Williams: Three Prospects I’m Following in the Pirates System This Year

The Pirates are off to a great 4-2 start after a sweep against the Boston Red Sox. With the MLB team off today, we’ve been focusing on minor league previews.

The minor league seasons kick off this weekend, and while that offers a lot of prospects to follow, I’m going to highlight three players today that I’ll be following this season.


With all due respect to Endy Rodriguez, Quinn Priester, and Mike Burrows, the guy I will be watching in Indianapolis this year is Nick Gonzales.

I don’t think we really know what “contact skills” are, at least the “we” providing analysis outside of the game. I don’t think the people inside the game have started to get an idea until recently. The Pirates seem to be on the right track. And that’s just the opinion of this writer, who has his own unique understanding of hitting.

Gonzales was well regarded for his hand-eye coordination. What does that mean? His eyes were fast enough to track a fastball and react, and his hands were quick enough to get the bat to where he wanted to hit. Gonzales would have a contact point out in front of the plate, and his hands are so quick that he could often react late and just swing directly to that point — meeting the ball with whatever bat angle was generated from a late swing.

The Pirates have been working with Gonzales to focus on narrowing his hitting zone, first and foremost. He’s got the ability to swing at anything and make contact, but that doesn’t mean it’s good contact. I wrote last year about how he was focusing on different areas of the field, and adjusting his bat path.

With only one area of the plate to focus on, Gonzales then needs to work on a slight swing adjustment that allows him to get his bat swinging through the zone, rather than dipping in and out. This is where I believe Gonzales just needs to create new habits.

For years, he’s gotten by based on reactions. No one below pro ball could sneak a pitch past his eyes or hands waiting to spring. As he moved up, reactionary hitting became more difficult, as it does for everyone not named Oneil Cruz.

In my assessment, Gonzales is going from a raw, reactionary hitter who relies on his vision and agility — not the most long-term sustainable tools, according to this 39-year-old writer — to a hitter who is using those tools as part of a more professional approach at the plate. That involves swinging at opportune pitches, and putting a swing that travels through the zone, rather than going directly to the spot where Gonzales thinks the ball will end up.

As we all know, that latter approach can make a hitter look foolish in the majors, where every pitch looks the same until the last 200 milliseconds.

Gonzales was showing some promise at the end of last year. Ultimately, he needs consistent playing time to build a routine and positive momentum. He’s a guy I’ll be focused on nightly this year. If he does find that momentum, he could impact the MLB scene this summer.


The big bonus prep pitchers from the 2021 draft will go to Greensboro this year, where they will face a challenge of an extreme hitter’s park. Chandler will counter that by focusing exclusively on pitching. Solometo has seen a boost in his velocity this spring, from his debut last season.

The Pirates sent Quinn Priester to Greensboro in 2021, and he put up a 3.04 ERA in 97.2 innings. It’s not impossible to pitch well in that park, and these two pitchers have the ability to match the production from Priester.

I’ll add that Mike Burrows joined Priester on that 2021 team, with a 2.20 ERA in 49 innings. Burrows and Priester are now a story as MLB depth in Indianapolis, but I’m interested in seeing if Chandler and Solometo can be the next big duo to move up through the system.


I said three players, but I’m giving a bonus guy to watch in Javier Rivas. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Rivas, though I haven’t seen much of him. I’m going to be focusing on Bradenton for 2022 first rounder Termarr Johnson, but I’m really interested in getting a closer look at Rivas this year.

Last year in the FCL, the 6′ 6″ shortstop hit for a .756 OPS and five homers. He flashed easy raw power and the ability to play strong defense at shortstop. To me, he’s one of the more exciting sleepers to follow in the lower levels.


**It was great to see Carlos Santana getting his bat going in yesterday’s game, putting the Pirates on the board with his first homer of the year in the fourth inning. Santana seems to have already had an impact on the infield group and the team. Has anyone noticed the dance they do around the mound after wins? During his press conference after his signing, Santana said he was going to get the team dancing. It’s nice that he’s getting them dancing after a game where he put them in the lead with a home run and added to the lead with a double.

**That was a great start by Mitch Keller. It’s interesting how Derek Shelton is opting to challenge some players early in the season. This could have been a different outcome, but in the end Keller got through seven with one run. I can only imagine the overall result — Keller leading the team to a sweep over the Red Sox — will be something that will boost his confidence and allow him to turn in more outings like this.

**The bullpen continues to get result across the board. I was wondering who would come in for the save with David Bednar unavailable. Duane Underwood Jr. got the job done, while Rob Zastryzny continues to make the most of his opportunities in the absence of Jarlin Garcia. I asked yesterday whether the Pirates have the makings of a shutdown bullpen. Right now, they have a lot of promise.


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.

Triple-A: Indianapolis Indians
Double-A: Altoona Curve
High-A: Greensboro Grasshoppers
Single-A: Bradenton Marauders

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.

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‘WAY off topic, but if McCutchen is still wanting/able to hit NEXT year, what are the possibility of having him as a player/coach? Would that still take up a roster slot?


Good article & pics Tim.
Unrelated, but blake Sabol hit his 1st HR today as CWS got clobbered.


Not a mistake, just a case of an overload of good young Catchers and Outfielders in the Pirate system. Suwinski was already up, Mitchell was a 937 OPS at AAA, and after a rough first two months in MLB he posted an 820 OPS in July, and a 734 OPS in Sep/Oct for the Pirates in 2022, and CSN is already up for the Pirates in 2023. Swagg’s is another and they are all LH hitters.

They did Sabol a favor by affording him the opp to get picked by a team that liked what they saw. He’s in MLB, playing LF (he was a CF at USC) and is 4 for 18 with the one HR and 1BB/5K. And he is just a few hours from home! Life is good.


* sorry, pics on who to follow & great pictures too! Agree w Sabol, rooting for him tho


Got to watch Javier Rivas work out and taking BP in early March over at Pirate City and he looks like a very talented prospect. Still probably growing into his 6’6″ frame, but he looked very smooth in the field and lost quite a few balls during BP.

He took a big jump in competition last year from the DOSL to the FCL, and hit and fielded very well. Anxious to see how he does this year in Bradenton.

b mcferren

Nick at third base is a winning recipe


NG has played a total of 243 games at 2B in College and for the Pirates in the Minor Leagues. He has played a total of 2 games at 3B over that same period of time.




For Nicky G is it less about narrowing the zone or more about just not being able to identify and hit a curve? He is terrible on breaking balls so far in his career. Right now, at this point, he is a RH Suwinski.


I always liked Stan Musial’s philosophy on hitting breaking balls. “You wait till it curves. Then you hit the s*** out of it.”


That’s the way they said things in Donora, PA. A hometown boy who got away.


I hope it works. But, if it were that simple we wouldn’t have as many failed ‘couldn’t hit the curve ball’ prospects, would we? 😁😁


I’ve taught hitting for many years, and now that I am semi-retired from doing that, I work with and watch my grandchildren, 4 of which play Baseball/Fast Pitch Softball. When they walk to the plate I say one thing “See the ball”.

Best video I ever saw was “Charlie Lau – The Art of Hitting .300”, but I have also had to update through the years as swings have changed so much in Baseball.

It’s Friday and MLB has Aaron Judge going through a BP session with Harold Reynolds – 10 minutes of must watch for anyone interested in hitting.


You need to apply for Andy Haines’ job. He seems fully retired.


Don’t we all react better to results than conjecture?

I unnerstand what you be saying. Just ‘saying’ as you stated, hitting ain’t simple or else more ‘curve ball whiffers’ would have succeeded. Where Nicky is at right now is not a good spot. Doesn’t say he CAN’T succeed, but the odds are that he won’t.


Nicky G just swings and myths at curveballs too much.

That’s my story and I am sticking to it. 🤣🤣🤣


I really don’t know a heck of a lot about Gonzales other than what is said on this site so I’ll go with the obvious answer. More plate discipline which should result in fewer strikeouts and better contact. I know DUH!!!

Last edited 1 month ago by mikeschalke

IF he can keep his bat in the zone longer, with his exit velocity he jumps back onto Top 100s and is my starting 2b next year.

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