Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Low-A Roster Filled With Underrated Players
By Noah Wright
When their season begins, the Low-A Bradenton Marauder roster will be filled with underrated Pittsburgh Pirates prospects
The Pittsburgh Pirates just released all of their minor league rosters. Among them, the A-Ball Bradenton Marauders have the most underrated roster. The only high-ranking top-100 prospect on the roster is infielder and former no. 4 overall pick Termarr Johnson. However, his supporting cast is filled with some decent prospects some may have forgotten about or glanced over and should keep tabs on this season.
On the position player side of things, Braylon Bishop will be one of the Marauders' outfielders. Bishop was signed to an over-slot deal in the 14th round of the 2021 draft. So far, Bishop only has 162 plate appearances, batting .215/.340/.274 with an 84 wRC+. Bishop has an impressive 14.8% walk rate, but a strikeout rate of 27.2%. However, Bishop has plenty of talent and could improve upon those numbers.
Bishop is extremely fast with even better bat speed. He has the potential to be a 20/20 threat, plus he's a great defensive outfielder. Not only could he be an offensive threat, but do it from a premium position like center field. He was considered a top 100 draft prospect heading into the 2021 draft, so seeing how he handles a full season will be interesting.
Another outfielder Bradenton will have is Tres Gonzalez. A fifth-round pick from the '22 draft, Gonzalez is seen as a potential Adam Frazier-type hitter. In his last year at Georgia Tech, Gonzalez slashed .339/.458/.474. He isn't much of a power hitter with a .135 ISO, but he hustled out 14 doubles. He also walked 45 times to oppose just 27 strikeouts. In his brief professional debut, Gonzalez collected 26 hits in 95 plate appearances, drawing nine walks and striking out just ten times. He had an on-base percentage of .411 and took advantage of it as he swiped seven bases in eight attempts.
Gonzalez is an above-average defender but has a weak arm. With little power, he'll never be a middle-of-the-order type of bat. But he has shown an above-average hit tool and draws walks at an above-average rate as well. He could be a decent leadoff hitter or nine-hole hitter for the Pirates soon. 2023 will be his age-22 campaign, so you may see him in a few games for Greensboro late into the season.
An infielder that may be worth watching is Jesus Castillo. Castillo is just 19 and will turn 20 in July. Last year at the FCL, Castillo batted .352/.439/.383 with a .410 wOBA and 140 wRC+. Castillo hit for almost no power with just four extra-base hits, all of which were doubles. He showed he could make a ton of contact with a 12% strikeout rate while drawing his fair share of walks (11.3% walk rate). Although he was the FCL batting average leader, he has even less power than Gonzalez, which always makes a player a risky bet.
Jack Branigan was a 2022 infield draftee who has some potential as a two-way player. In 242 plate appearances for Notre Dame, batting .291/.360/.540 with a dozen home runs. He was much worse as a pitcher, only pitched 14.2 innings, but dishing out eight free passes and allowed 12 earned runs. However, he did strike out 28. Branigan has the risk you typically see from a power arm and power hitter. As a batter, he showed off a decent amount of raw power, 20.2% of the time, and while on the mound, he showed off a big fastball but little command and okay secondary stuff.
Moving onto the pitching side of things, a late-round pick that gets glossed over is Julian Bosnic. A Pittsburgh native, Bosnic was projected to go within the first five rounds of the 2021 draft, but injuries caused him to fall late into the draft. The SF Giants picked him but went unsigned.
This past season, the Pirates drafted Bosnic in the 14th round after he produced a 2.84 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 50.2 innings at the University of South Carolina. Bosnic was a strikeout machine who struck out 37.9% of the opponents he faced. Not only did he strike out a ton of batters, but he allowed just two homers. Where Bosnic struggled was with walks. He dealt out a free pass to 12.1% of opponents.
He's not a power pitcher, averaging 91-94 MPH, but with vertical movement, he gets the offering to play up. His curveball is his best off-speed offering, sitting in the upper-70s with an extremely high spin rate. His change-up has some potential as an average pitch, though he barely uses it. He has great stuff but poor command for a few reasons. He has a high-effort delivery to go with so-so athleticism on the mound. These two factors combine to make his actions on the mound hard to repeat.
Another pitcher that came from the 2022 draft class is Derek Diamond. Many see the 6th-round pick as a sleeper prospect. The Ole Miss alumni performed poorly, with a 6.89 ERA and 1.44 WHIP through 65.1 innings. He averaged nearly two home runs every nine innings while having a K% below 20% at 19.3%. On the bright side, less than 5% of the batters he faced (4.4%) and shows off a mid-90s fastball. Additionally, his change-up and slider have shown the potential to be above-average offerings.
Like Bishop, Owen Kellington was an over-slot pick from the 2021 draft. Kellington is coming out of Vermont after posting some cracked numbers in high school, including striking out 133 batters in 49 innings (meaning that 90.5% of outs made were Ks). Kellington has only pitched 15 innings as a professional, as he ran into some injuries last season. He is a soft tosser but has shown off an awesome curveball and change-up.
Some other under-the-radar highlights include JP Massey and Dominic Perachi, both of which were 2022 draft picks. Massey has some decent stuff on the mound, while Perachi was trending upward when the Pirates picked him. Rodolfo Nolasco and Shalin Polanco certainly have the potential to be breakout stars next year.
Bradenton will be a fun affiliate to watch next season. There's a decent amount of talent to where they could end up being the Pirates' best minor league affiliate, even over Greensboro, depending on what prospects breakout and what kind of steps forward young guys take in 2023.