Ranking each of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league affiliate teams

How do the Pirates' four minor league affiliates compare to each other, and which one is the best?
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Number Three
Altoona Curve

Altoona's roster is all about the pitching. They have a strong rotation headed by top prospects Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo, two former 2021 early-round high school draft picks who made massive strides in 2023. Both are considered top 100 prospects by multiple sources. Po-Yu Chen is also a solid prospect who gets overlooked. Thomas Harrington will open the year at Altoona, albeit on the injured list, but we should see him sometime early this year. Sean Sullivan is a decent arm who is unranked and has flown under the radar.

Braxton Ashcraft will return to Altoona, where he ended 2023. His role is slightly unclear right now. While Ashcraft is one of the Pirates' better prospects and started 19 games last season, he didn't even pitch 60 innings because he missed so much time between 2020 and 2022. It's likely he'll end up in a bullpen role long-term, but he should still be considered a cog in the Pirates' future.

Position player wise, it's a little less stable. The Pirates' best infield prospect at Double-A is Tsung-Che Cheng. Cheng struggled after getting promoted from Greensboro to Altoona last year. He opened the year slashing .308/.406/.576 with a 163 wRC+ in 254 plate appearances but then fell off after the bump to Double-A, batting a meager .251/.304/.352 with an 80 wRC+. Granted, Cheng is still young, as he's just 22, so hopefully, he'll get more acclimated to Double-A level competition this year.

There are two outfield prospects who will open the year at Double-A. One is Jase Bowen. Bowen is more of a utility prospect than an outfielder, as he's seen time all around the diamond. He spent nearly all of 2023 at Greensboro, where he hit .257/.333/.469 with a .360 wOBA and 117 wRC+. He was a 20/20 threat as well, with 23 dingers and 24 stolen bases. But he did have an unimpressive 24.5% K% and 7.1% BB%. Bowen ended 2023 at Altoona but only appeared in eight games, which he struggled in. Still, Bowen is heading into his age-23 season and had a quality year overall.

The other top outfield prospect is Tres Gonzalez. A 2022 draft pick, Gonzalez did great last season between Bradenton and Greensboro where he hit .289/.405/.402 with a .381 wOBA, and 129 wRC+. Gonzalez had a strong 12.9% walk rate and 17.9% strikeout rate, but rarely hit for power and had an ISO of just .113. Gonzalez is an above-average runner and swiped 28 bags last year.

Altoona has decent depth as well. Justin Meis was throwing a lot harder in Spring, and that could carry over into the regular season if he's left in a reliever role. Nick Dombkowski and Tyler Samaniego are two other left-handed bullpen prospects. Abrahan Gutierrez, Jackson Glenn, Matt Fraizer, and Connor Scott round out the rest of the noteworthy position players on Altoona's roster.