Born: April 25, 1994
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 240
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 2nd Round, 55th Overall, 2015 (Brewers)
How Acquired: Trade (from Brewers for Jordan Lyles)
College: California Polytechnic State University
Agent: N/A

Ponce is a very big righty whom the Brewers drafted in the second round.  Originally a starter, he featured four pitches:  a fastball that he threw in the mid-90s, a cutter that’s his out pitch against left-handed hitters, a curve, and a change that wasn’t regarded as very effective.  He made slow progress through the Brewers’ system, getting generally uninspiring results.  For the most part, he’s had very good control and somewhat low K rates.  Ponce eventually started toning down his velocity to the low-90s to improve his command, but ultimately the Brewers moved him to relief.  His velocity at that point moved back up to the mid-90s and his cutter and curve, both considered just average pitches, were aided.  He’s not especially a groundball pitcher and hasn’t had a platoon split.  The Pirates acquired him at the 2019 trade deadline for Jordan Lyles.

R+:  0-0-0, 3.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5.0 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 7.2 K/9
A:  2-1-3, 2.15 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 46.0 IP, 1.8 BB/9, 7.0 K/9

The Brewers sent Ponce initially to advanced rookie ball, but after two appearances he moved up to full season ball.  Splitting his time between starting and relief, he got good results, showing strong control, although his K rate wasn’t great.  Baseball America rated him the Brewers’ ninth best prospect after the season.

A+:  2-8-0, 5.25 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 72.0 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Despite moving to the pitching-dominated Florida State League, Ponce had a rough time.  He missed the first two months with arm trouble and never caught up.  BA still rated him 16th in the system.

A+:  8-8-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 120.0 IP, 1.9 BB/9, 7.1 K/9
AA:  2-1-0, 1.53 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 17.2 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 4.6 K/9

The Brewers sent Ponce back to high A, although this time their affiliate was in the Carolina League.  He had a better season, but not as good as the ERA indicates; nearly a third of the runs he allowed were unearned.  He made three starts in AA at the end of the season.  BA ranked him 18th in the system.

AA:  7-6-0, 4.36 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 95.0 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9

Ponce spent the entire season in AA, initially as a starter but eventually moving to relief.  He got only decent results, with opponents posting a .712 OPS against him.  BA rated him 27th in Milwaukee’s system after the season.  He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft but was not selected.

AA (Mil):  1-3-1, 3.29 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 38.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 10.3 K/9
AA:  0-0-1, 6.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 6.0 IP, 1.5 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
AAA:  1-3-0, 5.30 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 18.2 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 9.6 K/9

Ponce went back to AA and pitched entirely in relief.  He made improvements, especially with his K rate, and opponents had a .632 OPS against him.  The Brewers traded him to the Pirates at the deadline, who initially sent him to Altoona.  He made two relief appearances there, then moved to the rotation and, after one start, moved up to Indianapolis.  He made four starts there, pitching poorly in three of them.  On the whole season he significantly increased his K rate.  After the season, the Pirates’ new front office added Ponce to the 40-man roster.

MLB:  1-1-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 17.0 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.4 K/9

The Pirates called Ponce up several times during the shortened season and he made five appearances, three of them starts.  He didn’t allow many runs, but that was because of a .163 BABIP and 100% strand rate.  All of the earned runs off him scored on the five home runs he allowed, which was a lot for 17 innings.

AAA:  1-4-0, 4.71 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 57.1 IP, 2.8 BB/9, 9.3 K/9
MLB:  0-6-0, 7.04 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 38.1 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 8.5 K/9

Ponce went into spring training expected to compete for a spot on the major league roster, but he missed most of the month with forearm stiffness and opened the season on the 10-day injured list.  In the end, he divided his season between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, appearing in 15 games at each level.  He had good walk and K rates, but he also had gopher ball problems, allowing eight at each level.  In the majors, that was better than one every five innings.  With the Pirates, opponents batted .344 against him with a .613 slugging average.  Left-handed batters slugged .750 against him.  He was hurt in the majors by a low strand rate (59.9%) and very high BABIP (.390), but didn’t pitch well in any event.

The Pirates’ decision to move Ponce to starting in 2019 was curious, given that he hadn’t shown much promise as a starter.  He should be a leading candidate to come off the 40-man roster in the off-season.

2022: Major league minimum
Signing Bonus: $1,108,000
MiLB Debut: 2015
MLB Debut: 8/2/2020
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2025
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2019
Options Remaining: 1 (USED:  2020, 2021)
MLB Service Time: 0.122
June 8, 2015: Drafted by the Milwaukee in the 2nd round, 55th overall pick; signed on June 15.
July 29, 2019: Traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jordan Lyles.
November 20, 2019: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.