the time, that seemed a bit aggressive, as was predicting that he would be the future starting catcher over Henry Davis. It seems that Rodriguez has converted a lot of other people into this belief.

Rodriguez ended up hitting .356/.442/.678 in 138 plate appearances across 31 games with Altoona. He went to Indianapolis at the end of the year and hit .455/.435/.773 in six games.

The upper-level success from Rodriguez comes across 37 games, so you don’t want to extrapolate too much of this success for your 2023 expectations. That said, Rodriguez looks as safe as prospects come, with the tools and the work ethic needed to succeed. What stands out to me is his 15% strikeout rate and 13% walk rate in Altoona.

Rodriguez tracks the ball better than anyone on the field. Watching him live, it’s like the game is moving in slow motion for him. He can do more things in a smaller amount of time than other people, and the best way to display this is watching his effortless transition from receiving a pitch to firing a perfect strike down to second.

It’s difficult to imagine any team making a contending run without a solid starting catcher. Rodriguez looks like the type of guy who can fit in behind the plate for a future contender, while providing leadership for that team on and off the field.

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.

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.

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.

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pittsburghbob69

My pick to click this year like Gorski is Jack Herman. Hopefully he starts off in AA. Probably High A again but Pirates need to stop giving Luke Brown, Lolo Sanchez and Citta playing time in the OF.

Jared Oliva moved on(which I thought was good) but now they got Josh Palacios in AAA to take that OF spot.

High A -Tres Gonzalez, Siani, Nolasco, Bowen.

AA- Frazier, Head, Scott, Macias and Herman.

AAA – Gorski, Swaggerty, Njiba-Smith and Vilarde.

Maybe Angel Basbe and Luke Brown as depth type floaters b/ween High A and AA but that should be it.

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69
pittsburghbob69

And Low A should be Campana(again)
Lonnie White Jr
JasiahDixon
JauriCustodio
EnmanuelTerrero
DH-TannerTredaway

And maybe Shalin Polonco, Braylon Bishop and Deion Walker at some point. But those 3 should probably start in FCL again. Along with Solly Maguire and Esmerlyn Valdez. Blanco Jr, Ewry Espinal, Eduardo Oviedo and Eddy Rodriguez in DSL still.

Last edited 1 month ago by pittsburghbob69
ricramer

Is it too early to sign Endy to an extension?

skliesen

The sun for the Pirates organization rises and sets on Endy. He’s going to be a Catcher that’s akin to what a mad scientist would create if he combined the best of Molina and Posey.

Double Digit War Catcher coming to PNC in ‘23!

juniorkrz

We can certainly dream on him. Let’s hope our dreams come true for once.

Scam likely

I think mine is in December of 2022,the pirates won the chance to select Dylan Crews, making him the face of the franchise in thier championship years.

steve_zielinski

Agree. The Pirates need two OFers and a 1B/DH. Those should be offense-first positions. Taking Crews is a no Brainerd.

skliesen

Ummm…I say they take Dollander if he has another year like last year.

AdministrativeSky236

Very likely, he could potentially spend just a year or so in the minors with all his potential.

Zack

The stretch where Goski hit a bazillion home runs in like 10 days was wild.

Catch_22

Surprised there’s no love for Luis Ortiz.

John Dreker

I would love to be high on Ortiz, but I’m not ready to go all in on him when in late July he looked like he might not even be protected for the Rule 5. He’s still a two-pitch guy who can run into control issues that cause him to lean on one pitch. He also had a bad Triple-A start and that awful final start for the Pirates that shows he’s human. He’s a good story, I’ve heard great things from other players/coaches, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up as a power reliever.

In that sense, Yerry De Los Santos has a great story as well due to all of his missed time and really blossoming once he was finally healthy, but I have real trouble getting excited over relievers. It would be great if Ortiz comes to ST with a better changeup and more consistent control

NMR

The dichotomy with how those two issues are discussed between Burrows and Ortiz on this site is pretty remarkable.

john_fluharty

While Jack is not quite my favorite story, I am looking forward to seeing if he can make some improvements going forward and make himself a fixture in the outfield.

NMR

Who was Your Favorite Prospect Story, and why are you wrong for not picking Endy.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

NMR

you didn’t even choose Sabol you coward!!

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

He’s gone!!! Let me grieve in peace!

skliesen

Exactly! I figured the only way this question would make sense is if they only let one person mention Endy.

One really has to do some mental gymnastics to sell any other prospect to us.

b mcferren

Knuckleman

has there been a sighting this winter?

leefieux

Since nobody asked, my Top 3 were: Endy, Gorski and Shackleford. I don’t think Aaron is much of a prospect, but man did he launch some bombs. He reminded me of Dan Uggla.

joesolo6181

No love for Alverez?

leefieux

#4

John Dreker

Regarding Casey Hughston, he had four plus tools and no hit tool. My guess is that they figured they could never develop that hit tool, but it’s really hard to give up a strong defensive center fielder with a plus arm, above average raw power and elite speed. I would have kept running him out there and hoped it all clicked for at least another 1-2 years.

Part of the reason a player like him is hard to give up on doesn’t exist anymore. If he never developed, he still would have been perfect for expanded September rosters on a good team as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner.

Regarding Javier Rivas, he proved what I figured out early this year in my in depth study of DSL stats vs future success. For those who missed it, the basic summary was that DSL stats are meaningless. The top hitters in the league didn’t have a better success rate of making it to the majors than the rest of the field. The same was very close to true with pitchers, with the difference being equal to one out of every 50 players, or in essence, being a top pitcher didn’t guarantee you any better chance of future success than putting up mediocre stats.

I didn’t go into the study hoping to break my own DSL loving heart because I’ve followed the league so closely over the years, but the stats from the league are worthless. The scouting report means so much more, and the Pirates were VERY HIGH on Rivas when he signed.

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