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, 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 Top Ten
1. Jordan Steranka – He was born in Pittsburgh and he went to Penn State, so a lot of Pirates fans are going to want to pull for him. However, he’s coming off a year where he had a .610 OPS in West Virginia, with a 34.2% strikeout rate. He was drafted as a college senior and is already 24 in A-ball. It was a good start for Steranka, but the numbers and his age say that he’s not going to keep this up, and won’t be a prospect beyond A-ball.
2. Jin-De Jhang – Jhang is one of the top catching prospects in the system, and currently has a lot more value with his bat. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the system, and has the power potential for 15-20 home runs per year one day in the Majors. He skipped over West Virginia due to Reese McGuire being at the level, and will try his bat at an advanced level. So far, so good.
3. Jose Osuna – The Pirates don’t have many first base prospects, so they need guys like Osuna to do well. He was one of four Latin American breakout candidates in West Virginia in 2012, and while he had some success, it wasn’t nearly as good as Gregory Polanco or Alen Hanson. They all moved up to Bradenton last year, and while Polanco and Hanson moved on to the upper levels, Osuna struggled and returned to Bradenton this year. If he hits well during the first half of the 2014 season, he could end up in Altoona during the second half.
4. Jonathan Schwind – He’s a lower level utility player who had a big game on Sunday, hitting a grand slam to give the Marauders a huge boost (the RBIs don’t count towards his game score). He’s off to a good start in a small sample of at-bats, but like Steranka, his recent history in West Virginia (.577 OPS last year) suggests he won’t keep this up.
5. Gregory Polanco – Polanco capped off his first week by going 3-for-5 with a home run on Sunday. He didn’t waste any time hitting in Indianapolis. Travis Snider is currently batting .300 in the majors, although it’s all singles so far. Jose Tabata has just 11 at-bats and a .748 OPS. Both guys are doing a good job of getting on base, with a .364 OBP for Snider and a .385 OBP for Tabata. They’re splitting time in the number two spot, and that’s what the Pirates need from that spot. It’s a small sample size, and they’re going to need to keep that up, especially if Polanco continues hitting in the minors.
6. Elias Diaz – He’s got great defensive skills behind the plate, with an athletic frame and a strong arm. Diaz also has a good bat, although his hitting has been on the raw side in recent years. He got off to a good start in his first two games in Altoona, although it’s just five at-bats. Diaz comes with the same disclaimer as Steranka and Schwind. He hasn’t been productive offensively in the past, so he’ll need to show this is real before the offense can be trusted. A big difference is that Diaz is younger and still developing his game, while getting used to playing against upper level talent.
7. Chris Dickerson – Dickerson showed off some gap power this week, getting four hits, and watching all of them go for doubles. He’s got a chance to be a depth option in the majors if the Pirates need a bench outfielder, although Jaff Decker might be ahead of him since Decker is on the 40-man roster.
8. Brent Morel – The Pirates don’t have much third base depth behind Pedro Alvarez, with their only true third baseman being Morel. He hasn’t had success with the bat in his time in the majors. Even if he hits in Triple-A, it will come with the disclaimer that he needs to show that same success in the big leagues. But it’s good to see him hitting in Triple-A, even if it is a small sample size.
9. Josh Bell – Last year Bell quietly had a good season, hitting 37 doubles and 13 home runs in 459 at-bats. Those aren’t the monster numbers that were expected out of him when he was drafted. He’s off to a great start in his first half week in Bradenton, hitting a double and a homer in his first 13 at-bats. Bell is another guy who the Pirates need to see break out. They don’t need him as an outfielder, but if he speeds up his ascent to the majors, he could move to first base and be the long-term solution there. The hitting needs to break out before a switch to another position.
10. Blake Davis – Davis joined Indianapolis on Saturday, replacing Robert Andino, who went on the disabled list. In his first two games he hit well, going 4-for-9 with two walks. Davis is upper level organizational depth, used as a filler for the upper levels of the minors in cases like this.