Complete West Virginia Coverage
1t. Alen Hanson, SS
1t. Gregory Polanco, OF
I had a tough time picking the top prospect from this pair. In a tiered ranking system, they’d both be in the same group. When it comes to picking between them, it’s splitting hairs.
Offensively, the difference is minimal. Polanco was more consistent this year, and hit for a better average. Hanson hit for more power, although Polanco could add some more power going forward. The outfielder added some bulk to his frame this year, which led to a power outburst. He’s still got room to add more muscle, which could lead to more power in the future.
Defensively, this comparison gets interesting. The big debate with Hanson is whether he can play shortstop. He’s got the tools and the athleticism needed to stick at the position, but he’s far from a guarantee. I’m in the middle on the debate. I disagree with those who feel he’s a lock to move to second base down the line. However, that doesn’t make him a lock to stick at shortstop. His 40 errors this year weren’t a product of poor scorekeeping or field conditions in the minors. He looked raw on the field at the position, with some bad throws and poor footwork. That can improve over time, to the point where he could stick at the position. He’s probably not going to be a Gold Glover, but his bat could really justify his value at the position, even with poor defense.
Polanco plays center field, and there are very few questions about whether he can stick at the valuable position. His long legs allow him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He also boasts a strong arm, allowing him to stick in center. There are questions whether Hanson can stick at the valued shortstop position, but those questions don’t really exist with Polanco and center field.
I might give the edge to Polanco, just because of the lack of defensive questions, and the fact that he’s still got some untapped offensive upside. Again, finding the difference between these two is splitting hairs.
3. Josh Bell, OF
Bell was the top prospect at the level coming in to the year. His injury allowed others to pass him on the depth charts, moving him behind Hanson and Polanco here, and moving him out of the top 100 in national rankings. Nothing has changed with his upside. He’s still got the potential to be a plus hitter and a plus power hitter from both sides of the plate. He doesn’t really have a ceiling for his offensive potential right now. The lost year of development hurts, but considering he would have been a freshman in college this year, the impact is minimal. He might not return until Spring Training next year, at which point he will have a shot to get back on track with his development.
4. Nick Kingham, RHP
Kingham had a shaky season at the start of the year, posting a 5.22 ERA in 58.2 innings before the All-Star break. Things came together in the second half, with the right-hander putting up a 3.69 ERA in 68.1 innings, along with a 61:17 K/BB ratio. He finished strong with a 2.36 ERA in 53.1 innings in his last ten starts, with a 49:10 K/BB ratio. The right-hander can touch 95 MPH consistently with his fastball, usually sitting in the 90-93 MPH range. He also improved his curve and changeup this year, after both added some rust last year in State College. Kingham has the potential for three above-average pitches, and has the build to be a 200 inning a year workhorse. He seems like a younger version of Kyle McPherson, with the potential to one day be a number three starter in the majors.
5. Willy Garcia, OF
Garcia’s ranking here is based on raw potential. He’s a five tool talent whose upside compares to Hanson and Polanco. However, he didn’t put up the same numbers this year. The power numbers were there, with his 18 homers leading the Pirates’ minor league system. However his K/BB ratios weren’t good, with a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate. He was young for the level, and would still be young even with another year at the level. He’s got a high ceiling, but right now he’s more potential than results.
6. Jose Osuna, 1B
Osuna is similar to Garcia, in that he has been more potential than results. He hit well in the second half, and showed his power, which is a big part of his game. In the second half, Osuna hit for a .293/.327/.510 line in 239 at-bats, with 12 homers. A lot of that was fueled by his amazing month of July, when he hit for a .336/.366/.645 line with nine homers in 107 at-bats. Osuna has the power potential to eventually be a starting first baseman in the majors. He doesn’t have any defensive value, so any value will have to come from the bat. He showed flashes of that potential this year, but he lacks the consistency to be ranked any higher right now.
7. Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP
A lot of emphasis has been placed on Von Rosenberg’s projectability. He’s a tall, skinny pitcher with an easy throwing motion, which gives him the chance to eventually add velocity. So far he’s been in the 89-91 MPH range throughout his career, and that didn’t change this year. But Von Rosenberg’s career doesn’t make or break based on his velocity. He still has the stuff to succeed as a starting pitcher, even with a fastball that tops out at 91. His curveball and changeup are both above-average pitches, which would pair well with good fastball command. His issue is that he hasn’t had that fastball command, leaving a lot of balls up in the zone the last two years. He made some strides this year in West Virginia, more than cutting his HR/9 ratio in half from last year. However, he still has things to work on. Adding velocity to his fastball would be a bonus, but the important thing is commanding the pitch and keeping it down in the zone. If he figures out how to do that, he can have success, even with lower velocity.
8. Robby Rowland, RHP
Rowland came over to the Pirates at the end of Spring Training in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The right-hander struggled last year, but made some changes to his delivery this year. He dropped from an overhead arm slot to a three quarters delivery. In the process he went from a fastball that could hit 93-94 MPH, down to an 89-91 MPH fastball. However, the new fastball was much more effective, with a lot of sink, getting a good amount of ground balls. The new delivery led to some strong results in his first year in the Pirates’ system. Rowland didn’t strike out a lot of hitters, which could hurt his chances of being a starter going forward.
9. Eric Avila, 3B
Avila had the best ISO on the team, and was the best power hitter in the system in the second half of the season. The problem is that his numbers come with the disclaimer that he was repeating the level. They also come with a poor K/BB ratio, with the big issue being the lack of walks. Still, it’s hard to totally ignore his production, especially when it comes from third base. Last year Avila didn’t have the best season at the plate, but made strides with his defense at third, to the point where he could play the position moving up in the minors. His power outburst this year could be enough to move him to Bradenton next year. There’s some upside as a power hitting third baseman, but he’s raw, and a lot of his upside is based on small samples in the GCL, and this year in the second half.
10. Dan Gamache, 2B
Gamache is more of a future bench or utility player, with his key asset being his glove in the infield. He did add some pop this year, hitting for average and hitting a lot of extra-base hits, including a system leading 40 doubles. He could continue to be a good hitter as he moves up in the system, although it’s hard to see him hitting well enough to be a starter in the majors one day. Gamache plays second and third base, and plays both positions well, so his future could be a utility infielder.