The 2013 season was the first year for the Pirates in Jamestown, after ending their relationship with the State College Spikes over the 2012-13 off-season. Jamestown featured a lot of talented young players this year, although the makeup was a bit different from what State College was used to seeing. The pitchers were still young, but many of them were right out of college, rather than high school players from the previous year’s draft. There were also a lot of talented hitters, which hasn’t been the case in previous years, with many of the younger hitters getting promoted over State College to West Virginia. Below is a recap of the hitters and pitchers at the level, followed by the top ten prospects this year.
The top prospect at the level was clearly Harold Ramirez. The outfielder had a .285/.354/.409 line in a pitcher friendly league, with 11 doubles, four triples, and five homers. Ramirez was more than just the stats. He shows off great bat speed and excellent contact skills. He’s got good plate patience, and a lot of speed. That speed led to 23 stolen bases in 34 attempts. It also gives him enough range to play center field. He’s got the arm strength to play center. In the long-term, Ramirez might not make it as a center fielder in the Pirates’ system, due to all of the options. That could be as soon as next year, since he projects to be at the same level as Austin Meadows. He doesn’t project to hit for enough home runs to profile as a typical corner outfielder, but he should have enough extra base power, speed, and defense to provide all around value as a corner outfielder in the future.
Elvis Escobar has all of the same tools that Ramirez has, but didn’t have the same results in Jamestown. Escobar hit for a .268/.293/.350 line. He had moments where his hitting looked good, but his contact skills and plate patience weren’t strong. He’s got a lot of bat speed, and has good gap power when he makes contact. He also has a lot of speed and a strong arm, making him another candidate to play center field.
Edwin Espinal is a prospect to watch going forward. He’s very raw, but has a lot of power potential. The Pirates signed him as a third baseman, but moved him to first due to his weight and a lack of range. He had a rough season at the plate, but finished strong, hitting for a .302/.325/.415 line in his final 106 at-bats from August to the end of the season. During that span he recorded hits in 25 of his final 30 games. He also started hitting for power at the end of the month.
The Jammers entered the season with Max Rossiter and Jin-De Jhang as the catchers. Rossiter was a 2013 draft pick, but retired after only one game. That left Jhang with a lot of playing time. Jhang showed good hitting skills in the pitcher friendly league. He started off hot with the bat, but faded down the stretch. That could be due to the extra work behind the plate wearing him down at the end of the season. Jhang hit five home runs, and has the potential to be a 15-20 home run hitter down the line.
A lot of the 2013 college draft picks made their debuts in Jamestown. JaCoby Jones (3rd round) had the biggest initial impact, hitting for an .817 OPS while splitting time between shortstop and center field. He went down early with a knee injury, and didn’t return the rest of the year. Adam Frazier (5th round) showed a strong ability to hit for average and get on base. He needs to add some power if he wants to be more than a utility player in the future. Erich Weiss (11th round) also showed good hitting ability, and plays at third base. That’s a position of need in the Pirates’ farm system, so Weiss will be a guy to watch. Jeff Roy (18th round) displayed a ton of speed, but doesn’t have many other tools beyond that, making him a speed/defense option. Danny Collins (13th round) led the team in homers with seven, but didn’t do a good job hitting for average or getting on base.
Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire joined the team at the end of the season. Meadows made the biggest impact, going 9-for-17 with two homers in the regular season. He had a hit in all eight games with Jamestown. That will be the limit of his time with the Jammers, since he should join West Virginia for full season ball next year.
From the 2013 draft, Chad Kuhl made one of the biggest impacts. The ninth round sinkerball pitcher had a 2.11 ERA in 55.3 innings, displaying strong control. He also flashed a 95-96 MPH fastball. He was under the radar as a college junior and a ninth rounder, but he could emerge as a starting candidate down the line, or at least a relief option due to his velocity. Kuhl wasn’t specifically a sinkerball pitcher when he was drafted, but the Pirates were in the process of converting him. His GO/AO rates in his final four starts were much better than the first nine starts, with three of his best ratios of the year.
Fourth round pick Cody Dickson also made an impact, with a 2.37 ERA in 57 innings of work, along with a 9.3 K/9 and a 3.8 BB/9. Dickson is a left-hander who can throw 92-94 MPH and has a plus curveball. That combo led to a lot of strikeouts at this level. He needs work on his fastball command and his changeup, so he could spend some time in West Virginia next season. Dickson could eventually become a number three starter if he improves in those two areas, and the Pirates have done a good job getting pitchers to make those specific improvements. He has a chance to be one of the best pitchers from the 2013 Pirates draft class, and that’s a group of talented guys.
Buddy Borden, taken in the seventh round, is another one of those talented pitchers. Borden signed late, but was dominant in his limited time in Jamestown. He posted a 12.4 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9 ratio. He throws 90-93 MPH, but has hit 96 in the past, and has good sink to his fastball. He’s a candidate to pitch in Bradenton next year, although he could start the season in West Virginia due to a lack of rotation spots in Bradenton.
Other interesting 2013 draft picks included Henry Hirsch (22nd round), Brett McKinney (19th round), and Justin Topa (17th round), who all were hitting 95-96 MPH with their fastball. Hirsch is the most interesting of the group, since he’s the youngest, falling below the average age for the league. Shane Carle (10th round) is a sinkerball pitcher who had great results, although he’s a year older than Kuhl and doesn’t have the same velocity.
The Pirates had a few interesting international pitchers this year. Dovydas Neverauskas pitched a full season in the rotation, putting up a 4.01 ERA in 60.2 innings. The tall right-hander has been hitting 95 MPH pretty consistently the last two seasons. This year he was much better than the numbers indicated. He gave up five runs in 4.2 innings in one August start, and gave up six in one inning in another start earlier in the month. For most of the season he was dominant, although he had four outings where things fell apart on him. He’s still a young pitcher, turning 21 in January, and will be a guy to watch next year in West Virginia.
Isaac Sanchez has been working 91-93 MPH the last few years, but was more consistently in that range this year. The Pirates thought enough of him to put him in the rotation all year, and he showed some decent results. He struggled with his control at times, with a 4.1 BB/9 ratio. That’s been the story with him in the past — good velocity but lacking control. He did show improved secondary stuff this year, and he just turned 21, so he has time to continue his development.
Jackson Lodge spent most of the season in the rotation. He’s a lefty with good secondary stuff, but not much of a fastball. Lodge was the youngest pitcher on the team, and his results were impressive when considering that age in a college league. Axel Diaz, Oderman Rocha, and Cesar Lopez are all hard throwing international right-handers who had limited playing time at the level due to all of the other pitching talent. These are the types of players who could be helped by more playing time next year when the Pirates add a new team in Bristol.
Top 10 Prospects
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 70 at-bats, 20 innings pitched, or 10 relief appearances. There weren’t many players who missed the cutoff. Buddy Borden signed late, and as a result he fell a few innings short of 20 innings. JaCoby Jones missed time with an injury and was nine at-bats short. Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire also joined the team late, and didn’t qualify. Harold Ramirez was the easy pick for number one. After that, the list is up in the air. Most of the list is based on upside, rather than the results this year. These players are so far away that even their upside is hard to peg. I could see this list changing by the time the 2014 Prospect Guide is finished.
1. Harold Ramirez
2. Jin-De Jhang
3. Cody Dickson
4. Dovydas Neverauskas
5. Elvis Escobar
6. Chad Kuhl
7. Adam Frazier
8. Isaac Sanchez
9. Erich Weiss
10. Edwin Espinal