The 2014 minor league season begins today. To prepare for the start of the season, we have previews of all four of the full season affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here are the previews for each team:
Bradenton Marauders – READING
Here is a look at the 2014 Bradenton Marauders, who will feature top prospect Josh Bell on their Opening Day roster, with Tyler Glasnow on the way.
C – Jin-De Jhang
1B – Jose Osuna
2B – Max Moroff
SS – Adam Frazier
3B – Walker Gourley
LF – Raul Fortunato
CF – Jeff Roy
RF – Josh Bell
DH – Jordan Steranka
The highlight of the offense will be Josh Bell. The outfielder quietly had a good year at the plate with West Virginia, although it was overshadowed by the monster season from Stetson Allie. It also fell short of Bell’s full potential when he was drafted, which was the ability to eventually hit for a plus average with plus power. Bell could still reach those levels offensively. He’ll start in Bradenton, and with success he could move up to Altoona by the end of the season.
Jin-De Jhang is the next best prospect at the level. He’s a strong hitting catcher with a good arm and increased agility behind the plate due to some weight loss over the last few years. Jhang has the chance to be a two-way catcher, although a lot of his value will come from his ability to hit for average and his power potential.
Jose Osuna played in Bradenton last year, but really struggled at the plate and will return to the level in 2014. That’s unlike guys in previous years who have struggled and moved on to Altoona, such as Willy Garcia, Mel Rojas, and Stetson Allie. Osuna looked lost at the plate last year, showing very few signs of success. He does have some good power potential, but needs to quickly turn things around in his second run through Bradenton.
Out of the rest of the lineup, Adam Frazier has the best chance of being more than a bench guy. I haven’t seen much of him in game action, but I’ve heard good reports on his hitting skills. He can play both middle infield positions, and will be playing shortstop with the Marauders. His ability to play shortstop, hit for average, and his speed could get him to the majors one day.
Max Moroff is a raw infield prospect who gets favorable ratings from scouts, but has fallen behind Frazier on the depth charts. He will mostly play second base this year, but should still get some time at short. Walker Gourley is very athletic, capable of playing anywhere on the field. He’ll get most of his time at third base to start the year. Eric Wood is currently injured, but is expected to take over the third base position when he returns. Wood is like Moroff in that he’s very raw, but gets favorable ratings from scouts. Raul Fortunato is a very toolsy outfielder who has displayed a good hitting ability in his career. Jeff Roy has a ton of speed, but that’s pretty much his one tool, and it might not be enough to get him to the majors.
D.J. Crumlich, Ashley Ponce, Jonathan Schwind, Jacob Stallings
The guy who could make the biggest long-term impact here is Jacob Stallings. He doesn’t have the typical catcher’s body, as he’s very tall and skinny. He does have good defensive skills, and a great ability to handle a pitching staff. Stallings almost reminds you of Chris Stewart, since he’s a no bat, all defense catcher.
Jason Creasy, Ryan Hafner/Pat Ludwig, John Kuchno, Chad Kuhl, Orlando Castro*
Tyler Glasnow will eventually join this rotation, and will be the top option when he is fully stretched out. Glasnow is the second best pitching prospect in the system, and could finish the year in Altoona, depending on his success in Bradenton. Clay Holmes was originally slated to pitch in Bradenton this year, but that was before he had Tommy John surgery.
The Marauders will see a few starting pitchers who have worked in relief in the past. Jason Creasy started the 2013 season in the West Virginia bullpen, pitching long relief. He moved to the rotation in the second half, and had a lot of success. Creasy is a two-seam fastball pitcher, and has the stuff to make it as a starter in the majors with the way ground ball pitchers have success with the Pirates.
Ryan Hafner and Pat Ludwig were also relievers in West Virginia at the start of last season. They’ll be piggybacking in Bradenton. Hafner had one of the best strikeout rates in the organization, after switching to a two-seam fastball and learning a slider before the 2013 season. He has been working on his changeup, and will move back to the rotation this year, after struggling as a starter in 2012. Ludwig moved to the rotation at the end of the 2013 season in Bradenton. He could make the jump to Altoona early in the year, possibly as soon as Glasnow returns.
Chad Kuhl had a lot of success in Jamestown last year, and will be an interesting guy to follow this year. He was a ninth round pick in the 2013 draft, and is a sinkerball pitcher who can sit around 94 MPH with the pitch. He could be one of the best pitchers in the rotation this year, and might have a shot at ending up with Altoona by the end of the season.
Orlando Castro moved to the rotation last year in West Virginia and had a ton of success. He didn’t have the same results in Bradenton, and eventually moved to the bullpen. He’ll start back in the rotation, although I don’t like his upside, since he seems like a lefty who has success in A-ball due mostly to advanced off-speed stuff.
Thomas Harlan*, Jhondaniel Medina, Robby Rowland, Josh Smith*, Bryton Trepagnier, Tyler Waldron
The top reliever from this group is Medina, who is a hard thrower that has a chance to make the majors one day as a middle reliever or Triple-A depth. The Pirates acquired Medina for Yamaico Navarro prior to the 2013 season. He put up great numbers in West Virginia last year, showing some nice velocity in the process.