Pittsburgh Pirates: Why You Shouldn't Worry Abou These Top Prospects

While these top prospects might be struggling on the surface, you still shouldn't worry about them.

Jul 29, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first round pick Termarr Johnson and
Jul 29, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first round pick Termarr Johnson and / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Infielder Termarr Johnson

The second prospect I want to bring attention to is Termarr Johnson. Johnson was the Pirates' first-round pick in 2022 and was generally considered the best hitter in the draft. MLB Pipeline was so bullish on him that they drew comparisons to Wade Boggs and Vlad Guerrero Sr. for his ability to lay pitches and his bat control. So, with Johnson only batting .213 with a 25.7% strikeout rate at Greensboro, I'm sure there are some jumping to conclusions.

The first thing is that Johnson has a .235 batting average on balls in play, in less than 100 plate appearances. As stated earlier, batting average on balls in play needs a larger sample size to give you an accurate reading. But even then, .235 is just wholly unlucky. There have only been 56 instances since 2010 where a player had a lower BABIP and at least 400 plate appearances. That's out of nearly 2600 instances (2589 to be exact).

Secondly, you're talking about a league that's much less hitter-friendly than Triple-A, where Jones is. The league average hitter is slashing .243/.333/.390 with a strikeout rate of 25.9%. I have faith that whatever the coaches at Greensboro are telling players is working. Greensboro currently leads the South Atlantic League in runs scored, and ranks top three in OPS (2nd), slugging (2nd), home runs hit (2nd), RBIs (1st), total bases (2nd), and walks (3rd), and fifth in total hits.

So what about Johnson's strikeouts? As I stated earlier, there are a ton of K's in the South Atlantic League. He's actually got an above-average strikeout rate. But this is something Johnson did at Bradenton. From his season debut through June, he had a 32.1% strikeout rate. During July, he cut that down to just 16.1%. Johnson might already be figuring it out. He has a 22.7% strikeout rate through his last ten games. Again, take into account the small sample size. Those ten games make up 62.5% of his total games played and 62.9% of his plate appearances thus far for Greensboro.

Keep in mind that Johnson is still very young. He just turned 19 in mid-June. The league average age for position players is 22.2 years of age. Pitchers are slightly older at 23.2 years old. I know, when you see Jackson Holliday already at Double-A and the Orioles talking like they're not ruling out a potential late-season Major League promotion, it's hard not to compare Johnson and ask why he isn't doing that and why he can't Pirates get him to do that. But you can't compare the two. Holliday is the outlier to outliers. Johnson is doing what most minor league top prospects do.

The last thing you have to remember is that both might still be working on things. Maybe Jones is trying out a new location with his pitches. Maybe Johnson is trying something new with his mechanics and swing. These guys, after all, are still developing. They're not finished products yet. Plus, it's not as if neither has shown off bad stuff in the minor leagues. Johnson has already gone yard four times in 16 games, while Jones' pitches have looked better than ever.

Fans should still be excited for both Jones and Johnson. Sure, they might not be lighting their respective level on fire, but they're still extremely young prospects with a lot of upside. They're still very talented and have shown that talent, even if their stats don't back it up right now. Give it time, as in both cases, it's a relatively small sample size, and both are affected by factors outside their control.