The Jamestown Jammers begin their season tonight, featuring a lot of the top college players who were taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 draft. The Jammers currently have ten of the first 21 players drafted by the Pirates this year, including top ten picks like Tyler Eppler, Michael Suchy, Alex McRae, and Austin Coley.
Eventually, this team will add more top picks, like Connor Joe and Jordan Luplow. It’s a team that doesn’t have any of the top 20 prospects in the system, but might have some guys who end up in the top 30 by the end of the year, and definitely will have some guys who rated in the Pirates’ top 50 prospects.
Here are the lineups, rotation, bullpen, and bench for the Jammers. A lot of this is up in the air, since new players are still being added to the system. For that reason, I focused mostly on the top prospects at the level, rather than putting a big focus on the specifics of where everyone will play.
C – Taylor Gushue
1B – Kevin Ross
2B – Ulises Montilla
SS – Michael Fransoso
3B – Tyler Filliben
LF – Enyel Vallejo
CF – Carl Anderson
RF – Michael Suchy
DH – Erik Lunde
I’m going to start by saying that I have no clue what is going to be happening with the current infield. The roster has been up in the air with all of the draft picks being added, and is still up in the air with future draft picks coming. The lineups that I saw during extended Spring Training included players who are no longer in the system, like Beau Wallace. So rather than focusing on the positions (which will probably be wrong), I’ll focus on the key hitters to watch.
The one thing that is certain is Taylor Gushue will be the primary catcher. He was taken in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and was a year younger than almost every other college player in the draft. He’s got the potential to be a solid all-around catcher, with average raw power. He’ll be one of the top prospects to watch at this level, with a chance to crack the overall top 50 prospects by the end of the year.
Ulises Montilla showed good hitting skills last year in the GCL, and played primarily second base in extended Spring Training — also his position in the GCL. He’s got some speed, some gap power, and the ability to hit for average. He’s a guy to watch this year to see if his bat carries over to a higher level that is filled with college talent.
Tyler Filliben was taken in the 12th round this year, drafted as a shortstop. He profiles best at third base, so he could end up playing there in Jamestown. He’s got some power potential, but doesn’t have speed and doesn’t have a good hit tool. He’ll be another top hitter to watch at the level, capable of cracking the top 50.
The outfield is a little easier to predict. Carl Anderson was drafted as a center fielder, and has some nice tools, highlighted by a good ability to get on base, and a good history with stolen bases. He displayed some power in his junior year, and could be a sleeper if that power is legit.
Michael Suchy is a strong right fielder who gets power from his strength, but doesn’t have good bat speed and swings and misses too much. He’s a raw player, with questions about how effective his bat can be with that combination of skills.
Enyel Vallejo started getting playing time in the second half of the GCL season last year. He showed a great hit tool, with some power potential, but didn’t draw many walks. He did propel himself to being a starter, and should start the year in the Jamestown lineup.
The un-signed picks who could make an impact on the outfield are Connor Joe and Jordan Luplow. The Pirates could fit all five outfielders in the lineup by having Joe play first base, and having one of the other four outfielders serve as a DH.
Francisco Aponte, Andrew Dennis, Deybi Garcia, Maximo Rivera
Bench players in the lower levels don’t usually profile as prospects. The bench will get even more crowded when new picks sign. My guess is that Kevin Ross, Michael Fransoso, and Erik Lunde will also join this group after the first week or two, at which point guys like Chase Simpson, Connor Joe, and Jordan Luplow will have probably signed.
Austin Coley, Tyler Eppler, Alex McRae, Marek Minarik, Miguel Rosario
The 2014 draft will produce most of the starting rotation for the Jammers. Minor league rotation orders aren’t indicative of talent levels. It’s more about who happens to be in line to pitch when the season starts. The current announced rotation is Miguel Rosario, Marek Minarik, Tyler Eppler, and Alex McRae. While no fifth starter has been named, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that ends up being Austin Coley, who was taken in the eighth round this year.
Tyler Eppler is the most interesting arm from this group. His fastball has gotten mixed reviews, with some saying it sits 89-91, reaching 92-93. Others have it reaching 95. If it’s the latter, then he’s a very strong arm in the sixth round. Eppler could reach that velocity anyway if he adds strength to his 6′ 6″, 210 pound frame. He throws a slider, curve, and changeup, but will need to improve his secondary stuff and try to find a strikeout pitch.
Coley throws a 92-93 MPH fastball, a changeup that he uses as his out pitch, and a curve that needs improvement. He had good numbers in his time with Belmont University, although he struggled his junior year after having mono coming into the season. By the end of the year his velocity was back to a normal range, although his control slipped from his first two years.
McRae was taken in the tenth round, and has a fastball sitting 89-93 MPH. He could add some velocity if he adds strength to his 6′ 3″, 185 pound build. His slider is his best secondary pitch, and is close to an out pitch. Just like the previous two draft picks, McRae has a good fastball, but will need to improve the secondary stuff in order to have a good pro career.
I saw Rosario throw a lot in the GCL last year. He gets a lot of ground balls, throwing his fastball 89-92 MPH, touching 93, and getting good movement with the pitch. He pairs that with a mid-80s changeup and an upper 70s slider. He dealt with some fastball command problems last year, leading to a lot of home runs. He also switched between the rotation and bullpen in a piggyback type of role, and could do the same this year.
Minarik was a surprise to see in the rotation. He is 6′ 7″, 195 pounds, and signed as a minor league free agent over the off-season, after being released by the Phillies. He turns 21 years old later this month, so he’s still a good age for this league. Just like the other guys in the rotation, he has a good fastball, throwing 91-94 MPH in Spring Training this year. He also works in a mid-70s curveball for a good change of pace. With his tall, projectable frame, there’s a chance he could add velocity going forward, although his fastball control is going to be the biggest focus.
Colten Brewer, Eric Dorsch, Montana DuRapau, Julio Eusebio, Andres Mendoza, Jonathan Minier, Jerry Mulderig, Nick Neumann, Andy Otamendi, Sam Street, Jose Regalado, Oderman Rocha, Luis Urena
Guys who are relievers at lower levels don’t project to be prospects that can reach the majors. The exception would be guys who get long-relief opportunities, or piggyback roles. Colten Brewer is the most interesting guy from this list. He was a fourth round pick in 2011 — a draft that has featured a lot of good pitching prospects — but injuries have prevented him from moving beyond short-season ball. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a piggyback role, getting 3-4 innings in relief, and the occasional starts.
Dorsch (15th round), Street (16th), Neumann (28th), and DuRapau (32nd) are all 2014 draft picks. All four were college seniors, so they project as organizational fillers. Dorsch has hit 95 MPH, but has been inconsistent with his velocity. Street only throws mid-80s, but throws from a very low arm slot, and gets a ton of movement and sink with his fastball. He might be the best prospect from the group.