December 3, 2022

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Nicolas, Jones flash ace-like stuff for Bucs

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Nicolas, Jones strut their stuff on the bump (April 17)
Two of Pittsburgh’s brightest young hurlers lived up to their reputation with a pair of eye-opening performances.

Kyle Nicolas was perfect in his second start of the season, retiring all 12 batters he faced in Double-A Altoona’s 6-2 loss to Richmond. The No. 19 Pirates prospect struck out five and needed only 46 pitches to complete four frames. Nicolas, who was the 61st overall pick in the 2020 Draft, is unscored upon while fanning 10 in 7 2/3 innings this season. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was 6-4 with a 4.18 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 99 frames last year across two Minor League levels.

One rung down the ladder, Jared Jones had everything working in his second outing of the season. The 12th-ranked Pirates prospect mowed through High-A Winston-Salem’s lineup to lead Greensboro to a 6-1 win. Jones surrendered two hits and a walk while striking out eight, including the side in the third, across five frames. The 20-year-old lowered his ERA to 1.08 and has struck out 15 in 8 1/3 innings over two starts. Jones made his professional debut last year with Single-A Bradenton and posted a 4.64 ERA in 18 appearances (15 starts) while averaging over 14 strikeouts per nine innings. — Michael Avallone

Martin, Mitchell each homer and double (April 16)
Mason Martin and Cal Mitchell combined for seven hits, four extra-base hits and six RBIs in Triple-A Indianapolis’ 16-13 loss to St. Paul.

Martin, Pittsburgh’s No. 24 prospect, went 4-for-5 with a homer, double and two RBIs as the cleanup hitter. He smacked a two-run homer in the second inning, giving him 10 extra-base hits and a 1.303 OPS in nine games this season.

Mitchell homered in his first at-bat and followed that with a three-RBI double in the second, ending his day 3-for-5 with four RBIs. The Pirates’ No. 28 prospect is batting .355 with a 1.124 OPS and 12 RBIs in his first nine games. — Nick Trujillo

De Jong, Triple-A Indianapolis claim first no-hitter of 2022 (April 13)
The first no-hitter for the 2022 season is in the books, and it belongs to Triple-A Indianapolis.

De Jong, not only had to navigate one of the most potent lineups in the Minors, but also the frigid Minnesota climate. At the time of the first pitch, the temperature was 38 degrees Fahrenheit. But the 28-year-old worked around a pair of walks and fanned nine over seven frames for the Pittsburgh affiliate. Full story »

Martin clubs three extra-base hits in Triple-A (April 10)
It’s been a long road for 22-year-old Mason Martin. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2017 Draft, the No. 24 prospect finally reached Triple-A at the end of last year and started the 2022 season at the Minors’ highest level. Martin has some of the best raw power in the Pirates’ system, and it was on full display in Indianapolis’ 7-2 win as he clubbed his first homer of the season along with two doubles and three RBIs.

Martin started his day with a double to right to lead off the second inning. He cranked his first long ball in the bottom of the fourth – a drive to right field off a 1-0 pitch – right after second-ranked Royals prospect MJ Melendez hit his first homer of the year in the top of the frame. After a bases-loaded walk in the following frame put Indianapolis up 2-1, the first baseman widened his team’s lead with a sharp double to right field that plated fellow prospects Oneil Cruz and Canaan Smith-Njigba. Martin led all Pirates prospects last season with 25 homers, a pretty good follow-up to his 2019 season in which he clubbed a career-best 35 dingers. He has 86 homers and 184 total extra-base hits in 399 career Minor League games.

Bolton makes first appearance in 2 1/2 years
Almost 1,000 days have passed since the last time Cody Bolton pitched in a game. He didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the pandemic. He didn’t pitch in ’21 due to a right knee injury. On a Tuesday night in Indianapolis, Bolton took the mound once again. While there was likely a little rust, Bolton delivered 2 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Now back on the mound, Bolton, who was considered one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, will continue his pursuit of making the big league club. — Justice delos Santos

Castillo cracks the big league roster (April 4)
Diego Castillo, the Pirates’ No. 24 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was told he would break camp with the team after an impressive spring performance, batting .406 (13-for-32) in 13 games. Story >

Swaggerty experiencing left shoulder soreness (March 22)
Per the Pirates, Travis Swaggerty recently experienced left shoulder soreness that has delayed his throwing progression. The left-handed Swaggerty is cleared to hit as he builds up arm strength. Swaggerty only played 12 games last season with Triple-A Indianapolis after dislocating his right shoulder and undergoing season-ending surgery. — Justice delos Santos

Cruz continues to mash homers (March 21)
Oneil Cruz, the Pirates’ No. 3 prospect, hit his second home run of Spring Training, a moonshot against the Rays. Cruz has key power at the plate, and a potential that intrigues the club. Story >

Pirates’ prospects announce presence early (March 19)
The Pirates’ future will hinge on their ability to develop their promising young Minor League talent. If the first two games of Spring Training are any indication, the kids are going to be all right.

There have been no shortage of highlights for some of the organization’s top prospects thus far. Nick Gonzales, the No. 20 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, singled and stole a base in the Pirates’ 4-3 win over the Yankees to open up spring. Matt Fraizer, the organization’s reigning Honus Wagner Player of the Year, drew a pair of walks in that contest as well. On Saturday, Oneil Cruz, Endy Rodriguez and Tucupita Marcano all went yard. 

“Definitely a good experience to get the first game out of the way, get my feet wet,” Fraizer said. “I felt comfortable up there. It was a really good first step. Some days, I get nervous, but I felt comfortable up there.” — Justice delos Santos

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