Top Performers: Jacob Stallings Shows Some Offense to Pair With His Strong Defense
Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, not including DSL teams, and with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. In normal weeks, only players with a 3.0 RC or better are included on the list below. Since this was a shortened week, I included the top 20 results. Players who spent time at different levels are counted multiple times, once for each level, rather than combining their stats. Notes on the top ten players from the last week can be found below the chart.
*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).
The top hitter in the first week of the season was Jacob Stallings. The catcher, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, had two home runs in his first three games. Stallings also added two doubles while going 6-for-10 on the week. He’s a strong defender who excels at working with pitchers and game calling. Stallings also has a great arm behind the plate. That combination gives him a chance to have a shot at being a major league backup one day. However, his hitting is a big question mark. Last year he had a .230 average and a .656 OPS in 226 at-bats with State College, while hitting just one home run. He’s off to a good start this year, and in the long run he will need to show good hitting ability, since his defense can only take him so far.
Alex Presley isn’t a prospect anymore, but he was sent to Indianapolis after Travis Snider and Jose Tabata made the major league club. Presley went 5-for-17 with a double and a home run. There’s not much for Presley to prove in Triple-A, and any strong performance at this point should be seen as something he’s supposed to be doing. I don’t see him as a starter, in the majors, but he could be a strong fourth outfielder.
The demotions of guys like Presley to Triple-A held back Andrew Lambo and Adalberto Santos. Both players finished in the top five this week. Lambo went 5-for-14 with a double and a home run. This is his sixth year in Double-A, although he started at the level at age 19, so he’s still age appropriate. He was one of the top prospects in the game prior to the 2009 season, but hasn’t hit to expectations at this level. He’s in a situation where any hitting with Altoona will be taken with a grain of salt since he’s been at the level so long. However, he’ll need strong hitting to force his way onto the Indianapolis roster. Meanwhile, Santos had excellent numbers with Altoona last year, highlighted by a .340 average. He picked up where he left off, going 6-for-14 with a double in his first four games.
Taylor Lewis rounded out the top five, going 5-for-16 with two doubles and a homer. Lewis was a 10th round pick in 2011, and spent most of his time with West Virginia last year. He got off to a great start in low-A last year, after a brief stop in extended Spring Training. The hot hitting was short-lived, as Lewis faded in the final two months of the season. He’s a speedy outfielder who doesn’t have the arm to stick in center, and will thus need to have value with the bat to stick in a corner.
Alex Dickerson didn’t hit for the power you’d want to see in Bradenton last year. He got off to a good start with Altoona this week, going 5-for-16 with a double and a homer. The home run was an inside the park homer on Sunday. Dickerson has been spending most of his time in the outfield, allowing him to get extra at-bats with Matt Curry at first base.
Walker Gourley was taken in the 13th round as a prep hitter in the 2009 draft. So far he hasn’t hit much, and has mostly been a utility player in short-season ball. Gourley had a good week at the plate, going 6-for-17 with two doubles. He can play pretty much anywhere on the field, but he’s going to need to show something with the bat to continue moving up. He’s never had a good OBP, and didn’t draw any walks this week, which isn’t a good sign.
Last year Matt Hague put on an impressive hitting display in Spring Training, only to struggle during the regular season with Indianapolis. He started the season going 4-for-13 with three doubles, showing that gap power that put him on the prospect radar as he made his way up through the minors. Hague has never been a big home run hitter, but has consistently been a guy who hits for extra bases, while adding 10-15 home run power.
I wrote a lot this Spring about how Stetson Allie wasn’t looking great as a hitter. He looked horrible early in the Spring. Later he started picking up his hitting, but wasn’t hitting for power. Allie got off to a good start with West Virginia, hitting his first homer of the season and going 4-for-17 at the plate. One downside is that he struck out seven times in those 17 at-bats, so the plate patience issues are still a concern.
The best part of Jarek Cunningham’s game has always been his ability to hit for power from the middle infield spot. He didn’t do much of that last year with Altoona, but got off to a good start this week. Cunningham went 4-for-13 with a double and a home run.In 2011 he had 15 homers in half a season, and last year he only had six in half a season. The bigger issue with Cunningham is his inability to stay healthy, which has limited him to half a season of at-bats in each of the last two years.