Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: First-Round Picks Performing at Greensboro

DENVER, CO - JULY 11: Quinn Priester #40 of National League Futures Team pitches against the American League Futures Team at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 11: Quinn Priester #40 of National League Futures Team pitches against the American League Futures Team at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The last four Pittsburgh Pirates first-round picks have done well in their first taste of professional action with High-A Greensboro.

The last four first-round picks of the Pittsburgh Pirates have been performing extremely well down at High-A Greensboro. Quinn Priester (2019 first-round pick), Nick Gonzales (their 2020 first-round pick), Carmen Mlodzinski (2020 first-round competitive balance pick), and Henry Davis (2021 first-round pick) make up a very powerful and promising roster at High-A.

Let’s first start with Priester. Our #1 pitching prospect currently in the system, Priester was the top high school arm coming into the 2019 draft. Over the last year, Priester has skyrocketed up through prospect lists. He went from a borderline top 100 guy to a consensus top 60 prospect. This was mainly due to his work in instructionals.

Priester has tossed a total of 74 innings at Greensboro, pitching to the tune of a 2.80 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, albeit with a 4.58 FIP. Priester hasn’t gotten many strikeouts with just a 22.2% rate while his 9.8% walk rate hasn’t been fantastic either. Though he’s getting a ton of ground balls, having a 55.4% ground ball rate. He’s been pretty solid at suppressing line drives as well with an 18.8% line drive rate.

Though he has gotten better as the season has gone on. Over the course of his last 40 innings, he has a 2.25 ERA, 4.10 FIP, 24.4% strikeout rate, and 0.68 HR/9. Walks have still been a bit of an issue with a 10.9% mark, but he’s still only 20-years-old. Control issues at that age are very common, especially considering he already works in the mid-to-upper 90’s. By the time he’s fully developed, he should have average control at the very least. Plus, Priester was good enough to go to the 2021 Futures Game.

Gonzales was picked with the team’s 1st round in 2020. Selected as the 7th overall player in the draft, Gonzales was coming off a massively successful college career. He showed power, some speed, and had a wOBA well above .500. His wOBA in the Cape Cod League was also very high, stretching over .400.

Just overall this season, he’s been great at Greensboro. He’s batting .283/.357/.489 with a .368 wOBA, and 127 wRC+. Gonzales is walking at a healthy 8.8% rate, though his strikeout rate is a tad high at 29.3%, however that’s not unusual for young players in their first professional season and nothing that can’t be fixed.

Considering he had more walks than strikeouts in college, he definitley has plenty of talent and room to improve. He’s shown decent power as well with a .206 isolated slugging percentage. Though his batting average on balls in play seems high at .383, we are only looking at 244 trips to the plate, and he’s been a line drive machine. He has a 26.5% line drive rate and ground ball rate of just 36.1%.

Though over the last month, he’s been phenomenal and one of the hottest hitters in minor league baseball. His last 120 plate appearances have yielded a .358/.433/.566 with a .433 wOBA, and 168 wRC+. Gonzales has gradually decreased his strikeout rate with a 24.2% mark over the last month, while still keeping a decent 9.2% walk rate. He’s also doing well with power, having a .208 ISO.

The other player coming out of the first round of the 2020 draft was Mlodzinski. A power pitcher from the University of South Carolina. The right-hander didn’t put up the greatest numbers in college but did well in the Cape Cod League, and his stuff earned him a pick late into the first round.

He’s tossed 43 innings putting up a 2.51 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and 1.00 WHIP. Mlodzinski is striking out batters at a great 33.1% rate. His 8.9% walk rate isn’t great, but it’s workable. The right-hander’s HR/9 rate is a little high as well with a 1.05 rate. Though both his walk rate and HR/9 are a bit inflated. He has 2, 4 walk games, and gave up 2 home runs in one game on July 3rd. Overall though, he’s been a high quality arm at High-A.

Davis was the most recent first-round selection by the Pirates. With the number one overall pick, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Davis with an underslot deal, which ended up paying off in a big way later in the draft. Coming into the draft, Davis was probably the best power-hitting prospect available with 70-future grades for his game and raw power. Though he showed power all throughout his time at the University Of Louisville, Davis put on a huge display in 2021. He blasted 15 home runs in just 228 trips to the plate, putting him on pace for nearly 40 in 600 plate appearances. Plus he had an outstanding .293 ISO.

Davis has much less of a sample size to go off of compared to Priester, Gonzales, or Mlodzinski, but he’s done extremely well during his first taste of professional action. Davis got things started out at the Pirates Black FCL affiliate. He went 3-7 where all three hits went for extra bases (2 doubles, 1 home run). So far at Greensboro, he’s 3-9 with a triple, home run, and 2/4 BB/K ratio. Davis is showing every bit of the power the Pirates were hoping to get when they picked him 1/1.

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Greensboro’s roster is loaded with high-end talent. Michael Burrows, Tahnaj Thomas, Jared Triolo, and Liover Peguero are some of the other worthwhile names playing at High-A. Most of which are playing extremely well. Considering that the Pittsburgh Pirates last 4 first-round selections are doing extremely well, the future looks even brighter than it did before for the Bucs.