With everybody’s alternative training sites shut down now, MLB.com has posted a report on players who impressed the Pirates at Altoona. These are the guys mentioned:
The top hitting prospect was this year’s first-round pick Nick Gonzales. Jonathan Mayo chose him over Ke’Bryan Hayes because Hayes earned plenty of attention with his impressive showing in the majors. Gonzales showed the bat speed everybody expected and also, according to Ben Cherington, improved defensively. He still seems likely to be a second baseman, but the Pirates aren’t ruling out second or even third, although it’s hard to see how the latter is going to happen. Gonzales was the only one of this year’s draft picks at Altoona, but they’re all in Florida instructs now.
With Quinn Priester joining the group at Altoona late, righty Cody Bolton was the top pitching prospect. The Pirates like Bolton’s stuff and think he made strides after scuffling a bit at Altoona in the actual games last year.
The youngest player there was 19-year-old shortstop Liover Peguero, whom the Pirates picked up in the Starling Marte trade. Peguero struggled early against players who were several levels more advanced than him, but he became more comfortable over time.
Mayo also listed several “pleasant surprises.” One was first baseman Mason Martin, whose power showed up against tougher pitching than he’s seen yet. There were “reports regularly coming in of him hitting balls off the roller coaster in right field.” (Here’s hoping, for those of you within reach, that there’ll be games with fans at Altoona next year.) If you exclude the AAA leagues, which were using super-juiced balls last year, Martin had the most impressive power stats anywhere in the minors. Prospect lists and the like haven’t taken him terribly seriously so far due to his high-risk approach at the plate, but a lot of hitters are succeeding like that now. Maybe it’s time . . . .
Max Kranick had a good camp, touching 98 mph, adding a slider and improving his change. Another righty, Aaron Shortridge, made progress by switching to a spike curve. Rodolfo Castro made progress defensively, seeing time at short and third. Kranick and Castro will both be eligible for the Rule 5 draft (stay tuned).