Most of the minor league pitchers, like a handful of their players, were more depth than anything else. James Marvel, Steven Wright, and Beau Sulser ate up a handful of starts. Though the 2022 Indianapolis Indians starting rotation will start things off with two very impressive pitching prospects.
The first will likely be Roansy Contreas. The Bucs acquired Contreras in the Taillon swap. While at the time he looked like a solid pitching prospect, his stock would skyrocket over this past season. At Double-A, Contreras would put up a 2.65 ERA. 2.74 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP through 54.1 innings of work. The right-hander struck out a ton of batters, putting up a 34.9% strikeout rate. Plus he had a strong 5.5% walk rate and 0.83 HR/9.
The big reason for his rise in stock was his improved stuff. The right-hander showed a large increase in velocity, as well as more break on his slider. Contreras was promoted to Triple-A at the end of the 2021 season and even made his major league debut. He pitched 2 innings, allowing just 3 hits, a walk, and struck out 4. While Contreras did make his debut, he’ll likely at least get a few more innings down at Triple-A before he makes the big move to the majors.
The other big-time pitching prospect that will start at Triple-A is Carmen Mldozinski. The Pirates picked Mlodzinski with the 31st overall selection in the 2020 draft. A right-hander with a high ceiling, Mlodzinski did well at High-A Greensboro. He put up a 3.93 ERA, 4.34 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP through 50.1 innings of work. Mlodzinski was a strikeout machine, having a 30% K-rate. His walk rate and home run rate were a bit high though at 9.6% and 1.25 per-9. However, neither were awful either.
Mldozinski’s overall numbers may not have been great, but they were solid, to say the least. Plus they were a bit inflated after a few poor starts at the end of the year. The numbers don’t tell the whole story though. Mlodzinski throws into the upper-90’s with his sinker. His breaking ball, which can be seen as a cutter or slider, sits in the low-90’s. Both are considered above average to well above-average offerings. Plus he has a good feel for his change-up, which gives him 3 average or better pitches. His floor could be a mid-rotation starting pitcher, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that he could well surpass that.
Between the two, Contreras will probably get a long look in the major leagues in 2022. Mlodzinski barely has 50 professional innings under his belt. Both are very highly touted right-handed pitchers in the Pirates’ system and while not every single pitcher at Triple-A is going to be a top prospect, there are a few other names worth mentioning as arms that have a good chance of starting 2022 at Triple-A.
One of those notable names is Omar Cruz. Acquired in the Joe Musgrove trade, Cruz started the year at High-A, but with solid numbers there, he was quickly promoted to Double-A. Cruz pitched 70.2 innings at Altoona, posting a solid 3.44 ERA, 4.11 FIP, and 1.302 WHIP. Now Cruz didn’t get that many strikeouts having a K% of just 19.9%, a big departure from his 30%+ rates from the seasons prior. However, he still had a strong 7.3% walk rate and .76 HR/9. Cruz is more of a flyball pitcher, but he still had a line drive rate of just 17.5%.
Cruz may be a soft tosser, but he’s put up good numbers at all levels of the minor leagues he has played at. 2022 will be his age-23 season. Right now, I have all three of Contreras, Mlodzinski and Cruz finishing out the season in the Pirate Major League rotation. He’s easily a guy you could see take over a regular role during mid-season, possibly even earlier.
Among the remaining pitchers that will likely be part of Triple-A’s pitching staff, left-hander Trey McGough will almost certaintly be among the new promotions. McGough had quiet, but solid season down at Altoona where he was more than good enough to earn the call to Triple-A. Top relief pitching prospect Yerry De Los Santos was brought up, along with the group that included Contreras, late into the 2021 season. Blake Cederlind, another noteworthy relief prospect, will probably get to pitch a few innings at Triple-A after returning from Tommy John surgery. A few other top relief prospects such as Jose Soriano and Luis Oviedo may also get things started off at Indy.