The Spikes Look Great This Year, But Long Term Makeup Is The Same

After years of having no offense, the State College Spikes are seeing a ton of hitting to start the season. The Spikes won 9-2 on Saturday night, fueled by a five run eighth inning. The Spikes have scored 21 runs in their last three games, which paired with great pitching has led to some easy victories at home.

From a team perspective, this team looks like it could be a winner. From a prospect perspective, it looks about the same as previous years: great pitching depth, and not much in terms of prospects on the hitting side.

Tonight the Spikes got great pitching again. After watching Luis Heredia and Clay Holmes lead the team to back-to-back shutouts, Jason Creasy took the mound against Mahoning Valley. The right-hander, taken in the eighth round of the 2011 draft, gave up one run on three hits in four innings, with a walk and four strikeouts. This comes after he gave up three runs, two earned, in 2.2 innings his last time out.

“I was able to locate my fastball a little bit better, and my off-speed was pretty good,” Creasy said of the difference between last time out and tonight’s start. “I could locate pretty much everything. It was down too.”

Creasy threw a few curveballs, getting some strikeouts with the pitch. He also threw his changeup, working mostly on a fastball/changeup combo. A key for him this year will be staying down in the zone, and he did that much better tonight than he did in his first start of the year. The right-hander was working in the 88-91 MPH range tonight with his fastball. The 6′ 4″, 191 pound pitcher has loose arm action and a projectable frame, making him a candidate to add velocity down the line.

On the other side of the ball, the Spikes were great with situational hitting tonight, leading to a lot of runs off of small ball. While the offense has been strong in the early part of the season, there aren’t a lot of guys who profile as legit long-term prospects. The only guy in the lineup who really stands out as a potential starter is Barrett Barnes. Other guys could make it as a bench/utility player, or could become a wild card, similar to Adalberto Santos.

Take Samuel Gonzalez, for example. He’s moved to first base, and has also played some second base recently, all due to off-season labrum surgery. Gonzalez has a good bat, and that bat woke up tonight with two hits and a walk. But his bat worked much better behind the plate. Fortunately, he’s not out of the mix behind the plate for the long-term. When, or if, he returns will depend on the health of his shoulder.

Then there’s the 2012 draft picks. Jacob Stallings, D.J. Crumlich, and Chris Diaz have all shown some good tools, mostly on the defensive side of the game. Stallings has been great with the pitching staff, and has a cannon for an arm. He’s also flashed some pop in his bat with a few doubles to deep center field. Crumlich has been hitting well, going 3-for-4 tonight and hitting for a .545 average on the young season. Diaz has shown some speed, and is playing some good defense at shortstop. But with all three players, it’s hard to profile them as anything more than bench players at this point. Any success at this level has to be taken with the disclaimer that they’re all college players playing in a league that is very similar to where they played in college.

There are a few wild cards. Jodaneli Carvajal has been getting hits non-stop since making his debut. He went 1-for-5 tonight with a double, and has a .455 average on the year. A lot of his hits have been a result of his speed at the top of the order. His double tonight was purely on speed, making it to second when the right fielder struggled to pick up the ball. He did the same thing in yesterday’s game. Carvajal was praised for his defense when he was signed, and he still has that. He’s got the footwork, arm strength, and range to play any position in the infield. He’s got the speed to profile as a top of the order hitter. There could be a future there at shortstop down the road, although like the guys above, it’s safer to project him as more of a bench guy at this point.

The key guy this year is Barrett Barnes. Yesterday, Spikes manager Dave Turgeon called him a potential middle of the order hitter in the majors. Barnes has shown good range in center field, and good speed on the bases. He’s a good athlete and a plus runner, who has knowledge and feel for the game, and good instincts.

“You’re going to see some special things from him this summer,” Turgeon said after tonight’s game. “You’re going to see some exciting, special things from that guy offensively this summer. And he can run a little bit to now. He’s going to get some bags for you. Going to track down stuff in center field.”

This Spikes team is similar to previous Spikes teams. There’s a ton of upside in the rotation, with Luis Heredia, Clay Holmes, Jake Burnette, Jason Creasy, and Joely Rodriguez making up a rotation full of legit long-term prospects. There’s also one standout hitting prospect, and a lot of guys who profile more as bench guys if they can make it to Double-A and beyond. That could change going forward if guys like 2012 4th round pick Brandon Thomas join the team, or if a few guys get promoted from the GCL, such as Luis Urena or Stetson Allie.

There’s nothing wrong with the mix right now. It’s similar to the past, with a few key differences. The top hitter (Barnes) has more upside and is more polished than a lot of the top hitting prospects in previous years (Mel Rojas Jr., Alex Dickerson, Evan Chambers, Drew Maggi). The biggest difference is that this team executes better. So far they’ve come through when needed, played good small ball, and executed situations well, with 13 out of 14 situations executed tonight. Short term, the Spikes could be a winner. Long term, the Spikes have great pitching depth, and one standout hitter.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Indians Win 6th Straight On Wilson’s Excellent Start

Next Story »

Indians Cruise To 7th Straight Win With 6-Run First Inning

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

    What the time frame for Barnes? If he continues to do well in State College, will they try to get him up to WV this season? Or will they try to take their time with him since most years in the past, he wouldnt have even played the year he was drafted?

    I realize all of that is based off of the assumption that he actually continues to have success. However, given his collegiate experience, I don’t see the point in having him hang around State College unless there’s some fundamental or mechanical issue to work through

  • Lee Young

    I’m starting to not ‘get’ the ‘projectionable arm’ thing. How many of them have actually added velocity? I know of none so far.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      There’s no set timetable for that to happen. And it’s not like someone flips a switch and a guy goes from throwing 88-91 to 96-98. Take Nick Kingham, for example. He was touching 95 MPH on a pretty consistent basis this Spring. Before his junior year in high school he barely touched 90. Last year with the Spikes he would occasionally hit 94, but was mostly topping out at 93. He’s showing signs of gradually moving up with his velocity.

      It’s also a small timeframe we’re talking about here. If you could take a projectable guy and get someone throwing mid-90s a year or two later, then everyone would do it. Sometimes it takes several years. Outside of the Pirates, Chris Archer is a guy I can think of who took several years to really break out. I think it was like 3-4 years before he started throwing mid-to-upper 90s.

      • Lee Young

        Did not know that about Kingham….thx for that update.

  • http://twitter.com/rburgh80015 Craig Biddle

    How can you say all these things about a team that is averaging almost 5 runs per game? That’s a lot for short season ball – usually the pitchers there are way ahead of the hitters, since the hitters have to adjust to using wood bats.

Latest Analysis

  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    1 day ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    3 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    4 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    5 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    6 days ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    1 week ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    1 week ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    1 week ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Jason Creasy

    Another Pitcher to Watch From the Pirates’ 2011 Draft

    2 weeks ago

    The 2011 draft is shaping up to be a great class for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They picked first overall that year, so naturally you’d expect good things ...

    Read More
  • Peacock Nevarez

    Will One of These Pirates Minor League Pitchers Be the Next John Holdzkom?

    2 weeks ago

    By now you probably know that John Holdzkom rose from independent ball last year and made it to the majors. It was one of the best stories in ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More