Pirates Prospects » Prospect Reports http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Sun, 14 Sep 2014 22:20:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Cody Dickson’s Turnaround in 2014 Due to a Common Pirates’ Minor League Focus http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/cody-dicksons-turnaround-in-2014-due-to-a-common-pirates-minor-league-focus.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/cody-dicksons-turnaround-in-2014-due-to-a-common-pirates-minor-league-focus.html#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:34:32 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87879 On the surface, 22-year-old left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson had a below average season in his first full year in Low A West Virginia. In 129 1/3 innings pitched, Dickson had a 3.90 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP, to go along with 58 walks and 108 strikeouts. But Dickson is another case in the Pirates system of a pitcher who struggled in the first half of season, only to see big improvements in the second half.

In the first 3 months of the year, Dickson had a 5.02 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP in 75 1/3 innings pitched, with a 4.2 BB/9 and a 6.8 K/9. Despite his struggles in the first 3 months, from the beginning of July through the end of the season, Dickson’s performance dramatically improved. From July on, he posted a 2.33 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP, along with a lower 3.8 BB/9 and a higher 7.8 K/9.

What changes did Dickson make that led to these improvements?

Early on in the season, Dickson struggled with the same things that many young pitchers struggle with early in their careers. Dickson has a good fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch the mid 90s. He also throws a curve ball and a change-up, with both pitches having potential to be solid offerings. But Dickson needed to learn how to use his good stuff effectively.

“Its interesting, I’ve always liked his stuff,” West Virginia Pitching Coach Jeff Johnson said. “I saw it in Instructional League last year. I said wow, how the ball rotates, the movement on it, those kinds of things [along with] being left-handed I always liked it. I didn’t like the fact that he didn’t have very good command. And early in the year that hurt him.”

According to Johnson, Dickson was not throwing enough strikes in the first half. This led to his high 4.2 BB/9, but also led to many opposing batters hitting ahead in counts.

“He had to throw a lot of pitches [and] he was always behind in counts. [This led to] long innings, so that’s the biggest thing he’s had to learn.”

In order to get deeper into games and control his pitch count, the goal for Dickson was to get each batter out in three pitches or less, and keep the ball low in the zone. It’s a common strategy in the Pirates’ minor league system. Dickson recognized that this approach played a big role in his big improvements in the second half of the season.

“[I was] keeping the ball low, staying athletic, letting the defense work, [stopped] trying to miss bats, just let them hit it, and try to get them out within three pitches,” Dickson explained. “With the defense I have, whoever is out there is very capable of making the play and 90% of the time it gets done, so why not let them hit it?”

Even with his recent success, Dickson has a lot of room for continued growth. In order to command his fastball more efficiently, Dickson had to take some velocity off the pitch. His fastball was sitting in the high 80s to low 90s, down from the low-to-mid 90s where he was previously.

“We took the focus away from electric stuff, [and put it] into command on the plate, staying ahead in counts. Which might lead to one or two MPH shorter, but more effective pitches,” Johnson said. “So eventually what will end up happening hopefully is he’ll learn how to make pitches, and then he can go back and get the extra stuff when he wants it.”

Dickson has become very confident with all three of his pitches, saying that he feels he can go to them in any count. Johnson also praised Dickson’s progression with his breaking pitches.

“He’s been on the plate more. His breaking ball [is on], changeups on the plate, I mean it’s just been fun to watch that progression.”

At 6’3’’ and weighing only 180 pounds, Dickson has a projectable body type to continue to add velocity and maintain the mechanics of his delivery deeper into his starts as he gets stronger and puts on more weight. Johnson said that Dickson “got beat up a little bit physically” this season, and that his first full professional season took a lot out of him.

As the command of his fastball continues to progress and as he continues to get stronger, it would be no surprise to see Dickson add velocity while maintaining his command. Dickson says he has learned a lot about conditioning in his first year. The plan for him is to go to the Instructional League, and continue to work on his strength and conditioning during the off-season.

“I’ve learned a lot from spring training, what more I needed to do and what less I needed to do to get ready to be out on the field with weights and conditioning. I have a better idea of what I need to do more of and less of.”

Dickson has impressed the organization with good stuff since he was drafted out of Sam Houston State in the 4th round of the 2013 Draft. Johnson believes that as Dickson continues to improve his command and grow into his body, he will be a special player.

“His body is going to have to get worked on, get more strength in the off-season, and the more he keeps going out the better his command will get, and the more he’ll learn about how to use what he has. This kid’s going to be dynamite I think, I think there is a lot to look forward to from Cody.”

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Austin Meadows Was Impressive in His Short Time With West Virginia http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/austin-meadows-was-impressive-in-his-short-time-with-west-virginia.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/austin-meadows-was-impressive-in-his-short-time-with-west-virginia.html#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 14:59:52 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87699 Austin Meadows progressed well in the short time he has had in Low-A West Virginia.

A week before Spring Training, Meadows hurt his hamstring while working on his base running. Coupled with a setback to the injury in May, this injury caused Meadows to miss the first three months of the season. With the influx of outfield talent in the Pirates system, the organization took the opportunity to be patient with Meadows, and allow his injury to heal completely. He was appreciative that the Pirates never rushed him to get back onto the field.

“I’m just glad they were really patient about it, rather than coming back too soon and possibly tear it again or something like that,” Meadows said, regarding his injury. “Even though it happened a second time when I was rehabbing. I’m glad they were patient with it, and I’m here now.”

Meadows had a good season in his limited time in West Virginia, posting a slash line of .322/.388/.522 in only 165 plate appearances and showed glimpses of his power potential during his shortened campaign, compiling 19 extra base hits (16 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs). At 6’3’’, 200 pounds, he is a big, athletic player who should hit for more power as he continues to get stronger and more experienced.

Meadows’ showed solid plate discipline skills, with 14 walks, and a 19% strikeout rate. West Virginia Manager Michael Ryan was impressed with his advanced approach at the plate at such a young age.

“His patience at the plate, his hitting approach, is beyond his years,” Ryan said. “It’s not a Low-A approach. One at-bat he’ll go up and sit off-speed, the next one he’ll turn on a fastball. The next time he’ll draw a walk. Just the way he sees the ball is better than what other guys do here.”

According to Ryan, sometimes Meadows can be too patient, taking pitches “right down the middle almost” at times. Ryan wants Meadows to continue to work on his aggressiveness at the plate, and that will lead to even more success.

Meadows realizes the importance of not falling behind in counts, and not taking too many hittable pitches.

“A lot of these pitchers have a lot of good off-speed stuff to get you out, with pitches in the dirt or where ever it is. So I just [need] to be aggressive.”

Defensively, Meadows has performed well in center field, according to Ryan. Ryan believes that Meadows can stick in center field going forward despite his size, because of his athletic ability.

“He can play center, no question,” Ryan said. “He covers a lot of ground; he runs very well for a guy his size. What I was mostly surprised with was how well he could run. If the organization decides to move him to a corner outfield spot, he’ll be just as good there. I think knowing how to play all three is just going to be a bonus for him. [But] he can play center, and he does it pretty well.”

The Pirates might not need him in center field in the long-term, since their system has a lot of center field options, including three currently in the majors.

Now that the West Virginia season is concluded, the plan for Meadows is to head to the Instructional League and continue to get more at bats.

“Just getting out there and getting as many at bats as I can, especially this year facing a lot of adversity with the hamstring injury and not really getting a lot of at bats. Play as many games as I can in instructs and finish this year off strong and start off next year fresh.”

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Marauders Eliminated From the FSL Playoffs http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/marauders-eliminated-from-the-fsl-playoffs.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/marauders-eliminated-from-the-fsl-playoffs.html#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 02:37:07 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87646 The Bradenton Marauders have been eliminated from the Florida State League playoffs, losing 6-2 to Fort Myers tonight to drop their second game in a best of three series. The game was ultimately decided in the third inning, when Fort Myers scored all six of their runs.

Shane Carle got the start, and threw two shutout innings before being roughed up in the third. Carle entered the inning with a 1-0 lead, but that quickly went away. After allowing a single and hitting the second batter of the inning, Carle had an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. The wild throw led to the first run of the inning. A second run came on a single. After getting a strikeout for his first out of the inning, Carle gave up a two run double, followed by a two run homer to complete his outing.

Ryan Hafner came on to end the third inning, and pitched two more shutout innings. Bryton Trepagnier added two shutout innings, and Yhonathan Barrios finished things off with a shutout inning of his own. However, the Marauders offense couldn’t come back, scoring only one run in the top of the ninth.

Jin-De Jhang had the best night on offense, going 2-for-3. Adam Frazier, Walker Gourley, and Eric Wood all went 1-for-3 with a walk. All seven of the Marauders hits were singles.

The Marauders getting eliminated ends the Pirates’ minor league season. The minor leaguers will resume play during the Fall Instructional League, which begins around the middle of the month.

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Marauders Drop Game One as Tyler Glasnow Struggles With His Control http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/marauders-drop-game-one-as-tyler-glasnow-struggles-with-his-control.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/marauders-drop-game-one-as-tyler-glasnow-struggles-with-his-control.html#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 03:19:35 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87601 The Pittsburgh Pirates wanted to keep Tyler Glasnow in Bradenton this year, in part to get additional playoff experience. Tonight, Glasnow started the first game of a best of three series against the Fort Myers Miracle, and the experience didn’t go well. The right-hander gave up six runs on two hits and six walks in three innings, leaving with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning. The Marauders ended up losing 8-7, dropping their only home game of the series.

“It got fast on him tonight, and he didn’t have the ability to slow it down,” pitching coach Justin Meccage said after the game. “In a game like this, it’s really important. During the season there’s not quite as much at stake. I think things got a little fast on him today.”

Glasnow looked great in the first inning, striking out the side on 15 pitches. The second inning didn’t go so well. He walked two batters, including the leadoff batter on five pitches, and gave up two hits, leading to three runs.

“My bullpen before the game was pretty bad. Just one of those games. Kind of wasn’t feeling it from the start,” Glasnow said on his performance. “Did a good job in the first inning forgetting about everything and just going out. It kind of creeped back into my head. I got a little too mechanical.”

The Marauders bailed him out in the bottom of the second inning, batting around the order and scoring seven runs, thanks to two key errors by Fort Myers third baseman Niko Goodrum. Jacob Stallings had a big two-run double to get things started, then Jordan Steranka broke the game open with a three run double with the bases loaded and two outs, giving the Marauders a 7-3 lead.

Glasnow couldn’t capitalize on the fresh start. After a broken bat groundout in the third, he walked the second batter of the inning on four pitches. That was followed up by two strikeouts, giving him eight on the night. But the control problems showed up again in the fourth inning. Glasnow walked the first two batters, which prompted a visit to the mound from Meccage, who told him to throw a few changeups to try and slow the game down. That didn’t work, and Glasnow walked the next batter on eight pitches, loading the bases with no outs. That ended his night, with Marauders manager Tom Prince lifting him from the game.

“It was just one of those days. Really sucks it had to be in a playoff game,” Glasnow said. “Emotions were all the same. Everything was the same. I wasn’t out there feeling scared or anything. Just one of those days I wasn’t really throwing it over well.”

Things got worse when Glasnow left. Jhondaniel Medina, who hadn’t allowed a home run all year, and hadn’t allowed an earned run since April 30th, gave up a grand slam on the first pitch he threw, which tied the game at 7-7. Medina also had issues with control, walking four batters in two innings of work.

The game had a 58 minute delay due to rain, right after Joan Montero was set to come in during the sixth inning. Montero entered the game after the rain delay, and after striking out the first batter, he gave up a double and a single, leading to the eventual winning run. Despite the run, Montero had the best line of the night, giving up just the one run on two hits and a walk in three innings of work.

Bradenton threatened in the eighth inning, with runners on first and second and one out. Jacob Stallings couldn’t capitalize this time, grounding into a double play. The Marauders went down in order in the ninth inning, losing the game 8-7.

The Marauders will travel to Fort Myers tomorrow, with Shane Carle on the mound. If Bradenton can extend the series, Jason Creasy would take the hill on Thursday in Fort Myers for the deciding game.

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The Ongoing Maturation of Luis Heredia http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/the-ongoing-maturation-of-luis-heredia.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/09/the-ongoing-maturation-of-luis-heredia.html#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 14:34:26 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87539 The 2013 and 2014 seasons have both been up-and-down years for Luis Heredia.

At the start of the 2013 season, Heredia came into spring training overweight and out-of-shape, causing him to miss a big chunk of the season while he worked on his conditioning. Thus, he was only able to pitch 65 innings at Low-A West Virginia. The results were mixed. On the positive side, Heredia finished his shortened season with a 3.05 ERA to go along with 55 strikeouts. On the negative side, Heredia’s walk rate was a poor 5.1 BB/9 and he made very little progress in his development.

Because of the slow developmental progress that Heredia achieved in 2013, the Pirates returned him to West Virginia this year in hopes that he would finally get a full year of experience. But his season was halted when he began feeling pain in his shoulder on April 12th, his second start of the season.

“First game [of the season], pitching in Lexington, [I] feel good. The next day, I feel a little problem in my shoulder. Then the first home game, it started to hurt,” Heredia said.

Because of the shoulder pain, Heredia did not make another start at West Virginia until June 5th.

Through the months June and July, Heredia struggled. In the 48.2 innings he pitched during those months, Heredia had a 4.62 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP, to go along with 24 walks, and only 19 strikeouts.

Heredia’s problem was that he was not throwing enough strikes. The most glaring evidence of this problem was during his start on July 6th. Heredia quickly got two outs in the first inning, but then issued four straight walks and his night ended after just 2/3 of an inning.

But since the beginning of August, Heredia has begun to turn things around. He is beginning to look like the pitcher the Pirates hoped he would be when they signed him in 2010.

In 35.1 innings pitched in August, Heredia had a 3.06 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. But the most encouraging sign is his 21:7 K/BB ratio.

A big reason for his improvement is his ability to throw his fastball consistently for strikes. West Virginia Pitching Coach Jeff Johnson credited Heredia’s great August on his improved fastball command. Johnson said that whenever Heredia is locating his fastball, he is hard to hit.

“Fastball is everything in this game,” Johnson said. “If you’re a professional pitcher, your fastball determines how good you are. Behind in counts, [Luis] can get outs with his fastball. Ahead in counts, he can get outs with his fastball. So that’s really the biggest thing that is going to give him a chance to develop. He’s got a lot of life [on his fastball], his ball moves, he’s got velocity, he’s got deception. Not awkward but a little different. The style of guy where you don’t really see the ball very well coming from him.”

West Virginia Manager Michael Ryan is also encouraged by the progress of Heredia’s off-speed pitches.

“He’s been getting his breaking ball over a lot more where teams aren’t sitting on his fastball, because that was the only thing he could throw for strikes. His change-up is coming along really well. He’s got all three pitches that he can throw anytime. It’s fun to watch him pitch now.”

Heredia is content with his low strikeout numbers, because of the number of groundballs that he has induced. But he knows that the strikeouts will come if he continues to command his pitches, saying “I have to [be able to] throw strikes to get strikeouts.”

Maturity on and off the field has played a major role in Heredia’s progression. Since his 2013 weight issues, his conditioning and his diet have improved immensely.

“He’s done nothing but be outstanding in that area now,” Johnson said. “He eats better, his workouts are great. He’s getting there where his body is at a point where he can sustain his delivery and [throw] 100 pitches.”

Johnson said that Heredia is seeing improvements in the later part of his outings because of his dedication to conditioning.

“The other day in Lexington he pitched into the 6th inning. He was at 82 pitches going into the 6th, and he had his best fastballs of the night in the 6th inning. Last year it was the other way. His best fastballs were in the first two innings, and he was hanging on for dear life by the 5th inning. That is a big improvement, because his body can hold the delivery, and be able to repeat some stuff physically.”

As is the problem with many young pitchers, Heredia is learning how to control his emotions during his starts. In the past when things didn’t go his way, he lost focus and things begin to snowball on him. Ryan said you could tell when he was little bit defeated out on the mound. His fragile demeanor would create a big inning because Heredia “wasn’t focused on the next guy.”

Over the last month, Heredia has improved immensely in controlling his emotions on the mound. Johnson says there have been moments where he has had to go out and remind him. Heredia has learned to slow the game down, and it has helped him to get back on track.

“I need to relax and enjoy the game, and play it. That’s what [I am doing] right now. Relax in the game, play the game, throw the ball, and enjoy yourself,” explained Heredia.

Heredia recognizes that the hard work he puts in on his conditioning and his improved psyche on the mound has played a big part in his overall development and improvement.

“We all have bad days, but I’ve been working my butt off every day. [I am] consistently throwing six innings [for the] first time of my career with the Pirates…I feel great, I feel a lot better. A lot better than last year. [I am] very proud of what I do and I feel healthy.”

Johnson believes that Heredia is on the right track to maximizing his potential, but recognizes that he is still a work in progress.

“I’m sure he’ll move up [to High-A Bradenton], which he should,” Johnson said. “There isn’t anything else for him to learn here, now he needs to go learn how to win. And that’s what we’re going to do at Winter Ball in Mexico. The game is important and the scoreboard matters. He needs to learn that. That’s where he is now; he can make all the pitches. He doesn’t do it with enough regularity, but when you’re 20 years old who does? The next step for him is to take what he’s learned, and win games.”

It is encouraging to see that Luis Heredia is finally heading in a positive direction with his development after seeing a slow development for most of the last two years.

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Sampson Finishes Strong at Indianapolis, But Still Has Work to Do Before the Majors http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/sampson-finishes-strong-at-indianapolis-but-still-has-work-to-do-before-the-majors.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/sampson-finishes-strong-at-indianapolis-but-still-has-work-to-do-before-the-majors.html#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:16:44 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87451 In his final start before the minor league season ending, Adrian Sampson allowed just one earned run in 5.2 innings on four hits. Sampson walked a pair and struck out five.

Coming into the start, Sampson’s ERA had ballooned up to over 8.00 with Indianapolis. Odd numbered outings did not go well for the right-hander. In his first and third start combined, Sampson allowed 11 runs on 19 hits in 5.2 innings. In his second start, Sampson was strong, as he tossed six innings, allowing six hits and two runs.

Over four starts and 19 innings, Sampson struck out ten, while walking seven. The five strikeouts on Saturday night was easily the most that he had at the Triple-A level.

On Saturday night, Sampson struck out a pair in each of the first and the fifth inning. All four of these strikeouts were from the slider, which appeared to be the pitch that Sampson used to put hitters away. The slider, as well as the changeup, varied in speed from 84 to 87. However, he did reach as low as 81. This increased the appearance of his fastball, which consistently sat in the low 90s – ranging from 88 to 91 on Saturday. In addition, Sampson was consistently working inside to right-handed hitters. He was not quite as effective getting into lefties, which is something that Sampson told me earlier in the month that he has put an emphasis on.

Being in the low 90s, control is something that is going to be key for Sampson. Of his 94 pitches on Saturday, 57 crossed the plate for strikes. Though the ratio is not as high as he would like, he did seem to miss down in the zone more often than up. There were a pair of long outs to the warning track on pitches that he missed up, but the damage was limited.

Sampson worked primarily with the fastball, especially early. In the first inning, 13 of Sampson’s 18 pitches were fastballs, including his first 10 offerings. Well over half of his pitches were fastballs. On Saturday, he used the fastball to set up the breaking ball and changeup very effectively.

The International League hit .358 against Sampson in the four starts, so he clearly has some work to do before he is big league ready. However, only turning 23 next month in his third year of professional ball, he is clearly ahead of the curve and has plenty of time to pick it up.

In order to get some extra work in, Sampson will join fellow Indianapolis rotation member Nick Kingham in the Arizona Fall League this year. Both of the right-handers will return to the Indianapolis rotation next season and will benefit from getting the Triple-A experience this season.

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How is Alen Hanson Adjusting to Second Base? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/how-is-alen-hanson-adjusting-to-second-base.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/how-is-alen-hanson-adjusting-to-second-base.html#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87343 Since being moved to second base at the beginning of August, Alen Hanson has been adjusting well, Altoona Curve Manager Carlos Garcia said on Wednesday night.

“It’s been good. At least he’s had more time to focus to make the routine plays. The throw is not as long as it is from the shortstop [position]. He’s only played about two and a half weeks [at second base] before he got hurt, but he likes it over there.”

Hanson was having a solid season at the plate before his hamstring injury, producing an offensive quadruple-double that included 11 home runs, 12 triples, 21 doubles, and 25 stolen bases. But to go along with his offensive success came 33 total errors on defense (29 at shortstop, 4 at second base).

Hanson has struggled to keep his focus this season when playing defense. Garcia said that he hopes that Hanson will take the mentality he has at the plate, and apply it while playing defense.

The plan for Hanson at the end of the season is to head to the Instructional League, and then play Winter Ball to continue to work on his fielding skills and experience at both second base and at shortstop.

“[Alen] definitely has to keep working in game situations and be in the [right] spot at the right time. He is still working on balls in the hole, to keep his arm strength from [the shortstop position]. But definitely, he’ll be able to get more experience in the Winter League playing around Big Leaguers over there, and he can see how Big Leaguers do their thing and [how they] go about their business.”

Garcia still believes that Hanson still has the ability to play shortstop in the Majors, saying “a guy with that potential, you never give up on.”

Curve Bench Coach Miles Durham echoed Garcia’s comments.

“He’s a pretty good player, anywhere on the field [I believe] he’s going to be a pretty good player.”

Garcia and Durham believe that with continued hard work and experience, Hanson has the opportunity to be a valuable Major League middle infielder.

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Willy Garcia Establishing Himself as a Top Prospect http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/willy-garcia-establishing-himself-as-a-top-prospect.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/willy-garcia-establishing-himself-as-a-top-prospect.html#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87202 As 2014 is coming to a close, one prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system is progressing as well as any player within the organization.

Right fielder Willy Garcia, just 21 years old and playing in his first full season for the Double-A Altoona Curve, has taken major strides this season defensively, as well as in the batter’s box.

Willy Garcia is known for his power potential, demonstrated by his 50 extra base hits, including 18 home runs, 27 doubles and 5 triples so far this season. Despite his raw power abilities, Garcia has always struggled with his discipline at the plate, and has trouble working deep into counts. In 2013 he finished with a 32% strike-out rate in High-A Bradenton. Through the first two months of the 2014 season, Garcia struggled at the plate, posting a slash line of .228/.272/.733 to go along with a 30% strike out rate.

Since the beginning of June, Garcia has seen great improvements at the plate, with a slash line of .313/.343/.859. His strike-out rate during that time is still at an alarming 31% rate, but since the beginning of August, his strike-out rate has been 25%.

Garcia’s improved plate discipline was on display Tuesday night against Richmond. In his first plate appearance, he worked a full-count walk, not swinging at a single pitch during the at bat. Later in the fourth inning with men on second and third and no outs, Garcia quickly went down 0-2, but worked the count full, not offering at any of the pitches that were thrown low and out of the strike zone. Garcia then hit a 3-2 pitch into the hole between shortstop and third base. The third baseman bobbled the ball, causing the official scorer to rule it as an error. Because of his improved plate discipline and pitch selection, Garcia earned a well-deserved RBI during that plate appearance. In Garcia’s at-bat in the seventh inning he was a little too patient, taking a called third strike on a 2-2 count.

Curve Manager Carlos Garcia gave the outfielder a lot of credit on the work that he and hitting coach Ryan Long have put in to help see improvements at the plate.

“As the season went on he kept making adjustments,” Carlos Garcia said. “Ryan Long, our hitting coach, has done a very good job with him, teaching him to be patient, learning how the pitchers are going to attack him, and to put himself into good hitting counts. When that happens he will be able to hit more balls in the strike zone, and that’s what’s happened.”

“I am feeling really good because I am getting better. I am growing up. I’m learning [everyday], and I am feeling really good about that,” Willy Garcia said on his improvements this season, through translator Stolmy Pimentel.

Comfort at the plate has been the key for Garcia during his great second half stretch.

“I’ve been working in the cage, working with the hitting coach, and I am feeling more comfortable because I’ve been through the season. I’m feeling more comfortable in the batter’s box.”

Among Garcia’s strongest attributes are his outfield defense and his plus throwing arm. In the eighth inning on Tuesday night, he showed off his plus arm in right field by gunning out a Richmond runner trying to score from second on a single. That was Garcia’s 19th outfield assist of the season, breaking Starling Marte’s Curve record of 18 set in 2011.

After the game, Carlos Garcia had glowing remarks on the progress Willy Garcia has made this season.

“Willy is a special kid. He’s special because he gets better and better.”

Carlos Garcia has really enjoyed watching Willy play defense this year, mentioning how he has thrown guys out at third “basically from the warning track,” and that he feels very comfortable when the ball is hit out to right field because Willy “erases the running game.”

Garcia further praised Willy’s defense, saying that he takes pride in his ability to play defense, and that is why he is “one of the best in the league, and probably one of the best in baseball.” Earlier this month, Garcia was named as having the best outfield arm in the Eastern League.

The manager believes that Willy has the ability to be an everyday player in the major leagues, but still has a lot of growing to do.

“Definitely he has grown. [There are] some things that have to be cleaned up, nothing is perfect. But we are [heading] in the right path.”

“The only limit for Willy is Willy. He is the one who has to put [in] the work here, the one who has to understand how good of a ball player he can be. His attitude [and] his work ethic is what is going to push him over the other players.”

If he continues to improve his discipline in the batter’s box, Willy Garcia has all the tools to be an everyday outfielder in the Major Leagues.

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Elias Diaz Emerging as a Top Catching Prospect in the Pirates System http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/elias-diaz-emerging-as-a-top-catching-prospect-in-the-pirates-system.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/elias-diaz-emerging-as-a-top-catching-prospect-in-the-pirates-system.html#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:03:25 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=86968 The 2014 season has been a nice breakout campaign for Elias Diaz, which sees him finishing up at Triple-A and emerging as one of the best catching prospects in the system.

One of the main reason Diaz has reached this level is that he has seen tremendous progress at the plate over the last two seasons. In 326 at bats with Altoona this season, Diaz hit .328 with an .823 OPS. This included 20 doubles and six home runs. As for the approach to achieve these results, it’s simple.

“My approach is middle-away to the other field,” Diaz said. “It is about pitch selection. I look for a pitch out over the plate, that I can put a good swing on and hit it hard, that’s all.”

Pitch selection and being patient are aspects that Diaz struggled with early in his development, as the numbers and success at the dish indicate.

Diaz said that his approach leans more toward doubles at this point. However, Indianapolis hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo likes what he sees from Diaz early in the power department.

“I am really encouraged by his offense,” Pagliarulo said. “He swings the bat well and aggressively. He has a good knowledge of how to hit. He’s a tough out at the plate and his capable of driving the ball. I see him hitting the ball out of the park.”

In addition, the defense is what puts Diaz over the top as a top prospect. He has an arm that everyone who sees him raves about. Diaz has thrown out 32 percent of attempted base stealers this season and has only committed five errors.

“I work every day with my blocking, my receiving and my throwing,” Diaz said. “I try to be accurate all of the time and to be quick.”

It hasn’t taken Pagliarulo long to notice Diaz’s defensive prowess and future as well.

“He’s a talented kid, who has a lot of tools,” Pagliarulo said. “As a catcher, he has one of the better arms in the organization. He is a good, well-rounded athlete too. He’s put together well.”

Diaz said that he is looking to take the same approach and hard work from Altoona to Indianapolis and that he looks to carry over the success because of it.

Diaz got off to a solid start in the Pirates organization in the Venezuelan Summer league as an 18-year-old in 2009, hitting .272 with a .789 OPS. However, the numbers declined each year thereafter up to last season.

In 2010, he hit just .218 in the GCL and just .221 the following year with West Virginia. He went from throwing out 45 percent of attempted base stealers in the GCL to just 22 with West Virginia.

In his second year at West Virginia, his offensive numbers got even worse. He had his worst offensive season in the system as he had career lows in average at .208 and OPS at .549. He also caught just 27 percent of base stealers. Diaz got off to a terrible start, hitting just .138 through the first two months of the campaign. At this point, Diaz still looked like a long shot, but the organization stuck with him and moved him along to the next level.

After being promoted to Bradenton last season, Diaz took significant strides and rewarded the organization for the loyalty. Out of nowhere, he regained the offensive abilities that he saw in the beginning years. Diaz finished the season hitting .279 with a .781 OPS in 183 at bats. Diaz was promoted again to Altoona this season and the progression continued.

While Diaz has seen his share of struggles coming up in the Pirates organization, he seems to have found a groove both at the plate and behind it. In addition, he still has youth on his side, as he only turns 24 in November.

The Pirates have instilled so much confidence in Diaz, that they have promoted him to Indianapolis in August to get a taste of Triple-A before likely starting there in 2015. In addition, the organization has begun to play Tony Sanchez at first base to get Diaz even more at bats and time catching with Indianapolis. This is proof that the Pirates see Diaz as one of the top catching prospects in the system, and maybe the top guy in the upper levels. The way that he starts 2015, as well as the future of Russell Martin, will determine how quickly Diaz is able to see some major league time.

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Josh Bell Discusses His Move to First Base and His Knee Injury http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/josh-bell-discusses-his-move-to-first-base-and-his-knee-injury.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/08/josh-bell-discusses-his-move-to-first-base-and-his-knee-injury.html#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:57:35 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=87116 Josh Bell will be making the move to first base in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: David Hague)

Josh Bell will be making the move to first base in the Arizona Fall League. (Photo credit: David Hague)

Yesterday it was announced that Josh Bell will be playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he will play exclusively at first base.

While in Altoona, Bell had been taking reps before the games with infield coordinator Gary Green, until a bone bruise in his left knee caused him to sit out the last couple of weeks of the season. Bell said that his knee felt good, and that he was only a few days away before he can begin to ramp up his workouts.

“I’m taking a step back from the wear and tear, but it’s fundamentally and stably there, nothing to be too worried about and I’m going to be back out there in a couple of weeks,” Bell said Tuesday night.

The plan for Bell is to go to the Instructional League after the Double-A season comes to an end, and then head out to Arizona to participate in the Fall League. Bell is not worried about the time he’s missed at Altoona with this injury.

“Its awesome to [not] have a ‘season ending’ injury, because in two weeks I’m going to have some at bats in the Instructional League, and [I am going to] get some more out in the fall league.”

Bell is excited about the opportunity to play first base, saying that having the ability to play another position is going to work out in his favor.

“Just another place I can play and hopefully be a utility guy, and play everyday whether it be in the infield or the outfield, and keep my bat in the lineup.”

Bell said he has played a little first base growing up, and played shortstop up until he made his High School Varsity team. He said that his time in the infield gave him some experience with ground balls and being around the bag.

Some of the challenges Bell has to take on include being involved in more plays throughout the game and knowing where to be when the ball is hit to different spots of the field. But Bell says he is excited for these challenges.

“I’m excited to get out there [in Arizona] and do my thing, and hopefully learn all I can and be the best first baseman I can be. It boils down to another challenge that I’m ready to accept and dominate in the upcoming years.”

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