5 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects who are turning their seasons around

A handful of the Pirates' top prospects didn't get off to good starts to 2024, but have started to turn their campaigns around for the better.
Jul 29, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first round draft pick Termarr Johnson,  the fourth overall player drafted in the 2022 MLB Draft, enters the dugout for batting practice before the Pirates host the Philadelphia Phillies at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 29, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first round draft pick Termarr Johnson, the fourth overall player drafted in the 2022 MLB Draft, enters the dugout for batting practice before the Pirates host the Philadelphia Phillies at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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A lot of players struggle to get off to good starts, no matter the circumstances. It can sometimes take a month or even two to get things going. Just look at Pittsburgh Pirates’ first baseman Rowdy Tellez, who’s been on fire since the start of June after a horrid May. A lot of other players have also turned their seasons in the big leagues around, like Austin Riley, Andrew Vaughn, and Randy Arozarena, all three of whom had a sub-.700 OPS at the end of May.

Below the surface this year, the Pirates had many top prospects who did not get off to the starts they wanted. As we head further into the second half of the season, it seems like some of said prospects may have found something that works for them and are now hitting or pitching significantly better than they were at the start of the year. Hopefully, they keep it up and finish the season strong, but as of right now, it looks like they’re rebounding from what first looked like a dismal season.

Pirates prospects who've rebounded heading into second half of 2024

Termarr Johnson

A lot of opinions seemed to have soured over Termarr Johnson since the Pirates took him fourth overall in the 2022 draft. Some of that is because of his poor start to the year. Johnson is now doing everything in his power to win back the opinions of prospect lists, as well as put himself back on the map as a name to watch.

Greensboro played a doubleheader on May 18, and after the first game, Johnson was batting .183/.383/.254. He still had an above-average 102 wRC+ and was drawing nearly as many walks (22.1%) as he was striking out (22.7%), but he wasn’t hitting for much power, with a sub-.100 isolated slugging percentage. Johnson was getting bogged down with bad batted ball luck with a .241 batting average on balls in play, but it certainly wasn’t the start he was looking for.

But since going 2-for-4 with two doubles and a walk in the second game of that doubleheader, Johnson hasn’t looked back. He is slashing .288/.404/.484. While Johnson is walking less frequently, with a 14.9% walk rate, that’s still elite. He’s also whittled his K% down to 20.7% in this stretch. But the big turnaround has been in the power department. Johnson has hit seven home runs and has a .196 isolated slugging percentage. All told, he has a .408 wOBA and 149 wRC+ over his last 183 plate appearances.

Johnson hitting as well as he is shouldn’t be a massive surprise. He’s super talented, and him having a wRC+ of nearly 150 is proof of that. Hopefully, he can keep it up the rest of the way. If he keeps hitting anything like he has since May 18, you might even see him get a taste of Double-A pitching before the season is over.