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Pirates' Maikol Escotto Flashes Promise



There’s a lot to like about Maikol Escotto.

The Pirates acquired the 19-year-old shortstop as one of four players coming back from the Yankees in the January 2021 Jameson Taillon trade. Escotto hit .234/.354/.347 in 89 games for Low-A Bradenton last season.

Escotto has the defensive skills to stick at shortstop. He’s got the ability to get on base, showing that with a 14.2% walk rate. He has raw power that showed up in the form of seven homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He has speed, leading to 22 stolen bases in 2021.

The Pirates like what they’ve seen out of Escotto. Assistant hitting coach and High-A Greensboro manager Callix Crabbe worked with Escotto this spring and was encouraged by the prospect's progression.

“He’s working his tail off to get himself ironed out,” Crabbe said. “He’s putting together some pretty good at-bats. The results aren’t there just yet, from a pure hit standpoint, but it’s getting better.”

Crabbe noted that the 5-foot-11, 180-pound shortstop looks good defensively, and that his bat needs some work. Escotto has a setup at the plate similar to Manny Machado and has a bit of extra time built into his swing load. The Pirates are trying to get him a little bit quicker.

Escotto will likely be spending his age-20 season in High-A, working on shortening the start of his swing and cutting down on his high strikeout rate from 2021. As his body fills out, he should also start to produce more in-game power results in the future.

Even if future physical growth takes away from his range at shortstop, Escotto’s on-base skills and power should play well at second base.

In a little over a year with the Pirates, Escotto has shown enough promise from his tools and skill set to envision multiple possible paths to the majors.

“I like the talent a lot,” Crabbe said. “I like what I’ve seen.”

BURIED TREASURE

— The Pirates added several catchers to their system last summer, starting with 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis and including trades for Carter Bins and Abrahan Gutierrez. They also acquired Endy Rodriguez as part of the Joe Musgrove trade before the 2021 season. The Pirates will now figure out how to give all of these catchers playing time, because Davis, Rodriguez and Gutierrez are projected to start at High-A. To make this work, Rodriguez will be playing left field frequently, while also getting time at second base. Gutierrez is learning first base.

— Top prospect Oneil Cruz was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis in late March after putting up a 1.066 OPS in spring training. Cruz has impressed in his limited looks on the major league roster. The Pirates will be getting him some outfield work in the minors, in addition to his time at shortstop. He is expected to be on the Pirates' MLB roster at some point this season, where he could hit his way into Rookie of the Year consideration.

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