5 non-top prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system who are having sneaky good years

The Pirates have many top prospects in their system having good seasons, but they also have a handful of non-top prospects having good years as well.
Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox
Toronto Blue Jays v Chicago White Sox / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have a handful of top prospects who are doing well at the moment. Termarr Johnson is heating up, Bubba Chandler has been lights out as of recently at Altoona, and Braxton Ashcraft has been dominating batters between Double-A and Triple-A. These are all strong prospects, and many more, like Charles McAdoo, Yordany De Los Santos, Jhonny Severino, and Hunter Barco, are all having fine seasons.

But they’re all pretty noteworthy prospects in the Pirates’ system. I’m sure you’ve seen their names come up in articles everywhere this season. There are plenty more players in the Pirates’ system who are having good seasons and deserve to have a light shined on them. They might not be prospects, let alone top prospects, yet they still deserve some recognition.

5 Pirates minor-leaguers having sneaky good seasons

Jake Woodford

Jake Woodford is not considered a prospect in any way because he’s almost pitched 200 Major League innings, but he’s had some success. In 2021-2022, he worked as a long-reliever/spot-starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, pitching in 53 games with nine starts and 116 innings pitched. He owned a strong 3.26 ERA, 3.93 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP. But 2023 did not treat the former first-round pick kindly, as he sported both an ERA and FIP over 6.00. He was then picked up by the Chicago White Sox and only tossed 8.1 innings, allowing 10 earned runs and five walks before being let go.

That’s when the Pirates picked up Woodford in early June, and to little fanfare. But since the Pirates signed him to a minor-league deal, he’s been dealing at Triple-A. Woodford has pitched 17.1 innings in three starts, posting an ERA of 2.08, only allowing a single home run, and striking out 31.8% of the batters he’s faced. But the most impressive part of this small sample size is the fact Woodford has yet to allow a free pass. 

Woodford has typically been good at limiting walks. In his two solid years with the Cardinals, he had a 7.5% BB%, including a sub-6% walk rate in 2022. Woodford has never been one to strike out many batters, with a career 15.1% K-rate in the bigs, but he has a whiff rate just a touch under 30% at 29.7% at Triple-A. Woodford has always been more of a groundball specialist, and that still rings true. He’s induced a launch angle of just three degrees and an average exit velocity of 85.5 MPH.

While Woodford probably isn’t going to be inserting himself into the major league starting rotation soon, he might get a call if the Pirates need another multi-inning arm, and could fill the role that Daulton Jeffries is currently holding onto. With his fairly recent success with the Cardinals and his hot start to his time with the Pirates, Woodford is a nice depth arm to have.