The 2023 minor league season fully kicks off this weekend. To get you prepared to follow the prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, we’ve put together previews for every level.
Pirates 2023 Minor League Previews
Triple-A: Indianapolis Indians
Double-A: Altoona Curve
High-A: Greensboro Grasshoppers
Single-A: Bradenton Marauders
The Pirates wanted to get both of their top catching prospects regular playing time, so they sent Henry Davis to Altoona, where he will get about four starts a week behind the plate, leading the Altoona prospect group.
Henry Davis is the best prospect on this team, and some might say he’s the best prospect in the system. So while there are other very interesting players on the team, all eyes will be on him. His health will be what most people are watching closely. He gets hit with a lot of pitches, which has led to some issues with staying on the field. When he does play, his bat might provide the highest upside in the system. He has the ability to get on base, and do it while hitting for power. While his defense needs work behind the plate, he has a cannon for an arm. Don’t be surprised if he’s taking turns in the outfield throughout the season.
The backup catchers are Carter Bins and Dylan Shockley. Bins spent 2022 with Indianapolis, where he had a rough time getting going with the hitting. He should see plenty of time as the backup. Shockley has the defensive ability to play in the majors, but the bat is behind. He needs to see consistent time to get going with the bat, but that will be tough with Bins and Davis around, though Davis might only be a half-season member of Altoona if all goes right.
For part of last year. Altoona had a prospect infielder of Jared Triolo, Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales and Malcom Nunez. The 22-year-old Peguero returns for at least part of this season, and he’s the top prospect among an infield of minor league veterans and/or slightly older players. He was showing major flashes of his potential last year, with the tools to be a solid regular at some point in the majors, especially if everything clicks soon. His second half last year included a long slump, though he never looked over-matched at the plate for any length of time.
There’s not a top prospect beyond Peguero in this group. You have power-hitting first baseman Mason Martin getting sent down from Indianapolis, after setting the franchise’s single-season strikeout record for any level/year last year. His power is tough to match in the system, but he needs to make more contact, plain and simple. Andres Alvarez was showing flashes on top 30 potential last year before really falling off in the second half, though he had a nice winter season against lower-level competition in Colombia. He should see some outfield time. He has a nice combo of power/speed and versatility.
Long-time veteran Drew Maggi was sent to Altoona, but that was mostly for playing time purposes. I’d expect him to be in Indianapolis at some point. Jacob Gonzalez got off to a tremendous start last year, but he’s nearing 25 years old, and his second half of 2022 was rough, while playing in a very hitter-friendly park with Greensboro.
This is basically the same outfield as last year for Altoona. Connor Scott and Matt Gorski are the top two players here. Scott is more about upside so far, rather than results, while Gorski put up huge numbers on offense before getting injured twice last year. He’s another player who might not be here long. He’s another player with a nice power/speed combo. He could be playing some first base this year as well.
Matt Fraizer, Lolo Sanchez and Fabricio Macias have all shown tools in the past, but they have hit a wall so far at Double-A. For as long as he’s been around, Sanchez is still shy of his 24th birthday. The other two are 25 years old. Josh Palacios, who saw big league time in 2022, got pushed back to Altoona due to an outfield logjam at Indianapolis. It’s not a strong group ahead of these players, so there’s room to move up.
Jared Jones and Kyle Nicolas are the top two pitchers to watch here. Both have high upside, with Jones probably having higher, though Nicolas is much closer to reaching his potential. Jones will be 21 years old for a majority of this season, while Nicolas is 24 years old. Both will be in the starting rotation. Nicolas put in a full year of Altoona last year, so he could move quickly this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones spends the entire season with Altoona, though September innings in Indianapolis could be possible.
The third best prospect on the pitching staff will vary by whoever you ask. Two names that probably won’t come up yet, got great reports from Spring Training. Sean Sullivan and Aaron Shortridge have impressed this year. Shortridge was making a great move at the end of 2019 with Bradenton (then High-A), but the lost 2020 season, coupled with missing 2021 due to surgery, pushed him back. His velocity spike didn’t return in 2022, but it has this year, which he pairs with command of all of his pitches.
Sullivan had a mediocre 2022, taking into consideration the Greensboro ballpark and the fact that he was 21 years old all year. He got some good grades for his pitches, but this spring has been strong for him, so we will see how he handles the jump to Double-A. He could be a good sleeper prospect in the system to watch, especially if the spring performances carry over.
The are a lot of veterans of Double-A (or higher) among the rest of the players. It’s interesting to note that both Braeden Ogle and Travis MacGregor have returned to the system, both former high profile draft picks for the Pirates. Both have some injury issues, but they have pitched in Triple-A. The each somewhat recently re-signed with the Pirates after reaching free agency this past off-season.
Tahnaj Thomas returns to Altoona, looking to turn his high upside into results. Tyler Samaniego had some solid results last year, both for Greensboro and Altoona. Noe Toribio spent a good portion of 2022 in Indianapolis, showing spurts of potential. This is a trio that could produce a big league bullpen arm.
Justin Meis is new to the level. He could be in the starting rotation, which hasn’t been announced yet. He showed some potential last year, though he was also hurt by a few very rough starts in Greensboro. Consistency is the key here.
Nick Dombkowski, Bear Bellomy and Omar Cruz all saw time last year with Altoona. Cruz could be in the starting rotation as well, though he fits better in relief. Bellomy and Dombkowski both have the potential to reach the majors as a middle reliever.
It’s not the strongest group of hitters and pitchers we have seen at Altoona. Most of last year was better. There is plenty of potential for big league starters among the best prospects and bench players among the rest.
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.
Fwiw, the Curve activated Brad Case, put Bins on 7-day IL, and put Finol, Omar Cruz, Macias and Bellomy on the development list,
Curve starters for the first 3 games: Nicolas, Jones, Meis.
Don’t totally sleep on Meis.
Feels like this affiliate got old real, real fast.
Cycles. Next year it will feel differently because of Bubba, Solometo, and Termarr.
Feels like a mission for Hoppers to get them young, real fast
My Top 5 that I hope make it. Not a lot of guys overall at Altoona to make me want to rush out and see them, but I’ll still hopefully make one or two games.
Davis (power, power and more power: Just. Stay. Healthy!)
Gorski (Power hitting CFer? Sign me up!)
Jones/Thomas (If both can find command/control at the very least we have two good relievers, if not a SP in Jones).
Bins (I kid, I kid).
Honorable mention: Samienego….I just like the name. Bear would be good, too.
It seems that Bins reworked his swing and looked good in ST, so who knows!
Threw the old swing in the trash Bins?