People take notice when a starting pitcher strikes out 22 batters in 11 innings.
“It reminds me all the way back to Rich Harden’s first two outings in 2003 in Midland, Texas, when he went back-to-back perfect outings,” Pirates farm director John Baker said. “That’s the last time I saw anyone do something like this at Double-A.”
Harden went on to Triple-A after those outings and found himself in the majors by the end of the year.
Contreras, whom the Yankees signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, made a third dominant start for Altoona, throwing 6.2 shutout innings with six more strikeouts.
The 2021 season provides a challenge following a largely lost year for player development. Absent the advanced reports that the 2020 season would have produced, the Pirates are instructing their prospects to use their best stuff in the zone and see how it works.
“In Roansy’s case, it’s worked really well,” Baker said. “You have a guy with elite velocity, who is very athletic, who is very driven to be really good. When you have someone like that who is landing a breaking ball for a strike, and throwing 97-99 (mph) through the sixth inning, it’s going to be challenging for anybody to hit.”
The Pirates made it clear that they were building for the future with the trades of Taillon, Joe Musgrove and Josh Bell in the span of a month last offseason. Most of the acquired players had only played in the lower levels.
Contreras, listed at 6 feet, 175 pounds, had previously pitched as high as Low-A, and the early results he had shown indicate the Pirates may have landed a sleeper.
“I think we kind of got him at the right time,” Baker said. “I think this is also our positive expectations coming to fruition as far as what Roansy can do.”
— The Pirates were getting good early results from a pair of high school righthanders from the 2018 draft. Second-rounder Braxton Ashcraft and 11th-rounder Michael Burrows were both pitching for High-A Greensboro to start the season. Ashcraft gave up just two runs through 12 innings with 14 strikeouts over three starts. Burrows had thrown 12.1 three-run innings with an 18-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Pirates drafted Gunnar Hoglund out of high school in the supplemental first round that year but couldn’t sign him, giving their remaining bonus money to Burrows.
— Righthander Jose Soriano, the Pirates’ Rule 5 draft selection, made his first rehab appearance from Tommy John surgery with Low-A Bradenton on May 20. Soriano was sitting 97-98 mph through three shutout innings with five strikeouts. His current rehab schedule should put him on pace to join the Pirates no later than the end of July.