Catcher - Axiel Plaz
This one could be up for debate, but the top prospect at this position for the Pirates isn’t what it was a year ago. That’s only because both Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez are no longer considered prospects. You could argue Abrahan Gutierrez here, but I’m gonna go with a slightly bolder take with Axiel Plaz.
Plaz was signed in the 2021-2022 off-season, and far from our last name from that signing period. Plaz opened his pro career out with the Pirates’ Dominican Summer League affiliate where he posted an insane .382/.500/.706 triple-slash, a 205 wRC+, and .550 wOBA. He slugged three homers and drew walks at an impressive 15.1% rate while having an 18.6% K-rate. However, do keep in mind that this was in a microscopic amount of plate appearances (86), and was still at the DSL.
Plaz, despite only being in his age-17 campaign, still started out the 2023 season at the Pirates’ Florida Complex League affiliate. But after turning in such a promising sample size in 2022, he wasn’t able to build off of that. He batted just .144/.355/.237 with an 81 wRC+. Plaz upped his walk rate to 16%, but his K% skyrocketed to 31.3%. After going yard three times in less than 100 trips to the plate, Plaz hit just a single home run in 131 PAs.
Still, Plaz was very young, even for the FCL. He was the 5th youngest player to take at least 100 plate appearances. In total, there were only 17 kids in the FCL younger than 18 to take 100+ PAs. Most of which struggled, with all but two having a wRC+ well below 90. In terms of this stat, Plaz was actually the third best 17-year-old in the FCL.
Plaz was considered a good defensive catcher when the Pirates signed him. However, there is potential for a power hitter here as well. Plaz is 5’11”, 165-LBS. That gives him some projectability. But he will need to show less swing and miss in the future. While he K’d at an extremely high rate this year, it was in a small sample size in a league where he was one of the youngest players.
Plaz has a very high ceiling. A potential power hitting catcher with plus defense behind the plate is his ceiling. Of course, given that he just turned 18 years old back in August, he is far from a finished product. However, if he develops well, you could very well see him make prospect headlines in the next few years.
Honorable mentions: Abrahan Gutierrez, Samuel Escudero