Top 10 Hitters: Big Week For the Top Prospects, Led By Gregory Polanco, Of Course

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. Gregory Polanco, RF - For the second time this season, Polanco is the top hitter of the week in the system. This time around he dominated, going 13-for-22 with four doubles, a triple, a homer, and four walks. The season Polanco is having is amazing. The only reason he is down in Triple-A right now is for Super Two purposes. That will end in a few weeks. Until then, read about how he’s considered a potential future star, and when you dismiss that as obvious, remember that “future star” isn’t exactly light praise.

2. Chris Dickerson, OF - Polanco has overshadowed two top hitters with Indianapolis this year. Andrew Lambo is currently on the disabled list with a bruised thumb, but Chris Dickerson is active, and continues to hit well. He went 10-for-20 this week, with a double and a homer. On the season, he has a .342/.406/.513 line in 117 at-bats. He’s making himself a candidate to come up at some point this year. Polanco will take over for the Jose Tabata/Travis Snider combo in a few weeks. If a starter goes down after that, the Pirates should consider Dickerson, rather than going back to Snider or Tabata.

3. Alen Hanson, SS - Looking at the season totals, Alen Hanson isn’t having a great year. He has a .752 OPS on the year, which is hardly what you want in Double-A from an offense-first shortstop. A closer look shows that Hanson struggled the first two weeks of the year, and has been on fire ever since. That’s the exact same thing he did last year in Bradenton. This week, Hanson went 9-for-25 with a double, triple, and two homers. In the month of May, he is hitting for a .319/.347/.594 line in 69 at-bats. If he keeps this up, he could end up with Indianapolis by the end of the year, with a shot at Pittsburgh by the middle of next season. (Another Super Two situation!) The defense is going to be the big focus for Hanson. He’s got the talent to stick at shortstop, but he makes some careless mistakes. He needs to be more aggressive on every play, which will improve his defensive consistency, and cut down on the errors.

4. Josh Bell, OF - I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Josh Bell this year…from the left side of the plate. He’s got an .875 OPS from the right side, with all three of his homers in 107 at-bats. His season line is down due to struggles against lefties. I got to see several right-handed at-bats this week, including Bell going up against top Blue Jays prospect, LHP Daniel Norris. The swings from the right side look ugly at times, very off-balanced, and almost to a point where it looks like he’s just learning how to hit right-handed. I didn’t need to see the stats to know that he was struggling against lefties this year (.603 OPS). I could guess that from the swing. His numbers are a small sample size, and I have seen a few nice swings from the right side, but I don’t expect the numbers to improve unless he sees massive improvements from that side of the plate.

5. Keon Broxton, OF - Broxton is having a huge month of May, hitting for a .397/.462/.776 line in 58 at-bats. It’s 58 at-bats, so I’m not about to call him a breakout candidate, or a bounce back prospect. He just turned 24 years old, which is a little on the old side for a prospect at Double-A. However, he’s very athletic, and was once a top ten prospect in Arizona’s system after being a third round pick in 2009. I think a fourth outfielder is the best upside you could hope for. For now, the Pirates will need to see much more than half a month of success before considering Broxton for any kind of role in the future.

6. Reese McGuire, C - There’s no question that McGuire has the defensive skills behind the plate. His defense is advanced for a catcher out of high school. The big question is whether he can hit. What I saw from him last year in the GCL was consistent, hard contact, and the ability to drive the ball to both gaps and work the middle of the field. It looks like his bat is heating up lately in West Virginia. He currently has an 11 game hitting streak, and a .340 average in the month of May. He’s not hitting for much power right now, with only one extra base hit this month. He is doing a good job of getting on base, he’s hardly ever striking out, and he’s still making solid contact. I don’t want to say there shouldn’t be any questions about the bat, but McGuire has shown the skills so far to make it seem very possible that he could eventually be a two-way catcher in the majors.

7. Matt Hague, 1B - With Andrew Lambo out, Hague has been getting more playing time. He went 7-for-22 this week, with a double and a homer. He’s behind Lambo, Chris McGuiness, and of course Ike Davis on the first base depth chart. Brent Morel is ahead of him at third base. That doesn’t speak well for his chances of making it back to the majors anytime soon.

8. Chase d’Arnaud, LF - He’s been playing more outfield this season than infield, with 21 games in left field. His value as a potential major leaguer comes from his ability to play the two middle infield spots, plus his speed and excellent base running skills. The Pirates have been trying to add more value with more positions, but the middle infield availability, plus the speed will be the main things that could get d’Arnaud back to the majors.

9. Justin Maffei, OF – He didn’t get much playing time this week, but made the most of what he had, going 5-for-10 with a double and four walks. Maffei is a lower level organizational player, who is getting time in West Virginia due to the many injuries on offense.

10. Stetson Allie, 1B - Allie continues to crush the ball in Altoona, adding two more home runs this week, putting his total at eight in 134 at-bats. That’s a home run every 16.75 at-bats, which is better than the pace Pedro Alvarez had in Double-A (17.08 AB/HR). The problem is that Allie is striking out at a higher rate than Alvarez saw in Double-A, and not hitting for average, unlike Alvarez. To his credit, Allie has cut down on the strikeouts in the last week, with three strikeouts in 19 at-bats. But those issues come in waves, and when they get bad, they get really bad. He needs to eliminate the stretches where he’s striking out as often as 50% of the time.

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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  • deacs

    Do you think Josh Bell can get to Altoona by year end?

    • Kevin_Young

      Also, are you subtly suggesting that we should maybe just stick Bell on the left side permanently?

      • deacs

        I thought about that too. I don’t know if this is an apples to apples comparison but it reminded me of when Walker talked about not going lefty full time. He said something to the effect of hitting a slider batting RH against a LHP was a helluva lot easier than hitting LH against a LHP No idea what his splits are this year but I got his point.

        • emjayinTN

          deacs: Small sample size of 29 AB’s but hitting .345 with a .907 OPS from the right side, .773 OPS from the left side.

  • emjayinTN

    Lefty hitter Gregory Polanco at age 22 with a 14.38 RC, and Switchhitter Alen Hanson, age 21, with a 6.48 RC. These guys are going to be #1 and #2 in the order very soon leading into Andrew McCutchen at #3. I like our ability to find guys who will be solid #6, 7, and 8 guys, but #4 and #5 are spots we need to shore up quickly.

    • piraddict

      What about Marte at #5?

  • piraddict

    Why should the Pirates not DFA Snyder and DL Tabata when it’s time to bring up Polanco and bring Dickerson up as the 4th OF at the same time? Could Lambo be traded for a MLB ready SS in AAA if a RP was thrown in?