Pittsburgh Pirates Minors: Top 5 Performers in May

Altoona Curve pitcher Roansy Contreras as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies hosted Altoona on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The Ponies lost to the Curve, with a score of 5-0.
Altoona Curve pitcher Roansy Contreras as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies hosted Altoona on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The Ponies lost to the Curve, with a score of 5-0. /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
Feb 24, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Roansy Contreras (59) warms up during spring training at Pirate City. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports /

With one month of the minor league season complete, let’s take a look at the five best performances from the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system.

After the delayed start to the minor league season, things are in full swing. The Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the deepest farm systems among all MLB teams. They really added a ton of depth it out this offseason, acquiring very good prospect packages for the likes of Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove. With so many notable prospects within the system, there are bound to be some really good performances once the season got underway.

With one whole month of minor league ball in, why don’t we take a look at some of the best performances Pirate prospects had to offer. The Pittsburgh Pirates had many notable monthly performances, but let’s look at what I considered the five best. Note that these players aren’t in any specific order.

Starting Pitcher Roansy Contreras

We’ve covered pitching prospect Roansy Contreras a handful of times here before, and for a good reason. The right-hander has been dominating at Double-A. Contreras was part of the Jameson Taillon trade. Although he wasn’t the most touted piece heading to Pittsburgh, he’s pitching like he was.

So far at Altoona, Contreras has pitched 21.1 innings posting a 2.08 ERA, 1.96 FIP and 0.78 WHIP. Contreras threw 18.2 straight scoreless innings. He gave up 5 earned runs in his most recent start, but even then, he struck out 6 batters and only allowed 4 hits in 4 innings of work. It was the walks (3) and the lone long ball that killed him.

Despite his most recent outing Contreras still carries an outstanding 42% strikeout rate to pair with a solid 7.4% walk rate. The one home run he gave up on May 25 is the only one he has surrendered this year. He’s currently carrying a strong 48.7% ground ball rate and only has allowed batters to hit a line-drive 7.7% of the time.

Contreras’s success has mainly been due to all of his offerings looking much improved compared to 2019 when he was with the Yankee High-A affiliate. In 2019, he was averaging out in the 92-94 MPH range, and only topping out at 96 MPH. However, 96 MPH has been the norm for him, and he’s topping out in the upper-90’s. His breaking pitch is also looking much sharper, and his change-up has been getting decent reviews.

Contreras’ most recent start has inflated his ERA a bit, but he’s still second in FIP, 4th in strikeout rate, opponent batting average (.147), third in WHIP, 4th in xFIP (2.47), and 5th in K/BB ratio (5.67). Overall, he’s been a top-five minor league pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year.

Overall, it’s an extremely promising start to his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Contreras entered the season with some questions as to whether he’d be a starter long-term, but he seemed to prove he belongs in the rotation based on the early returns.