Top 10 Hitters: Willy Garcia and the Other Talented Pirates Latin American Prospects

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. 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. Willy Garcia, RF - I was looking at MLB.com’s updated top 20 prospects yesterday, and noticed they still had Willy Garcia as a top 15 hitter. Garcia drew some consideration for our top 30, but ultimately fell just outside the mix due to his strikeouts and lack of walks. That was also back in early June, when he was hitting for a .232/.272/.475 line in 181 at-bats at the Double-A level. Since our mid-season update, Garcia has been on fire. He’s hitting for a .320/.342/.524 line in 147 at-bats, with six homers. The strikeouts are still an issue, with a 35% strikeout rate, and the walks still aren’t there. But Garcia is starting to hit for average, and is showing some amazing power. He’s got a cannon for an arm in right field, and has some good speed. He’s also 21 years old, turning 22 in September. As good as the offense has been, the plate patience is still alarming. Guys who have strikeout issues in the majors don’t have those same strikeout issues in the minors. The guys who strike out 30% or more in the minors don’t usually make the majors. There’s still time for Garcia to fix this issue, at least to a point where he can be productive with the strikeouts and lack of walks, similar to Starling Marte.

2. Jose Osuna, 1B - Heading into the 2012 season, there was a group of Latin American prospects who were making an aggressive jump to full season ball in West Virginia. Gregory Polanco broke out in a big way, and is in the majors now. Alen Hanson broke out, and is one of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Willy Garcia was another guy from the group, and as noted above, he’s starting to hit in Double-A at a young age. The fourth guy was Jose Osuna, who was left behind in Bradenton for a second year, after the other three graduated to Altoona and higher over the last year. Osuna is showing some improvements this year, with a .727 OPS in his second year in Bradenton, up from a .655 OPS. That’s still not what you’d want to see from a first baseman. He’s only 21, turning 22 at the end of the year. His offense has picked up recently, with a .325 average and a .957 OPS in his last ten games. Osuna doesn’t walk much, but he also doesn’t have the same strikeout issues as Garcia. He’ll need to continue the recent stretch over a much larger span. I could see the Pirates moving him to Altoona next year to give him a challenge, as they don’t usually put a player at the same A-ball level for three years.

3. Dan Gamache, 3B - Gamache is off to an impressive start in Altoona, with a .328/.371/.621 line in his first 15 games. That’s way too small of a sample size to draw any solid conclusions. He’s been playing second and third base this year. He’s better defensively at third, but his bat projects to be better at second, where he has struggled with his defense. The Pirates have to hope that Gamache works out, and continues with the current numbers. It’s unlikely that he would continue on this pace, but if he does, he’d be the only viable upper level replacement for Pedro Alvarez in the next year or two. The more likely scenario is that he turns into a productive bench bat, backing up second and third.

4. Carlos Munoz, 1B - I’ve really liked what I’ve seen out of Munoz this year. He’s got a .315/.426/.494 line in 89 at-bats in the GCL, with a 9:18 K/BB ratio. Munoz has been outstanding from a plate patience perspective. In the last three years he has 112 walks to 54 strikeouts. Lately he has started hitting for some power, with three doubles and a homer last week. We usually rate first basemen lower than other outlets, at least until they have success above A-ball. The plate patience from Munoz will probably get him a spot in the back of our top 50 at the end of the year, especially if he shows some potential to hit for power in the future.

5. Gift Ngoepe, 2B - Ngoepe’s upside is a backup middle infielder with plus defense at the shortstop position. To get to the majors, he’s going to have to hit, and show that he’s not a total liability with the bat. He has been doing a good job of that in July, with a .338/.386/.584 line in 77 at-bats. That’s a big upgrade over his month of June, when he had a .561 OPS.

6. Henrry Rosario, CF - The Pirates have a very promising center field prospect in the GCL, Michael De La Cruz, who is struggling this year in his jump to the US. Meanwhile, Rosario is doing well, with an .807 OPS, while stealing some playing time from De La Cruz. He’s a small outfielder, and doesn’t project to be more than a lower level organizational guy.

7. Erich Weiss, 2B - Weiss had a great start to the season, with an OPS over .800 in his first two months. He fell off in June, with a .596 OPS. He continued those struggles in the first half of July, but has been hitting for an .849 OPS in his last ten games, with a six game hitting streak. The Pirates gave him an over-slot deal last year for his hitting abilities. He’s shown the ability to hit for average and get on base at a great rate, but his power hasn’t shown up, with a slugging percentage under .400 since the end of April.

8. Enyel Vallejo, LF - I really like the limited performances I’ve seen out of Vallejo over the last year. It was around this time last year that he was breaking into the lineup as a starter in the GCL. He moved to Jamestown for the first week of their season, then was moved down to Bristol. So far he has hit well at the level, with a .323/.343/.479 line. Just like a lot of Latin American players (including several mentioned in this article), he doesn’t draw walks. He’s an interesting sleeper prospect to follow, as he has a lot of tools, and has done nothing but hit, while adding a bit of power, in the last year.

9. Elias Diaz, C - Diaz is continuing his impressive season at the plate, with a .794 OPS in his last ten games, including doubles in three straight games to wrap up the week. He’s got a .776 OPS on the season, after slipping a bit in the early part of July. Diaz was already one of the strongest defensive catchers in the system heading into the year. His added offense strengthens the possibility that he could make the majors as a backup catcher.

10. Austin Meadows, CF - Meadows is off to a good start in West Virginia, with hits in 10 of his 12 games, while reaching base safely in 11 of 12 games. He hasn’t shown much power yet, but he’s got some of the best power potential in the system, and that will start to show up eventually. A good sign this year is that his strikeouts are down, after showing some issues against breaking stuff in the GCL last year in his debut.

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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  • Leefoo Rug Bug

    If Diaz is showing improved offense, wouldn’t that make him a possible starting catcher?

    • CalipariFan506

      Do you think Tony Sanchez could possibly replace Gaby Sanchez as the 1B platoon?

      I’d like to see Martin brought back, another year of Stewart and then Diaz/Paulino as depth in AAA.