Pirates Prospects » Top Performers http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:02:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Top Performers: Gregory Polanco Wasn’t the Only Hitter With a Huge Week http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-gregory-polanco-wasnt-the-only-hitter-with-a-huge-week.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-gregory-polanco-wasnt-the-only-hitter-with-a-huge-week.html#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:48:40 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76475 Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. Players who spent time at different levels are counted multiple times, once for each level, rather than combining their stats. Notes on the top ten players from the last week can be found below the chart.

*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).

The Top Ten

1. Gregory Polanco – You probably didn’t need to read this article to know that Polanco was the top hitter in the system this week. You could probably tell that due to the fact that he was a permanent fixture in the featured area at the top of the site for the last week, with highlights every day. Polanco went 14-for-28 with a double, two triples, and a homer, winning the International League Batter of the Week award in the process. Last year, there were only four better weeks during the entire season. Two of those weeks came from Stetson Allie, and only one week came in Triple-A (Jeff Larish). The week that Polanco had will probably end up as one of the top five hitting weeks in the Pirates’ minor league system this season.

Erich Weiss (left) and Andrew Lambo (right) also had huge weeks in the minors this past week. Photo Credits: WTM (Weiss), David Hague (Lambo)

Erich Weiss (left) and Andrew Lambo (right) also had huge weeks in the minors this past week. Photo Credits: WTM (Weiss), David Hague (Lambo)

2. Erich Weiss – Polanco got all of the hype, but down in West Virginia, Erich Weiss quietly had a strong week. The Pirates drafted Weiss out of the University of Texas in the 11th round last year, giving him an over-slot bonus of $305,000 for his bat. This past week he made that decision look smart, going 13-for-26 with four doubles and an inside the park grand slam. Weiss, who is now playing second base after Wyatt Mathisen took over at third, is riding an eight game hitting streak.

3. Andrew Lambo – Gregory Polanco even over-shadowed an amazing performance on his own team. Andrew Lambo has started hitting again, going 11-for-22 with three doubles and a triple in the last week, taking the number three spot. Lambo hasn’t hit a home run for a while, although his focus has been letting the ball get deeper in the zone, and hitting to the opposite fields. Ryan Palencer had a feature on Lambo over the weekend, looking at the adjustments he has been making since being sent to Triple-A.

4. Gift Ngoepe – He’s the best defensive infielder in the system, although Alen Hanson’s presence in Altoona means that Ngoepe is playing mostly second base, rather than shortstop. That’s not a problem, as he doesn’t need the defensive work. He needs work with the bat, and so far the results have been mixed. He’s hitting well, with a .310/.444/.414 line in 29 at-bats so far this season. However, his poor strikeout issues are still there, with a 27% strikeout rate. That’s down from his 31.7% strikeout rate last year in Double-A, but still an issue. Ngoepe draws a lot of walks, and gets on base due to his speed. He’s got a shot to be a backup shortstop in the majors, but he’s going to need the bat to help him get there.

5. Mel Rojas – The biggest knock against Rojas in the past has been a lack of consistency. He would have a good game or two, then would go on a prolonged cold streak. Last year he did a much better job of staying consistent in Altoona, but not enough to move up to Indianapolis. So far this year, Rojas has a hit in eight of his nine games, and has a .323/.364/.452 line in 31 at-bats on the season. His strikeouts are also down so far, with his 18.2% strikeout rate being the lowest of his career.

6. JaCoby Jones – He was drafted as an outfielder, but the Pirates are switching him to shortstop full time this year. Jones is very athletic and has a lot of speed, so it seems likely that he can handle the position. The intriguing thing is how his bat can play at the position. So far he has a .308/.349/.487 line in 39 at-bats with West Virginia. That kind of production from the shortstop position is good to have. At the time of the draft there was some talk that he could need a big adjustment with his swing, but so far in the pros he has done nothing but hit, which means he might not need that major overhaul.

7. Josh Bell – Last year, Bell had a good season, but his success was quiet and didn’t lead to a huge breakout like we saw from other prospects in the system. This year he has the opportunity to be a big breakout prospect, and so far he’s off to a good start. Bell has a .343/.378/.571 line in 35 at-bats in the young season, with three doubles, a triple, and a homer. He hasn’t been walking a lot, with a 5.4% walk rate, down from 10% last year. That should improve, especially if he keeps hitting everything and stops getting pitches in the strike zone.

8. Danny Collins – With the injuries to Harold Ramirez, Barrett Barnes, and Austin Meadows, Collins has gotten a lot of time in the outfield this year. He was drafted as a first baseman, and had some power potential, hitting seven homers in 228 at-bats with Jamestown last year. He has done a better job this year of getting on base, but so far the power has been limited to doubles. Collins doesn’t have an easy road to the majors, but he will have an easier time if he can handle the outfield, as his bat doesn’t project to carry him as a first baseman.

9. Jarek Cunningham – Cunningham is in Altoona for the third season, but this time he’s showing something a little different. He’s actually drawing walks, with a 16.7% walk rate so far, way up from his career best of 8.9% in 2012. His strikeout rate is also at 20%, which is his best rate since rookie ball in 2008. He’s still not hitting for average, but his OBP and power is giving him value. He’s also adding value by playing third base this year. A skeptical view of Cunningham would say that these types of improvements are expected after two years at a level, or that they’re a result of a small sample size, and that the large sample from the last two years is a bigger indication of his skill. That said, he’s still young enough to have a chance at a breakout season, even if that would be viewed with skepticism until he had success in Triple-A.

10. Stetson Allie – Allie started to hit this week, going 6-for-23 with two doubles and a home run. The most encouraging sign is that his strikeout rate so far is at 21.9%, which is well below his 28.9% in High-A last year. Allie’s power could allow him to easily make the majors with a strikeout rate that low. He’s also drawing a good amount of walks, with a 12.5% walk rate. In the future, Allie projects to be a three true outcomes player, with a low average, a lot of walks, a lot of strikeouts, and a lot of home runs. However, typically guys who are three true outcome guys in the minors don’t go on to play that same role in the majors. As an example, Pedro Alvarez had a 22.9% strikeout rate in Altoona, and has a career 30.3% strikeout rate in the majors. Allie is going to need to continue keeping the strikeouts low in the minors.

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Top Performers: Is Orlando Castro a Lefty Starter to Watch? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-is-orlando-castro-a-lefty-starter-to-watch.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-is-orlando-castro-a-lefty-starter-to-watch.html#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=76444 Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten scores are highlighted in the write-up below. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

In terms of pitching game scores, anything that scores a 65 or better is considered a “gem”. The Pirates farm system had two “gems” this week. Five of their starters had game scores of 60 or higher. Both of these totals are down from last week, when the Pirates had five gems and eight pitchers at 60 or higher. Here are the top performers.

1. Orlando Castro – Last year, Castro was constantly at the top of this list during his time in the West Virginia rotation. He looks to be off to a good start in Bradenton this year, with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, along with an 11:0 K/BB ratio. The path he is taking in High-A is similar to his route through low-A. He mostly pitched out of the bullpen during his first run through West Virginia, and the results were just decent. He finally made the jump to the rotation, where he was dominant. Then he moved up to High-A, where he switched back to the bullpen after struggling in the rotation at first. Once again, the results were alright, but nothing like how he ended his time in West Virginia. Now it looks like he’s back to dominating after he’s had some experience in the league.

This type of path usually raises questions about the success, since it could be fueled by familiarity with a league. Castro has better stuff than most left-handers, but gets a lot of his results with good control and off-speed stuff. That’s generally going to lead to great numbers in A-ball, but that approach becomes more common in the upper levels, and thus it becomes harder for a guy like Castro to continue this type of success. If he does continue this success, he should get a shot at Double-A by the end of the season.

2. Jason Creasy – He threw six shutout innings on Sunday, giving up a walk and four hits. So far, Creasy has a 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings over three starts. He’s not dominating with strikeouts, putting up just a 5:5 K/BB ratio so far. Creasy generates a lot of ground balls, and so far this year his GO/AO ratio of 1.62 is the best of his career, beating out last year’s 1.20 in West Virginia. Creasy was an eighth round pick in the 2011 draft that has produced Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, and Clay Holmes.

3. Nick Kingham – This is the second week in a row that Kingham has put up one of the top three stat lines in the system. He gave up one run on three hits in six innings, with three walks and four strikeouts. The walks have been an issue with Kingham since jumping to Double-A. So far in Altoona, between last year and this year, he has a 3.8 BB/9 ratio. That’s not horrible, but it’s well above the 1.8 BB/9 ratio he had in Bradenton last year, and the 2.6 BB/9 that he had in West Virginia in 2012. Kingham has some of the best fastball command in the system, so I don’t expect these control issues to last.

4. Jeff Locke – Locke made his final rehab start in Bradenton this week, striking out ten batters in six innings of work to land in the top five. After the start, he was moved up to Indianapolis to continue his rehab. I detailed Locke’s rehab start here.

5. Casey Sadler – For the second week in a row, Sadler put up a game score of 62. This time he gave up two runs in seven innings, with a 5:2 K/BB ratio. So far this year he has a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings over two starts, with an 8:3 K/BB ratio. Sadler is a sinkerball pitcher, and his game revolves around getting ground balls. He has done a good job in that regard, with a 1.80 GO/AO ratio in his first two games. He had a 1.74 GO/AO ratio in Altoona last year.

6. Adrian Sampson – Sampson is a guy to watch, possessing the stuff to be a Major League starter, and possibly a sleeper middle of the rotation guy if it all clicks. He had a great start in Altoona this week, giving up one run on three hits in five innings, with four strikeouts and two walks. Sampson had good control last year in Bradenton, but was hit around too much. So far this year he has been limiting the damage.

7. Adam Wilk – With Jameson Taillon and Jeff Locke out at the start of the season, Wilk was one of two minor league free agents who received a rotation spot. Now that Locke has returned to Indianapolis, there’s only one spot remaining. It looks like Wilk could keep that spot, especially with more starts like we saw this past week. The lefty gave up three runs on four hits in six innings, with one walk and seven strikeouts.

8. Buddy Borden – Borden is a high upside right-hander with a fastball that can hit 96 MPH. This week he threw five shutout innings, giving up one walk and striking out four. Borden was drafted out of college last year, and is starting the season in West Virginia. If he keeps putting up strong numbers, he could be a candidate to move up to Bradenton during the second half of the season.

9. Dovydas Neverauskas – The tall right-hander from Lithuania had two great starts this week, combining for a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings, with a 9:4 K/BB ratio. Neverauskas is 21 years old, and consistently hits 95 MPH on the radar gun, although his control does escape him from time to time. The start that got him on this list was the second one, on Sunday, when he gave up one run on four hits in five innings, with a walk and four strikeouts.

10. Pat Ludwig – He didn’t technically start, but Ludwig did pitch an extended role out of the bullpen in a piggyback situation. After Chad Kuhl struggled, Ludwig came on for four innings, giving up one run on three hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. He gave up a home run to the first batter he saw for the lone run, then settled down after that, looking great the rest of his outing.

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Top Performers: Homers For Polanco, Bell, Jhang, and Osuna in Week One http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-homers-for-polanco-bell-jhang-and-osuna-in-week-one.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-homers-for-polanco-bell-jhang-and-osuna-in-week-one.html#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 14:00:47 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=75897 Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. Players who spent time at different levels are counted multiple times, once for each level, rather than combining their stats. Notes on the top ten players from the last week can be found below the chart.

*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).

The Top Ten

1. Jordan Steranka – He was born in Pittsburgh and he went to Penn State, so a lot of Pirates fans are going to want to pull for him. However, he’s coming off a year where he had a .610 OPS in West Virginia, with a 34.2% strikeout rate. He was drafted as a college senior and is already 24 in A-ball. It was a good start for Steranka, but the numbers and his age say that he’s not going to keep this up, and won’t be a prospect beyond A-ball.

2. Jin-De Jhang – Jhang is one of the top catching prospects in the system, and currently has a lot more value with his bat. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the system, and has the power potential for 15-20 home runs per year one day in the Majors. He skipped over West Virginia due to Reese McGuire being at the level, and will try his bat at an advanced level. So far, so good.

3. Jose Osuna – The Pirates don’t have many first base prospects, so they need guys like Osuna to do well. He was one of four Latin American breakout candidates in West Virginia in 2012, and while he had some success, it wasn’t nearly as good as Gregory Polanco or Alen Hanson. They all moved up to Bradenton last year, and while Polanco and Hanson moved on to the upper levels, Osuna struggled and returned to Bradenton this year. If he hits well during the first half of the 2014 season, he could end up in Altoona during the second half.

4. Jonathan Schwind – He’s a lower level utility player who had a big game on Sunday, hitting a grand slam to give the Marauders a huge boost (the RBIs don’t count towards his game score). He’s off to a good start in a small sample of at-bats, but like Steranka, his recent history in West Virginia (.577 OPS last year) suggests he won’t keep this up.

5. Gregory Polanco – Polanco capped off his first week by going 3-for-5 with a home run on Sunday. He didn’t waste any time hitting in Indianapolis. Travis Snider is currently batting .300 in the majors, although it’s all singles so far. Jose Tabata has just 11 at-bats and a .748 OPS. Both guys are doing a good job of getting on base, with a .364 OBP for Snider and a .385 OBP for Tabata. They’re splitting time in the number two spot, and that’s what the Pirates need from that spot. It’s a small sample size, and they’re going to need to keep that up, especially if Polanco continues hitting in the minors.

6. Elias Diaz – He’s got great defensive skills behind the plate, with an athletic frame and a strong arm. Diaz also has a good bat, although his hitting has been on the raw side in recent years. He got off to a good start in his first two games in Altoona, although it’s just five at-bats. Diaz comes with the same disclaimer as Steranka and Schwind. He hasn’t been productive offensively in the past, so he’ll need to show this is real before the offense can be trusted. A big difference is that Diaz is younger and still developing his game, while getting used to playing against upper level talent.

7. Chris Dickerson – Dickerson showed off some gap power this week, getting four hits, and watching all of them go for doubles. He’s got a chance to be a depth option in the majors if the Pirates need a bench outfielder, although Jaff Decker might be ahead of him since Decker is on the 40-man roster.

8. Brent Morel – The Pirates don’t have much third base depth behind Pedro Alvarez, with their only true third baseman being Morel. He hasn’t had success with the bat in his time in the majors. Even if he hits in Triple-A, it will come with the disclaimer that he needs to show that same success in the big leagues. But it’s good to see him hitting in Triple-A, even if it is a small sample size.

9. Josh Bell – Last year Bell quietly had a good season, hitting 37 doubles and 13 home runs in 459 at-bats. Those aren’t the monster numbers that were expected out of him when he was drafted. He’s off to a great start in his first half week in Bradenton, hitting a double and a homer in his first 13 at-bats. Bell is another guy who the Pirates need to see break out. They don’t need him as an outfielder, but if he speeds up his ascent to the majors, he could move to first base and be the long-term solution there. The hitting needs to break out before a switch to another position.

10. Blake Davis – Davis joined Indianapolis on Saturday, replacing Robert Andino, who went on the disabled list. In his first two games he hit well, going 4-for-9 with two walks. Davis is upper level organizational depth, used as a filler for the upper levels of the minors in cases like this.

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Top Performers: Even Without Taillon and Glasnow, Pirates Get Strong Pitching http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-even-without-taillon-and-glasnow-pirates-get-strong-pitching.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/04/top-performers-even-without-taillon-and-glasnow-pirates-get-strong-pitching.html#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=75877 Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. Normally in this weekly article, the top ten scores would be the only ones included in the write-up below. Since this was a shortened week, only the top five starts are broken down below the chart. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

In terms of pitching game scores, anything that scores a 65 or better is considered a “gem”. The Pirates farm system had five “gems” in 15 starts during the first week of the season. Eight of their pitchers this week had a score of 60 or higher, which is impressive when you consider that the top two pitching prospects in the system (Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow) currently aren’t pitching.

Nick Kingham threw six shutout innings in his 2014 debut.

Nick Kingham threw six shutout innings in his 2014 debut.

Leading the group this week were Nick Kingham and Jake Brigham, who both had game scores of 69. Kingham threw six shutout innings in his season debut on Sunday, giving up three walks and three hits and striking out six. Brigham made his season debut for Indianapolis on Saturday, and struck out nine batters in six innings, with no walks and four hits.

Between the two, Kingham is the higher rated prospect. His outing was impressive when you consider the events that led up to the outing. Kingham had his first start rained out on Thursday, and the next attempt at that game was rained out on Friday. After taking a day off, Kingham tried again on Sunday. Pitchers usually stick to a strict routine, and the fact that Kingham was able to put up those numbers when his routine was thrown off was impressive.

As for Brigham, what he did was also impressive. He doesn’t have a lot of upside — signed as a minor league free agent over the off-season — although he could be a depth option for the Pirates in the majors this year. He’s got a better shot of reaching the majors as a reliever, since he would need about eight starting pitchers to go down before he would get a shot in the rotation.

Right behind those two was Cody Dickson with a game score of 68. The left-hander was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, and is a big sleeper to watch this year. He started off strong, throwing five shutout innings with three hits, no walks, and seven strikeouts. Dickson has a great breaking pitch, so the strikeouts aren’t surprising. What was surprising was that he went without giving up a walk. One big knock on him is a lack of control at times with his fastball. If he can fix the fastball control, and develop a good changeup, he could be a number three starter in the majors one day.

John Kuchno and Chad Kuhl had strong outings in the Bradenton rotation. Kuchno was drafted in the 18th round of the 2012 draft out of college, and was one of three players who received over-slot money after Mark Appel didn’t sign. He’s a hard thrower who profiles better in the long-term as a reliever, although he will get plenty of opportunities in the rotation in A-ball. Kuchno threw five no-hit innings, walking three and striking out two for a game score of 66.

Kuhl is another college pitcher, taken in the 9th round of the 2013 draft. He’s a sinkerball pitcher who works in the low-to-mid 90s, and has had a lot of success in his early career. He made the jump over West Virginia right to Bradenton this year, and had a great debut, throwing five shutout innings with two hits and two strikeouts for a game score of 65. Kuhl really worked his sinker, getting an 11:2 GO/FO ratio. While Kuchno profiles more as a reliever in the long-term, Kuhl has a chance at being a starter, especially being a sinkerball guy in the Pirates’ system.

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Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-prospects-2013-minor-league-pitcher-of-the-year.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-prospects-2013-minor-league-pitcher-of-the-year.html#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 19:12:56 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=65939 Tyler Glasnow is the Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Tyler Glasnow is the Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

The Pittsburgh Pirates have placed a large focus on pitching in recent years, either through the draft, international markets, or in the free agent bargain bin. For that reason, you’d expect a lot of competition each year for the top performing pitcher in the system. There were a lot of strong candidates this year. Kris Johnson put up a 2.39 ERA in 135.2 innings of work, and was the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month in both June and July. Nick Kingham combined for a 2.89 ERA in 143.1 innings between High-A and Double-A, with a 144:44 K/BB ratio. Joely Rodriguez posted a 2.70 ERA in 140 innings between two levels of A-ball, with a 101:39 K/BB ratio.

In previous years, any of those guys would have been the top pitching option. This year there was another pitcher who went above and beyond everyone else.

Tyler Glasnow dominated the competition in West Virginia, posting a 2.18 ERA in 111.1 innings of work. Even more impressive was the fact that he put up 164 strikeouts in that time. Glasnow’s ERA was the best in the system among all pitchers with 80+ innings. He also had the most strikeouts in the system. For his overall dominance this year, Tyler Glasnow is the Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Glasnow didn’t just dominate the Pirates system. His numbers were some of the best in baseball. He ranked first overall in the South Atlantic League in strikeouts. Second place had 20 fewer strikeouts and 31 more innings, while also being two years older than Glasnow. His 13.3 K/9 ratio ranked second in the league to Rafael De Paula, who had a 13.4 K/9 in 64.1 innings as a 22-year-old. Glasnow also ranked high in the SAL in hits per nine (3rd place, 4.4), ERA (13th place, 2.18), and WHIP (17th, 1.033). On the flip side, he had control issues, and his 61 walks were tied for sixth most in the league. In all of minor league baseball, Glasnow ranked 4th in strikeouts. His 13.3 K/9 was the best among qualified pitchers in all of minor league baseball.

Glasnow had a banner year in the Pirates system with his strikeout totals. His 164 strikeouts were the most in the system since Tom Gorzelanny struck out 167 in 148.2 innings in 2004. Gorzelanny did that between low-A and high-A at the age of 21, which is two years older than Glasnow. No Pirates starter has put up a 13.3 K/9 ratio since 1969. Prior to that, strikeout numbers weren’t available in the lower levels on Baseball Reference. From 1969-2013, only three other pitchers with 40+ innings have posted a 13.3 K/9 ratio or better:

2003 – Henry Owens: 13.5 K/9, 48.2 IP

2010 – Diego Moreno: 13.5 K/9, 46 IP

2013: Jhondaniel Medina: 13.3 K/9, 46 IP

The only close competition for Glasnow this year was Kris Johnson. However, Glasnow had a lower ERA, WHIP, and many more strikeouts. Johnson’s advantage was that the had more innings at a higher level. However, he is also old for his level and has been there before, while Glasnow is young for his level, and in his first time in A-ball. Glasnow should move to Bradenton to start the 2014 season, and could make it to Double-A by the end of the season, similar to the path that guys like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Nick Kingham have taken in the last few years.

Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Pitchers of the Year

2012 – Jeff Locke

2011 – Kyle McPherson

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Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Player of the Year http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-prospects-2013-minor-league-player-of-the-year.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/pirates-prospects-2013-minor-league-player-of-the-year.html#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 17:53:11 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=65929 Andrew Lambo blasted 32 home runs to become the Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Andrew Lambo blasted 32 home runs to become the Pirates Prospects 2013 Minor League Player of the Year. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

In previous years there has been a debate over the top performing hitting prospect in the system. In 2011 it was Starling Marte vs Robbie Grossman. In 2012 it was Gregory Polanco vs Alen Hanson. This year there was no debate. Andrew Lambo was clearly the top performer this year among hitting prospects in the Pirates system, and is the Pirates Prospects Minor League Player of the Year.

Lambo combined for a .282/.347/.574 line in 444 at-bats this year between Double-A and Triple-A, hitting 32 home runs on the season. He led the Pirates’ minor league system in homers (32), RBIs (99), slugging percentage (.574), OPS (.922), and total bases (255). The counting stats are the most impressive part, since Lambo spent time at the end of the season in Pittsburgh, playing in only three minor league games after August 11th.

He started out back in Altoona, which is a level where he has spent a lot of time in previous years. This year marked the sixth season where Lambo has spent part of the year in Double-A. The results this time were much different. Lambo had a .291/.351/.559 line in 220 at-bats, with 14 homers. His previous high in home runs at the Double-A level was 11 in 492 at-bats in 2009. Prior to this season he had a 35.75 AB/HR ratio at the Double-A level. This year he had a 15.71 AB/HR ratio. The difference is 20 home runs over a 550 at-bat season.

There was some concern that Lambo’s numbers were a result of so much time at the level, and that he might struggle in a new level. Instead, he only got better by moving to Triple-A. In his time with Indianapolis, Lambo hit for a .272/.344/.589 line in 224 at-bats, with 18 homers. Even though he only played half a season, Lambo led Indianapolis in home runs, with the next closest hitter having five fewer home runs. Even more impressive, Lambo was tied for the tenth most home runs in the International League. The players tied with him or ahead of him had anywhere from 100-300 more at-bats at the level.

Lambo finished tied for 5th this year in all of minor league baseball with his 32 home runs. The amount of homers was also the most any Pirates minor leaguer has hit since Brad Eldred hit 38 in 2004 between High-A and Double-A. Jon Benick hit 32 that year in Low-A. Lambo was the first Pirates minor leaguer to hit 20 or more home runs since Brandon Moss hit 22 in 2010. Stetson Allie also hit more than 20 homers this year. Other notable home run totals that Lambo passed were Pedro Alvarez’s 27 in 2009 (High-A/AA) and Steve Pearce’s 31 in 2007 (High-A, Double-A, Triple-A).

The performance this year was enough to get Lambo a shot in the majors. However, due to strong performance by Jose Tabata in August, and the trade for Marlon Byrd at the end of the month, Lambo has been limited to just 25 plate appearances, with a .638 OPS in that time. He could get more of a shot next year at the age of 25. Alex Presley was recently traded, and Travis Snider is arbitration eligible this off-season and is a non-tender candidate due to his performance this year. That would make Lambo one of the top options if the Pirates don’t seek outside help.

Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Players of the Year

2012 – Gregory Polanco

2011 – Starling Marte

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Jason Creasy is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month For August http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/jason-creasy-is-the-pirates-prospects-pitcher-of-the-month-for-august.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/jason-creasy-is-the-pirates-prospects-pitcher-of-the-month-for-august.html#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 18:36:45 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=65731 Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. This year we will also be recapping each month in order to award the Pitcher and Player of the month. Below are the average pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the month of August and the first few days of September. The rankings include every pitcher who made at least four starts for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility. The Game Score listed is the average of all of their Game Scores for the month.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

Pitcher of the Month

Jason Creasy is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for the month of August.

Jason Creasy is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for the month of August.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot of strong performances from pitchers in the final month of the season. Top prospects like Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow all put up strong performances. A lot of the guys in West Virginia and Jamestown put up dominant numbers in August and September. So this month was one of the most difficult to choose a Pitcher of the Month.

Jason Creasy posted a 1.59 ERA in 34 innings during that time stretch. He also had a 31:4 K/BB ratio. His strikeouts are tied for fourth in the system since the start of August, and he had the second best ERA of players with 25+ innings during that span. For that reason, Jason Creasy is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for August.

Creasy started the year in the West Virginia bullpen, pitching multiple innings. He moved to the rotation mid-season, and put up some great numbers in the second half. Creasy had a 2.42 ERA in 13 starts, with a 55:17 K/BB ratio. Creasy was hitting 94 MPH out of the bullpen with his two-seam fastball, but was 89-92 as a starter. He added a slider at the end of last season, which has led to more ground balls and more strikeouts. Last year without the slider he had a 4.8 K/9 ratio in 54.1 innings and had an 0.91 GO/AO ratio. This year he had an 8.0 K/9 ratio in 108.1 innings, with a 1.20 GO/AO ratio.

Creasy is one of the prep pitchers from the 2011 draft class. He’s over-shadowed by fellow 2011 prep pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Clay Holmes, as well as 2011 picks like Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, and Alex Dickerson. Creasy doesn’t have the stuff of Glasnow or Holmes, but he knows how to pitch. He has great command of his two-seam fastball, which features good movement, and now that he’s added an out pitch he’s looking like a guy with a major league future. He doesn’t have the upside of Glasnow or Holmes, but he could be a back of the rotation starter or a power reliever.

The Other Candidates

Tyler Glasnow had one of the most dominant months in the system this year. He posted a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings, with 36 strikeouts. The strikeouts were second in the system to Jameson Taillon, who needed 37 innings to strikeout 37 batters in Triple-A. The most impressive thing is that Glasnow only gave up seven hits, thanks in large part to ten no-hit innings in his final two starts. The Pirates pushed Glasnow back a few times to limit his innings, and because of that he only had 19 innings since the start of August, which is why Jason Creasy got the edge.

Luis Heredia also had a strong month with West Virginia. The right-hander posted a 1.82 ERA in 34.2 innings, with a 33:17 K/BB ratio. His strikeouts were third in the system during that time, behind Taillon and Glasnow. Heredia’s walks have been an issue this year, but outside of the control problems he’s been posting good numbers. Considering he’s a year younger than Glasnow, and pitching at the same level, his numbers so far have been very encouraging.

Buddy Borden was drafted in the seventh round this year, and was one of the last guys to sign. He had a great debut, putting up a 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings this year, with a 23:5 K/BB ratio. All of his innings came since the start of August. He eventually moved into the rotation, and could be an option for the West Virginia rotation next year, with a chance to move to Bradenton at some point in the year.

Cody Dickson had one of the most impressive seasons out of the pitchers from the 2013 draft class. Dickson finished strong, posting a 1.57 ERA in 28.2 innings, with a 25:9 K/BB ratio. The fourth round pick had a 2.37 ERA in 57 innings this year, with a 59:24 K/BB ratio.

Cody Dickson

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Austin Meadows is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month For August http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/austin-meadows-is-the-pirates-prospects-player-of-the-month-for-august.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/09/austin-meadows-is-the-pirates-prospects-player-of-the-month-for-august.html#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 15:55:20 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=65730 Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. This year we will also be recapping each month in order to award the Pitcher and Player of the month. Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the month of August and the first few days of September. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, not including DSL teams, and with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. Players who spent time at different levels are counted multiple times, once for each level, rather than combining their stats.

*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).

 

Player of the Month

Austin Meadows is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for August.

Austin Meadows is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for August.

Austin Meadows had a huge finish to his first professional season. The first round pick hit for a combined .346/.452/.577 line with five homers in 104 at-bats from August to the end of the season. Meadows finished up the season in the Gulf Coast League, then was promoted to Jamestown for their final week. While in Jamestown, Meadows went 9-for-17 with two homers and five walks. The combined effort was more than enough for Meadows to take the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month award for August.

The Pirates drafted Meadows in the first round with the ninth overall pick, which was the pick they received as compensation for not signing Mark Appel. He got off to a slow start in the GCL, with a .143 average and a .516 OPS in his first nine games. However, he picked things up in mid-July, going on a nine game hitting streak and never slowing down. Meadows finished with a .294/.399/.519 line in the GCL, which is impressive considering how pitcher friendly the league is.

Meadows led the GCL Pirates with five homers, 24 walks, a .519 slugging percentage, and a .918 OPS. He tied Danny Arribas for first with a .399 OBP. He also had the most total bases with 83, and led the team in outfield assists with 3. In the entire league, Meadows had the second most home runs. Five players had six, and five other players had five home runs. He ranked seventh in the league in slugging percentage, sixth in OPS, and fifth in total bases.

Even more impressive, Meadows was only with Jamestown for five games, but tied for fourth with home runs. Only Danny Collins (7), Harold Ramirez (5), and Jin-De Jhang (5) had more than two homers for Jamestown this year, playing in another pitcher friendly league. Meadows should be on pace to start the 2014 season in West Virginia.

The Other Candidates

Meadows did so well this month that he was a pretty easy candidate. However, there were some other players who had notable performances and would have drawn consideration in any other month.

Justin Howard continued to impress with his hitting, putting up a .301/.351/.534 line, with 5 homers in 103 at-bats. Howard posted an .864 OPS in 283 at-bats this season. He started getting increased playing time in June, and posted an OPS over .900 in two of his final three months of the season. Howard combined for a .335/.419/.485 line in his final three months in Altoona, along with seven homers in 233 at-bats.

Josh Bell hit for a .286/.381/.469 line with four homers in 98 at-bats in August and September. Bell finished his first full season with 13 home runs and 37 doubles.

Mel Rojas hit for a .282/.333/.456 line in 103 at-bats, with two homers, six doubles, and three triples. Rojas had been inconsistent this year, which has been the story of his career. However, he finished on a strong note, heavily fueled by a five game hitting streak to end the season, and hits in 12 of his final 14 games.

Gift Ngoepe had surprising numbers in his return to high-A. He hit for a .306/.438/.447 line in 85 at-bats. Ngoepe still struggled with his strikeouts, which is going to make it hard in the future for him to have success at the plate in the upper levels.

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Top Performers: Glasnow’s Outing One of the Most Dominant of the Year http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/08/top-performers-glasnows-outing-one-of-the-most-dominant-of-the-year.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/08/top-performers-glasnows-outing-one-of-the-most-dominant-of-the-year.html#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 19:06:23 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=64583 Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten and the bottom five starts are broken down below the chart. The top five short season pitchers are also highlighted in a separate group, since most of those guys only go 4-5 innings max, and don’t have a good chance of being highlighted in the top ten. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

The Top Ten

Tyler Glasnow struck out 13 in five no-hit innings. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Tyler Glasnow struck out 13 in five no-hit innings. (Photo Credit: Tom Bragg)

Tyler Glasnow had one of the most dominant performances of the year this past week. The right-hander threw five no-hit innings, but it wasn’t the lack of hits that made him un-hittable. The right-hander struck out 13 batters out of his 15 outs on the day. Only two players put the ball in play. One was a ground out and one was a fly out. Glasnow did have some control issues, walking five batters, but most of that came in the first two innings. He settled down after that, striking out nine of his final 11 batters. The performance put him number one on the Baseball America hot sheet last week and also made him the top pitcher of the week. This was the second time Glasnow was the top pitcher of the week. He’s consistently in the top ten, but his innings limits this year have prevented him from taking the top scores a lot of weeks. This was also his best game score of the year.

Glasnow beat out Stolmy Pimentel, who has been at the top of the weekly performances all year this year. Pimentel threw seven shutout innings for Indianapolis, giving up four hits, one walk, and striking out six. I reviewed Pimentel’s innings over the weekend, and noted that he might not be a starting option for the Pirates in September since he already is well beyond his career high in innings. I could still see him as a bullpen option down the stretch to get some major league experience, especially since he is out of options next year.

Kyle Haynes made the move to the rotation in West Virginia last month, and has been excellent ever since. Haynes threw seven innings, giving up two runs, one earned this week. He also struck out seven and walked one. That was his longest outing, passing 6.2 innings in the previous start. Haynes had a second start this week where he gave up three unearned runs in five innings.

Pat Ludwig is another pitcher who made the move from the bullpen to the rotation recently. Ludwig made two starts this week, combining to give up one run in 13 innings to take the fourth and fifth best game scores. Last week Ludwig threw seven shutout innings and was the FSL Pitcher of the Week. He could very well win the award on back to back weeks due to his starts this week. I was at one of the starts, and had a recap of Ludwig’s performance.

2013 second round pick Blake Taylor has pitched well this year. Taylor went four perfect innings this week, striking out four to take the fifth best score. Taylor made his start one week after his 18th birthday. The lefty has a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings this year, with a 13:9 K/BB ratio.

Bryton Trepagnier stepped in for West Virginia this week in extended relief after Clay Holmes was bounced from his start early. Trepagnier threw 4.1 shutout innings, walking two and striking out four to give him the seventh best score of the week. Fellow West Virginia starter Luis Heredia was right behind him, throwing five shutout innings the night before, with three hits, two walks, and six strikeouts.

The top eight starters threw “gems” this week (65 game score or better) which came after the top ten starters threw “gems” last week.

Graham Godfrey had the ninth best score of the week. Godfrey threw 4.2 shutout innings for Indianapolis, piggybacking with Andy Oliver. The Pirates could call up several starters from the Indianapolis rotation when rosters expand. When that happens, Godfrey could be one of the playoff starters, as Indianapolis clinched the playoffs this past week.

Cody Dickson rounded out the top ten, throwing five shutout innings, with four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. The 2013 fourth round pick has a 2.49 ERA in 47 innings, with a 48:19 K/BB ratio. This was the fifth time in the last six starts that he has gone five innings without an earned run.

Short-Season Top Five

Blake Taylor and Cody Dickson were in the top ten.

Melvin Del Rosario has been throwing multiple innings in relief in the GCL. This week he went three shutout innings in a piggyback start, giving up one hit, no walks, and striking out five for the third best short-season score.

Buddy Borden made his first start with Jamestown, throwing three shutout innings with one hit and four strikeouts. Borden was taken in the seventh round this year and was one of the last picks to sign.

Chad Kuhl had two starts this week, combining to give up three runs, one earned, on nine hits in ten innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. His first start of the week tied with Billy Roth for the fifth best short-season score. The second start of the week was one point behind the first one.

As for Billy Roth, he threw four shutout innings, giving up two walks, two hits, and striking out one. I wrote about the start here.

The Bottom Five

Nate Baker gave up seven runs on 11 hits in five innings to take the worst score of the week. This is the second week in a row that Baker has been in the bottom five.

Eliecer Navarro also struggled for Altoona, giving up five runs in 3.1 innings for the second worst score.

Andy Oliver returned to the rotation last week and had a good start with no control issues. The control problems returned this week, as Oliver walked three in three innings, giving up four runs in the process.

Cody Dickson had a start in the top ten, but also had a start earlier in the week that was in the bottom five. Dickson gave up five runs in 3.2 innings.

Clay Holmes has been pitching great in the second half, but had a bad start this week. He gave up three runs, two earned, in 1.2 innings to take the fifth worst score.

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Top Performers: Buckner Showing Off His Power; Hanson Heating Up in Altoona http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/08/top-performers-buckner-showing-off-his-power-hanson-heating-up-in-altoona.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/08/top-performers-buckner-showing-off-his-power-hanson-heating-up-in-altoona.html#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 18:13:01 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=64582 Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, not including DSL teams, and with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. Players who spent time at different levels are counted multiple times, once for each level, rather than combining their stats. Notes on the top ten players from the last week can be found below the chart.

*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).

Nick Buckner was the top hitter in the system this week.

Nick Buckner was the top hitter in the system this week.

The Pirates drafted Nick Buckner in the 14th round of the 2013 draft, and signed him to an above-slot $135,000 bonus. That amount was surprising, as Buckner was seen as a difficult sign, and in the end he only cost the Pirates $35,000 against their draft pool. He was highly touted for his raw power and quick bat. There were also concerns that his swing was long, and that he lacked the ability to make contact. So far this season, Buckner has shown some concerns at the plate, hitting for a .248/.298/.358 line in 137 at-bats, with 38 strikeouts (28%).

Buckner has picked up the production in the last week. He was the top hitter in the system this week, going 10-for-23 with three doubles and a homer. In the last few weeks he has been hitting for a .297/.333/.453 line with five doubles, a triple, and a homer, showing off some of his power potential. The downside is that his strikeouts have been bad, and have only gotten worse lately, with a 33% rate in his last ten games. He’s also not drawing a lot of walks. None of this is a huge concern at the moment. Buckner is only 17 and just out of high school. He’s a project for the long-term, and considering the outfield depth, he’s a bonus if he does put it all together. At this point it’s better to see him showing signs of his power, and the concern about his strikeouts isn’t as big of a concern due to the age.

If the season ended today, West Virginia would be in the South Atlantic League playoffs. A big reason why they are in the spot they’re in right now has been their impressive pitching this year. However, they’ve had a few organizational players step up with some production lately, including three guys in the top five this week. Francisco Diaz went 7-f0r-14 with a double, triple, and a homer to take the second best score. Jimmy Rider just joined the team and went 5-for-9 with a double and two homers last week for the third best score. Raul Fortunato had the fifth best score, going 11-for-29 with three doubles.

Enyel Vallejo has been impressive in the GCL this month. In the last week he went 11-for-28 with three doubles and a triple. Vallejo is an athletic fielder who started out at shortstop and has been playing more outfield in the GCL this year. He has been tearing it up in the month of August, with a .362/.373/.586 line in 58 at-bats. It’s a small sample size, and he doesn’t draw walks, which isn’t uncommon from players out of the Dominican Republic.

Alen Hanson is starting to heat up in Altoona. This week he went 10-for-27 with a double and two triples. Hanson went 0-for-3 to start the week, then picked up his ten hits in a six game hitting streak. It takes some time to adjust to the jump to Double-A. Hopefully this is a sign that Hanson is starting to make that adjustment.

Indianapolis will be raided at the end of the week when rosters expand in September. The Pirates will be adding a lot of hitters who can help fill out the bench and play key roles. A few of those hitters finished in the second half of the top ten. Alex Presley is sure to be called up, and went 10-for-21 this past week. Matt Hague has a chance to be called up due to his ability to hit lefties and the extra base power he’s showing this year. Hague went 8-for-23 with three doubles and a homer. Jared Goedert was the other player in the top ten, going 8-for-22 with four doubles. Goedert will remain with Indianapolis, helping them with their playoff run.

Jarek Cunningham rounded out the top ten, going 9-for-24 with a double and a triple. Cunningham has a .323/.371/.419 line in 31 at-bats in his last ten games.

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