Gregory Polanco, Willy Garcia, and Elias Diaz Get Some Good Recognition

Baseball America has been rolling out their annual Best Tools lists for every level, and has a few members of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization recognized. The MLB version saw Andrew McCutchen named as the second best hitter, the best strike zone judgment, the third best base runner, and the most exciting player. Edinson Volquez was also named with the third best fastball, behind Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, which was surprising.

Moving down to the minors, a few Pirates prospects saw recognition in the upper levels (the A-ball lists haven’t been announced yet). Gregory Polanco was named the Best Batting Prospect and the Most Exciting Player this year in the International League. On the Double-A list, Elias Diaz was named the Best Defensive Catcher, and Willy Garcia was named as having the Best Outfield Arm.

None of these are a surprise. Polanco had a huge year in the International League, and propelled himself to being one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Diaz and Garcia received the same awards last year in the Florida State League, so it’s clear that they’re still highly regarded for those specific skills.

The good thing about both players is that they’ve improved this year beyond just having those two tools.

Diaz has always been a strong defensive catcher, but has been hitting well in Altoona, with a .326/.372/.446 line in 307 at-bats. Right now I would say he is the top option to be the Pirates’ future backup catcher in the majors, passing up Tony Sanchez. I won’t say that this hitting is legit, based on such a small sample size, but if this hitting continues he might be a sleeper as a starting candidate.

Garcia is also having a big year in Altoona, mostly from a power standpoint. He has a .275/.305/.504 line in 363 at-bats, with 25 doubles and 16 homers. His .229 ISO¬†continues a trend of carrying his raw power to the field. He’s gone from a .163 ISO in 2012, to a .180 in 2013, to the current number, all while moving up a level in the minors each year. The concern with Garcia is that he doesn’t walk (3.9% walk rate) and strikes out too much (31.3% strikeout rate). He’s got enough tools that he could be a useful player without the walks, but he’s going to have a hard time making it to the majors with those strikeouts. If he can cut down on the strikeouts, Garcia could be a sleeper starting right fielder.

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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  • BamaBucco

    They also name Cutch as best defensive outfielder. That goes pretty strongly against every defensive metric.

    • StevePegues

      Maybe. But if the bottom line is about converting balls hit near him into outs, then Cutch has the speed to make up for the bad routes, the poor reads, and the other things that make up an OF’s defensive metrics.

      • bucsws2014

        The thing is, Cutch is more than capable of making excellent reads, so, coupled with his speed, that gives him even more range than the typical CF.

        I give you this video evidence: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/statcast-sheds-light-on-amazing-catches-by-yasiel-puig-and-andrew-mccutchen?ymd=20140613&content_id=79566520

        • Kevin_Young

          All true…but he throws like a little girl.

          • bucsws2014

            That was true in 2010-2012. This year he’s throwing like a big girl.

            • Kevin_Young

              Haha I don’t know what happened from last year to this year, but I think he has 0 outfield assists. The bbref numbers are pretty gruesome when looking at his arm.

          • leowalter

            So does Hunter Pence. McCutchen is on of the top 5 players in MLB, what is your real problem with him ?

            • Kevin_Young

              Does it sound like I have a problem with McCutchen?? It’s a fact he can’t throw…that’s not my fault or me having a problem with him. Obviously he’s a top 5 player, but it’s not because he has a good arm.

              Also Pence may look ridiculous, but his arm plays around league average.

              • leowalter

                You are being ridiculous,( and missed my point completely about Pence ), but of course,that is your choice. If a player can not throw at all as you say about McCutchen,there isn’t a chance in the world of that player being rated as one of the top 5 players in MLB. If you want to say he has an average,or just below average arm,fine. But don’t try to give me that stuff. If you wanted attention,I guess you got it.

                • Kevin_Young

                  Fine here….
                  http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=of&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2014&month=0&season1=2014&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=19,a

                  That’s fangraphs eligible OF’s where his arm is a distant 52nd of 55. BBREF as I stated also feels the same. And the eye test will again tell you the same. YET he still is 7th in the league in WAR (.1 from being 4th), so lo and behold it turns out you can have a horrible arm and be a top 5 caliber player when you are outstanding at everything else.

                  • leowalter

                    Do you have a reading comprehension problem ? It sure appears so. Get real.

                    • Kevin_Young

                      Hahaha what am I not comprehending? Are you taking me extremely literal as if Andrew McCutchen literally cannot throw a baseball? Your argument is that he is a top 5 player so he must throw average…but he does not, and I’ve given you the evidence. That’s all

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Hitting .300 in double A is no easy chore. The fact that Diaz has done so all season, and is actually hitting .26 points higher than that, makes me believe that his hitting is legit. I also think he is a candidate to be a starter. His defense and arm were already starter quality.
    I still would prefer that Russell Martin be resigned, but it is good to know a catcher like Diaz is waiting in the wings.
    Ideally Diaz will get to back-up Martin for the next couple years.

    • Lee Young

      Monsoon…I am with you on Diaz. I’ve seen him this year and last and his hitting approach is much, much better. He used to flail….now he seems to have a plan.

      I expect him to be the heir apparent to Martin (or whomever we get to replace him).

      • Matt Beam

        I may be dreaming but any chance Diaz could develop like Yadier Molina, who was elite defensively but pretty poor offensively early in his career but then developed into a very good offense catcher too?

        • leowalter

          I have seen Diaz a lot Matt, and while I am a huge fan of his, ( ask John Dreker ) I don’t think he will ever develops the HR power to compare to Molina. He does have good gap power though.

          • Lee Young

            Leo…agree…I see 5-10 HRs tops, but Martin ain’t exactly a slugger and he seems to be doing quite well.

          • SportOMania

            He could always mysteriously gain a lot of bulk like Yadier.

            • leowalter

              There is that ! and Pudge Rodriguez type muscles ?

            • SteveW

              It took Yadier four minor league seasons and then six in MLB before he hit more than eight in a season. Average was less than six over that time.

    • ginbear

      Yeah, I think I am warming up to the Diaz bandwagon. He actually started showing a decent bat last year, with a .781 OPS in A+ (where he only got part time duty – 220 PA.) He has a very acceptable k rate just under 15%, is showing a little pop now and his defense is stellar. I think that translates pretty well into at least a MLB gig, if not a starting one. With Diaz going to AAA next year, T. Sanchez may be in a position where where next spring is make or break, and if he doesn’t make (the big league squad), his window will be closed.

      • bucsws2014

        Time for Tony to start taking some grounders at the corners?

        • ginbear

          Maybe?

          How viable would Tony’s bat be at third? It’s basically replacement level for first. I think it would probably be a better value to just trade him, as a catcher.

          • bucsws2014

            You could be right regarding trade value. But consider that Bucs are currently paying almost $10 million to 3 guys with a combined 0.1 WAR (Davis 0.2, Pedro 0.0, Gaby -0.1).

            Maybe Tony is just replacement level, but he’s a lot cheaper than all of the above. At a minimum he could be Ike’s platoon partner if he wears elevator spikes. And unless Neal is going shopping this winter, what are the other options?

            • Matt Beam

              JHay plays 3B if Pedro doesn’t trun things around, the 1B platoon will be starting to get expensive next yr

  • Matt Beam

    IMO, Garcia = Jeff Francoeur light

    • leowalter

      If Garcia is Francoeur lite, does that make Joey Gallo Brad Eldred lite ?

      • Matt Beam

        Joey Gallo could turn out to be the OF version of El Toro

        • xHoratiox

          Alvarez doesn’t have Gallo’s power, and Gallo K’s more than Pedro, albeit with a higher walk rate. I think it will be very interesting to see what Gallo becomes. A ridiculous amount of his hits are for extra bases, I think it is somewhere around 55%.

          • Matt Beam

            “K’s more than Pedro” is such a mind boggling thing to me

    • bucsws2014

      Does that mean he’d only buy low-calorie hot dogs for fans?

      • leowalter

        ……and a Coors, Miller or Bud Lite.

      • Matt Beam

        very clever…

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Didn’t Willy Garcia used to be Wily Garcia? I’m pretty sure that you used to spell Willy with one L. Reason being that I had grown used to calling him Wile Coyote Garcia. Wily would be pronounced with the long vowel sound. But add an L and it then becomes pronounced with the short vowel sound. (That is the general rule we were taught in elementary school.) So which is it?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/ Tim Williams

      He might have been. It’s such a weird process with names out of Latin America. Jose Osuna used to be Jose Ozuna. There have been guys named Jhonatan who have changed to Jhonathan. Also guys named Yhonathan who changed to Jhonathan. Then some guys keep the original spelling.

      Right now Garcia’s first name is spelled Willy.

      • bucsws2014

        Heck, there have been guys named Fausto who changed spelling to Roberto :-)

        We’re not far from, “It’s only spelled ‘Luxury Yacht’. It’s pronounced, ‘Throatwarbler Mangrove'”.

        • Monsoon Harvard

          Love the Python!

      • Lee Young

        Yhonatim Williams has a nice ring to it!

  • Jason

    Some of you probably saw, but Baseball Prospectus just put up scouting reports for Josh Bell, Stetson Allie and Alen Hanson: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24362. Good praise for Bell, so-so for Hanson (saying he should play 2B long term), and not great for Allie.