Welcome to another edition of “One Week Sample Sizes”.
Because that’s all we’ve got for the minor leagues so far.
One week of real minor league baseball for the first time in 20 months.
It makes you want to just mock up a timeline for Nick Gonzales to soar quickly to the majors, after watching him put up a season’s worth of hitting in one week.
It makes you want to dream about Gonzales (7-for-15, 1.396 OPS) joining Liover Peguero (6-for-17, 1.127), Travis Swaggerty (4-for-12, 1.050), and Endy Rodriguez (5-for-14, 1.080) in a future Pirates lineup.
There was a lot of baseball to watch this week, and I’m not against reports after just one week of games. I do that every time I travel to see a team over a week. You’re not looking for stats. You’re looking for tools that you can project out for future success.
The limited views of Gonzales and Peguero so far should have Pirates fans dreaming. I wrote about them briefly earlier this week, sharing a few videos of their swings at the plate.
I haven’t watched as much of Swaggerty or Rodriguez, but threw them in for obvious system need reasons. Swaggerty could give the Pirates a long-term answer in center field in 2021 if he performs well. Rodriguez is the top catching prospect at the thinnest position in the system. It’s good to see those two among the players starting off strong.
What really stood out to me wasn’t the hitting, but the pitching.
More specifically, the strikeouts.
The Pirates’ affiliates all ranked top three in their leagues in K/9.
The big standout in Triple-A so far has ben Chase De Jong, who threw six shutout innings with ten strikeouts. De Jong isn’t a prospect, but is at post-prospect age, and should get a shot in Pittsburgh at some point this year.
Roansy Contreras was the biggest standout for me this week. The Pirates acquired Contreras as one of the pieces in the Jameson Taillon trade. The 21-year-old right-hander made his debut in Altoona with five shutout innings and 11 strikeouts.
Altoona also had high strikeout totals from Hunter Stratton, who struck out nine in four innings over two relief appearances.
The combination of Michael Burrows and Tahnaj Thomas in High-A got off to a good start. Burrows threw four perfect innings with eight strikeouts. Thomas struck out seven in three innings, only giving up a solo homer.
The Bradenton roster didn’t get a lot of individual innings, but had good performances. Leading the way was 2020 fifth rounder Logan Hofmann, who struck out seven in three innings in relief. Santiago Florez struck out seven in four shutout innings in his first start of the year.
Almost all of these cases are a sample size of one game.
The fact that the strikeouts are wide-spread across the system gives some hope that this isn’t just a hot start by a few guys. The downside is that the walks across the system by the pitching staff ranks in the bottom half.
Will the pitchers continue the strikeouts while removing the walks?
Will Nick Gonzales hit his way to Pittsburgh in 2021?
Will Roansy Contreras end up a top ten pitching prospect in the system by the end of the year?
Will Craig is one of four players named Will.
That’s the only thing I know right now.
That, and Nick Gonzales can hit.