I'm looking at the likely rosters for the minor league teams right now and I started with the AA squad. This is the minor league team I try to go an see often so it made sense for me to start there. Unfortunately the talent that appears likely to be there is underwhelming to say the least.
Carlos Paulino is the likely starter here and he still has some prospect value but he took a step backwards this season as his offense regressed in his second season in A+. Fortunately Paulino's value is in his defense so he can still regain value by even a slight improvement in his hitting. The second catcher position is likely to go to Charlie Cutler or a similar minor league veteran. Cutler will turn 27 this season so he is no longer a prospect but he has hit rather well at every level so there still might be some value there.
Alex Dickerson will play first base here on most days and will be one of the Pirates top position player prospects at AA. Dickerson is considered one of the better 1B prospects in the game but that comes with the asterisk that most prospects typically start as something else then move to 1B. Dickerson had a good year in A+ but it was a bit below what you would have like to seen from an advanced bat first college hitter in A+. This season will be a big test for him. Justin Howard, Stefan Welch and Jeremy Farrell might also see occasional playing time.
Jarek Cunningham will likely man this position yet again. Cunningham had a disappointing season in 2012 which made his prospect status take a big hit. He is now a very borderline prospect but at 23 years old still has a chance to regain his prospect status this season. Cunningham's calling card will be his defense particularly his power potential. A ton of other players like Oscar Tejeda, Elevys Gonzalez, Drew Maggi, Benji Gonzalez and Kelson Brown could also see time at 2B should Cunningham continue to have injuries problem or should the Pirates want to move on. Maggi is probably the player with the most potential of the group but he appears to have moved to organizational player status.
Most of the players who are candidates for time at 2B will also see time at 3B. In addition to Tejeda, E Gonzalez, Maggi, B Gonzalez and Brown expect to see Welch, Farrell or Andy Vasquez could see some playing time. Its really anyone's guess who will get most of the playing time here but I think it will be Welch or Gonzalez thought I would prefer Kelson Brown as I think he has the higgest upside (major league utility player) of the bunch.
If Dickerson won't be the top position player prospect here it will be Gift Ngoepe. Ngoepe's bat probably isn't ready for AA but Alen Hanson will push him out of the shortstop position in A+. He could slide over to 2B but if Ngoepe is ever going to have an impact in the majors its going to be as a similar player to Adam Everett and Brendan Ryan meaning his strong defense at short needs to be his calling card. So it makes little sense to move him away from shortstop if they don't have to. If Ngoepe doesn't get promoted Maggi will probably receive one more chance to prove himself. Tejeda, B Gonzalez and Brown could also receive some time at the position.
Outfield is even more underwhelming then the infield. Latimore, Lambo and Santos are all likely to move up which means the only real prospect who could be here is Mel Rojas and he probably isn't ready for AA and I think he'll remain in A+. Outside of him Justin Howard, Oscar Tejeda, Andy Vasquez, Kelson Brown, Drew Maggi, Evan Chambers and Dan Grovatt will probably be the ones manning the outfield.
So my projected 13 position players for the AA level are:
C: Carlos Paulino
1B: Alex Dickerson
2B: Jarek Cunningham
3B: Elevys Gonzalez
SS: Gift Ngoepe
LF: Dan Grovatt
CF: Evan Chambers
RF: Oscar Tejeda
DH: Justin Howard
C: Charlie Cutler
CI: Stefan Welch
U: Kelson Brown
U: Drew Maggi
Top 5 Prospects
1. Alex Dickerson
2. Gift Ngoepe
3. Jarek Cunningham
4. Carlos Paulino
5. Dan Grovatt
Assuming the Pirates bring in another catcher either through trade or free agency Tony Sanchez figures to begin the season as the starting catcher in AAA. We all know the story with Sanchez he has a good solid glove but struggles with the bat and not only that hasn't arrived as quickly as hoped due to injuries (namely a broeken jaw). In 2012 Sanchez did show some positive signs hitting decently in AA and then showing some power in AAA but he still has some work to do so hopefully the Pirates won't count on him to be a major league contributor to begin the season. Backing him up will probably be once again Ramon Cabrera. Cabrera is essentially the opposite of Sanchez he has shown some offensive promise posting a 276/342/367 line in AA but has proven to be weak defensively. Just as a side note that Cabrera line may not look the greates but he played much better after Sanchez was promoted and he became the starting catcher. Cabrera is eligble for the Rule V draft and is a borderline candidate to be protected and/or selected. It also wouldn't surprise me if the Pirates went with a 3rd catcher here like Eric Fryer or Charlie Cutler to free up Cabrera for some DHing.
First base in AAA figures to go to Matt Curry. Curry is an interesting prospect who has hit reasonably well at every level and he could be a candidate to help out the Pirates at 1B this season. His ceiling appears to be an average 1B though because he really doesn't have much power in his bat. Still it would not be surprising to see Curry get a call to the majors at some point this season especially if an injury were to occur.
I'm going to discuss 2B, 3B and SS here altogether because really it appears to be a mess here. The Pirates have no real middle infield prospects who project to start the season in AAA (except Brock Holt who still has prospect status) but what they do have is a glut of players fighting for one or two middle infield bench jobs in the majors. The losers of those jobs will likely handle the 2B, 3B and SS jobs in AAA. The players I'm talking about here are Brock Holt, Jordy Mercer, Chase d'Arnaud, Josh Harrison, Yamaico Navarro and Gustavo Nunez. Jeremy Farrell or Matt Hague could also play some 3B. Its possible some of the above players won't even be with the Pirates organization next season though. I also expect the Pirates to add at least one minor league veteran here.
As I mentioned in the AA post there are 3 outfielders that should move up to AAA they are Quincy Latimore, Andrew Lambo and Adalberto Santos. All 3 are corner outfielders meaning there will need to be a center fielder somewhere in the mix but I'll get to that later. Latimore has some of the best raw power in the Pirates system but has some plate discipline issues which usually means he can't show off his great power. Lambo was once a top prospect for the Dodgers and was traded to the Pirates along with James McDonald. His development seems to have stalled in AA as he spent 2009-2011 there. He spent 2012 in AA as well but due to injury he only received 92 AB. Lambo despite only being 24 years old is elible for minor league free agency after 2013 so the Pirates will probably give him one last chance in AAA to show what he has. Santos is easily the most likely of the three to eventually make an impact in the major leagues though he also comes with the lowest ceiling of the three. Santos has good contact skills but his lack of power makes him project as nothing more than a bench player in the majors. Santos has also played some 2B in the past so we could see him play there next season as well. Finally in center field I expect the Pirates to use their 5th outfielder, that could be a Brandon Boggs type but more likely it will be Alex Presley.
Projected 13 Position Players
C: Tony Sanchez
1B: Matt Curry
2B: Brock Holt
3B: Yamaico Navarro (or if released minor league veteran)
SS: Chase d'Arnaud
LF: Quincy Latimore
CF: Alex Presley
RF: Adalberto Santos
DH: Andrew Lambo
C: Ramon Cabrera
IF: Anderson Hernandez (or similar minor league veteran)
IF: Matt Hague (or if release, minor league veteran)
OF: Brandon Boggs (or similar minor league veteran)
I expect Navarro and Hague to both be removed from the 40 man roster but since this will be their first removal the Pirates can assign them to AAA assuming they clear waivers which they probably will. Hernandez and Boggs are the players who filled the role this past season they will likely not be back but a similar player will take their place.
Top 5 Prospects
1. Tony Sanchez
2. Brock Holt
3. Matt Curry
4. Adalberto Santos
5. Ramon Cabrera
The Pirates have a lot of catchers in the lower levels and because of such it is difficult to judge just exactly who will be where. The safe bet appears to be that at least one of Mathisen and Jhang will be promoted to A leaving a bunch of catchers to fill the spots available in A+. The most notable of the group and the one I expect to get the most time in A+ next season is Jacob Stallings. The Pirates drafted Stallings in the 7th round of this past draft and he signed for way underslot. He isn't much of a prospect but what he is is a very advanced defensive catcher who has some leadership qualities and is veiwed as a second pitching coach on the field. Pirates fans will love this Stallings set an NCAA record in 2011 by throwing out 32 base runners. He is undoubtedly the Pirates best defensive catcher but his bat leaves a lot to be desired. Stallings has shown reasonably good plate discipline but outside of that is not much of a hitter. His calling card will always be his defense. As for a backup the Pirates have Elias Diaz, Kawika Emsley-Pai, Francisco Diaz, Ryan Hornback, Samuel Gonzalez, Jonathan Schwind, Derek Trent and David Valesente who could all possibly be a fit here. All of them are organizational catchers though. Since I am guessing I'll say it will be Elias Diaz.
The Pirates are kind of barren at 1B in the lower minors but Juse Osuna had a good enough season in A ball that he should earn a promotion to A+. Osuna didn't dominate the level but his 280/324/454 slash line was solid and will get him a longer look as a prospect. Osuna has some power potential, belting 16 HR this season, and will only be 20 years old next season which is rather young for A+ so he still has time to break out and become a real prospect.
If the Pirates decided to keep Gift Ngoepe at this level this will be his likely but if they move him up as I expect Dan Gamche should see the majority of the playing time at 2B. Gamache was drafted by the Pirates in the 6th round of the 2011 draft but his selection wasn't given much thought and his struggles in his pro debut did little to help his case. Gamache was given the starting 2B job in A ball this past season and did rather well at the plate hitting for a 285/350/430 and in the field (he is a converted 3B so that isn't a minor point). As an advanced college player it would have been nice to see a better performance but he did enough to keep his prospect status open and should get a chance to establish himself next season.
The Pirates really don't have a true 3rd base prospect to play here next season but they do have a few mildly interesting guys and one very interesting player. The very interesting player, Eric Avila, is who I expect to get most of the playing time at 3rd base. After a very strong showing in rookie ball in 2010 Avila became the Pirates top 3rd base prospect (which isn't really as great as it sounds) but he struggled mightily in A ball in 2011 and lost most of his prospect status. 2012 didn't appear to be going much better as his missed most of the first half due to an injury but he returned in the second half and finished strong psoting an overall slugging percentage of .546 and hitting 11 HR. He did have a 5:1 K:BB ratio though which doesn't look good but the power spike he displayed at the end of the year has put him back on the prospect map. He will need a very good showing in 2013 to avoid become an organizaitional player.
Undoubtedly the shortstop in A+ in 2013 will be Alen Hanson. Hanson broke out this season and is now widely considered one of the Pirates top two position player prospects. Hanson displayed good power this season hitting 16 HR and he showed some speed by stealing 35 bases. He has the potential to be a very good offensive player in the future. However there are some concerns about his defenense as he struggled defensively this season. A lot of scouts seem to think Hanson won't be able to stick at shortstop long term but even if he isn't able his plus offense still gives him value as a 2B or 3B prospect but of course it would take a hit if he did have to move off of shortstop. The Pirates appear like they are going to give Hanson every chance to stick at shortstop though so hopefully we will see some improvements defensively next seasons and hopefully he can keeo his offense rolling as well.
I haven't mentioned who I see backing up the starters yet. There are a ton of options to do so but they all really are look like organizational players right now. Andy Vasquez could start at AA but I left him off my projected roster so he is a candidate for here. He plays basically everywhere in the field (primarily the corners). Chris Lashmet will probably serve as the backup corner infielder for either A or A+ next season so he could be here. As for the reserve middle infielders there are a lot of options here. The Pirates drafted DJ Crumlich, Jimmy Rider and Chris Diaz last season all of whom look like they will probably end up as middle infield organizational players so the Pirates could start one of them on that path by playing them here. Or the Pirates could decide to transition Jodaneli Carvajal, Ashley Ponce or Francisco Aponte to an organzaition role. Or the Pirates could go with an old stand by like Benji Gonzalez or Kirk Singer.
Gregory Polanco will undoubtedly move up to A+ and man center field. Like Hanson, Polanco broke out last season A ball showing both power (16 HR) and speed (40 SB). Unlike Hanson polanco is veiwed as a strong defensive center fielder and should have no problem sticking to that defensive position. History tells us the Pirates will aggressive push Barrett Barnes to this level as that is what the Pirates have always done with their top advanced college draftees. Barnes is a center fielder but some question whether he'ss stick there anyway so a move to corner isn't necessarily a bad thing. Barnes will look to build off of his great pro debut at the A- level. The last outfield spot could go to either Willy Garcia or Tyler Gaffney should the Pirates decided to push them. However I don't think the Pirates will aggressively push either one leaving the last spot open for Mel Rojas Jr who I have repeating the level. This will likely be a last chance for Rojas to show himself as a true prospect. Assuming I'm right about Gaffney and Garcia not being pushed to this level the backup job will likely be between Junior Sosa and Taylor Lewis. Both have some decent upside but neither has really shown much in way of fulfilling that upside.
Projected 13 Position Players
C: Jacob Stallings
1B: Jose Osuna
2B: Dan Gamache
3B: Eric Avila
SS: Alen Hanson
LF: Mel Rojas
CF: Gregory Polanco
RF: Barrett Barnes
DH: Chris Lashmet
C: Elias Diaz
IF: Benji Gonzalez
OF: Junior Sosa
U: Andy Vasquez
Top 5 Prospects
1. Gregory Polanco
2. Alen Hanson
3. Barrett Barnes
4. Mel Rojas
5. Jose Osuna
I mentioned earlier about how the Pirates have a ton of catchers that appear to be candidates for anywhere from A- to A+ well the placement of all those catchers will largely depend on what is done with Wyatt Mathisen and Jin-De Jhang. Both catchers are legit prospects and either or both could be pushed to A ball. My gut tells me both will move up with them splitting the catcher and DH duties. Mathisen was the 2nd round pick this past season and while he played mainly shortstop in high school projects better going forward as a catcher. Outside of Sanchez, Mathisen is the Pirates best two way catching prospect. Jhang was signed out of Taiwan in 2011 and was aggressively placed in rookie ball last season where he hit quite well. The two catchers put up very similar offensive lines in rookie ball, Mathisen: 295/388/374 and Jhang: 305/382/398. Both players are also very raw when it comes to catching as neither really focused on catching full time until last season. Either of these could be mentioned this offseason as a potential break out prospect. With these two sharing C and DH duties a 3rd catcher will likely be needed and I'm guessing that will be Samuel Gonzalez but I'll discuss him more later.
The Pirates have no real prospect to play at 1B in A ball and no obvious organizational player to stick there. However the Pirates also have a need for a 3rd catcher so I believe they will use the open 1B job to put Samuel Gonzalez on the team. Gonzalez was an interesting catching prospect for the Pirates last season before injuring his shoulder and being limited to playing 1B. The shoulder should be healthy but the emergence of Mathisen and Jhang means there really isn't a spot for him at catcher. Gonzalez will serve as an occasional starter at 1B and the emergency catcher. Taking the rest of starts at 1B I'm going to predict will be Jordan Steranka. It appeared the Pirates drafted Steranka, to try and repair relations with the State College Spikes (he was a stand out on the Penn State baseball team) but alas Steranka had mono and couldn't pass a physical which means he didn't sign to late. With State College no longer being the Pirates minor league affiliate and an obvious hole at 1B in A ball I think the Pirates will push the college senior and let him share time with Gonzalez at 1B and backup at 3B which is his natural position.
When it comes to A ball assignments are usually tiugh to predict because there are two levels of possible promotees could come from plus players could just stay at the level. However 2nd base is a very easy prediction as the Pirates will almost asuredly give this job to Dilson Herrera. Herrera had a big year in rookie ball last season and is already the early favorite to become next year's Alen Hanson. Herrera showed both power and speed in rookie ball and will be closely watched next season and will be on just about every list as a potential break out prospect for the Pirates.
The Pirates have no obvious candidate to fill 3B in A ball but I expect they will push Eric Wood from rookie ball to fill this spot. Wood was an odd pick for the Pirates in the 6th round of this past draft. At the time he was drafted he appeared to be a signiability to pick to save slot money but he signed for $100,000 just slightly less than his slot. Wood was a JuCo player so in age he is closer to a high school prospect than a college prospect. Wood started his pro career in rookie ball and with possible exception of Herrera was the Pirates best hitter at the level showing some signs of plus power. With no real 3rd base prospect blocking him Wood should receive every chance to establish himself as a legit prospect option and I think due to the lack of options that will begin with him being the everyday guy in A ball next season. As mentioned earlier Steranka will likely speel him as needed.
The Pirates infielders in A- performed rather poorly last season which means few if any of them appear to be ready for A ball. However the infielders in rookie ball all hit fairly well so I expoect a lot of them to make a jump. At shortstop Max Moroff displayed an excellent bat in rookie ball and it appeared advanced enough to handle the jump to A ball this season. Moroff was a overslot signee who was made possible by Appel turning down the Pirates money and because of that got started late in rookie ball but was absolutely on fire for his 67 AB at the level. Moroff still obviously has a lot of work in front of him but his bat was impressive enough to at least earn consideration for a jump to A ball. Backing up Moroff and probably most of the rest of the infielder will probably be DJ Crumlich. Crumlich was the one infielder at A- who actually hit decently but even he still didn't hit great. Crumlich played primarily 3rd base in A- but will likely play all over the infield here, possibly even seeing some time at 1B.
I've already pretty much set the outfield here. I believe Willy Garcia due to the inconsistentcies he showed will repeat thios level. Garcia has shown good power, decent speed and solid defense but has plate discipline issues that are preventing him from taking the next big step forward. I believe Tyler Gaffney who had argubly the best offensive season at the A- level won't be aggressively pushed to A+ which means he will start the season here. Gaffney profiles at a corner outfilder but due to the players at this level will probably see significant time in center field. Gaffney showed some power in A- and showed some great plate discipline he also had an amazing knack for getting hit by a pitch which was probably just a fluke but who knows. The final outfield spot will likely go to Josh Bell as long as he is ready to play that is. We all should know about Bell he was the Pirates big coup in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft and had his highly anticipated ebut this season cut short due to injury. He played so sparingly in A ball and is still young os he will likely repeat the level. Backing upo the outfielders there are a few candidates. Jesus Vasquez is the most interesting of the bunch as he has some great power potential and the Pirates could possibly even use him some at 1B. Raul Fortunato is another possibility but he missed nearly all of last season so the Pirates may proceed slowly with him. My prediction is that Taylor Lewis will repeat the A level and once agains erve as the 4th outfielder. Lewis looks like an organizational player at this time.
Projected 13 Position Players
C: Jin-De Jhang
1B: Jordan Steranka
2B: Dilson Herrera
3B: Eric Wood
SS: Max Moroff
LF: Willy Garcia
CF: Tyler Gaffney
RF: Josh Bell
DH: Wyatt Mathisen
C/1B: Samuel Gonzalez
IF: DJ Crumlich
IF: Chris Diaz
OF: Taylor Lewis
Top 5 Prospects
1. Josh Bell
2. Wyatt Mathisen
3. Dilson Herrera
4. Max Moroff
5. Willy Garcia
Thank you. Like I said earlier I really don't have much else to do with my time since the Pirates season is over and hockey is in a lock out. It really is just my best guess right now I'll probably update it later. Next up I'm going to try the pitchers but that is even a bigger crap shoot.
Just because I'm bored with no baseball or hockey I'm going to start posting about the Pirates prospects. I graded 64 Pirates prospects at C- or better and am considering all of them for my top 30 (or 50 or whatever) list. I'll give an overview of each one of them at some point but for now I'm going to focus on the most interesting prospects who didn't reach that threshold. I hope everyone enjoys this as I imagine there will probably be some names here that most people have never even heard.
Low Level Pitchers
Yhonathan Herrand: Herrand is an interesting prospect. He has a great arm, reportedly even hitting 100 mph with his fastball. However he is erratic sometimes only throwing in the low 90s or even upper 80s and he has very little control of his pitches. His live arm is the only thing keeping his prospect status alive but with two years already spent at rookie ball his window is nearly closed.
Wei-Chung Wang: The Pirates signed Wang out of Taiwan for $350,000 in 2011 but a failed medical test (he had a torn ligament and required Tommy John surgery) caused the two sides to rework a deal at a much lower signing bonus. Wang has yet to pitch and I know virtually nothing about him but the fact the Pirates were giving him that kind of signing bonus means there has to be some potential there.
Jackson Lodge: Lodge is a left handed international prospect who was signed out of of Australia in late 2010. His pro debut was solid in 2011 and he showed significant improvement this past season improving everything but his K rate. He currently doesn't have any great pitches and his velocity tops out in the mid 80s but Lodge just turned 19 early in October so there is still some potential with him.
Bryton Trepagnier: Trepagnier was drafted in the 41st round of the 2010 and had a modest debut in 2010 but struggled in 2011. Going into this season he looked like an organizational player but he showed vast improvement this season adding a few mph to his fastball (getting it to 92-93) and throwing a good slider. His strikeout rate improved and he showed better control. Trepagnier turned 21 late in the season so he is kind of old for the lower levels so he is going to have to have a good 2013 to stay a prospect but he looks to have some potential as a relief arm.
Andy Otamendi: Otamendi appears to be your typical finesse lefty but the Pirates brought him to the states after just one season in the VSL so they must see some potential in him. Otamendi had a solid year out of the bullpen in rookie ball this season and will only be 20 years old next season so he still has some potential.
Dovydas Neverauskas: The Pirates signed Neverauskas out of Lithuania in 2010. He has spent the last 3 seasons in rookie ball and hasn't improved much so his prospect status is borderline at best right now. He did show some improvements in his command this season but it wasn't a huge improvement. He has the benefit of being a hard thrower 95-96 and he is still young as he will only be 20 next season. The Pirates promoted to A- late this past season so they must see something in him.
Axel Diaz: I'm not really sure what to think of Diaz. The Pirates signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for an unreported signing bonus (which means it was small if it existed at all) and he pitched 1 inning in the DSL in 2011 but despite this the Pirates still brought him to the states and actually put him in the rotation. He is a little older than you would expect as next season he will be 21 but the way the Pirates are handling him suggests they think he is a prospect and he actually pitched respectably this season considering his lack of experience.
Last edited by burgh_fan66; 11-06-2012 at 11:27 AM.
Edwin Espinal: Espinal is probably someone I should buy into more than I do. The Pirates signed him for $150,000 in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic. He spent the 2011 season in the DSL and put up good numbers and was named one of the top 20 prospects in the DSL and VSL. Espinal's value is almost entirely tied to him developing power though as he is shak defensively, probably limited to 1B, and is slow. This past season Espinal was promoted to the GCL and struggled. His plate discipline which had been good in the DSL was poor and his overall numbers suffered. Espinal did finish the season with a strong August though and will only be 19 next season so the potential is still there.
Jared LaKind: The Pirates drafted LaKind in the 23rd round of the 2010 draft and for $400,000 convinced him to to skip going to Arkansas. When drafted LaKind has potential both as a pitcher and 1B. He was a lefty with a low 90s fastball but his power potential is what the Pirates saw so they annouced him as a 1B. LaKind has spent the last 3 seasons between rookie ball and A- and hasn't made much if any progress. He strikes out too much and has shown little power. His prospect window is all but shut and to be honest I'm surprised the Pirates haven't converted him back to a pitcher yet.
Stetson Allie: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Allie with his 100+ mph fastball was once one of the Pirates best prospects now he barely clings to his prospect status. Allie has a lot of power potential which is what is keeping his status as a hitting prospect alive but he has a lot of work to do if he is going to succeed. Allie had a rough first year at the plate, striking out a third of the time and batting only .213 but he did show a little bit of that raw power. For my money the Pirates were better off keeping him as a pitcher and hoping they could iron out his control problems but we shall see how this path turns out.
Candon Myles: Myles is a sppedy center fielder who loves to run. The best part of his game is speed and it is something he does well. Myles doesn't have much of a bat though his line in limited action this season was promising. He is essentially your typical speedy center field type who is going to have to make by defense, speed and OBP skills. The Pirates drafted him in 2011 so he just turned 20 a few days ago. There is definitely some talent here but we have to wait and see if Myles can turn into anything.
Ryan Hornback: The Pirates and most organizations for that matter tend to carry a few extra catchers in the system. The Pirates have a plethora of catchers in their lower levels but most are probably just organizational types. The one that appears to have the highest upside of the non-prospects is Hornback. Hornback started the 2012 season splitting time with Jacob Stallings at catcher in A- but got injured in July and didn't play again. He did fairly well in that time batting for a 291/329/367 line. He is veiwed as a solid defensive catcher. Overall he is probably just an organizational catcher but unlike most of the others in the lower levels he has a chance to progress farther into the system.
Ryan Hafner: Coming into the 2012 season Ryan Hafner was veiwed as a potential breakout candidate for the Pirates. Unfortunately that didn't even come close to happening. Hafner was terrible in A ball posting an amazing walk rate of 10.1 BB/9. He starter the season as a starter was demoted to the bullpen and then ultimely demoted to A-. In A- he managed to lower his walk rate to 4.7 BB/9 but that is still bad. Hafner doesn't have the greatest stuff but up until this season his control was good and he does have some talent but it goes without saying if he repeats this past season's results this upcoming year his professional baseball career may very well be over.
Jason Creasy: Creasy was one of several projectable high school arms taken in the 2011 draft. He pitched this season in A- and while his overall numbers weren't good there were some positives such as his fastball adding a couple mph going from the high 80s to low 90s and the slider he added looked like a decent pitch. Overall though his control was shaky and he didn't strike many batters out. Like all of the Pirates projectable high school pitcher selections there is some potential there but he needs to start realizing some of that potential soon.
Jordan Cooper: The Pirates drafted Cooper twice once in 2009 and then again in 2011. He is an interesting pitcher to figure. He has shown some good stuff throwing his fastball in the mid 90s and having control of his breaking stuuf but at other times his fastball tops out around 90 and his control disappears. He starter this season in A ball where he struggled but when he was sent to A- he was dominant. If the Pirates can get him to pitch consistently he could be a good relief prospect but with his ups and downs he is just a project right now.
Kyle Haynes: The Pirates drafted Haynes in the 20th round of the 2012 draft. He served as the closer at the A- level and had mixed results. He struck out a lot of hitters which of course is a postive but allowed a surprisingly high number of base runners. His walk rate was a tad high but not horrible so the high number of base runners suggests that hitters when they weren't striking out were managing to see the ball well and put up hits. Still Haynes has good stuff with a low 90s fastball and a very good changeup so he has some potential as a relief prospect if he can continue missing bats and start allowing fewer baserunners.
Quinton Miller: Miller was a 20th round selection of the Pirates in 2008 and was one of the first of the projectable high school pitchers. He was a good talent coming out of high school, he already touched the mid 90s with his fastball usually sitting around 90 with it. His slider was well developed and his change was a decent pitch. Unfortunately Miller doesn't seem to have progressed much from the pitcher he was in high school because he just finished his 4th poor year as a pro. He did manage to strike out a few more hitters this season but it was at the expense of his walk rate blossoming. It is undeniable that Miller has good stuff but the lack of results to dat makes it impossible to veiw him as a legit prospect. The Pirates will probably give him one more shot in 2013 though.
Josh Poytress: The Pirates have a plethora of fringe lefty reliever prospects in the A-AA levels and poytress appears to be one of the best of that group, which isn't really saying a lot. The Pirates drafted him out of Fresno State in the 18th round of the 2011 draft and to date he has put up decent numbers as a pro but hasn't really done anything to stand out. Poytress had a very odd stat line this past season at the A+ level posting a 2.59 ERA but having a 1.49 WHIP and 5.6 BB/9. The periphials say he didn't pitch well but the ERA indicates he worked out of most of his messes. At this point Poytress is probably an organizational player but as a left handed reliever there is always some hope.
Rinku Singh: Singh is probably the most known player I have covered so far but that is more for his background than his pitching ability. We all know the story about him winning a contest in India and then ultimately signing with the Pirates. Singh has had fairly good success so far and one doesn't even have to add considering his background to make that statement true. Singh pitched well at the A level this past season and was argubly the team's best pitcher. Singh struck out a quite a few hitters with a 8.1 K/9 and showed good control with a 2.2 BB/9. He isn't an overpowering pitcher throwing just in the mid 80s but he has good offspeed stuff. He is of course a long shot to ever make an impact in the majors but if Singh manages to have a solid showing in 2013 at the A+ level he could force his way on to the prospect map.
Samuel Gonzalez: The Pirates signed Gonzalez as a catcher out of the Dominican Republic at the late age of 20 in 2009. He started late but moved up fairly quickly spending only two years in the DSL and then by passing rookie ball and playing the 2011 season at the A- level. Gonzalez had a very good season at the A- level and looked like he might be developing into a real prospect but he injured his shoulder late in the season and it continued bothering him into Spring Training. The shoulder injury prevented him from catching and forced him to 1B, a position his bat is not enough for. Not only that Gonzalez had a very poor showing this season which may be related to his shoulder injury. Gonzalez still has some work defensively behind the plate but has the tools to become a solid catching prospect. Hopefully he will be healthy enough to catch next season but with the talent the Pirates have recently added he might have trouble finding frequent playing time behind the plate.
Jodaneli Carvajal: Carvajal is one of many middle infielders the Pirates signed internationally in 2008 who are now in the states in the low-mid minors but all of them are struggling. To me it appears Carvajal is the last one left with any prospect possibilities. Carvajal is a good defensive player with plus speed but he is not a good hitter. He moved up to the states after just two years in the DSL and had a strong showing in rookie ball in 2011. This season Carvajal split time between the A- and A levels and was decent at the plate but really didn't show too much progress with his bat. Carvajal will probably struggle to get consistent playing time next season but needs to take advantage of any oppurtunioty he gets to keep his prospect window open.
Raul Fortunato: Fortunato was signed by the Pirates as an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. His first two seasons in the DSL he had two very poor seasons and was looking like at best an organizational guy. However in 2011 he had a break out season which was topped by what I believe was a 30 something game hitting streak which got him some press with the Pittsburgh media. He moved up to the states this season and started at the A- level but unfortunately he got hurt early in the season and didn't play again. Fortunato is a great base stealer and seems to be slowly developing good plate discipline but he has shown the tendency to strike out a good bit. He had a good chance to really establish himself this past season but unfortunately his injury prevented that. This upcoming season Fortunato will need a good season just to keep his prospect status alive.
Elias Diaz: Diaz was signed by the Pirates as a catcher out of Venezuela in 2008. He had a good pro debut in 2009 in the VSL and was promoted the following season to the states. Diaz has done very little since coming to the states though. He has been very poor with the bat and while showing improvements defensively still needs some work with that part of his game. The Pirates like most organizations have a bunch of catchers in the low to mid levels of the minor leagues but most of them profile as just organizational depth. At 22 it is a little early to say that is what Diaz is but right now unless he shows significant improvements with his bat that is likely where his career is headed.
DJ Crumlich: The Pirates drafted Crumlich, along with a couple other college middle infielders, in this past draft class. None of them really profile as much more than organizational players but Crumlich was the one who actually had the best debut. He played this past season at the A- level where he easily had the best season of any of the Pirates infielders at that level. Crumlich doesn't profile to hit for much power and his speed and defense are probably about average so if he is going to go anywhere it will have to be with good contact skills and good plate discipline. He did show some decent plate discipline this past season and during his college years so there may be some hope there. Crumlich will probably play at either the A or A+ level next season, whereever he is needed, and will need to take advantage of his oppurtunities.
Taylor Lewis: Lewis was drafted by the Pirates in the 10th round of the 2011 draft. He is an outfielder and was rated the 5th best prospect in upper New England. He has good defense, speed and some power potential. Unfortunately he hasn't shown much in his first two pro seasons. This past season wasn't a bad showing for him but his numbers were only decent and he struck out way too much. Lewis went to a small college so the step up in play for him was probably bigger than for most players so he shouldn't be given up on quite yet. At this point Lewis is a project but he seems to have a decent upside and there is still time for him to have thaty breakout season since he will play next season at 23 which isn't that old for the middle levels.
Aaron Pribanic: Pribanic was one of three minor league pitchers the Pirates acquired in the Jack Wilson trade a few years back. The other two were both selected in the Rule V draft but Pribanic remains with the Pirates. Pribanic is a sinker ball pitcher which means he lives or dies with ground balls. Before this season he had modest success and was looking like a fringe prospect. However this season he suffered a shoulder injury early in the season and spent the rest of the year trying to come back from it. Pribanic has decent control but he relies heavily on his sinker and his secondary pitches are average at best. At this point he is a 26 year who will likely be returning for a 3rd straight season of AA ball so his prospect days look behind him but considering he missed this year due to injury he should probably be given one last chance to prove himself.
Nathan Baker: Baker was drafted by the Pirates in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. He is a left handed pitcher who throws his fastball right around 90 mph and compliments it with a good change up. He was a pitcher I liked coming into the 2012 season and I thought could take a step forward; as it turns out I was close as his college and Pirate minor league teammate, Phillip Irwin made the step forward. Baker on the other hand had a poor showing at AA which significantly hurt his prospect status. Baker was moved to the bullpen this season but the Pirates do not have a ton of starting options for AA so Baker may return to the rotation, either way if he has a future in the major leagues going forward it will probably be a fringe left handed reliever.
Hunter Strickland: I doubt anyone remembers this at this point but Strickland was the pitching prospect we got in return for Adam LaRoche. Strickland doesn't have the best arsenal with a low 90s fastball and average breaking stuff but what he does have is pin point control. In his two seasons with the Pirates Strickland had two decent seasons but never really stood out and then he missed all of 2011 due to a shoulder injury. This season he returned and had a very solid showing in A+ but struggled upon getting promoted. Strickland is still only 24 years old so it is too early to write him off completely especially considering he lost a whole year of development with the shoulder injury but going forward Strickland is going to have to start missing some more bats and getting better results if he is to be veiwed as a legitimate prospect.
Jhonathan Ramos: During the Littlefield era the Pirates had a fascination with signing Latin American prospects who were short finese left handed pitchers. Ramos is one of the last remaining and has probably been the most successful so far. Ramos has put up respectable numbers at just about every level he has pitched but has never really stood out. He was great in the VSL and A- but since moving to full season ball he has been mediocre. His arsenal includes an upper 80s fastball, a slider and a change up. This past season he split time between A+ and AA and put some eeriely similar periphials but he had a much a higher ERA in A+ than he did AA. Ramos is probably just an organizational pitcher at this point but as a finese left handed reliever with good control it is not unreasonable to think he could get a cup of coffee in the major leagues one day.
Porfirio Lopez: Lopez is the other hold out of the short left handed Latin American pitching prospects signed by Littlefield. Like Ramos Lopez dominated when in the international leagues but has struggled since starting full season ball in the states. Unlike Ramos, Lopez appears to have the ability to miss bats but he pays for it with poor control and a high walk rate. This past season like 2011 Lopez split time between A and A+ and put up mediocre numbers. He actually showed improved control this season in A+ but it was at the expense of some strike outs so I imagine he must have been trying something different. Lopez seems to have a tad bit more on his fastball than Ramos occasionally hitting 90 but his secondary pitches are roughly the same at average to maybe slightly above. At this point Lopez looks like an organizational pitcher but the same caveat applies here as it is not unreasonable to think he could make a major league appearance some day under the right conditions.
Aaron Poreda: Poreda is an interesting story. He was drafted by the White Sox in the first round of the 2007 draft and he moved quickly through the minors pitching well at every level and he made his MLB debut in 2009. He was shaky in his 10 appearances with the White Sox but it appeared to be nothing more than a rookie trying to adjust but then he was traded to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal and everything fell apart. He pitched only 2.1 innings with the Padres but appeared to have no control what so ever. The Padres sent him to the minors and he continued showing no control what so ever. He did manage to start missing bats again but with walk rates above 10 BB/9 that scarcely mattered. The Pirates selected him during the minor league portion of the Rule V draft last season and sent him to AA where in limited to before he got injured he did show somehwat improved control but even so the 6.2 BB/9 rate he posted is still awful. Poreda is a left handed pitcher with great stuff, his fastball has been clocked at 100 mph. There is obviously talent here but unless Poreda can find his control again it won't matter. The Pirates will probably give him one more chance this season.
Michael Colla: Colla was drafted by the Pirates in the 14th round of the 2008 draft. He throws a low 90s fastball, a slider and a curve. Colla has spent the last two seasons at AA and put up very similar numbers both seasons. This season the Pirates moved him to the bullpen and he pitched much better there than he did as a starter. Colla seems to have decent control as he has always posted good walk rate and even manages to miss a few bats with a K rate normally around 7 K/9. The Pirates had success moving Hughes and Watson to the bullpen after they tapped out as starters at the AA level so I see no reason why they shouldn't try the same path with Colla. Colla should open the season in AAA and could be a candidate for the major leagues some time this season if he pitches well and a need arises in the Pirates bullpen.
Charlie Cutler: Cutler, a catcher, was drafted by the Pirates in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft and sent him to Altoona this season. Cutler is tough to get a read on because he has hit well at every level but has been consistently old for each level. His defense is average at best. Cutler's offensive ability makes him an interesting player to watch but considering his age he is probably not much more than an organizational player. Cutler has good plate discipline and has shown decent power so there is still hope for him.
Justin Howard: Howard was drafted by the Pirates in the 24th round of the 2010 draft. He is a good hitter but his defense limits him to a corner and he doesn't have much power. Before this season Howard had shown a tendency to strike out a lot but he significantly improved upon this season but doing so took even more of his limited power away. If Howard could handle a more defensively challenging position he would probably be a very good prospect right now but being limited to 1B or maybe RF decreases his value significantly. His upside appears to be a Matt Hague type so it still is possible he could get a cup of coffee with the Pirates at some point in the future.
Stefan Welch: Welch was signed by the Mets as an international free agent in 2005 and the Pirates signed him last season as a minor league free agent. Welch showed moderate success in the Mets organization which made the Pirates signing of him at least some what noteable as far as minor league signings go. The Pirates started Welch in A+ and he played well enough to earn a promotion to AA and he got off to a great start there making himself look like a possible prospect. However Welch struggled down the stretch and it became more clear why the Pirates were able to sign him as a minor league free agent. Welch plays both 1B and 3B and has shown at least a little bit of power. The Pirates really have very few prospect options for the infield corners in the upper levels so Welch will likely get another chance in 2013.
Elevys Gonzalez: Gonzalez was signed by the Pirates as an international free agent in 2008. He plays 2B and 3B, has average speed but is a good defender. At the plate he has shown decent plate discipline but that took a hit in the 2011 season. Gonzalez played well in the Pirates minor leagues from 2008-2010 before having his big breakout season in 2011. Gonzalez had a great season at the A+ level in 2011 and was considered the Pirates top 3B prospect headed into this season. Unfortunately Gonzalez had a very bad season at the AA level this season and his prospect status took a big hit. The Pirates sent Gonzalez back to A+ but he didn't perform much better. His strike out rate rose and he showed no increase in power.
Andy Vasquez: Vasquez was signed by the Pirates as an international free agent in 2006. He has played everywhere on the diamond except catcher for the Pirates. His best defensive positions appear to be 3B or the corner outfield though. He didn't hit to well with the Pirates in his four seasons in the organization but had a nice season in 2011 at the A level. He has decent power but has poor plate discipline. He is evidently a switch hitter but he is an odd switch hitter as he has changed back and forth between batting left handed and right handed without actually ever being a switch hitter. Coming off a strong showing in A ball in 2011 Vasquez had a modest year at the A+ level but it was far from a stand out year. At this point Vasquez is probably just a minor league utility player but he has some tools that make him at least slightly interesting.
Kelson Brown: I like Brown better than most people. The Pirates drafted him in the 34th round of the 2010 draft and immediately began using him as an organizational player but he appears to have more upside than that. He has played every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher and was a decent pitcher in college so he could probably even do that for a few innings if needed. He is a good defender at basically each position and has shown the ability to hit fairly well. Brown has very little power, although he did show a slight increase this season, but has decent plate discipline. Essentially Brown is the type of player who does nothing really great nor terrible. He hit quite well as a utility player in AA this season so hopefully the Pirates find away with a shallow position player crop to give him more at bats this season. He has the upside of a solid major league utility player.
Ali Solis: The Pirates claimed Solis off of waivers this season but just a few days later they waived him from the roster. Solis looks like a good defensive player but he has shown very little with the bat. He had a decent showing at the AA level in 2012 but it was the 4th year he has spent time at the AA level. Solis even made his major league debut this year but only received 4 PA. Solis has no power and very poor plate discipline so the Pirates decision to claim him seems a little odd. He doesn't really seem to have much upside and assuming he clears waivers he will likely serve as the Pirates replacement for Eric Fryer.