by David Finoli
Photo courtesy of MLB.com.
As we’re getting into the final month and a half of the minor league season, most of the Pittsburgh Pirates' high end prospects at the AAA level have been promoted to the parent club. While there will be some growing pains at PNC Park for the rest of the season, here’s a look at what’s next down on the farm.
(The stats and team records are as of 7/28/23.)
INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS (46-53)
At the beginning of the season, this was the most exciting team in the system with several top end prospects playing on the diamond at Victory Field. At this point, most of those prospects have graduated to the Major Leagues leaving this club a squad of many Quad A players. As far as those quad A players, Josh Palacios has hit a scintillating .410 with eight homers in 78 at bats while first baseman Miguel Andujar was hitting .348 with an excellent .965 OPS. In 75 games, he had 12 homers and 67 RBIs. At Pittsburgh ,they hit .236 and .161 respectively. Great for the Indy fans but little hope of helping the Big League team. Here are the prospects who have been hot and not in July for the Indians.
Vinny Capra- Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays for catcher Tyler Heineman at the end of April, Capra has been on fire in July. He’s hit .439 in 18 games with an impressive 1.134 OPS and a .500 OB%.
Jared Jones- While he’s had a 4.56 ERA since being called up from Altoona, most of Jones's other stats have been pretty good. A 1.10 WHIP and .227 average against are stellar as is his 32 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings in July for the Indians.
Alika Williams- The report on Williams when he came over from Tampa was a good glove who would struggle at the plate. The glove is good plus he hit .343 in July after coming to the Bucs system. He was promoted on July 25th.
Kyle Nicolas- Nicolas has been a disaster at the AAA level in July. He’s consistently struggled and has an 8.25 ERA. His 2.17 WHIP and .298 average against has also been concerning not mentioning his 12 walks in 12 innings pitched.
Luis Ortiz- Since going back to Indy to refine his vast major league potential, Ortiz has gone backwards. In nine July innings, he has a 13.03 ERA with 15 hits. A 2.59 WHIP highlights his struggles. Most concerning is only eight strikeouts while walking 10. Homers have been his issue the previous couple years and his latest venture to Indianapolis is no different as he’s given up three so far.
Aaron Shackelford- He was showing power for most of the season and has hit four homers in July, 14 for the season, but he has slumped to .209 with only 12 hits this month.
Cal Mitchell- After a short three-day stint with the Bucs in late June, Mitchell was returned to Indy where he hit .385 before heading to the IL. He hasn’t played since July 4.
Malcom Nunez- Was hitting very well after a slow start with a .357 May average and 1.014 OPS in the month but was placed on the IL on May 27th. He recently has begun to rehab at Bradenton.
Canaan Smith-Njigba- After a failed trip to Pittsburgh, hitting only .135 in 37 at bats with a .493 OPS, Smith Njigba had a decent July hitting .270 and a much better .816 OPS although he hit only one homer in 63 at bats.
ALTOONA CURVE (44-46)
It has been an up and down season for the Curve, but it has had the honor of promoting two of the team’s top prospects to Indianapolis. Henry Davis took off after a slow start and dominated the league. He showed enough that Pirate management only gave him a cup of coffee at Indianapolis before sending him off to Pittsburgh where it looks like he’ll stay. Jared Jones was unhittable for the Curve and is now one step closer to the majors in Indianapolis. They now have another top prospect, Anthony Solometo, to perform for their fans.
Chavez Young- Brought over from Toronto in January for Zach Thompson, Chavez struggled in Indy with a .195 average before being demoted to Altoona. He hadn’t done much better with the Curve but in July he finally started hitting with a .308 average and .795 OPS.
Nick Dombrowski- Dombrowski has had a decent season in Altoona with a 3.09 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 55 1/3 innings but July has been particularly good as he’s been unhittable, allowing only nine hits in 14 1/3 innings and a 0.84 WHIP.
Justin Meis- He’s joined Dombrowski with an even more stellar July. In the same innings pitched, the 10th round pick in the 2021 draft had pitched very well this month after a horrendous start to the season with a 1.88 ERA and only seven hits allowed to go with his 0.98 WHIP. As good as he’s been his year-to-date, ERA is still 5.59 and his WHIP a less-than-stellar 1.62.
Tahnaj Thomas- He seems to be a fixture on the who’s not list. Much has been expected of him since he came over from Cleveland and nothing has been given. His ERA is 7.50 in July, and he’s allowed 10 walks in six innings.
Sean Sullivan- The number eight pick in 2021 got off to such a great start for the Curve but the righty has slumped in July. His ERA for the month is 8.74 as he’s lost all three decisions he’s had. Batters are hitting .313 against him this month and his whip ballooned to 1.76.
Abrahan Gutierrez- One of the Bucs' catchers of the future has struggled since being brought to the Curve. In July, he hit .200 and his OPS was a disappointing .575.
Anthony Solometo- Got off to a great start in Altoona but has had a couple bumpy performances lately. Still, the 20-year-old has a 3.86 ERA, going 2-1, and has struck out 20 in 18 2/3 innings so he still seems to be on track.
Braxton Ashcraft- Has barely pitched since being called up to Altoona but allowing only two hits in five innings with five strikeouts is still a great start to his AA career.
Tsung-Che Cheng- After an incredible run at Greensboro, Cheng came to Altoona and wasn’t as effective in a park that doesn’t cater to hitters like he had in Greensboro. In July, his average has come around, hitting .288, but his power hasn’t been there at AA as he still has yet to hit a long ball in his 98 Altoona at bats.
GREENSBORO GRASSHOPPERS (47-44)
The impressive thing about Anthony Solometo and Braxton Ashcraft in high A was the fact they put up such incredible numbers in the hitter friendly ballpark that the Grasshoppers play in. It’s a ballpark that helped push Tsung-Che Cheng to Altoona with Ashcraft and Solometo. They still have some interesting prospects in their final month and a half of the season. They are still the most powerful team in the system as they should be at First National Bank Field.
Josiah Sightler- Most of what he has done this year was at Bradenton where the 15th pick in the 2022 draft was 33 for 64 with six homers to begin his career in the system (he did have 22 at bats in rookie ball as I say that). That translated to a .516 average and 1.454 OPS. While he has only had ten at bats in high A, he has continued his hot streak with four hits and another homer. He is the hottest hitter down on the farm.
Jase Bowen- Has had a fine season in Greensboro with 18 homers and 70 RBIs. He’s continued that in July with a .342 average and a .993 OPS.
Tres Gonzalez- After a good start with Bradenton, the fifth-round pick in last year’s draft from Georgia Tech had a tough start in Greensboro. July has been good to him though with a .321 average and three homers with 12 RBIs in 14 games. A .421 OB% and .940 OPS isn’t too bad either.
Bubba Chandler- The possessor of one of the system’s best fastball’s has struggled mightily so far in 2023. Perhaps he has finally found his way in July as he’s pitched his best ball of the year with a 2.81 ERA for the month with a 2-0 mark. His WHIP, which was hovering around two, has been a much improved 1.25. Even with the better performance in July his season marks are still disappointing at a 5.79 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. Hopefully August will be just like July.
Logan Hoffman- It has not been a good month/season for the Canadian righty. In four relief appearances he’s given up 11 hits and walked seven in four innings. It equates to a 24.75 ERA which moved his year to date mark to over 12.
Thomas Harrington- One of the best prospects in the system has been pitching poorly in July. 32 hits given up in 26 innings has not been a highlight moment for the 36th pick in the entire 2022 draft. He has a 5.19 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. On the good end, he does have 30 strikeouts and only walked seven in that period.
Mike Jarvis- On the bad end, Jarvis struggled quite a bit with the Grasshoppers in July with a .163 average and one extra base hit. On the other end, he did get promoted to Altoona where he is hitting much better.
JP Massey- After a good run in Bradenton, Massey had a bumpy start in Greensboro. He settled down in July, allowing only six hits in ten innings, but he did walk eight over that time with seven strikeouts.
Maikol Escotto- A tough July saw Escotto hit only .167 with three extra base hits and no homers. For the year, he still finds himself on the bad end of the Mendoza line with a .198 average and meager .583 OPS.
BRADENTON MARAUDERS (54-39)
The hottest team in the system plays at Lecom Park in Bradenton. They have promoted several players and still have some of the best prospects in the system including the one whom many think is the organizations top prospect in Termarr Johnson.
Josiah Sightler- Was an incredibly hot hitter in Bradenton. Please see Greensboro for the specifics.
Termarr Johnson- The system’s top prospect according to many experts is finally starting to play like the system’s top prospect in July. He has shown unexpected power with 13 homers, almost half of which were hit this month. He has six homers and 18 RBIs in 22 games this month to go with his .282 average, a remarkable .475 OB% and 1.067 OPS. They may want the 19-year-old to spend the season in Bradenton, but I’d sure love to see him in a Curve uniform.
Mitch Jebb- The number two pick in this year’s draft is just starting his professional career but he has shown exciting speed and aggression in the process. He’s been around for only eight at bats, but has four hits and his speed has caught the attention of those who run the system.
Nick Cimillo- Last year’s 16th round pick out of Rutgers, the catcher has hit .340 in July with two homers, a .452 OB% and 1.012 OPS. It has made his year averages much more respectable after a slow start with a .284 average and a 930 OPS.
Derek Diamond- The sixth round pick out of Mississippi in 2022 had a great July winning all three decisions with a 2.84 ERA and .84 WHIP. He walked only four in 19 innings of work.
Joshua Loeschorn- A tough season to date, Loeschorn had a great July, allowing only three hits in nine innings of relief while garnering two saves and coming through with a 0.43 WHIP. His work this month earned him a promotion to Greensboro.
Wilber Dotel- How does a guy with a mind-numbing ERA end up on the not hot list? Has had a fabulous July with a miniscule 0.44 ERA. While that number looks phenomenal some of his others for the month don’t. He’s walked 12 batters in 20 innings and hit four. His low ERA is also the product of a bad defense as only one of the five runs he’s allowed has been earned.
Carlos Lomeli- 20 hits allowed with a 9.00 ERA has not made Lomeli a star in July. It makes for a 4.55 WHIP while batters hit .455 against him. Hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar of a decent season where he now has a 4.58 ERA where he’s struck out 46 in 39 1/3 innings.
Rodolfo Nolasco- Been a weird July. He does have four homers and 15 RBIs in 20 games but hit only .162 while striking out 32 times in 74 at bats. We will classify this month as bad.
Owen Kellington- Even though he didn't make the hot list, he’s still had a good July striking out 19 and walking only five in 14 2/3 innings. It equates to a 3.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. It was one of his best months of the season.
Lonnie White- After giving up a football scholarship to Penn State to sign with the Bucs, White has struggled so far in Bradenton. He was promoted there this year after a .317 performance in the Rookie Leagues but has hit only .200 in 50 at bats in his young Marauders career. It’s just a small sampling so the bright horizons that many predict for this prospect may still come to fruition.
Yordany De Los Santos- The young shortstop played in the DSL last season before coming to the FCL this year where he hit .328 with 13 stolen bases in 17 games for the Bucs. He is now on his way in the system in Bradenton where the 18-year-old has started hitting as of late bringing his average up to .228.