Pirates Consider Moving Ke’Bryan Hayes To Second Base

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic had an interesting little nugget on Friday, when he put out an article regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates mulling over the idea of moving third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes to second base.

Hayes, the Pirates #2 prospect in the system, is widely regarded as the best defensive third baseman in the minors. The son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes captured his third consecutive Gold Glove for MiLB third basemen last season.

The defense for Hayes alone would make him the starter at the hot corner in Pittsburgh. The offensive production does include some question marks. While Hayes does make solid contact at the plate, the home run power has been lacking. In 2018 for AA Altoona, Hayes posted a .444 slugging percentage – hitting 31 doubles and seven triples. However, he had only seven long balls. Last year with AAA Indianapolis, he hit just 10 homers in 427 at-bats, and the OPS was at .751.  

If not for the 2020 pandemic, Hayes would’ve been called up by the Pirates, either in June or July. It seems asinine that Pirates’ management would move a stellar defensive third baseman like Hayes to another position that he’s never played at as a professional. 

The Pirates made the decision to have Cole Tucker play some outfield this season, but his path to being a starter at the big league level isn’t as clear cut as Hayes, who will be, whenever he does arrive to Pittsburgh. Hayes is only 23, and should be given every opportunity to be the Pirates’ everyday third baseman. If his power numbers don’t fully develop, then perhaps Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton could revisit putting Hayes at second base at some point down the line.

 

 

 

 

Joe Jimenez Signs With Pirates

 By Jason Shetler

p/c: Chapman

According to Kyle Glaser of Baseball America, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed catcher Joe Jimenez as an undrafted free agent. Terms are undisclosed, but it’s likely that he signed for the $20,000 maximum. 

The signing of Jimenez makes him the first position player that the Pirates have signed as a UDFA post draft. Sacramento State pitcher Parker Brahms was brought in by the Bucs a couple weeks ago.

Jimenez attended Chapman University – the same school as Pirates third round pick Nick Garcia, who Pittsburgh reached a deal with on Thursday for $1.2 million – above the slot value of $780,400. 

During his four years at Chapman, Jimenez was outstanding in the on base department, as he put up a .383 OBP. The power is on the modest side, with a slugging percentage of .396. Behind the plate, Jimenez had a caught stealing rate of 22%. 

Out of all the positions in the Pirates’ system, the depth at catcher would certainly be their weakest. As a matter of fact, not one backstop is currently listed on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 rankings of Pirates prospects. There appears to be some upside with Jimenez, so perhaps he could emerge as a top tier catching prospect at some point down the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Carmen Mlodzinski

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Wesley Hitt

The Pittsburgh Pirates have come to terms with their first round supplemental pick Carmen Mlodzinski. The deal is for $2.05 million, which is under the slot value of $2,312,000, this according to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline. 

With the 31st overall selection of the Competitive Balance Round, Pittsburgh took Mlodzinski out of the University of South Carolina. That pick now makes him the highest drafted pitcher that the Pirates have selected from the SEC since Paul Maholm went eighth overall out of Mississippi State in 2003. 

Mlodzinski suffered a fractured foot while pitching for South Carolina last year. He redeemed himself with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League, where he was teammates with Pirates fifth round pick Logan Hofmann. Mlodzinski posted an ERA of 2.15, while fanning 40 batters in 29.1 innings for Falmouth.

Before the college season was shutdown due to the pandemic, Mlodzinski put up a 2.84 ERA in four starts with the Gamecocks.

Mlodzinski is a 6’2, 230 pound righty, who throws a mid-to-upper-90’s fastball with plenty of movement. His secondary offerings include an upper-80’s slider that can top out at 91 mph, and a cutter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Jack Hartman

By Jason Shetler

p/c: App State Athletics

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Appalachian State RHP Jack Hartman on Monday. Terms of the deal are unknown right now. 

With the 108th overall pick in the fourth round, the Pirates selected Hartman out of Appalachian State, making him the highest drafted player that the Bucs have ever taken from that school.

Hartman started off his college career as an infielder, playing for Tallahassee Community College in 2017 – followed by College of Central Florida in 2018.

Last season, Hartman transferred to App State, while also converting to pitcher. As a junior, he posted a 4.98 ERA – striking out 26 batters in 21.2 innings. During his Coronavirus shortened senior season, Hartman had an ERA of 3.00 – registering 22 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched.

At 6’3, 205 pounds, Hartman throws a cutter that sits in the mid-90’s, as well as a good slider. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates keep Hartman on a fast track as a reliever, or choose to stretch him out as a starter. 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Logan Hofmann

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Chris Reich

MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis is reporting that the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed fifth round pick Logan Hofmann for $125,000, which is well below the slot value at $400,000. Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh Sports reported on Friday that the two sides came to terms.

Hofmann began his collegiate career pitching for Colby Community College – located in Colby, Kansas. The 20-year-old native of Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada pitched two seasons at Colby, where he struck out a total of 230 batters, which set a record for most strikeouts in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.

The St. Louis Cardinals selected Hofmann in the 35th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, but chose not to sign. That summer, he pitched in the Cape Cod League for the Falmouth Commodores, and was named an All-Star. 

Before the pandemic, Hofmann threw 28 innings, without allowing an earned run, while striking out 38 for Northwestern State. He earned 2020 second-team All-American honors. 

Hofmann is a 5’10 right-hander, listed at 190 pounds. He throws a fastball that sits in the low-90’s. His best secondary pitch is a 12-6 curveball, and he also has a slider and changeup.

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Gonzales Will Sign With Pirates

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Stephen Brashear – AP

According to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pirates 2020 first round pick Nick Gonzales plans to sign with the club. Mackey also reports that Gonzales will undergo a physical on Wednesday, and if all goes well, is expected to sign for the full slot amount at $5,432,400. 

The Pirates entered the 2020 draft having the seventh overall pick. With the selection of Gonzales, it marks just the third time since 2010 that the Bucs chose a middle infielder in the first round – Cole Tucker (2014) and Kevin Newman (2015) being the other selections.

Gonzales was regarded as the best pure hitter in this year’s draft class. During his sophomore season last year, he led the entire NCAA with a .432 batting average in 220 at-bats. 

In his three seasons at New Mexico State, Gonzales put up video game esque numbers, slashing .399/.502/.747 in 596 plate appearances. 

On the day of the draft, the Pirates announced Gonzales as a shortstop. Defensively, he profiles better at second base. Because Gonzales played in the offensive-oriented WAC, the production will probably level off in the pros, but his skill set at the plate should still be enough for him to be an elite level hitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pirates Sign Parker Brahms

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Andre Newell

The Pittsburgh Pirates loaded up on arms in the abbreviated version of the 2020 MLB Draft. On Tuesday, the Bucs brought in another, signing Sacramento State product Parker Brahms as an undrafted free agent for $20,000, this according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline. It’s the first UDFA signing for the Pirates post draft. 

Brahms is a 6’3, 209 pound righty. He throws a low-90’s fastball, which he accompanies with a curveball and changeup.

As a freshman in 2017, Brahms put up a 3.13 ERA in 97.2 innings pitched. His K/9 however was only 5.8. 

During his sophomore year, he posted an ERA of 2.41 in 93.1 innings, and the strikeouts increased significantly, with a 10.9 K/9.

Last season, Brahms regressed as a junior, as his ERA was at 4.70 in 76.2 innings, although the strikeout figure remained strong at 10.2. The Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the 27th round of last year’s draft, but he chose to return for his senior year instead.

Before this season was cut short, Brahms registered a 1.14 ERA, striking out 32 batters in 23.2 innings pitched. Overall, he had terrific numbers at Sacramento State, despite pitching in the WAC, which is more of a hitter-friendly conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recapping Pirates 2020 Draft Selections

By Jason Shetler

The 2020 MLB Draft was certainly unfamiliar territory for all 30 clubs, as rather than having 40 rounds, this year’s draft was limited to five rounds – six, if you include the teams who had a Competitive Balance pick. 

For first-year Pirates General Manager Ben Cherington, he’s quite familiar with the draft – going through the process as GM of the Boston Red Sox. Cherington’s main duty will be to build up what’s been a mediocre farm system in the more recent years. Here is a recap of who the Pirates selected. 

Nick Gonzales: The Pirates had the seventh overall pick – selecting SS/2B Nick Gonzales. As a freshman with New Mexico State, Gonzales slashed .347/.425/.596. Last year as a sophomore, he led the nation, with a .432 average, while putting up a ridiculous 1.305 OPS. Gonzales hit .448, along with 12 home runs in 16 games, before the season was shutdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak. During his three seasons at New Mexico State, he posted an outstanding 14.9% walk rate – not too shabby for a kid that entered college as a walk-on. Gonzales has been regarded as the best pure hitter in this year’s draft class. The one caveat however is that he played in the WAC, which is a very hitter-friendly conference, so the numbers are likely to regress to some degree in pro ball. That being said, Gonzales has the skills to be a high OBP guy, and become a 15-20 HR middle infielder. Defensively, he’s probably better suited at second base than shortstop. 

Carmen Mlodzinski: With the 31st overall pick in the Competitive Balance Round, the Pirates chose RHP Carmen Mlodzinski (pronounced Muh-gin-ski). After sustaining a fractured foot last year with South Carolina, Mlodzinski pitched very well in the Cape Cod League for the Falmouth Commodores, posting a 2.15 ERA and striking out 40 batters in 29.1 innings. At 6’2, 230 pounds, Mlodzinski throws a mid-to-upper-90’s fastball with sinking action to induce plenty of groundballs. His secondary pitches include a plus slider and cutter that has a chance to be a quality offering. 

Jared Jones: Coming out of La Mirada High School in California, Jared Jones was a stellar, two-way player. As the 44th overall pick by the Pirates in Round 2, Jones was announced as a pitcher. Despite his 6’1, 180 pound frame, he can reach upper-90’s with the fastball, touching 99 mph. Jones’ other pitches are a biting slider and a developing changeup. Although the stuff is superb, the command of his pitches leave a lot to be desired, so he’s definitely a project with big upside. Jones currently has a commitment to the University of Texas.

Nick Garcia: Sometimes you need to explore all avenues to discover quality talent. The Pirates did that in Round 3, with RHP Nick Garcia. The 6’3, 210 pound Garcia pitched his college ball at Chapman University, a Division III school located in Orange, California. Garcia was lights out last season in the bullpen, as he registered a 0.64 ERA and had 82 strikeouts in 56 innings of work. He was then moved to the rotation this season, where he put up an ERA of 2.00 and a 12.0 K/9 in five starts. Garcia’s arsenal is a mid-90’s fastball, a slider, changeup and curveball. Even though he was taken 79th overall, Baseball America ranked him the 56th best draft prospect. Former GM and current MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd described Garcia as “A first round talent in the third round.” The Pirates selection of Garcia makes him the highest drafted D-3 player since the Washington Nationals took Jordan Zimmermann 67th overall in 2007. 

Jack Hartman: In the fourth round, the Pirates selected Appalachian State RHPJack Hartman 108th overall. The 6’3, 205 pound hurler began his college career as an infielder playing for Tallahassee Community College in 2017 and College of Central Florida in 2018. Last year, Hartman made the conversion to the mound and transferred to Appalachian State in the process. He had a 4.98 ERA – pitching 21.2 innings and striking out 26. Hartman recorded an ERA of 3.00, fanning 22 batters in 12 innings this season. He throws a mid-90’s cutter and an above average slider.

Logan Hofmann: Pitching was the theme of the 2020 draft for the Pirates, and their final pick was no exception, as they went with Northwestern State righty Logan Hofmann. A native of Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada, Hofmann posted a 3.11 ERA, while recording 128 strikeouts in 89.2 innings pitched for Colby Community College a year ago. He was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals as 35th round selection in the 2019 draft, but didn’t sign. This season, he allowed no earned runs in 28 innings- striking out 38 and walking just five for Northwestern State. Hofmann is a smaller right-hander at 5’10, 190 pounds. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, while the curveball is a 12-6. Hofmann has said that will add a slider and changeup to his repertoire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Draft Prospects To Keep An Eye On For Pirates

By Jason Shetler

While a 2020 MLB season remains up in the air, the one silver lining is that the amateur draft will still happen, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s draft however will be quite different, as rather than having 40 rounds, the round limit is only five, which to no surprise, has been widely criticized. The draft begins June 10th, and will be televised on MLB Network.

First-year Pirates’ GM Ben Cherington looks to revamp and improve what’s become an average farm system over the last few years. The Pirates hold the seventh overall pick. Here are five draft prospects that the Pirates could select with said pick.

Austin Hendrick: One potential Pirates draft selection resides in their backyard. Austin Hendrick, an Oakdale, PA native, played at West Allegheny High School, and is one of the top prep outfielders entering this year’s draft. At 6’1, 195 pounds, Hendrick is a lefty bat, with raw power and terrific bat speed. According to Perfect Game, he registered a 105 mph Exit Velocity. He runs the bases well, and has a strong arm in the field. Hendrick is committed to Mississippi State, so it might take the full slot amount to sway him away from playing SEC baseball.

Garrett Mitchell: UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell has the makings of a five-tool talent. The 6’3, 200 pound outfielder can hit for average, while also displaying pop in the bat. During his three seasons with the Bruins, Mitchell batted .327, and posted an OPS of .871. He possesses plus speed as a baserunner. Last year, his 12 triples not only led the nation, but it also set a single-season school record. Defensively, Mitchell has the speed to cover plenty of ground in center field, as well as the arm to handle right field.

Heston Kjerstad: In three seasons playing for the University of Arkansas, Heston Kjerstad put up tremendous numbers offensively, posting a 1.001 OPS. Listed at 6’3, 205 pounds, Kjerstad is considered the best power hitter among college players heading into the 2020 draft. He’s a lefty batter, with power to all fields, which he accompanies with solid bat speed. Kjerstad is a liability in the outfield, as he’s an average at best defender. The hope is that Kjerstad’s offensive production can outweigh his defense in pro ball. 

Patrick Bailey: NC State catcher Patrick Bailey is the top backstop in this year’s draft. The 6’2, 192 pound Bailey compiled a .302 average during his three seasons with the Wolfpack. As a switch-hitter, he’s got power from both sides of the plate, and had a robust .568 slugging percentage. Bailey’s defensive abilities behind the dish are even better, possessing a strong arm, along with superb blocking and receiving skills. The Pirates’ depth at catcher in the minors is weak, and taking Bailey would instantly make him the top catching prospect in the system.

Reid Detmers: The University of Louisville was projected to have the best starting rotation in the country this year, and were one of the favorites to reach the 2020 College World Series. The most noteworthy pitcher in their rotation was Reid Detmers. While pitching three seasons for Louisville, the 6’2, 210 pound left-hander posted an ERA of 3.20 and a 1.08 WHIP. In 191 innings pitched, he struck out 284, which comes out to a stellar 13.4 K/9. Detmers’ fastball sits in the low-90’s, but he relies on deception to mess up a hitter’s timing. The best secondary offering for Detmers is his outstanding low-70’s curveball, which creates good separation in velocity from his fastball. He also throws a slider and changeup. Detmers has the ability to throw all four pitches for strikes, and he’s arguably the most polished arm in this draft. Just like catcher, the Pirates are lacking impact pitching, specifically southpaws, so a guy like Detmers is certainly a sensible choice, assuming he’s still available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ke’Bryan Hayes Optioned to AAA Indianapolis

By Jason Shetler

p/c: Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

On Friday, the Pittsburgh Pirates announced that several players had been optioned to AAA Indianapolis. Among those players sent to Indy was Ke’Bryan Hayes.

Hayes entered Spring Training with seemingly an outside shot to win the third base job for the Pirates. Instead, it’ll be Colin Moran, who will be the starting third baseman, which likely was going to be the plan all along.

Widely regarded as the top defensive third baseman in the minors, Hayes is currently the Pirates #2 prospect, according MLB Pipeline. 

Hayes’ defense alone would be enough to be on a big league roster, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with having him return to Indianapolis for more development with the bat, especially since he’s still at a young age (23) for the AAA level.

It’ll be interesting to see when Hayes will arrive to Pittsburgh. Under normal circumstances, he would be a midseason call up, however, given the uncertainty of the 2020 MLB season, due to the Coronavirus, it’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly Hayes would join the Pirates.