Top 10 Hitters: Is Mel Rojas Finally Putting Things Together?

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. Jaff Decker, OF – Jaff Decker is currently in the majors, but prior to the promotion on Sunday, he was riding a hot streak in Indianapolis. Decker had a .324/.439/.559 line in 34 at-bats over his last ten games. Last week he had a six game hitting streak, going 9-for-15 with five doubles and a home run. The streak ended with his 0-for-5 day on Saturday, before he was pulled and called up to Pittsburgh. Brent Morel was originally called up, and Decker replaced him due to the injuries in the outfield. Decker’s performance was good enough to lead the minor league system this week.

2. Keon Broxton, OF – Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks during Spring Training, Broxton has been a surprise lately. He went 9-for-22 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers this week, raising his overall line on the season to .282/.371/.500. Broxton was a third round pick in 2009, and was the number ten prospect in the Diamondbacks system heading into the 2011 season. He’s very athletic, but has yet to put everything together on the field. It’s too early to say whether he is finally doing that, but the results of late have been encouraging.

3. Mel Rojas, OF – Rojas has a very similar story as Broxton. He was a third round pick, taken in the 2010 draft. He’s very athletic, but struggles to consistently use his skills in games. And this year he has some impressive numbers, with a .302/.379/.434 line in 129 at-bats. Just like Broxton, it’s too early to tell if Rojas is finally working out. One knock against him is that he spent a year in Altoona last season, which gives his current numbers an asterisk. That doesn’t mean they’re not legit. It just means we will need to see him have success in Indianapolis to make sure this isn’t due to already seeing the level. Rojas and Broxton both profile as strong fourth outfielders if they can reach the majors.

4. Nevin Ashley, C – With Tony Sanchez in the majors, Ashley has taken over the catching duties for Indianapolis. He went 10-for-27 this week, with two doubles and two homers. Based on his role with Indianapolis since Sanchez has gone to the majors, it looks like Ashley is number four on the catching depth charts.

5. Chris Dickerson, OF – A lot of attention in Indianapolis has gone to Gregory Polanco. Any left-over attention gets directed at Andrew Lambo for the big year he was having before his injury. But one guy who has been overlooked has been Chris Dickerson. On the season, Dickerson has a .309/.382/.474 line in 97 at-bats. He’s currently riding a ten game hitting streak, during which he has a .901 OPS. The Pirates had a need for an outfielder over the weekend, but Dickerson wouldn’t have worked out. He’s out of options, which means he’d have to be DFAd after spending just a few days with the Pirates. It would be better to save him for when he’s needed over a longer period of time.

6. Andy Vasquez, OF – Vasquez doesn’t get much time in the lineup as an upper level utility player, but he made the most of it this week. He went 5-for-10 with a double and a home run, taking the number six spot on this list.

7. Gregory Polanco, RF – If you want to know what a down week looks like for Gregory Polanco, this appears to be it. He “only” went 8-for-29 (.276) with three doubles, a triple, and four walks. Polanco has been in a mini-slump the last few days, going 1-for-16 with a triple and four walks over his last four games. This might be the adversity the Pirates want to see him face. My guess is that he’ll learn to overcome this type of adversity around the second week of June.

8. Wyatt Mathisen, 3B – Mathisen made the move to third base from behind the plate this spring. The move was made for a few reasons. First, Reese McGuire was the primary catcher in West Virginia, which meant Mathisen wasn’t expected to get much development time behind the plate. So he moved to third base, which was more of a need in the system. Mathisen was an infielder in high school, so this position would be easier to learn. The side effect was that this was expected to allow him to focus more on the bat. It seems like the bat is finally waking up, as he has a .325 average and a .972 OPS in 40 at-bats in the month of May.

9. Josh Bell, OF – Bell had a nice week at the plate in Bradenton this week, going 8-for-23 with two doubles and three walks, and finishing his week with a five game hitting streak. On the season, Bell is hitting for a .287 average. He’s not hitting for a lot of power, with a .139 ISO. That’s actually down from his .174 ISO in West Virginia last year. Looking at his splits, he has struggled against lefties, with a .483 OPS, compared to an .885 OPS against right-handers. Bell has faced a lot of left-handers, with 41 at-bats, compared to 88 at-bats against right-handers. He did have success against left-handers last year, with an .844 OPS in 106 at-bats. However, these struggles could be legit, as his swing can look off-balanced at times from the right side.

10. Erich Weiss, 2B – When Wyatt Mathisen was moved to third base this spring, the placement of Weiss seemed like an afterthought, or an issue that didn’t even need to be considered. The Pirates signed him to an over-slot deal last year, paying him $305,000 as an 11th round pick. They were paying for the bat, and that bat has shown up this year. Weiss is currently hitting for a .323/.392/.417 line in 127 at-bats. He’s not hitting for power, but he’s showing great contact skills, and a good ability to get on base. The fact that he can play second and third base adds value, especially if he can find his power stroke. Just like Bell, Weiss is struggling against lefties so far, with a .559 OPS, compared to an .893 OPS against right-handers.

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.

Share This Post On
  • tbart213

    This is good news, not so much for the numbers on it, but the names that are heating up. Let it roll.

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Yes it’s looking like Rojas is putting things together. That is why I suggested having Rojas be the call up this week since it would only be a short one, and something like that could do wonders for a guy’s confidence and desire.

    I saw him hit a home run off a legit major league pitcher in spring training this march, he wouldn’t have hurt the team had they called him up for a week until Lambo is ready.

  • KauaiCoffee

    Rojas, Jr. is old for AA, and is riding a BABIP-fueled temporary surge. We should not expect him to be more than a fourth OFer. He could provide some value, and could have a major league career. But he is not likely to earn a starting job anywhere, especially in an outfield that will include McCutchen, Marte and Polanco.

  • KauaiCoffee

    Keon Broxton is another player who is old for AA and is succeeding due to a temporary surge in his BABIP (.358). He might be a fourth OF option, but he is not likely to ever win a starting job anywhere… let alone in Pittsburgh’s OF.