Over the last few years, the Pirates have been drafting a lot of the same types of hitting prospects. They are guys who hit for average, get on base, don't strike out, hit for gap power, but not a lot of home run power, and have a chance to play a premium position on defense. The downside to these players is that they don't have the highest upsides, although that should be expected, since most of the players in this group were college players, drafted in the middle rounds, where you're not getting a lot of upside. The players who were drafted earlier tend to have an advantage -- more power potential, a better shot at sticking at a premium defensive position, or just better hitting skills -- which is why you'll find most of them at the top of this prospect list. At this point, the Bradenton group looks like it could have a few guys with a shot at starting in the majors, although none of them project to be more than an average starter, or maybe a slightly above average starter at this point.
TOP 10 BRADENTON MARAUDERS PROSPECTS
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. We didn't include players who are no longer in the system, which left Stephen Tarpley, Tito Polo, and Taylor Gushue off the list. Just like the lower levels, these players are still graded mostly based on projection than actual results, although this is the level where you want to start seeing those results, especially for college drafted players.
1. Kevin Newman, SS - Newman entered the year with questions about whether he'd eventually be a utility infielder or a starter. The opinions were pretty split after his pro debut last year, although they seem a bit one-sided this year, after a great performance in his first full season. He made it look easy with the bat in Bradenton, hitting for a .366/.428/.494 line in 164 plate appearances, before a June promotion to Altoona. He could have been promoted earlier, based on his offense, but the Pirates had him working on an earlier setup time and routes for his defense at shortstop. He also worked on a small adjustment to narrow his batting stance, trying to get some additional power. He's not going to be a power hitter, or a guy who tries to hit for power, instead excelling at making contact and getting on base. He makes it look easy when he makes contact, looking like he's placing the ball where the fielders aren't standing. He's got outstanding plate patience, with a 9% walk rate and a 6.3% strikeout rate in Bradenton, and a 9.7% walk rate and 9% strikeout rate in Altoona after the promotion. The strong offensive showing, and the improved results on the defensive side of his game have Newman looking like a top 50 prospect in baseball, and a future starting shortstop in the majors.
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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.