It’s unofficially been Prospects Week for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
First, they called up catcher – or used-to-be catcher – Henry Davis from Triple-A Indianapolis on Monday. Four days later, infielder Nick Gonzales got the call to join the Pirates from Indy.
Give the Pirates credit for doing one thing right over the last 30 years. They conditioned a significant segment of their fan base to get very excited every time a prospect of note reaches the major leagues.
Firing up the fan base over a young player, of course, is easier – and more economical — than putting together a competitive club at the major-league level. And touting prospects eternally keeps hope alive for fans who haven’t been treated to as much as a division title by the Pirates since 1992.
I’ve seen enough failed prospects in 36 years of covering baseball to temper my enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, a lot of fans love their prospects. And we aim to please.
With that in mind, let’s look at who could be next in line at Indianapolis to make their major-league debuts.
Baseball America ranks Rodriguez as the Pirates’ top prospect and No. 19 in all of baseball. However, the 23-year-old catcher has not played up to that ranking this season as he is hitting .244/.331/.376 with four home runs in 55 games.
There is also a question of where Rodriguez would play if he came to the major leagues. After all, the Pirates have refused to bench light-hitting catcher Austin Hedges despite the presence of Davis on the roster.
Rodriguez has played a little bit of first base at Indianapolis, but Carlos Santana is a fixture at that position for the Pirates — though he could be dealt by the Aug. 1 trade deadline.
It just seems a matter of time before the 22-year-old right-hander and 2019 first-round draft pick makes it to Pittsburgh.
Priester is 7-3 with a 4.36 ERA in 15 starts for Indianapolis. Though his ERA and 1.41 WHIP are on the high side, he has 76 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. He pitched six scoreless innings and struck out 11 on Saturday night in a no-decision against Columbus.
It is also instinctive to note that the Pirates brought up righty Osvaldo Bido from Indy nearly two weeks ago even though his ERA was 4.88 through 10 starts and 12 overall appearances.
A spot in the Pirates’ thin rotation could open by the end of July if they decide to flip left-hander Rich Hill at the deadline.
The 21-year-old right-hander has taken as big of a step forward as any player in the Pirates’ farm system this season, recently being promoted to Indianapolis after going 1-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 10 starts with Double-A Altoona. He struck out 47 in 44.1 innings in the Eastern League with a fine 1.08 WHIP.
That is quite a jump from his first two pro seasons in which he had a 4.64 ERA in 66 innings with Low-A Bradenton in 2021 and a 4.66 ERA in 122.2 innings at High-A Greensboro last year.
Jones had a solid Triple-A debut this week, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings in a loss to Columbus.
The 25-year-old infielder doesn’t get as much hype as some of the Pirates’ other prospects. However, Triolo is having a fine year at Indianapolis with a .315/.413/.473 slash line in 36 games despite missing the start of the season while recovering from wrist surgery.
Triolo hitting one home run in 150 plate appearances is concerning, particularly with third base being his primary position, but the lack of power could be attributed to the surgery.
Triolo’s ability to also play shortstop and steal an occasional base makes him a candidate to, at the least, be an above-average utility player. And nobody values utilitymen quite like the Pirates.