Top 10 Hitters: Everything is Coming Together For Mel Rojas

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. Chris McGuiness, 1B - McGuiness has had a typical season in Triple-A. He’s not really hitting for average, but he’s getting on base a ton, and hitting for some decent power. His .250/.361/.429 line is almost identical to his numbers last year in the PCL, when he had a .246/.369/.423 line. The numbers look better in the International League, since that’s not as hitter friendly as the PCL. This past week, McGuiness showed some power, going 8-for-19 with a double and two home runs. That took the top spot in the system. With Ike Davis in Pittsburgh, it’s unlikely that McGuiness will have a future at first base for the Pirates, unless Davis goes down with an injury, or plays himself out of the role.

2. Chris Dickerson, OF - The numbers need to be taken with the disclaimer that Dickerson is 32 years old, and has MLB experience, but Dickerson is having a great year with Indianapolis. He has a .345/.417/.535 line in 142 at-bats. This past week he went 9-for-25 with four doubles and a homer. He currently has a hit in each of his last 21 starts, with a 16 game hitting streak and a 5 game hitting streak separated by a strikeout in a pinch hit situation. He could be an option for the Pirates off the bench at some point this year. He’d have to be added to the 40-man roster (there is currently an open spot), and would have to remain in Pittsburgh for good, so don’t expect him to come up unless a long-term spot opens up.

3. Mel Rojas, OF - Rojas has always had a lot of upside and some great tools, but has never put things together in his minor league career. That could be changing this year, as he has a .303/.377/.438 line in 178 at-bats in Altoona. This is the second season that Rojas has been with Altoona, following a 2013 season where he had a .742 OPS. Those numbers were an improvement over his 2012 numbers in High-A, so he’s been showing good signs for the last two years. The numbers this year make it seem like everything is finally coming together. His problem in the past has been a lack of consistency, but that hasn’t been an issue this year. In the last week, he went 10-for-28 with two doubles and a homer. He doesn’t really have a spot as a starter for the Pirates, considering their long-term projected outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco. Rojas could serve as a strong bench option, or as trade bait if another team sees him as a starter. He will have to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, after being passed over when he was eligible last off-season.

4. Jonathan Schwind, OF - The numbers have been great for Schwind this year, with a .327/.389/.455 line in 101 at-bats. He continued his strong hitting in Bradenton this past week by going 9-for-23 with a triple and a homer. Schwind is very athletic, to the point where the Pirates tried him out as a catcher when he first entered the system. He has since found a home in the outfield. He does turn 24 this week, which is old for the Double-A level. His age, plus the fact that he didn’t have numbers close to this in West Virginia, puts a disclaimer on his season stats. He’s likely to end up an organizational player, possibly helping out in the upper levels due to his ability to play all around the field.

5. Willy Garcia, OF - Garcia looks like he could be following the same path as Rojas. He’s two years younger than Rojas, but has the same things going for him, with a lot of tools and athleticism that haven’t shown up in the stat lines. His .774 OPS this year isn’t great, but it is an improvement over his numbers in Bradenton last year. Like Rojas, Garcia will show signs of good hitting, but will lack consistency to do that all the time. This past week he went 7-for-23 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers. He’s probably going to need another year in Double-A after this season, and hopefully he can break out in his second year like Rojas is doing this year.

6. Matt Curry, 1B - After missing over a year with multiple hand injuries, including hamate surgery, Curry is back in Altoona and starting to hit again. He went 8-for-29 with a double and two homers in the last week, and is now receiving regular playing time in the lineup. Curry is old for the Double-A level, turning 26 in July. He’s going to have to move up to Triple-A this year to show what he could do at that level. Since McGuiness is blocked in Triple-A by Ike Davis, it’s unlikely that Curry would also have a future as a starting first baseman for the Pirates. It also might be difficult for him to make that jump to Triple-A, as long as McGuiness is still there.

7. Josh Bell, OF - Bell is having a good year at the plate in Bradenton, hitting for a .303/.351/.461 line in 178 at-bats. The numbers are even better against right-handers, with a .320/.381/.516 line in 122 at-bats. He has struggled against left-handers, with a .620 OPS. That could be due to his swing, which often looks awkward and off-balanced. This past week he went 7-for-20 with a double and a homer. The hitting against right-handers is great to see, but Bell is going to need to work on his hitting against lefties in order to become more than just a platoon player.

8t. Matt Hague, 3B - Hague went 6-for-21 with a homer and six walks this past week, taking the number eight spot in the system. He continues to show a strong ability of hitting left-handers, with an .859 OPS this season, compared to a .719 OPS against right-handers. He’s too old to be considered a legit prospect, and his chances of being a starter are out the window. However, if Gaby Sanchez gets injured, Hague would be the top option to replace him in the first base platoon against left-handed pitching.

8t. Max Moroff, 2B – Moroff was drafted as a shortstop out of high school, but has moved to the other side of the bag this year, playing second base with Adam Frazier taking over at short. His bat hasn’t been strong enough to justify prospect status as a second baseman. He has done well lately, with a .316 average and a .778 OPS in his last ten games. Last week he went 8-for-23 with two doubles. He’s going to need to continue hitting like this to be a prospect as a second baseman.

10. Reese McGuure, C - A quick look at the stat line might suggest that McGuire is struggling with the bat. He has a .295 average, but also a .694 OPS. A deeper look shows that McGuire’s hitting has been good this year. He enters the week riding a 15 game hitting streak. He has also reached base safely in his last 19 games. McGuire has played 32 games this year, and he has reached base safely in 28 of those games. The big reason his OPS is so low is due to a lack of power. The catcher has just four extra base hits.  He’s only 19, and power is usually the last thing to come for a hitter. I don’t know if McGuire will add enough power to become a home run hitter, but he makes solid contact and drives the ball to the middle of the field. That should give him some good gap power in the future, which would pair nicely with his excellent contact and on-base skills.

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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  • Travis Persinger

    Lots of OF depth…there’s gotta be some gold in there that people will want to give up MIF depth

    • Y2JGQ2

      Nope. That’s not how it works. Noone trades middle infielders for outfielders. Now you see the problem with “best available player” in the draft…..

  • R Edwards

    When Polanco gets called up soon, Rojas should be moved up to Indy – he has earned it. If he does well, he could be a very attractive piece to include in a trade, to get either a starting pitcher and/or young shortstop prospect who can hit and field.

  • Bucco_Joe

    Lets see him do something at the AAA level before we even consider the possibility than he might be a prospect. Right now as a 24 yrd old playing his second AA season he is nothing more than Lambo Jr. at this point,

    • R Edwards

      I disagree with you about Lambo – I think he is a legitimate prospect. He may not be of the level of Polanco, but I think he has potential as a corner outfielder or first baseman, because of his bat.

  • ElGaupo77

    I’d love to trade all these fringe prospects for a real prospect. Rojas, Lambo, McGuiness, etc.

    I am excited about Garcia though. He’s one of the youngest players in AA. He’s a great fit for RF in PNC with his cannon.

    • leowalter

      Do you think he will be able to push Polanco and his cannon for playing time when and if his time comes ?

    • R Edwards

      IMHO, McGuiness is not even a fringe prospect, but a AAAA player like Hague, Sands, etc.

    • R Edwards

      I do like Garcia’s potential, but he has a long way to go…strikes out more than 30% of the time and is hitting only .225 in AA. I do think he will figure it out and be in Indy sometime next year.

      • Y2JGQ2

        If we can get Garcia or Allie to be a useful ML player we’d be lucky and i’d rather it be Allie, but Garcia’s arm is sick

    • lonleylibertarian

      suffering from the “grass is greener” syndrome me thinks…

      These “fringe” prospects are not bad – and if U think they are over valued what makes U think other teams are stupid and won’t think the same…

  • Monsoon Harvard

    I’m not into this point system. I rate RBI a lot higher for one thing, and this system doesn’t even include them. I’m more impressed by ‘run production’. It seems to me if you call this ‘run creation’, you need to at least factor in the RBI, or call it ‘run production’ instead and add the singles/extra base hits the same but add in the RBI.

    Also I am not so impressed by walks as most seem to be. With a hit, the batter takes it from the pitcher. I give him 100% credit. With a walk, it requires the pitcher to cooperate and contribute at least 50% by throwing non-strikes. Then the batter must decide to lay off the pitch. But some hitters are good at hitting non-strikes, and some are not… Also the umpire must properly call the pitch a ball when it is out of the strike zone, and umpires often get the call wrong, or decide to give a pitcher strikes on certain pitches that not all umpires give, or don’t consistently give, and it can change from game to game.

    That’s why I prefer to just get the full list of statistics and make my own extrapolations, rather than follow someones pet point system.

    When I used to play fantasy baseball everyone had these magazines with their elaborate rating systems and I would always be the ONLY ONE with nothing more than that year’s ‘Baseball America Almanac’, which has all the stats for every player in every league, from the majors all the way down to short season rookie ball, and even the college & high school stats. Just let me see all the raw data and I’ll make my own ratings/rankings.

  • lonleylibertarian

    I got laughed at when I asked why not try Rojas at 1st base – he is tall and could evolve into a decent 20+ HR guy-no logical spot for him in Pittsburgh – but he could be an option for 2016…

    • Y2JGQ2

      and you are still being laughed at because it’s a stupid idea.

    • NorCalBuc

      I like it

      • AwakenedAngryAmerican

        Me2. It’s not so lonely 24/7 when someone uses their noggin.