Tonight I’ve got some thoughts on two prospects in the system who have been performing very well this year. One of the prospects has been a bit of a breakout (Elias Diaz), while the other is just continuing to impress and move up the top prospect lists (Tyler Glasnow). The two topics are largely inspired by questions I’ve gotten on these two players, but we also wrote about both guys today, so I felt it was a good time to discuss each situation.
**I was doing my regular appearance on David Todd’s show on ESPN 970 on Wednesday, and was asked if Elias Diaz had moved up the depth charts this year at catcher. Today, I wrote about Diaz, and addressed that topic, after he was named the Best Defensive Catcher in the Eastern League (one year after winning the same award in the Florida State League). My answer both times is that Diaz has moved up the depth chart. Tony Sanchez is no longer prospect eligible, but if he was, I’d have Diaz ahead of him right now. I’d still have Reese McGuire number one, but Diaz would probably be right behind him, and would be the top guy in the upper levels.
That’s not to say Sanchez can’t be a backup. It isn’t saying Sanchez is a bad player or has a bad future. I trust the hitting from Sanchez more than I trust the hitting from Diaz. The difference is the defense. I saw a lot of Diaz last year in the FSL, and the defensive ratings are legit. Meanwhile, Sanchez has continued with his throwing issues this year, raising questions about the consistency of his defense. I wrote this about Diaz in the 2014 Prospect Guide:
The Pirates have a lot of good catching prospects, and Diaz is one of the sleeper prospects who could emerge as a major league backup. He’s got a great frame and is strong defensively. His defense is highlighted by a plus arm and good agility behind the plate. Offensively his bat has shown potential with a line drive swing and gap power. He finished the season on a strong note, with an .892 OPS in 44 at-bats in August. Diaz could move to Altoona in 2014, splitting time with Jacob Stallings.
This year Diaz is more than just potential. He has carried his late season success from 2013 up to Altoona. Since he doesn’t have any time in Triple-A, I’d say that Sanchez should get the first shot at being a MLB backup. But Diaz is the better prospect of the two, and will be the better option long-term, with a better shot at being a starter. Diaz is Rule 5 eligible this year, just like he was last year. This time the bat should get him protected on the 40-man roster, with the chance to reach the majors at some point in 2015 if the Pirates need an injury replacement. From there, he could work his way into a more permanent role.
**Tyler Glasnow continued his strong run tonight, throwing six shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. That was his fourth start of the year with double-digit strikeouts, and the third time in his last six starts. He also had a nine strikeout game during that span. Even better is that Glasnow cut down on the walks, with only two tonight. That follows two starts where he combined for eight walks in 11.2 innings.
I get a lot of questions about when Glasnow will move up to Double-A. I’m kind of surprised that he is still in Bradenton at this point. One theory on why he is still around: the playoffs. Bradenton is in position for the post-season, while Altoona has no shot of making the playoffs. Glasnow will spend almost all of the 2015 season at the Double-A level, even if he gets a few starts at the level this year. So he could have a few starts in Altoona, which wouldn’t speed up his timeline at all, or he could stick around in Bradenton, pitch in a playoff race, and get some extra starts at the end of the year if Bradenton does make the post-season. If that’s why Glasnow is still in Bradenton, then it would make sense. The starts this year will be more meaningful, and it won’t impact his future timeline and path to the majors.
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