Top Performers: Cunningham, Sanchez, Lambo, and Allie With Impressive Power
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. 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 biggest thing Jarek Cunningham has going for him is power from the middle infield position. Cunningham has 11 homers on the season in 195 at-bats, which is a pace for 31 homers in a 550 at-bat season. That’s huge for a second baseman. He added three homers in 22 at-bats over the last week, taking the top spot on the runs created list. The downside for Cunningham has been a high strikeout rate, a low walk rate, and a low average. This year the strikeouts are down — 21.9% compared to 26.7% last year — but the walks are also down. Cunningham walked seven times in the last week, giving him 16 on the season, and bringing his walk rate up to 7.4%. The power is impressive, and he’s 23 years old the entire season, but he will need to show improvements on making contact and taking walks more often in order to make it to the majors.
Tony Sanchez was named our Player of the Month for the month of May. This week he had the second highest runs created after going 10-for-28 with three doubles and three homers. On the season he has a .311/.408/.583 line in 132 at-bats, with seven homers. That’s a pace for 24 homers in a 450 at-bat season. At this point Sanchez is blocked by Russell Martin, but the Pirates might want to consider bringing him up later in the year as a third catcher when the rosters expand in September.
Mel Rojas has been a streaky hitter throughout his pro career, always displaying flashes of great potential, only to follow those up with long stretches where he doesn’t hit anything. He’s actually had a pretty long stretch of success lately, with a .317/.372/.488 line in 82 at-bats ever since a three hit game in early May. The most encouraging thing is that he’s striking out 23% of the time in that stretch, which isn’t great, but is better than usual. In the last week Rojas went 13-for-33 with three doubles and a homer, taking the third spot on the list.
Matt Hague continued his hot hitting, going 11-for-32 with a double and two homers in the last week. Hague had a .304 average and a .933 OPS in the month of May, and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat that. He’s lacked consistency in the past, putting up a huge month once or twice a year, only to put up sub-par numbers for a first baseman in every other month.
Rounding out the top five is the only person who couldn’t be considered a prospect. Jared Goedert does have some value as a depth option, mostly for his power and his career of hitting left-handers from the third base position. Surprisingly he has done better against right-handers this year, with an .822 OPS and seven of his eight homers in 141 at-bats. He had three homers in the last week.
Andrew Lambo has been putting up impressive power numbers this year with Altoona, and added four homers in the last week. Lambo has 13 homers on the season, which is his highest total since hitting 18 between low-A and Double-A in 2008. His .556 slugging percentage is the highest single season mark of his career.
The top six performers were upper level guys, and the first lower level guy to make the list is Raul Fortunato. The outfielder went 10-for-28 with a double, a triple, and two homers in the last week. John Dreker talked about Fortunato in his Prospect Notebook on West Virginia.
In that same article, John featured Stetson Allie, who also finished in the top ten this week. Allie went 10-for-32, hitting three homers, which all came in the series at Lakewood. Allie now has 16 homers on the year. He is currently on pace for 42 homers in 550 at-bats. Last year Willy Garcia led the system with 18 homers on the season. The last time the Pirates had someone crack 20 homers was in 2010 when Brandon Moss hit 22 with Indianapolis. They haven’t seen a 25 home run season since Pedro Alvarez hit 27 in 2009. Steve Pearce was the last to hit 30+ homers, hitting 31 in 2007. The last time they had a 41 homer season was in 1979 when Rick Lancellotti hit 41. It’s unlikely that Allie will top 40, since he will probably move up to a higher level and homers will be harder to come by. However, 30+ homers seems very realistic.
Chase d’Arnaud returned to Indianapolis this week, and got off to a good start. D’Arnaud went 10-for-34 with three doubles, a triple, a homer, and six walks. Rounding out the top ten was Jerry Sands, the fifth Indianapolis hitter in the top ten. Sands went 8-for-26 with two doubles and two homers.