Results tagged ‘ Josh Bell ’

2013 Expectations: Mid Level Prospects

Last offseason I did a 15 part preview of the Pirates upcoming seasons focusing on what I expected to see out of various positions at the major league levels, the minor levels, the coaching staff and the front office. The series went over fairly well with my readers so I have decided to bring it back for a second year. I’m not sure how many parts this year’s series will include but I will do my best to cover every key player I can think of.

Top Hitting Prospects

The top 5 hitting prospects in the Pirates system all are expected to begin to 2013 season in either A or A+ ball. Dilson Herrera should skip over short season ball and start the year in A ball and Josh Bell should join him there as he is expected to repeat the level. Herrera is a popular break out candidate for 2013 and certainly has the tools to do. He is coming off a very solid 2012 season in rookie ball in which he displayed a good all around offensive game. I’m expecting a very good season from Herrera and while I don’t think he will necessary break out I don’t expect him to do anything to hurt his status. Joining him in A ball will be Bell who missed most of last season with a knee injury. At this point it is difficult to know just what to expect from Bell but a good start is I wasn’t to see him healthy and hitting for power. I’m thinking his overall line might not sparkle being essentially his first professional season but if those two things are present it should be a decent year for Bell. At the A+ level the Pirates will have the two top hitting prospects in Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco and also last year’s supplemental pick Barrett Barnes. Barnes had a very solid debut in A- last season and will be looking to continue it at a much more age appropriate level. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him struggle with the jump but we shall see. Hanson broke out last season and has a tremendous bat for a middle infielder but his defensive game needs a lot of work if he is to remain at shortstop. The Pirates will likely have him focus on improving defensively which I think might end up hurting his overall offensive numbers this season in particular his power. Going step for step with Hanson last season in A ball was Gregory Polanco. Polanco’s season last year was just as impressive as Hanson’s and in fact I think it was slightly better. Polanco will start the season in A+ but if he is successful I expect the Pirates to give him a mid season promotion to AA. My instinct tells me this will be another big year for Polanco so that isn what I am expecting.

Top Pitching Prospects

The Pirates middle levels aren’t just chalked full of hitting prospects as there are 4 top pitching prospects also expected to play at one of the A levels this season. The only one expected to pitch in A+ though is Nicholas Kingham. Kingham had a rough start to his 2012 campaign and finished the season with a poor ERA but he improved greatly as the year progress, finishing strong and posting solid peripherals. He probably doesn’t have the ace upside of the top pitching prospects at the A ball level but he is father along developmentally and looks like he could become a good middle of the rotation inning eater. I think Kingham will take a significant step forward this season. At the A ball level the Pirates are likely to have Luis Heredia and Clayton Holmes and may also have Tyler Glasnow pitching at the level. Heredia is the top prospect here as he put up excellent numbers in A- last season despite being younger than most of his competition. The Pirates will likely continue to proceed slowly with Heredia but I suspect we will continue to see good things from him and I expect him to start missing a few more bats this season. Along with Heredia in A- Clayton Holmes was putting up excellent numbers but unlike Heredia he comes with a couple warning signs. One his delivery is very awkward looking at two he struggled with control at times last season while not striking out many batters. I expect the jump to A level is going to be a big test for him and I think he’ll struggle. Glasnow pitched in rookie ball last year with just a taste of A- at the end of the year. He was dominate in rookie ball and did fairly well in short season ball as well. The Pirates may opt to keep him in short season but my expectation is they will hold him back in extended spring training and then give him a shot at A ball. I actually think he’ll do quite well at whichever level he pitches and I could see him shooting up some prospect lists.

Other Hitting Prospects

In addition to the top level hitters the Pirates have a good assortment of the next level of hitters ready to play in the middle levels. At the A+ level the talent is a little light but Jose Osuna is a very solid 1st base prospect and could be on the verge of a breakout. Lost in the hype surrounding Hanson and Polanco was Osuna’s very solid season in A ball. He didn’t put up the show stopping numbers but it was still a very good season. Osuna is limited defensively to 1st base so his bat is going to have to carry him but he has shown the power potential which suggests it just might. I’m not expecting a full breakout from Osuna but I think he’ll once again post a good line while going largely unnoticed in 2013. In A ball the talent is a little deeper with Wyatt Mathisen, Jin-De Jhang, Eric Wood, Max Moroff and Willy Garcia all having a chance to start there. Mathisen is the headliner of the group and is considered by some to be the Pirates 5th or 6th best hitting prospect. He is an athletic young catcher who is learning the position and has a good solid bat. Jhang split catching duties with Mathisen in rookie ball last season and had a very good season there. It is possible the Pirates choose to split the two up but I think they will both be promoted to A ball and will continue to split the catching duty. Wood and Moroff also played in rookie ball last season manning 3B and SS respectively. Wood had a surprising debut after being a relatively unknown 6th round selection and Moroff showed why the Pirates went overslot to sign him after the Appel signing fell through. Garcia played at A ball last season and wasn’t horrible but he was inconsistent which makes me believe the Pirates will start him back at the level. All the players in this group are candidates to break out and become top hitting prospects. The chances of all of them doing so are slim but I expect at least 1 or 2 of them will do so.

Other Pitching Prospects

The Pirates are lacking a little in the middle levels in the second tier of pitching prospects. Only three names Robby Rowland, Zach Von Rosenberg and Adrian Sampson really catch my eye. Rowland and Von Rosenberg are likely to begin the year in A+ ball. Rowland was acquired last offseason when the Diamondbacks traded him to the Pirates in exchange for the rights to Rule V selection Brett Lorin. Rowland was an underwhelming prospect but he put up a solid season in A ball last year to get on the map. He is one to watch although I think he is going to struggle in the jump to A+. Von Rosenberg is actually one of my under the radar breakout picks. He was drafted by the Pirates in the 6th round of the 2009 draft and he was the most high profile of the large lot of high school arms the Pirates went overslot for to sign. To date Von Rosenberg hasn’t been that impressive as he repeated A ball last year and while his numbers were decent they weren’t exactly what one would hope to see. The Pirates are likely to try him at A+ and I’m going to predict he will have a good season and reemerge on the prospect map. The other pitcher Sampson was drafted by the Pirates last season and sent to A- ball where he pitched extremely well and was one of the few pitchers at that level to actually have a high strike out rate. I’m not really sure what to expect from him in 2013 but I think he has a chance to develop into a good pitching prospect.

Prospects To Watch

I already picked a few of the middle tier prospects who I think have a strong chance of breaking out. I didn’t say which hitters I’d specifically lean towards but if pushed I’d probably go with Jin-De Jhang and max Moroff and on the pitching side I’m expecting a big step up from Von Rosenberg. Digging a little deeper though I see a few under the radar names who could emerge as quality prospects. On the pitching side two players I like are Dalton Friend and Joely Rodriguez. Friend was drafted by the Pirates last year in the 12th round and looks like just a relief pitcher but his stuff is fairly good and he had success last year in A- so I think the Pirates will push him to A+ to see if he has success there and I’m expecting him to rather well and take on the look of a good relief prospect. Rodriguez has been underwhelming so far in his pro career but showed some positive signs in A- last year. I’d be a fool to say I’m expecting a breakout but I like some of what I saw and if the Pirates push him to A ball in 2013 I think he could put up a nice season and become the Pirates second best international pitching prospect (behind Heredia); that in itself won’t be much of an accomplishment but I do think he’ll raise his stalk this year and take on the look of a fringe prospect instead of an organizational arm. On the hitting side under the radar guys are a little harder to find because the Pirates have a lot of top prospects or second tier prospects filling spots. In all honesty I really don’t see too much there but one player I like who I think could surprise if he can get the playing time is Taylor Lewis. Lewis struggled last year in A ball and might repeat the level and if he does he should have a reasonable chance of getting some time in center field but the Pirates might push him to A+ ball and they do he’ll probably serve as a 4th outfielder there. Lewis came from a small school so he probably needs a little more development time than your typical prospect but the talent is there and given a chance I think he could turn himself into a nice prospect this season.

Top 10 Hitting Prospects

1. Gregory Polanco

Grade: B+

Position: CF

Expected 2013 Level: A+

Bio: Polanco was signed by the Pirates as an international free agent in 2009 for the small sum of $75,000. His career started off slowly as he really did very little, aside from being a great base stealer, to stick out during his first three professional seasons. That all changed in 2012 though as Polanco displayed all of that five tool potential he was said to possess. Polanco has some real power in his bat and has so far kept his strike outs under control also he has the speed and range necessary to stick in center field for the long haul.

2. Alen Hanson

Grade: B+

Position: SS

Expected 2013 Level: A+

Bio: Hanson was an international free agent signed by the Pirates in 2009 for $150,000. Some say he was a consolation prize for the Pirates failure to sign Miguel Sano. In 2011 Hanson had a solid showing in rookie ball during his first year in the Unites States so the Pirates pushed him to A ball in 2012. Hanson broke out in a big way absolutely crushing the ball for the first few months of the season. He did cool down a little but was still hitting at a high level. Hanson has an oustanding bat and has decent range at the shortstop position but some scouts question whether he has the arm to stick at the position but either way his bat will play.

3. Josh Bell

Grade: B

Position: RF

Expected 2013 Level: A

Bio: Bell was drafted by the Pirates in the second round of the 2011 draft straight out of high school. He was said to be a tough sign and proved so as the Pirates gave him a 5 million dollar signing bonus, a record for a non first round pick, to break his commitment to Texas. Bell is said to possess great power and is probably the Pirates best power hitting prospect in the system. The Pirates aggressively pushed Bell to A ball in 2012 but he suffered a knee injury early in the year which ended up costing him most of the season. Bell has the athletic ability to stick in the outfield but if his knee proves to be a problem he also has the power to move to first base.

4. Barrett Barnes

Grade: B-

Position: CF

Expected 2013 Level: A+

Bio: Barnes was drafted by the Pirates in the 2012 draft with the supplemental pick they received for losing Ryan Doumit. Barnes is a center fielder but some scouts question whether he has the arm to stick there but even if he doesn’t stick he has some good power potential and good speed so a shift to left field should be no issue. Barnes also shown good plate discipline in his college career which will offset any potential problems he may have with keeping his average up. The Pirates started him off in A- in 2012 and he got off to a slow start but really heated up and finished the year with a very solid line. THe Pirates like to push advanced college players to A+ in their first full professional season so Barnes will likely go there but with Polanco also there he will probably be forced to slide over to left field.

5. Dilson Herrera

Grade: B-

Position: 2B

Expected 2013 Level: A

Bio: Herrera was an international free agent signed by the Pirates in 2010 for a signing bonus $220,000. The Pirates started him off in the VSL in 2011 and he played very well with the only knock being a few too many strike outs. The Pirates aggressively promoted him to the states for 2012 and he continued hitting well posting a .823 OPS in rookie ball. Herrera was originally announced as a shortstop but really doesn’t have the range or speed to play there so the Pirates have been using him as a second baseman, which is a position he should have little trouble handling going forward. He has shown flashes of power, decent speed and average plate discipline. Herrera is a popular pick to break out in 2013.

6. Tony Sanchez

Grade: B-

Position: C

Expected 2013 Level: AAA

Bio: Sanchez was drafted by the Pirates with the 4th overall pick in 2009. He was definitely an overdraft but the Pirates felt none of the other players (mainly high school pitchers) really stood out so they went with a safe first round choice and went with tough signs in later rounds. The strategy hasn’t worked but that is another story. Sanchez’s pro career actually got off to a great start in 2009 and 2012 but then he got hit in the face with a pitch and broke his jaw. He has not really produced good numbers since then. Sanchez doesn’t have a big upside but he looks like a relatively safe bet to be a productive major league catcher. He is strong defensively behind the plate and has a little bit of power in his bat. He profiles as at least a strong backup and if his bats develops he could be an average starting catcher.

7. Wyatt Mathisen

Grade: B-

Position: C

Expected 2013 Level: A

Bio: The Pirates selected Mathisen with their second round pick in the 2012 draft. He was drafted as a catcher but because of his athletic ability actually spent most of his high school career as a shortstop. Mathisen has very little experience behind the plate but he does have the tools needed to become a solid defensive catcher and he also has a good bat which makes him the Pirates best hope for a strong two-way catcher. Mathisen started the 2012 season in rookie ball splitting time between catching and DHing. He showed a good arm throwing out 36% of would be base stealers and also hit fairly well. The Pirates have a tough choice with Mathisen as to whether to push him to A ball to begin the year or hold him back to A- and give him more time to develop as a catcher.

8. Alex Dickerson

Grade: C+

Position: 1B

Expected 2013 Level: AA

Bio: Dickerson was the third Baseball America top 50 draft prospect drafted by the Pirates in 2011. Dickerson fell to the Pirates in the third round of that draft because teams were concerned about his back but Dickerson can no doubt hit as he won the Big 10 triple crown as a sophomore. He played outfield in college but really didn’t have the defense to stick there so the Pirates moved him to first base where they are hoping he will realize his power potential and have the bat to stick at the position. The Pirates started Dickerson off at A- in 2011 and he hit well but as an advanced college player that was to be expected. The Pirates pushed Dickerson to A+ in 2012 and once again he hit well but he really didn’t show much power which is a bit concerning for an all bat college prospect. Dickerson did nicely adapt to first base however and the power is still there he just needs to realize it.

9. Jose Osuna

Grade: C+

Position: 1B

Expected 2013 Level: A+

Bio: Osuna was signed as an international free agent by the Pirates in 2009 for $250,000. He was signed as an outfielder by the Pirates have been slowly transitioning him to a first baseman and that is the position he played all of last season. Osuna showed some good power in the VSL during 2010 which earned him a promotion to the states in 2011, there he continued hitting well. The strong performance in rookie ball caused the Pirates to aggressively push him to A ball in 2012 where he put up a solid hitting line while showing good improvement defensively at first base. Osuna had pretty much an average year except for one fairly long hot streak in June. He didn’t dominate the level in 2012 but he played very well for a 19 year old at the level so the Pirates will almost surely move him up.

10. Willy Garcia

Grade: C+

Position: LF

Expected 2013 Level: A

Bio: Garcia was signed as an international free agent by the Pirates in 20120 for a signing bonus of $280,000. Garcia made his professional debut in the DSL in 2010 and fared pretty well which was enough to earn him a promotion to the United States. In 2011 he played rookie ball and started off slowly before finishing the year strongly. The strong finish was enough for him to earn a promotion to A ball in 2012. Garcia played the year as a 19 year old and held his own but overall really didn’t perform that well. Garcia did show off some good power by belting 18 home runs and he also possess decent speed and solid defense so the talent is still definitely there. Garcia actually finished the year worse than he started the year which is why the Pirates are likely to hold him back in A ball in 2013.

Prospect Recap: Part XVII

Top Prospects 6-10

10. Kyle McPherson: McPherson was taken by the Pirates in the 14th round of the 2007 making him one of the few Littlefield selections remaining on the list. McPherson’s strength is his ability to command the strike zone and his stuff is fairly good as well. He can get his fastball up into the mid 90s although it sits in the low 90s and he has a pretty good curve and change up to complement it. He is a fly ball pitcher so he can be susceptible to the home run. McPherson started his pro career in 2007 down in rookie ball and pitched how you would expect a college pitcher to pitch against high schoolers. The good performance earned him a taste at A- where he didn’t fare so well in 3 starts. McPherson returned to A- in 2008 and pitched fairly well except he left up a lot of home runs. The Pirates started McPherson out in extended Spring Training to begin the 2009 season and then eventually sent him to A ball. He pitched decently there, even cutting down on his home runs. While his performance was decent it must not have satisfied the Pirates as surprisingly once A- started playing they sent him back to that level but this time around he pitched very well. In 2010 McPherson once again started the season in A ball but this time he was a much different pitcher. His strike out rate rose significantly and his numbers drastically improved. He received a promotion to A+ near the end of the season and was outstanding in two relief appearances. The Pirates surprisingly added him to the 40 man roster in the offseason. He opened 2011 in A+ and made the Pirates decision look like a good one as he made 12 very good starts before being promoted to AA and he continued to pitch well there. McPherson was slated to begin the 2012 season in AAA but a shoulder injury caused the Pirates to hold him back and then start him back in AA. His numbers were worse than the previous season but still fairly good, surprisingly he stayed at the AA level until August. Once promoted to AAA McPherson rolled off 3 great starts which led to a promotion to the majors. McPherson pitched well in his time with the big club and is a candidate to start 2013 in the Pirates rotation. Whether he is with the Pirates to begin the season or not expect to see McPherson make quite a few starts for the Pirates next season.

9. Clay Holmes: Holmes was drafted by the Pirates in the 9th round of the 2011 draft. He was yet another tall (6’5″) projectable right handed pitcher, the type this Pirates staff just seems to love selecting. Holmes has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a slider which shows signs of being a plus pitch and of course like most high school pitchers he is in the process of developing a change up. The one knock on him was his delivery which was said to be erratic leading a lot of scouts to believe he would be a project. Holmes appeared to be a tough sign for the Pirates but on the last day they agreed to sign him for a 9th round record of 1.2 million. Holmes signed to late to see any action in 2011 so he made his pro debut this past season at the A- level. Holmes pitched very well at this level limiting batters to a .176 average against him. He had a sparkling 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. On the down side though he failed to strike many batters out and had some control problems posting a 4.4 BB/9. The control problems were not a constant problem though as a lot of his outings were fine but he had a few where it looked like he could barely throw a strike at all. Holmes has a huge amount of upside but is still a very raw product. The fact he wasn’t missing many bats is slightly concerning but he is still young enough that not too much should be read into that. Holmes will probably open the season in A ball and what to watch for is if he can show better command in his second year as a professional pitcher, if he does Holmes could climb higher on the prospect charts.

8. Nicholas Kingham: Kingham was drafted by the Pirates in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. At this point he is essentially Clay Holmes but one year further along in development. Kingham is another tall projectable right hander who throws in the low 90s and has an assortment of high potential secondary pitches. For Kingham that includes a decent looking change up and a curve that is still a little raw. Kingham made a couple of brief relief appearances in rookie ball in 2010, he pitched well but it was only a 3 inning sample size. The Pirates promoted him to A- the following season and he pitched well posting a 2.15 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. On the downside like Holmes this year Kingham didn’t strike a lot of guys out but did manage to show good control. Kingham was able to post 6 wins which is fairly rare for a low level starting pitcher because they typically aren’t allowed to pitch the 5 innings needed to qualify. The Pirates opted to send Kingham to A ball to begin 2012 and he had sort of an odd season there. He posted a 4.39 ERA which would indicate his performance was just average but his peripherals tell a different story as he saw a bump in his strike out rate to 8.3 K/9, kept his walks under control and kept his WHIP at a low 1.19. Kingham had a slow start to the season posting a 5.22 ERA in the first half but finished strong with a 1.68 ERA over his last 9 starts. He was a popular pick in 2012 to have a breakout season and while he didn’t he did show many good signs that he was developing as a pitcher and that will probably once again make him a popular break out pick going into the 2013 season. Kingham should open at the A+ level and is certainly one who has the potential to quickly elevate his prospect status.

7. Barrett Barnes: The Pirates drafted Barnes in the 2012 draft with the supplemental pick they received for Ryan Doumit signing with the Twins. Barnes signed with the Pirates for slightly below slot but was not an overdraft as he was taken with 45th overall selection and rated the 41st best prospect overall by Baseball America. Barnes is an interesting player as scouts are split on whether he profiles best as a corner outfielder or a center fielder. The Pirates for now are using him as center fielder but that could change as quickly as next season. The case for him being a center fielder is that he is sound defensively there and has good speed, he isn’t a burner but he does run well. The case for him being a corner outfielder is that he doesn’t really have the arm to be a good center fielder and that he projects to add power. Barnes is said to have excellent bat speed and while there are some who question if he will be able to hit for a high average the consensus is that he has excellent plate discipline and would make up for short comings int he average department with a very strong walk rate. In college Barnes didn’t steal a lot of bases but was very efficient when he decided to steal. The Pirates sent Barnes to A- where he struggled initially before settling in and really having a very nice season. Barnes put up a very solid .857 OPS for the season. Barnes did suffer a leg injury late in the season that caused him to miss most of the final month but it isn’t expected to have long term impact. The Pirates typically send advanced college hitters like Barnes to A+ in their first full season of pro ball so expect him to start there. If he does it will likely be as a corner outfielder as center fielder figures to be occupied.

6. Josh Bell: Bell was drafted by the Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. The Pirates gave him a staggering 5 million dollars to break his commitment to Texas in what can sort of be considered the final straw that led to the revamping of the draft process. Bell projects defensively as a solid corner outfielder and his speed is only considered average. Where Bell’s value lies is with his bat. He is considered to have plus all around hitting skills and plus power. He is almost without debate the Pirates best power prospect. At the time he was drafted he was considered to be a very difficult sign because of a letter he sent to teams urging them not to draft him. The Pirates were of course successful in persuading him to sign with them. Bell didn’t get to make his pro debut in 2011 but he was aggressively assigned to A ball to begin 2012. Bell started off slow but held his own for a high schooler going straight to full season ball as he hit .274 and slugged .403. He did have a big strike out problem though. After only 62 AB Bell suffered a knee injury while sliding into second. The injury required surgery and while there was hope he would be back before the end of the season his recovery didn’t go well and he missed the rest of the year. The Pirates are expecting Bell to be ready to go by the start of Spring Training but the knee injury is a real concern at this point. As far as his brief performance goes nothing can really be garnered by it as it was so small of a sample. The Pirates will undoubtedly be careful with Bell and will probably send him back to A ball when they determine the knee to be fully healed.

Position Recap: Right Field

Jose Tabata: Tabata just barely receive the most playing time for the Pirates this season in right field over Garrett Jones. Everyone knows Tabata started the year off poorly posting a wRC+ of 53 in April and 71 in May but what most may not realize is that he rebounded rather nicely posting a 109 wRC+ in June, 84 wRC+ in August and 143 wRC+ in September (for full disclosure in July his wRC+ was only 5 but that only included 5 PA so I’m ignoring it). In April, August and September Tabata didn’t receive regular playing time; he received only 168 PA combined during those 3 months so that is also something to consider. Anyway moving on from how he performed on a month by month basis Tabata received a lot of criticism this season for not trying which I don’t believe has any merit but it is worth noting. My opinion is his perceived not trying was related to his hip injury and there I fault him and management for not sitting him down to rest it. Either way it is clear to me that Tabata appeared to perform his best this season when relegated to part-time duty and that is the role I see him going forward. Like Tabata or not the one thing you can’t deny is that he has a good knack for getting on base which is something this Pirates club sorely needs. The Pirates currently are heading into next season with 4 internal options four internal options for the corner outfield and with 3 of them being 25 or younger the chance for hopefully 1 or 2 breakouts is still there. My expectation for Tabata is that he will start off next year on the Pirates bench platooning with Snider in RF and also spelling Marte in LF. When he is in the lineup because of his on base skills the Pirates will have little choice but to bat him lead off. As a final note before I give him a grade I will once again urge the Pirates to find a base stealing instructor not just for Tabata but the entire team. Overall Grade: C

Travis Snider: When looking at the Pirates roster and the performances of the player’s this past season it is easy to conclude that the corner outfield spots will be the easiest to upgrade this offseason. While that is true in theory the Pirates have 3 young players who they kind of have to give a shot at winning the starting jobs so blocking them with veteran free agent signing isn’t the way to go. Top on the list of young corner outfielders needing a chance to prove himself is Travis Snider. Snider was brought over this season at the trade deadline and before getting injured and then oddly rested and not rested nearly every other day was actually performing quite well. The Pirates handling of him after his injury is one of the oddest decisions they made this past season and I have yet to hear a good reason for it. Putting that aside though we saw some flashes from Snider this season and he has a good bit of power potential in his bat so not giving him a chance to build on that is probably something the Pirates shouldn’t do. I expect we will see Snider as the starting right fielder next season but the Pirates will have someone maybe Tabata or maybe an outside acquisition ready to step up should he falter. Overall Grade: C+

Top Prospects

Josh Bell: Bell was a big story last year after the draft but is sort of now and after thought due to an injury he suffered that caused him to miss almost the entire season. There just isn’t a whole lot to dissect here with Bell. He got off to a bad start in A ball but seemed to be rebounding some when the injury stuck and sidelined him for the season. Bell has a ton of power potential in his bat and is still fairly young so he is definitely still a top prospect but as for this season all that can really be said is it was a lost year of development. Bell will likely remain in A ball next season and he will no longer be that young for the league (he’ll still be a little young but basically right around age appropriate) as he was a little older than most high schoolers when he was drafted in 2011.

Adalberto Santos: Santos is a very interesting case. He doesn’t have the power of a corner outfield nor much of a pedigree but he has just hit at every level he has played at. Santos suffered a knee injury in AA last season but his 340/425/433 slash line in 238 AB there is still impressive. Santos probably doesn’t have the power needed to be an everyday starter in the majors but his ability to hit could make a very intriguing bench player for the Pirates. In addition to player the outfield corners with the Pirates Santos also played a good bit of 2nd base in 2011 although curiously the Pirates didn’t play him there this season at all. Going forward Santos looks like someone who could develop into a nice bench bat for the Pirates. I expect he will open next season in AAA as the starting outfielder at one of the corner positions.

Tyler Gaffney: The Pirates drafted Gaffney in the 24th round in this past draft and the only thing really of note about him was that he was the backup running back at Standford and some people thought he wouldn’t sign for that reason. Gaffney signed relatively quickly and was sent to A- where he started off hot and continued that for nearly the whole season. His line of 297/483/441 is really quite remarkable for a 24th round draft pick. The high OBP needs taken with a grain of salt though as it was fueled by an unbelievably high HBP rate; he was hit by a pitch roughly once every 7.5 PA or to put it another way more frequently than once every other game. Gaffney played primarily RF this season but did move over to CF when Barnes got injured. His great start to his pro career could cause the Pirates to be aggressive with him and send him to A+ but I expect them to be a little more cautious and start him A ball possibly in center field.

Top Prospects By Position

Catchers

1) Tony Sanchez

2) Wyatt Mathisen

3) Jin-De jhang

4) Ramon Cabrera

5) Jacob Stallings

1st Base

1) Alex Dickerson

2) Matt Curry

3) Jose Osuna

4) Justin Howard

5) Edwin Espinal

2nd Base

1) Brock Holt

2) Dilson Herrera

3) Dan Gamache

4) Jarek Cunningham

5) Jodaneli Carvajal

3rd Base

1) Eric Wood

2) Kevin Ross

3) Eric Avila

4) Stefan Welch

5) D.J. Crumlich

Shortstop

1) Alen Hanson

2) Gift Ngoepe

3) Max Moroff

4) Gustavo Nunez

5) Drew Maggi

Outfield

1) Gregory Polanco

2) Josh Bell

3) Barrett Barnes

4) Willy Garcia

5) Mel Rojas

6) Adalberto Santos

7) Tyler Gaffney

8) Elvis Escobar

9) Harold Ramirez

10) Quincy Latimore

11) Andrew Lambo

12) Candon Myles

13) Dan Grovatt

14) Jesus Vasquez

15) Luis Urena

Upper Level (AA and AAA) Pitchers

1) Gerrit Cole

2) Jeff Locke

3) Justin Wilson

4) Kyle McPherson

5) Bryan Morris

6) Victor Black

7) Duke Welker

8) Phillip Irwin

9) Brandon Cumpton

10) Jeff Inman

Middle Level (A and A+) Pitchers

1) Jameson Taillon

2) Nicholas Kingham

3) Robby Rowland

4) Casey Sadler

5) Zach Von Rosenberg

6) Jason Townsend

7) Zach Dodson

8) Porfirio Lopez

9) Nathan Kilcrease

10) Ryan Hafner

Lower Level (Rookie and A-) Pitcher

1) Luis Heredia

2) Clay Holmes

3) Tyler Glasnow

4) Adrian Sampson

5) Jonathan Sandfort

6) Joely Rodriguez

7) Pat Ludwig

8) Jackson Lodge

9) Dalton Friend

10) Andy Otamendi

Checking In: A Ball Hitters

The Pirates aggressively pushed a foursome of players from rookie ball all the way up to A ball this season and those players for the most part are fairing rather well.

Alen Hanson: .406/.449/.797

Willy Garcia: .196/.217/.286

Jose Osuna: .304/.333/.411

Gregory Polanco: .296/.367/.593

Obviously Garcia’s line is pretty bad and Osuna’s is only so-so but overall its good to see this group performing well. Hanson’s numbers at this point are just plain ridiculous and since he is a shortstop it would be a huge boon for the Pirates if he can keep hitting at any where near this level. Osuna s intriguing because he is a 1B with power potential which is something the Pirates are missing. As for Garcia and Polanco they are both outfielders and I think both of them by the end of the season will add to our already good stable of outfield prospects.

The other real interesting hitter in A ball is Josh Bell. His numbers so far have been decent but not spectacular.

Josh Bell: .269/.273/.404

There are two other players that I was very interesting to keep an eye on this season and both of them are doing fairly well to start the season.

Jodaneli Carvajal: .294/.333/.471

Dan Gamache: .268/.354/.390

Those two players have been sharing the 2B job while Carvajal has been playing some third and Gamache has been the DH some. There are a few other interesting names but these are the biggest names and the ones that stand out to this point.

Top 20 Position Player Prospects

Just my opinion but …

1 Starling Marte, OF
2 Josh Bell, OF
3 Robbie Grossman, OF
4 Tony Sanchez, C
5 Jordy Mercer, SS
6 Jarek Cunningham, 2B
7 Alex Dickerson, 1B
8 Matt Curry, 1B
9 Yamaico Navarro, 3B
10 Matt Hague, 1B
11 Mel Rojas Jr, OF
12 Jose Ozuna, 1B
13 Willy Garcia, OF
14 Drew Maggi, SS
15 Gorkys Hernandez, OF
16 Alen Hanson, SS
17 Ramon Cabrera, C
18 Brock Holt, 2B
19 Elevys Gonzalez, 3B
20 Gift Ngoepe, 2B

2nd Attempt: Predicting Minor League Assignments Part I (Hitters)

AAA AA
C Eric Fryer C Tony Sanchez
1B Matt Hague 1B Matt Curry
2B Chase d’Arnaud 2B Jarek Cunningham
3B Josh Harrison 3B Elevys Gonzalez
SS Jordy Mercer SS Brock Holt
LF Gorkys Hernandez LF Quincy Latmore
CF Starling Marte CF Robbie Grossman
RF Nick Evans RF Andrew Lambo
C Jose Morales C Ramon Cabrera
IF Anderson Hernandez IF Gregory Picart
OF Brandon Boggs OF Adalberto Santos
DH Jeff Clement DH Jeremy Farrell
A+ A
C Carlos Paulino C Samuel Gonzalez
1B Alex Dickerson 1B Jose Osuna
2B Gift Ngoepe 2B Dan Gamache
3B Andy Vasquez 3B Eric Avila
SS Drew Maggi SS Alen Hanson
LF Evan Chambers LF Rodarick Jones
CF Mel Rojas Jr CF Wes Freeman
RF Dan Grovatt RF Josh Bell
C Elias Diaz C Kawika Emsley-Pai
IF Kelson Brown IF Kirk Snger
OF David Rubinstein OF Taylor Lewis
DH Justin Howard DH Chris Lashmet

2012 Expectations: Right Field

STARTER

Jose Tabata: After starting the 2011 season as the everyday left fielder Tabata will shift over to the right field starter for the 2012 season. Considering his idol is Roberto Clemente the fit seems to be a perfect match. Typically right field is reserved for power hitters but obviously Tabata does not fit that description. Instead the Pirates will rely on him for his speed, on base skills and defense. Tabata will likely be the leadoff hitter this season and I expect him to fare whether well in that role. We should see a little more power from Tabata this season, I’m saying 8 home runs and I expect him to also post a solid OBP in the .360 range. If Starling Mart earns a promotion this season it could ultimately push Tabata in to a time share with Presley in right field but that would be a good problem to have and is not worth worrying over now. Tabata won’t put up the production of a typical right fielder but he will still be valuable to the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates.

BACK UP

5th Outfielder: I’m not sure who will fill the role but the Pirates are going to employ a fifth outfielder to begin the role. There is an outside chance it might a traditional route with Gorkys Hernandez or Brandon Boggs filling the role but I doubt that will happen. It could also be by carrying an extra infielder like Yamaico Navarro or Josh Harrison who has experience in the outfield. If the Pirates went this route they could let Navarro or Harrison serve as the 5th outfielder or they could have Garrett Jones handle that role. My guess is that the Pirates will let Nick Evans and Jake Fox battle for the last bench spot. Both of these players have experience in both the infield and the outfield and could serve as a platoon partner with Jones at 1B if McGehee is needed to platoon with Alvarez at 3B.

TOP PROSPECTS

Josh Bell: The best power hitting prospect in the Pirates’ system is Josh Bell. Drafted in the 2nd round last season and given a huge signing bonus much is expected of Bell this season. He will likely start the year in A ball and will be watched closely to see if he can put up dominating numbers. Seeing as this will be his first real taste of pro ball it is tough to know just what to expect from Bell but considering all we have heard about him it is not out of the question to think he will put up a very solid line in A ball and maybe even a promotion to A+ by the end of the season. Overall I am expecting him to be a legit candidate for the Pirates minor league hitter of the year.

Andrew Lambo: Once a highly regarded prospect, Lambo’s status has dropped considerably. Last season Lambo started in AAA but was demoted back to AA due to poor performance. After being demoted Lambo put up strong numbers in AA and should once again get a chance in AAA. At 23 years old he will amazingly still be a little on the young side for AAA. Even though he is young this season could still be his last chance to step up and prove himself. He does have some power potential and if he managed to put it together it would be a nice bonus for the Pirates. I however am not expecting such a turnaround from Lambo but hopefully he will do something in AAA to at least showcase himself as a somewhat valuable asset.

Willy Garcia: As of now Garcia looks more like a center fielder but he profiles to add power and since I already had three center fielders listed I decided to shift Garcia to right field. He may or may not ultimately end up in a corner but for now I am assuming he will. Garcia had a strong debut in the states last season and is the best of a group of toolsy outfielders the Pirates have in the lower levels. He should start the season in short season ball and I am expecting a strong showing from him.

POSITION OVERVIEW

Summary: None of the Pirates current options for right field fit the description of the power hitting slugger for the middle of the lineup. This does not mean the Pirates do not have good options for the positions though. For this season anyone from the group of Jose Tabata, Alex Presley and Starling Marte could do a good job handling the duties. For the short term future those same guys could fill the role or prospects such as Andrew Lambo or Robbie Grossman could handle the position. Like stated earlier none of these options fit the typical description but they all have the potential to be solid contributors and to hold down the position down. For the long term the Pirates have Josh Bell to handle the right field position and unlike the Pirates short term options he does fit the traditional mold of a power hitting slugger. Like the other two outfield positions, right field appears to be fairly settled both in the Pirates’ short term and long term plans.

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