Pittsburgh Pirates: Minor League Players of the Week For Opening Series

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Pirates via TribLive


The first week of the Minor League season has come and gone, and there was plenty of action to go around across the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

While in full on rebuild mode, the Pirates are focused on infusing extra talent into their minor league season, which over the last year or so they have done a wonderful job of.

Now that minor league baseball has returned, we are starting to get to see the results of not only the drafting, but adding of talent through trades the Pirates have done that have given them one of the strongest farm systems in all of baseball.

So making a list of the best performers over the Pirates four full season farm teams wasn't easy but I gave it my best shot.

Hitters

Rodolfo Castro, 3B Altoona Curve (Double-A)

Signed as an international free agent in 2015, Castro has worked his way all the way up to being an addition to the Pirates 40-man roster this offseason and even making his big league debut before the minor league season started.

He has carried that momentum into the start of the season with Altoona, mashing to a tune of a .467 slugging percentage, with three doubles and a home run. He also delivered a walk-off base hit to lead the Curve to their first victory of the season.

Castro is versatile enough to play multiple positions in the infield, making him an ideal bench option for the Pirates in the future, but in the mean time Altoona is just going to look for him to keep up with his current .409 batting average.

Endy Rodriguez, C Bradenton Marauders (Class-A)

Rodriguez quickly went from sleeper prospect to one of the most talked about players in the lower levels of the Pirates system. The 20-year old Rodriguez is athletic enough to play the outfield, but could emerge - if he hasn't already - as the Pirates' top catching prospect.

He showed his ability with the bat in the first week of the season hitting to a slash of .368/.455/.684. That included four extra base hits, three doubles and a home run. Maybe the most impressive hitting stat of all for Rodriguez, he has limited the strikeouts - he has only three to go along with three walks.

Liover Peguero/Nick Gonzales, Middle Infield Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class-A+)

Ok so I cheated a little bit but at this point, there is no reason to believe that these two won't be kept together as they move through the system all the way to Pittsburgh.

We will have to keep an eye out for updates on Peguero, who left the game on Sunday with an injury, but in the time he has played has raked. Peguero has showed both pop in his bat, and his speed on the base path. The shortstop who was acquired in the Starling Marte trade, Peguero has gone deep twice as well as scored seven runs while swiping four bases.

Gonzales was the team's first round pick in this past draft and has come as advertised. The New Mexico State University product has a batting line of .389/.476/.778 during the first week of the season. Video game type numbers are nothing new for Gonzales, who hit a double in his first professional at bat, and has since added two more along with a home run.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Shackleford, 1B Greensboro

How about that Greensboro infield? Something to behold. Shackleford has looked out of place with two of the Pirates' best prospects playing in the same infield as him. A 14th round pick in 2019, Shackleford has batted .421 over the first week, has slugged two home runs, and has driven in eight RBIs.

Pitchers

Chase De Jong, RHP Indianapolis Indians (Triple-A)

The Indians' opening series ended on a sour note, getting no-hit by the Iowa Cubs, but De Jong started them off in style.

De Jong shined in Spring Training and some thought he had an outside chance to make the roster out of the bullpen. They settled for keeping him stretched out as a starter and it paid immediate dividends. The righty struck out ten, while only allowing two hits and walks over six innings pitched, earning the win on Opening Day.

Roansy Contreras, RHP Altoona Curve (Double-A)

Speaking of Opening Day performances, Contreras pitched another gem in his outing with the Curve. In a pure pitchers dual, Contreras matched wits with Baltimore Orioles' prospect D.L. Hall. The righty, acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade, pitched five innings of shutout baseball in which he allowed five hits but struck out an astonishing 11 batters in the process.

Michael Burrows/Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class-A+)

Finding the last pitcher was hard. The Pirates had great performances all across the minor league system over the first week of the season. Just about every level is going to have a very strict pitch limit so early in the season, so a lot of the pitching lines looked identical it came down to one very specific statistic to break the ties.

Hits allowed. 

Both Burrows and Mlodzinski did not surrender a hit in their starts this week for Greensboro but didn't pitch too deep in their outing.

Burrows went four innings, the longest outing by any Greensboro pitcher, didn't allow a hit and struck out eight batters.

The former South Carolina Gamecock Mlodzinski, pitched three no-hit innings, walking one, but did strike out four in the process.

Honorable Mention: Tahnaj Thomas

The Greensboro rotation is stacked with some of the best pitching prospects in the Pirates system. Thomas is one that could explode onto the season, and he took a good first step into that with his first start. The righty from the Bahamas struck out seven in three innings pitched, walking one, while allowing a run.

Who was your biggest stars of the first week of the minor league season? Who are you looking forward to watching the rest of the season? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site with the link at the top of the site and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.

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