Top Performers: Pirates Hitters Cutting Down on Strikeouts in the Minors

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. Stetson Allie, 1B – Allie showed off his power this week in a big way, hitting four home runs in the span of three days. He also added two doubles in the process. He currently leads the Pirates’ minor league system with six homers in 68 at-bats, which is a homer every 11 at-bats. The fact that he is doing this at the Double-A level is impressive. He has also cut down on the strikeouts, with a 24.7% strikeout rate, and he’s drawing walks at a 13.4% rate. The average isn’t high, but if Allie can hit for power, draw a lot of walks, and keep the strikeouts at a respectable level, he could find himself in the majors in the future.

2. Gregory Polanco, RF – After a “down” week last week, Polanco is back to being one of the top performers in the system. This week he went 10-for-26 with two homers and two doubles. Polanco is absolutely dominating Triple-A pitching. He has played 23 games this year, and has a hit in all but five of those games. There have only been two games where he hasn’t reached base safely. He currently leads the system with an 1.104 OPS, and the next closest player is Allie, with a .959. Polanco doesn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the minor league leaderboards, falling short by ten at-bats. However, the minor league leader has a .932 OPS in High-A. Polanco’s .400 average would also beat the current minor league leader, with a .356 average in Double-A. Polanco could go 0-for-10 to qualify for the leaderboards, and still would have a better average.

3. Andrew Lambo, OF – Polanco has been making all of the noise in Triple-A, but Andrew Lambo is quietly putting up a strong season. After a slow start, Lambo is now hitting for a .343/.439/.500 line in 82 plate appearances. He doesn’t have any home runs, but he does lead the system in doubles. Lambo went 11-for-25 this week, hitting five of his nine doubles. The most encouraging thing is that his strikeout rate has dropped to a solid 19.5%, down from 26.4% in Triple-A last year.

4. Eric Wood, 3B – Wood recently joined the Bradenton lineup, and is off to a hot start in his first full week this season. He went 8-for-21 with a double, a home run, and four walks. The Pirates are thin on third base prospects, so Wood will be a guy to watch. He’s not a top prospect at this point, but scouts like him, and he’s got a chance to develop into something more than just an organizational player.

5. Gift Ngoepe, 2B - Ngoepe’s calling card prior to this season was his defense at shortstop, combined with his speed at the top of the order. Now that he’s on the same team with Alen Hanson, he has neither of those roles, as Hanson is the shortstop and leadoff hitter in Altoona. Ngoepe has responded with some strong offense to start the season. After going 6-for-22 with four doubles and a homer this week, he is hitting for a .250/.402/.422 line on the season. He also has a 21.4% strikeout rate, which is way down from his 31.7% strikeout rate in Altoona last year. That adds him to the same list as Allie and Lambo, as guys who have increased their chances to reach the majors by decreasing their strikeouts.

6. Alen Hanson, SS – Hanson got off to a slow start this year, but is starting to heat up lately. Last week he went 10-for-32 with two triples. One downside for Hanson is that he’s not hitting for a lot of power this year. He does have four triples, but only one double and no homers in 91 plate appearances. Hanson also got off to a slow start last year in Bradenton, then started hitting after two weeks and didn’t look back. It’s possible that he’s doing the same thing this year, and if that’s the case, then the power will come.

7. Josh Bell, RF – Bell has consistently been in the top ten this month, and got there once again by going 9-for-30 with a triple and a home run. On the season, he has a .289/.330/.470 line in 83 at-bats, with two homers. He’s showing a slight increase in power over his 2013 numbers, although his walk rate has dropped to 5.6% so far this year. He’s also struggling in a small sample against lefties, with a .393 OPS and eight strikeouts in 20 at-bats. Last year, Bell had an .844 OPS against lefties, compared to a .794 OPS against right-handers.

8. Candon Myles, OF – With all three of the top outfield prospects on the disabled list in West Virginia, Myles is getting extra playing time. His one tool is speed, which he uses for extra base hits. This week he went 7-for-21 with a double and a triple, ending up near the end of the top performers list.

9. Willy Garcia, OF – Garcia has had some strikeout problems in his career, and they’ve gotten worse in his jump to Double-A. He had a 32.1% strikeout rate in Bradenton last year, and has a 36.4% strikeout rate in Altoona so far. He is hitting for power, adding two doubles and a triple this week, and sporting a .239 ISO. However, without improving his strikeouts and his average, he’s not going to make it past Double-A. He’s still young, and could even afford an extra year in Altoona, similar to what the next guy did.

10. Mel Rojas, OF – Rojas didn’t have the best season in Altoona last year, with a .742 OPS in his first chance at the level. So far this year he has a .710 OPS, but his secondary numbers suggest a big improvement to those numbers could be on the way. His strikeout rate is down from 20.2% to 12.9%, while his walk rate is up from 7.7% to 10.6%. This week he went 7-for-27 with a double, triple, and four walks. If he continues to limit the strikeouts, and increase his walks, he’ll see improvements to his overall numbers at the Double-A level.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • piraddict

    At what point do you promote Allie to AAA? Does he need a full year at the level?

  • leowalter

    I’m not sure u would want to rush him piraddict. I don’t think they will either,it is awfully early in the season.

  • Arik Florimonte

    > Polanco doesn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the minor league leaderboards

    This can’t be correct. He has 95 AB, 2 behind the league leader in AB. He has also walked 9 times, for 104 PA (estimated), 3 behind the leader.