Looking Back at Adrian Sampson and Elias Diaz Before the 2014 Season

Today I opened up the last case of the 2014 Prospect Guide, which will be the last of the paperback version of the book, since I’ll be starting to writing process of the 2015 version in about a month. If you’re unfamiliar with the Prospect Guide, it’s a book we release every year, detailing every player in the minor league system. The scouting reports came out in December, but it’s still a reference I use daily for articles on the site.

I put a few items on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The Prospect Guide is one of them, with the price dropping to $14.99 plus shipping. That offer only applies for as long as the book is in stock. After the final case of books, there won’t be any more physical books ordered. I also made the eBook available on the site. Previously this could only be purchased from the publisher, although a software upgrade has allowed me to sell the book on the site. The new price for the eBook version is $9.99.

I’ve still got some copies of the 2013 Prospect Guide available, with Gregory Polanco on the cover. These are now on clearance for $1 each.

You can buy the books on the products page of the site. All of the proceeds from the book allow us to provide full-time daily coverage on the site. And to disguise the fact that this is a shameless plug for the sale, I decided to look back at two of the prospect reports from the 2014 Prospect Guide, highlighting the expectations on Elias Diaz and Adrian Sampson coming into the year. The reports quoted below are what you’d find in the Prospect Guide coming into the season, with some updated thoughts after the reports.

Elias Diaz

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.

Diaz carried over his strong finish to the 2013 season, and has been outstanding at the plate in his jump to Altoona this year. The defense is still there, and he’s starting to look like the top catching option in the upper levels, with a chance to be a MLB backup as soon as mid-season 2015. Neal Huntington recently had this to say on the progress from Diaz this year:

“The progression with the bat. We’ve always loved the throw. I mean he’s had the strongest throwing arm in our system since the day he signed. And he’s always been able to utilize it. His receiving’s gotten better, his blocking has gotten better, his game-calling has gotten better. And, obviously, he’s having a monster year with the bat, and there are signs there that it is real. He’s made some adjustments with his swing. He’s made some adjustments with his approach. He can barrel the baseball. But, he’s going to be a defense first guy. But, has the ability to swing the bat, as well.”

Adrian Sampson

Sampson looked like a nice sleeper prospect coming out of the 2012 draft. He put up some strong numbers with State College in 2012, but more importantly he flashes some impressive stuff with the makings of a nice three pitch mix. His stock was down in the draft due to previously having Tommy John surgery, although the Pirates were willing to take the chance that his arm was healed and stronger.

The 2013 season saw flashes of his impressive stuff, but not much of the numbers that he put up in the lower levels. Sampson made an aggressive jump over West Virginia, going straight to Bradenton. In 2012 he was throwing anywhere from 87-94. In 2013 he was sitting mostly 89-91 MPH with the pitch. His fastball is thrown on a downward angle, and with great command. He worked in 2013 to pitch from the other side of the rubber, so that he could add a sideward angle to go with the downward angle.

That deception is needed because Sampson’s fastball was a bit too hittable at times. He has a nice curveball which can generate strikeouts, but he had issues in 2013 where he was getting hit around early in the count, and couldn’t get to a pitcher’s count to use the curveball. Some of that had to do with his high ground ball rate, combined with a horrible Marauders defense. It should be noted that Sampson had his best results in August, which came after the Pirates released a few of the poor fielding organizational infielders and added some better defenders from West Virginia.

Along with the fastball and curveball, Sampson worked to improve his changeup this year. He worked on different grips and saw the speed of the pitch drop while adding some movement. He has the potential for a nice three pitch mix down the line, with a fastball that could sit 91-94, a curveball that is an out pitch, and an average or better changeup. Add that to his strong frame, and he could have the ability to be an innings eater in a major league rotation.

The Pirates should keep Sampson in the rotation due to his upside. His advanced metrics were better than his results this year, so he could make the jump to Altoona despite the bad ERA. He can only afford one more down year before the Pirates would have to consider moving him to the bullpen.

Sampson did move up to Altoona this year, and has been outstanding. We mentioned the focus on the changeup last year, and that ended up being a big key in his success at the new level this year. Sampson has fluctuated in our rankings. He was a top 20 prospect heading into the 2013 season, but dropped to 47th in our rankings this year. He stayed in the top 50 because of his potential and upside, but dropped due to the poor season. Since then, he has taken a big leap, moving up to just outside of the top 10. He’s also made a big jump in the system, recently making his debut in Triple-A, which didn’t go well. Sampson is starting to look like a very real candidate to be an innings eater in the majors.

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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  • leowalter

    I watched Diaz last night ( Thursday ) against Trenton, and his defense would play right now in MLB. Of course, the offense is a lot more subjective. But, he sure has held his own in the EL.

  • rickster

    The prospect guides are awesome!! Looking forward to 2015