Our first week of the new Prospect Watch went as well as I could have hoped.
For years, the Prospect Watch was the place where we recapped the nightly game action. You can now find that at Pirates Prospects Live.
The new Prospect Watch looks at the development of three players each day, from the unique viewpoints of our writers. That means each week, we give you 21 reports from the Pirates’ farm system — which is a pretty good number for the Pirates.
In the first week, we had reports on three players who would be in my top ten prospects in the system. We had a few reports on guys who would be inside the top 30. What we had a lot of were reports on guys you probably haven’t heard much about. Those reports are what the Prospect Watch will be about.
Today’s report, for example, has updates from me on the recently promoted Jared Jones, and power hitting outfielder Matt Gorski. You’re likely to have heard their names before if you follow the Pirates’ farm system. You might be less likely to recognize Tony Blanco Jr., who John Dreker takes a look at today. Check out all of the other players we’ve covered this week in the archives below.
TIM WILLIAMS: Jared Jones, RHP, Indianapolis (AAA)
The Pirates have promoted Jared Jones to Triple-A Indianapolis after an impressive ten start run through Altoona. Jones posted a 2.23 ERA in 44.1 innings, with a 47:16 K/BB ratio. At this point, he’s put himself in the discussion for the top pitching prospect in the system.
I saw Jones pitch live in Greensboro last September. I saw him again last month in Altoona. There are many factors that go into his success, but I did notice one small factor that changed between last year and this year. In his 2023 starts, Jones has a slight pause at the beginning of his delivery. Rather than going from cold to a full delivery like in the 2022 video, Jones takes a step to turn sideways, with his left foot closer to third base than his right foot on the rubber. From there, he delivers, almost simulating his delivery from the stretch each time. The videos below can show the differences.
This was a great sequence from last week in Altoona. Jared Jones worked out of a jam with three pitches, combined with great catching work by Dylan Shockley. pic.twitter.com/4TvpmROf0g
— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsP2) May 19, 2023
Talking with Jones last month, he said the move was something to get him in a more comfortable starting position. One of the biggest positives out of Jones has been his walk rate, which was at 8.9% in Altoona this year. That’s lower than his 9.6% in High-A last year, or the 11.3% in Bradenton in 2021. The low walk rate and a .201 average against meant that Double-A wasn’t much of a challenge. Jones will go up against more advanced hitters in Triple-A, and could put himself in position for Pittsburgh if he continues pitching like this at the next level.
TIM WILLIAMS: Matt Gorski, OF, Altoona (AA)
While watching the debut of Anthony Solometo last night, I noticed a great piece of hitting from Matt Gorski. The outfielder was faced with a 1-2 count and one out in the first inning, with a runner on first. The next pitch was an 85 MPH curveball, which Gorski sat back on and lifted to left-center field for a triple. Altoona took a 1-0 lead, and Gorski picked up his eighth extra base hit of the month.
Prior to the season, Gorski told me that he was seeing the ball better out of both of his eyes. In previous years, his head position was more turned to where he was mostly seeing the ball out of one eye. You can see a change in his head position comparing videos last year to now.
What I’ve also noticed is how clean his swing is starting to look. In 2022, his bat waggle before the pitch was wild, and his load took his swing back and away from the ball before moving forward. This made him off-balance a lot, and was a key contributor to his 29.6% strikeout rate. Gorski is down to 24.9% this year. Since the start of May, he has a .294/.339/.497 line with a 22.6% strikeout rate. His swing is more compact, with a more consistent rhythm to his pre-pitch bat waggle, and a path so quick to the ball that he can now wait on breaking pitches. Gorski has so much power from his 6′ 4″ frame that he doesn’t need much of a swing to send the ball a long way — as he’s shown the last two nights.
JOHN DREKER: Tony Blanco Jr., 1B, FCL Pirates (Rk)
Tony Blanco Jr. has more plate appearances on paper already this year than he had all of last year in the Dominican Summer League. He was one of two highly rated signings by the Pirates in their 2021-22 international signing class. Blanco received $900,000 due to his power potential. Multiple scouts, including two I talked to separately, all said that he has 40+ home run potential in the majors. We have seen glimpses of that power early on in his career.
Blanco, who turned 18 last month, actually played more last year than he has this season. His online stats show that he had just 19 plate appearances last year. He lost a regular season home run (and single) due to rain canceling a game that was already in the fourth inning. He then homered two more times over four games in the playoffs. Even including those five games into his 2022 stats, he’s about to surpass those total plate appearances this season.
It should be expected that Blanco repeats the DSL this year, even if it’s a bit disappointing. Yordany De Los Santos was rated one spot higher than Blanco in the rankings of the 2021-22 international signing class. He is already impressing early on in the Florida Complex League, while Blanco is hitting .250/.400/.417 over 30 plate appearances a level lower. He has hit one home run this season.
There’s a bit of an interesting development with Blanco. He’s playing first base this year, despite reports when he signed that he showed some athleticism in the outfield, along with a very strong arm. You have to wonder what caused them to take away some of that potential position value, and if it’s a permanent move. He’s very big, listed at 6’5″, 230 pounds, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s 10-20 pounds heavier from what I’ve seen in recent videos. He’s strong, but also has a wide frame that has filled out. Those videos have also shown the easy raw power potential. He doesn’t seem to have the quickest bat, and definitely not the prettiest swing, but he doesn’t need to square up a ball to get it out of the park either.
The questions were there from the start, with some scouts wondering if that raw power will turn into game power often enough. That’s still to be determined this early in his career. While DSL stats have proven to be almost completely meaningless towards future success, you would still like to see the home runs coming from the guy who might have the most raw power in your system.
Prospect Watch Archives
6/17: Liover Peguero, Dominic Perachi, Carlos Mateo
6/16: Kyle Nicolas, Anthony Solometo, Jack Brannigan
6/15: Shalin Polanco, Abrahan Gutierrez, Will Matthiessen
6/14: Nick Cimillo, Geovanny Planchart, Jesus Castillo
6/13: Brandan Bidios, Yordany De Los Santos, J.P. Massey
6/12: David Matoma, Jun-Seok Shim, Tsung-Che Cheng
The Prospect Watch runs every day at noon, featuring three players from the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.