Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all that Endy Rodriguez took the leap he did in 2022. It was all right there.
After being one of the best hitters in the Low-A Southeast Division in 2021, Rodriguez exploded on the national scene last year, putting together one of the best season’s by a prospect in all of baseball.
So, who could follow that up this upcoming year? While no one may approach that kind of level that Endy did, some hitters put up some interesting underlying numbers in 2022 and will be worth watching in 2023.
The easy to forget catching prospect in the Pirates system, Gutierrez had another solid season in 2022. There is reason to believe he could tap into his offense more, based on some of his numbers.
A good recipe for success as a hitter? Put the ball in play, and if possible, make it a line drive. Hitting a line drive statistically improves your odds of getting on base, and you can’t get a hit if you swing and miss the baseball.
When it comes to those two things, Gutierrez was one of the best in the system. His line drive rate was the fifth best among all hitters with at least 250 plate appearances (25%) and he had a swinging strike rate of just 10%, the seventh lowest mark in the system.
Abrahan Gutierrez gives the Grasshoppers the lead with a 3 run home run in the 8th inning #LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/w59Tk7LDy6
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) July 15, 2022
He also walks a good amount (11.8%), and was better on the road than he was in Greensboro (Road OPS .772, Home .762). Defensively, he has thrown out 27.22% of would be base stealers.
Catcher isn’t an overly big need in the system currently, but Gutierrez is strong offensively, and has shown some upside hitting the ball. Taking another step forward can supplant the Pirates in having some of the strongest depth at the position, prospect wise, in baseball.
The infielder, pictured above, spent his first season stateside in 2022 and gave plenty of reasons to be excited for this upcoming year. In 175 plate appearances in the FCL, Rivas posted a 111 wRC+, cutting his strike out rate down from his time in the DSL (29.2% down to 24.6%).
He also developed more power, going from six extra-base hits in 2021 in the Dominican, to 14 this past season. That is really evident in his line drive rate, going from 10.5% in 2021, to a far more respectable 21.6% in the FCL.
Rivas spent time at shortstop and third base last year, and could be a part of a potentially very exciting infield with Bradenton this upcoming season. He’s already taken one step forward.
Shalin Polanco/Yordany De Los Santos
While the first two players had more number-based metrics that played in their favor, for Polanco and De Los Santos, the focus is on the scouting side.
Polanco was one of the biggest international signings the Pirates have made in their history, and while he hasn’t put up the numbers, he just turned 19-years-old. There has always been more excitement about what he ‘could be’.
PITT OF prospect Shalin Polanco sends this deep into RF for the Home Run. This guy has put on a show down here at the complexes. Check out that cut. Pitcher Yonatan Pineda, welcome to FL pic.twitter.com/xtxRaxHEd5
— Eric_Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) May 12, 2022
If there is anyone in the system that has the skillset to take a huge step forward this upcoming season, it would be Polanco. He was MLB Pipeline’s pick to break out in the Pirates system this season as well.
Another big international signing, De Los Santos has the ‘look’ of a baseball player, and put up some interesting numbers in the DSL last year, including strong walk (13.7%) and strikeout rates (19.2%), 14 stolen bases, and a 22.8% line drive rate.
While numbers put up in the DSL can always be taken with a grain of salt, De Los Santos is the type of prospect that just kind of has the ‘it’ factor. According to Fangraphs, he broke the 20-80 scale for barrel rate when adjusted for his age and league, finishing with an 83.
We haven’t seen much from Polanco or De Los Santos but they both have kind of toolsets that translate to eventual success in baseball, sometimes it’s just a matter of getting on the field and playing.
Pirates Pitching Prospects Who Could Take A Big Step Forward In 2023
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.
Another is Hudson Head and Conner Scott. Both have huge upside if they develop this year.
I’m looking for a breakout of Nick Gonzales who could potentially bust out and he has yet to do that.
When down at Pirate City I had the opportunity to watch Javier Rivas taking BP and also working out in the IF. He’s a MAN – a thicker version of Oneil Cruz – and somebody to watch along with Polanco and YDLS.
Rivas did not impress with the bat in the DOSL in 2021, but hit .265 in 155 AB in the FCL in 2022, and I think he led the team in doubles (9), HR (5), and RBI (29). He may be someone who could move up in the system very quickly!
I’ve read a few articles around the web of this type, and I have yet to see any mention of Rodolfo Nolasco. His K rate shot through the roof last year, but he’s a guy that I feel like has potential. That said, I haven’t seen him play much. Any who has care to comment?
Big fan of Nolasco. So much raw power. He’s going to be one of those prospects I’m going to hold out on until I see that additional contact. He had that week where he was absolutely destroying the ball so it’s possible. Just need to see a little more consistency before I’m willing to completely buy in
Big fan as well!
I found this comment from FanGraphs on Yerry de los Santos pretty enlightening:
“Readers should note that taking an aggressive line with players like this has yielded predictably mixed results in the past (so far, so good: Kevin Alcantara, Marco Luciano, Alexander Canario, Jordy Vargas, etc.), and some of the recent, perhaps overzealous examples (Maikel Escotto, Rodolfo Nolasco) are in this system. De Los Santos’ contact metrics are a hair south of average, and that’s the biggest indicator that there’s real risk here, but boy, there is also real ceiling.”
We get increasingly excited about players before we really get a good idea of whether or not they have some of those inherent baseball skills necessary to succeed. You’re never gonna make a plus centerfielder out of Usain Bolt and yet I guarantee you if he were drafted there’d be scouts hanging “high upside” tags on him for his athleticism alone.
If we keep doing this, we’re gonna continue being wrong as much if not more than we’re right.
Bolt would make a hell of a pitch runner though. Random that a dude that fast has a last name of Bolt. Never really thought about that before. Thanks for that.
Usain Slowasfuque would be funnier. 😉
It’s French, thanks for asking.
Just had a vision Usain out in CF. Playing very shallow because Jake Marisnick is at the plate. Jake miraculously barrels up the best he can and hits one deep strait away to Center. Usain says no problem, I can get to it…..for got about what the warning track means…….Wile E. Coyotes right into the wall…….
I was thinking he Kevin Mitchell style catches it at the track. Marisnick gets a curtain call because every one was chanting “he’s a looker” and “move in outfield” when he was walking up to the plate. And by looker I don’t mean prime Cindy Crawford.
Kevin Mitchell was the poster child for bringing the DH to NL back in the 80’s.
Agree. That’s as thin as I remember him in that video.
No problem. I took French in high school 20 or so years ago but it was native French. We didn’t really get into much Caribbean French. I hear it is similar though. Guess your school offered it.
Oh, I bet you could make a Center Fielder out of Usain Bolt but probably never see him in the bigs as he may never learn how to hit a baseball enough to counter balance his ability to chase down any fly ball hit remotely near him.
Seriously though, I wonder how we stack up for success rate compared to other clubs? I have to guess most teams miss on their DSL signings pretty much as much as the Bucs. Really hard to guess which 14-15 year old kids really turn out to be players when the are still growing and still learning.
Right, that’s my point!
And I don’t really think any clubs are successful at this.
Sometimes you hit, most times you don’t. It’s a crapshoot when you’re guessing on skills that won’t reveal themselves until faced with better compeition.
Four guys to keep an eye on. Thx AM.
I feel like Shalin Polanco has been around forever. Can’t believe he is only 19.
Wilson Contreras is the player comp for Abrahan Gutierrez?
Dare to dream! If Hank, Endy and Father Abrahan (credit to BNP for the nickname) all turn out, 2 solid catchers and one heck of a trade chip out of the bunch for the best case. Worse case is a lot of insurance if 1 or 2 get hurt (perish the thought) or don’t turn out (also perish the thought)