Pittsburgh Pirates Minors: Blake Sabol and Tahnaj Thomas


The Pittsburgh Pirates are struggling right now, that is a fact.  However, they do have a couple of prospects in the lower minors who are doing very well.

Things have gone south quickly for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  They are looking like one of the worst teams in baseball and now have a record that proves it.  The team is likely going to be making some deals over the next few days that will bring in some prospect talent.  However, there are a couple of prospects in the system right now that are starting to catch some eyes.

Blake Sabol is relatively new to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Bucs used their seventh round pick in this year’s draft to take the now-former USC Trojan.  In college, Sabol mainly played catcher and a little bit of outfield, but the team announced that he would start out in the Pittsburgh Pirates system as an outfielder.  Sabol is very athletic, obviously, but he is also very protectable.  He swings from the left side of the plate and has projectable power standing at 6’4” and weighing 215.

So far, Sabol has looked like one of the better picks of the Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 draft.  Obviously it is a small sample size, but nonetheless a promising start.  Sabol has played in 29 games for the West Virginia Black Bear (Short-Season affiliate), slashing a solid .276/.364/.419. He has two home runs, three doubles, and three triples as well.

His on-base percentage is the most impressive part of his overall good slash line.  The reason his OBP is so high is that he has walked 14 times (11.6 percent) while only striking out 23 times (19 percent).  It seems that Sabol has a good handle on the strike zone and knows how to make contact.  Although being a big lefty, Sabol sprays the ball to all fields.  He only has pulled the ball 38 percent of the time while going the opposite way 36 percent and up the middle 25 percent.

Sabol also has some very strong sabermetric numbers as well.  In terms of Weighted Runs Created (wRC+), he is well above league average sitting at 133.  He also has shown some of the potential power he has, posting a .143 Isolated Power (ISO).  His batting average on balls in play is at .333, meaning that he is having some luck with balls getting through, but nothing that should take away from his overall numbers.

Meanwhile, at the Pittsburgh Pirates other Short-Season Affiliate, the Bristol Pirates, they look like they have a future ace.  This past offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates swung a deal with the Cleveland Indians.  In the deal, the Bucs acquired a pitching prospect by the name of Tahnaj Thomas, a 19-year-old prospect from the Bahamas.  Thomas was ranked inside the Indians’ top 30 prospects and currently ranks 18th in the Bucs system.

While 18 seems low, Thomas is only 20, and he just turned that in June.  The big thing with Thomas is his projectability.  He is tall, standing at 6’4” and has a power arm with a fastball that is graded as a potential 60 pitch.  Obviously that is what makes Thomas such an intriguing prospect.

Thomas is having a solid first season in the Bucs system.  So far he has made seven starts and has thrown 24.1 innings, posting a 4.07 ERA, but he has been much better of late.  Thomas had a tough start to the year.  In his Pittsburgh Pirates organizational début, Thomas gave up two earned runs (four total) in a third of an inning.  Then in his second start, he gave up three earned runs in 1.1 innings.  However, over his last five starts he has only given up six earned runs.

The big thing is that Thomas has shown off his power stuff and has used it effectively.  He has already struck out 33 hitters in his 24.1 innings of work.  Furthermore, he has shown solid control, only allowing six walks and one hit batsman (with that looking to be intentional).  Usually with a young, power, and projectable pitcher there are control issues, but Thomas looks like he is in a good spot right now.

Thomas started yesterday and had one of the best starts of his career.  He threw five innings and did not allow a single run or walk.  Meanwhile, he limited the opposition to just three hits while striking out seven.  However, the most impressive note came from Pirates Prospects contributor John Dreker.  Dreker wrote that Thomas’ fastball had a floor of 95 miles per hour but sat at 97-99 while hitting triple digits three times.  Dreker also mentioned that in his start on July 19th, Thomas actually hits 101 on the gun.  The fact that he is doing this at such a young age is very exciting.

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Both of these prospects are doing very well in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, and early returns could prove that they were a couple of steals.  Sabol looks like a pretty solid all-around hitter that likely has some home run power coming.  Meanwhile, Thomas has elite strikeout stuff and if developed correctly could represent a big-time upside pitcher.