Pirates Prospects » Top Performers http://www.piratesprospects.com Your best source for news on the Pittsburgh Pirates and their minor league system. Tue, 27 May 2014 04:09:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Top 10 Hitters: Everything is Coming Together For Mel Rojas http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-hitters-everything-is-coming-together-for-mel-rojas.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-hitters-everything-is-coming-together-for-mel-rojas.html#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 17:09:49 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79743 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. Chris McGuiness, 1B - McGuiness has had a typical season in Triple-A. He’s not really hitting for average, but he’s getting on base a ton, and hitting for some decent power. His .250/.361/.429 line is almost identical to his numbers last year in the PCL, when he had a .246/.369/.423 line. The numbers look better in the International League, since that’s not as hitter friendly as the PCL. This past week, McGuiness showed some power, going 8-for-19 with a double and two home runs. That took the top spot in the system. With Ike Davis in Pittsburgh, it’s unlikely that McGuiness will have a future at first base for the Pirates, unless Davis goes down with an injury, or plays himself out of the role.

2. Chris Dickerson, OF - The numbers need to be taken with the disclaimer that Dickerson is 32 years old, and has MLB experience, but Dickerson is having a great year with Indianapolis. He has a .345/.417/.535 line in 142 at-bats. This past week he went 9-for-25 with four doubles and a homer. He currently has a hit in each of his last 21 starts, with a 16 game hitting streak and a 5 game hitting streak separated by a strikeout in a pinch hit situation. He could be an option for the Pirates off the bench at some point this year. He’d have to be added to the 40-man roster (there is currently an open spot), and would have to remain in Pittsburgh for good, so don’t expect him to come up unless a long-term spot opens up.

3. Mel Rojas, OF - Rojas has always had a lot of upside and some great tools, but has never put things together in his minor league career. That could be changing this year, as he has a .303/.377/.438 line in 178 at-bats in Altoona. This is the second season that Rojas has been with Altoona, following a 2013 season where he had a .742 OPS. Those numbers were an improvement over his 2012 numbers in High-A, so he’s been showing good signs for the last two years. The numbers this year make it seem like everything is finally coming together. His problem in the past has been a lack of consistency, but that hasn’t been an issue this year. In the last week, he went 10-for-28 with two doubles and a homer. He doesn’t really have a spot as a starter for the Pirates, considering their long-term projected outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco. Rojas could serve as a strong bench option, or as trade bait if another team sees him as a starter. He will have to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, after being passed over when he was eligible last off-season.

4. Jonathan Schwind, OF - The numbers have been great for Schwind this year, with a .327/.389/.455 line in 101 at-bats. He continued his strong hitting in Bradenton this past week by going 9-for-23 with a triple and a homer. Schwind is very athletic, to the point where the Pirates tried him out as a catcher when he first entered the system. He has since found a home in the outfield. He does turn 24 this week, which is old for the Double-A level. His age, plus the fact that he didn’t have numbers close to this in West Virginia, puts a disclaimer on his season stats. He’s likely to end up an organizational player, possibly helping out in the upper levels due to his ability to play all around the field.

5. Willy Garcia, OF - Garcia looks like he could be following the same path as Rojas. He’s two years younger than Rojas, but has the same things going for him, with a lot of tools and athleticism that haven’t shown up in the stat lines. His .774 OPS this year isn’t great, but it is an improvement over his numbers in Bradenton last year. Like Rojas, Garcia will show signs of good hitting, but will lack consistency to do that all the time. This past week he went 7-for-23 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers. He’s probably going to need another year in Double-A after this season, and hopefully he can break out in his second year like Rojas is doing this year.

6. Matt Curry, 1B - After missing over a year with multiple hand injuries, including hamate surgery, Curry is back in Altoona and starting to hit again. He went 8-for-29 with a double and two homers in the last week, and is now receiving regular playing time in the lineup. Curry is old for the Double-A level, turning 26 in July. He’s going to have to move up to Triple-A this year to show what he could do at that level. Since McGuiness is blocked in Triple-A by Ike Davis, it’s unlikely that Curry would also have a future as a starting first baseman for the Pirates. It also might be difficult for him to make that jump to Triple-A, as long as McGuiness is still there.

7. Josh Bell, OF - Bell is having a good year at the plate in Bradenton, hitting for a .303/.351/.461 line in 178 at-bats. The numbers are even better against right-handers, with a .320/.381/.516 line in 122 at-bats. He has struggled against left-handers, with a .620 OPS. That could be due to his swing, which often looks awkward and off-balanced. This past week he went 7-for-20 with a double and a homer. The hitting against right-handers is great to see, but Bell is going to need to work on his hitting against lefties in order to become more than just a platoon player.

8t. Matt Hague, 3B - Hague went 6-for-21 with a homer and six walks this past week, taking the number eight spot in the system. He continues to show a strong ability of hitting left-handers, with an .859 OPS this season, compared to a .719 OPS against right-handers. He’s too old to be considered a legit prospect, and his chances of being a starter are out the window. However, if Gaby Sanchez gets injured, Hague would be the top option to replace him in the first base platoon against left-handed pitching.

8t. Max Moroff, 2B – Moroff was drafted as a shortstop out of high school, but has moved to the other side of the bag this year, playing second base with Adam Frazier taking over at short. His bat hasn’t been strong enough to justify prospect status as a second baseman. He has done well lately, with a .316 average and a .778 OPS in his last ten games. Last week he went 8-for-23 with two doubles. He’s going to need to continue hitting like this to be a prospect as a second baseman.

10. Reese McGuure, C - A quick look at the stat line might suggest that McGuire is struggling with the bat. He has a .295 average, but also a .694 OPS. A deeper look shows that McGuire’s hitting has been good this year. He enters the week riding a 15 game hitting streak. He has also reached base safely in his last 19 games. McGuire has played 32 games this year, and he has reached base safely in 28 of those games. The big reason his OPS is so low is due to a lack of power. The catcher has just four extra base hits.  He’s only 19, and power is usually the last thing to come for a hitter. I don’t know if McGuire will add enough power to become a home run hitter, but he makes solid contact and drives the ball to the middle of the field. That should give him some good gap power in the future, which would pair nicely with his excellent contact and on-base skills.

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Top 10 Pitchers: Cumpton Dominates in Final Triple-A Start; Sampson Breaking Out? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-pitchers-cumpton-dominates-in-final-triple-a-start-sampson-breaking-out.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-pitchers-cumpton-dominates-in-final-triple-a-start-sampson-breaking-out.html#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79744 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 six “gems” this week. Nine of the top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. Here are the top performers.

1. Adrian Sampson – It might be too early to say that Adrian Sampson is having a breakout season. However, the numbers so far have been impressive. He has a 2.26 ERA in 55.2 innings, with a 43:16 K/BB ratio. That’s a surprise at the Double-A level, considering the fact that he had a 5.14 ERA in 140 innings in High-A last year. A big difference for Sampson has been his changeup. He didn’t have much of a changeup going into the 2013 season, and spent the entire year developing the pitch. He did finish strong, with a 3.02 ERA in 41.2 innings over his final seven starts. This year the changeup is much better, which has been a big factor in his success. John Kokales wrote more about Sampson last week.

2. Orlando Castro – Castro has been impressive this year in the Bradenton rotation, putting up a 2.91 ERA in 55.2 innings, with a 41:7 K/BB ratio. He had two of the top ten starts this week, combining for two runs in 12.2 innings, with 12 strikeouts and no walks. His best start saw 6.2 shutout innings, with four hits and six strikeouts. Castro is repeating the same path he took in West Virginia. He didn’t have the best results in his first half season in low-A, then came back the next year to dominate in the rotation. He didn’t have good results last year in half a season in Bradenton, and is now dominating in the rotation. If he keeps this up, he could be moved up to Altoona by the end of next month, much like his progression from West Virginia to Bradenton last year.

3t. Brandon Cumpton – Brandon Cumpton earned his promotion to the majors in his final start with Indianapolis. Cumpton threw eight innings, giving up one run on five hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. It’s not that he hadn’t previously earned the promotion. Cumpton had a 1.35 ERA in 40 innings, with a 21:10 K/BB ratio with Indianapolis this year. Last year he had a 3.32 ERA in 122 innings, with a 90:44 K/BB ratio. He now has an opportunity to grab a rotation spot for the long-term. With Jameson Taillon out for the year, there is no pitcher better than Cumpton expected to arrive in Pittsburgh in 2014. The Pirates have three rotation spots open in 2015, so Cumpton could claim one of those spots if he does well the rest of the year.

3t. Joely Rodriguez – One disappointing thing about the 2014 season for Rodriguez has been a lack of strikeouts. He has just 24 strikeouts in 46 innings this year. A few of his recent starts have been encouraging on that front. Last week he struck out seven in five innings of work. This week he made two starts, with his best one seeing five strikeouts in six shutout innings. He also had an outing earlier in the week where he only struck out two in 5.2 innings. Rodriguez has a 4.11 ERA in 46 innings of work. He’s getting a lot of ground ball outs, with a 1.84 GO/AO ratio. He’s probably going to need an entire season in Altoona to adjust to the upper levels. He could need a bit more than that if he doesn’t show strong progression in the second half. Rodriguez still has a lot of upside, but he’s not adjusting to Double-A as quick as you’d hope.

5. A.J. Morris - Morris has been a pleasant surprise this year in the Altoona rotation. He has a 1.34 ERA in 33.2 innings as a starter, with a 21:9 K/BB ratio. This week he threw seven innings, giving up one run on four hits, with no walks and three strikeouts. He’s 27-years-old, so his performance comes with the disclaimer that he’s a few years too old for the Double-A level. He could end up this year’s version as David Bromberg — putting up strong numbers in the upper levels of the minors, only to leave as a free agent at the end of the year.

6. Shane Carle – Carle has been hot lately, with a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings during the month of May. He continued the hot streak with two good starts this week, combining for three earned runs in 13 innings, with a 5:2 K/BB ratio. His best start was on Sunday, when he threw seven innings, giving up a run on five hits. Carle doesn’t strike out too many batters, with just 30 strikeouts in 52.2 innings this season. He does get a lot of ground ball outs with his sinker, posting a 1.74 GO/AO ratio this year.

7. Chad Kuhl – Kuhl had a nice start this week, giving up one earned run on four hits in 6.1 innings, with two strikeouts and one walk. He’s been inconsistent this season, and has really struggled against left-handers. He has a .308 BAA versus lefties, and a .265 BAA against right-handers. Kuhl is a sinkerball pitcher, and his focus this year has been working on his extension fastball and changeup, which are the two weapons he uses against left-handers. He gets a ton of ground ball outs, with a 2.00 GO/AO ratio, but needs to find a way to handle left-handers in order to remain a starter for the long-term.

8t. Casey Sadler – Sadler made two starts this week, with his first one being much better than the second one. The first start saw him give up two earned runs on six hits in seven innings, with no walks and five strikeouts. On the season, he has a 2.66 ERA in 50.2 innings, with a 36:9 K/BB ratio. The Pirates could turn to Sadler at some point this year for a spot in the rotation. However, he’s down on the depth chart due to his lack of experience in Triple-A. I’d guess that Jeff Locke and Vance Worley would be ahead of him.

8t. Orlando Castro - Castro’s second start this week saw him give up two runs on five hits in six innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. See above for more on the lefty.

10t. Zack Dodson - Dodson showed some encouraging progress at the end of the 2011 season with West Virginia. Since that point, he has dealt with injuries, along with a suspension, and has had poor performances throughout the process. His performance this year has been good, with a 2.66 ERA in 23.2 innings. He’s still dealing with injury concerns, and it’s a small sample size, but it’s good to see from a guy who was said to have the upside of a middle of the rotation starter in 2011. He might not have a shot at being a middle of the rotation guy anymore, but he could have a chance at reaching the majors as a starter, and definitely could have the upside as a reliever with a fastball that can sit low 90s, and a big breaking curveball.

10t. Jason Creasy - Creasy has had a good season in Bradenton, with a 3.86 ERA in 44.1 innings of work, along with a 31:10 K/BB ratio. He has actually been performing better against lefties than right-handers this year, with a .227 BAA versus lefties, compared to a .324 against right-handers. This week he gave up one run on five hits in five innings, with no walks and five strikeouts.

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Top 10 Hitters: Big Week For the Top Prospects, Led By Gregory Polanco, Of Course http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-hitters-big-week-for-the-top-prospects-led-by-gregory-polanco-of-course.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-hitters-big-week-for-the-top-prospects-led-by-gregory-polanco-of-course.html#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 19:00:28 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79188 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, RF - For the second time this season, Polanco is the top hitter of the week in the system. This time around he dominated, going 13-for-22 with four doubles, a triple, a homer, and four walks. The season Polanco is having is amazing. The only reason he is down in Triple-A right now is for Super Two purposes. That will end in a few weeks. Until then, read about how he’s considered a potential future star, and when you dismiss that as obvious, remember that “future star” isn’t exactly light praise.

2. Chris Dickerson, OF - Polanco has overshadowed two top hitters with Indianapolis this year. Andrew Lambo is currently on the disabled list with a bruised thumb, but Chris Dickerson is active, and continues to hit well. He went 10-for-20 this week, with a double and a homer. On the season, he has a .342/.406/.513 line in 117 at-bats. He’s making himself a candidate to come up at some point this year. Polanco will take over for the Jose Tabata/Travis Snider combo in a few weeks. If a starter goes down after that, the Pirates should consider Dickerson, rather than going back to Snider or Tabata.

3. Alen Hanson, SS - Looking at the season totals, Alen Hanson isn’t having a great year. He has a .752 OPS on the year, which is hardly what you want in Double-A from an offense-first shortstop. A closer look shows that Hanson struggled the first two weeks of the year, and has been on fire ever since. That’s the exact same thing he did last year in Bradenton. This week, Hanson went 9-for-25 with a double, triple, and two homers. In the month of May, he is hitting for a .319/.347/.594 line in 69 at-bats. If he keeps this up, he could end up with Indianapolis by the end of the year, with a shot at Pittsburgh by the middle of next season. (Another Super Two situation!) The defense is going to be the big focus for Hanson. He’s got the talent to stick at shortstop, but he makes some careless mistakes. He needs to be more aggressive on every play, which will improve his defensive consistency, and cut down on the errors.

4. Josh Bell, OF - I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Josh Bell this year…from the left side of the plate. He’s got an .875 OPS from the right side, with all three of his homers in 107 at-bats. His season line is down due to struggles against lefties. I got to see several right-handed at-bats this week, including Bell going up against top Blue Jays prospect, LHP Daniel Norris. The swings from the right side look ugly at times, very off-balanced, and almost to a point where it looks like he’s just learning how to hit right-handed. I didn’t need to see the stats to know that he was struggling against lefties this year (.603 OPS). I could guess that from the swing. His numbers are a small sample size, and I have seen a few nice swings from the right side, but I don’t expect the numbers to improve unless he sees massive improvements from that side of the plate.

5. Keon Broxton, OF - Broxton is having a huge month of May, hitting for a .397/.462/.776 line in 58 at-bats. It’s 58 at-bats, so I’m not about to call him a breakout candidate, or a bounce back prospect. He just turned 24 years old, which is a little on the old side for a prospect at Double-A. However, he’s very athletic, and was once a top ten prospect in Arizona’s system after being a third round pick in 2009. I think a fourth outfielder is the best upside you could hope for. For now, the Pirates will need to see much more than half a month of success before considering Broxton for any kind of role in the future.

6. Reese McGuire, C - There’s no question that McGuire has the defensive skills behind the plate. His defense is advanced for a catcher out of high school. The big question is whether he can hit. What I saw from him last year in the GCL was consistent, hard contact, and the ability to drive the ball to both gaps and work the middle of the field. It looks like his bat is heating up lately in West Virginia. He currently has an 11 game hitting streak, and a .340 average in the month of May. He’s not hitting for much power right now, with only one extra base hit this month. He is doing a good job of getting on base, he’s hardly ever striking out, and he’s still making solid contact. I don’t want to say there shouldn’t be any questions about the bat, but McGuire has shown the skills so far to make it seem very possible that he could eventually be a two-way catcher in the majors.

7. Matt Hague, 1B - With Andrew Lambo out, Hague has been getting more playing time. He went 7-for-22 this week, with a double and a homer. He’s behind Lambo, Chris McGuiness, and of course Ike Davis on the first base depth chart. Brent Morel is ahead of him at third base. That doesn’t speak well for his chances of making it back to the majors anytime soon.

8. Chase d’Arnaud, LF - He’s been playing more outfield this season than infield, with 21 games in left field. His value as a potential major leaguer comes from his ability to play the two middle infield spots, plus his speed and excellent base running skills. The Pirates have been trying to add more value with more positions, but the middle infield availability, plus the speed will be the main things that could get d’Arnaud back to the majors.

9. Justin Maffei, OF – He didn’t get much playing time this week, but made the most of what he had, going 5-for-10 with a double and four walks. Maffei is a lower level organizational player, who is getting time in West Virginia due to the many injuries on offense.

10. Stetson Allie, 1B - Allie continues to crush the ball in Altoona, adding two more home runs this week, putting his total at eight in 134 at-bats. That’s a home run every 16.75 at-bats, which is better than the pace Pedro Alvarez had in Double-A (17.08 AB/HR). The problem is that Allie is striking out at a higher rate than Alvarez saw in Double-A, and not hitting for average, unlike Alvarez. To his credit, Allie has cut down on the strikeouts in the last week, with three strikeouts in 19 at-bats. But those issues come in waves, and when they get bad, they get really bad. He needs to eliminate the stretches where he’s striking out as often as 50% of the time.

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Top 10 Pitchers: Edinson Volquez Has Several Indianapolis Starters Gunning For His Spot http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-pitchers-edinson-volquez-has-several-indianapolis-starters-gunning-for-his-spot.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-pitchers-edinson-volquez-has-several-indianapolis-starters-gunning-for-his-spot.html#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 17:00:07 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=79186 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 five “gems” this week. Nine of the top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. This was much better than recent weeks in the organization. Here are the top performers.

1. Jeff Locke – Locke had an outstanding start this week, throwing seven shutout innings, with just one hit, three walks, and five strikeouts. In his two starts since going up to the majors, he has given up two runs in 14 innings on seven hits, with five walks and ten strikeouts. After a rough start to the season, Locke is slowly making his way back. I’ve advocated for Brandon Cumpton to get a rotation spot over Wandy Rodriguez, and that’s still my stance, despite the good outing from Rodriguez this week (although more good outings from Rodriguez could change that opinion). As for Locke, if Edinson Volquez continues his struggles, then Locke would be the guy I’d turn to. Volquez had four good starts at the beginning of the year, and has since been plagued by the long ball. If that trend continues, then the Pirates might want to consider a switch by mid-season. Or sooner, if the struggles continue to be as extreme as we’ve seen recently.

2. Buddy Borden – I don’t want to call him a breakout prospect just yet, although he is one of the guys I highlighted last week as having a mini-breakout. Borden’s numbers have been fantastic this year, with a 2.23 ERA in 36.1 innings, along with a 34:16 K/BB ratio. He could use a drop in the walks, but on the other side of that, he’s been very hard to hit. Borden threw six no-hit innings this week, giving up four walks and striking out seven. Borden could be a nice sleeper. Last year he was the Mountain West Conference co-pitcher of the year, sharing the honors with Braden Shipley. While Shipley went 15th overall in the 2013 draft, Borden went in the seventh round. The award doesn’t tell the big story, as Shipley has better overall stuff than Borden. Borden needs to further develop his changeup and curveball, with the curve being the pitch that is currently further along. He’s got an electric fastball that tops out at 96. So far, he’s making himself the pitcher to watch in the lower levels this year.

3. Casey Sadler – Sadler’s first start back to Indianapolis didn’t go so well. He gave up four runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings on May 9th, which was his first start since April 22nd. This time around he did much better, looking like the Casey Sadler who dominated for a 1.67 ERA over four starts in April, before getting called up to the majors for two weeks. Sadler threw six innings with one hit and one unearned run, walking three and striking out seven. On the season, he has a 2.15 ERA in 37.2 innings, with a 28:9 K/BB ratio. That’s even better when you consider that the one bad outing was after a long layoff spent barely pitching in relief. I mentioned Cumpton and Locke as short-term options for the MLB rotation. Sadler could definitely be an option this year.

4. A.J. Morris – Morris joined the Altoona rotation when Zack Dodson went down with an oblique injury. Dodson returned this week, but Morris remained in the rotation. That’s probably because he keeps putting up impressive starts. Last week he was on top of this list for his six shutout innings. This week he came back with seven shutout innings, allowing six hits, one walk, and striking out four. Morris is a little old for Double-A, at age 27, but he’s filling in nicely in Altoona.

5. Orlando Castro - Buddy Borden was near the top of this list for throwing six no-hit innings. On the same night, Orlando Castro threw six perfect innings. The problem was that he came out for the seventh and struggled. Castro led off the inning with a walk, then gave up a single to the next batter, breaking up the no hitter. After a wild pitch and an RBI groundout, Castro was pulled. He was credited for one more run, but his overall performance was excellent.

6. Adrian Sampson – Sampson continues to impress in Altoona, with a 2.32 ERA in 42.2 innings on the season, along with a 33:13 K/BB ratio. This week he threw seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. We’ve got a feature on Sampson going up on the site tomorrow from Altoona writer, John Kokales.

7. Vance Worley – Worley has been impressive since joining the Indianapolis rotation. He has a 2.84 ERA in 19 innings over his first three starts, with no walks and 14 strikeouts. This week he made the top ten with seven innings of two run ball, giving up six hits and striking out six. Ryan Palencer wrote about Worley last weekend, noting that he feels back on track as a starter after some work with Jim Benedict. Considering Worley’s history in the majors, and his strong 2011-12 seasons, it wouldn’t be out of the question to view him as a potential bounce back guy, and possible rotation depth this year. With Cumpton, Locke, and Sadler, the Pirates wouldn’t have an urgent need for him any time soon, but they could turn to him later in the year.

8. Dovydas Neverauskas – Neverauskas has always been on the prospect radar due to his ability to consistently hit 95 MPH at a young age. And also, because of the awesome name. This week he had two good outings. The first start missed the top ten, but was one of the top 15 starts of the week. The second start was five innings of shutout ball, with four hits, no walks, and two strikeouts. Scott Sypien had a writeup of the stuff he saw from Neverauskas, noting that he was working mostly with the fastball, but that the fastball was a plus offering.

9. Justin Topa - West Virginia has seen some interesting relief pitching prospects turn into interesting starting pitchers the last few years. Last year they saw several guys make that jump, including Jason Creasy, Orlando Castro, and Pat Ludwig. This year, Topa is the first to make the jump to the rotation. He hasn’t been dominating as a starter, but did have a nice outing this week. He’s a hard thrower, and if he has any future, it would be as a reliever. He’s in the rotation right now due to the injury to Luis Heredia, but the fact that he was a long reliever before this shows that the Pirates like him more than just a lower level organizational arm.

10. Tyler Glasnow – I’ve seen the last two starts from Glasnow, and the most recent outing was definitely stronger. He did walk three batters in six innings, but he only gave up one run on five hits, with four strikeouts. Glasnow has mostly been working with the fastball, throwing the pitch 73/82 times in the first start I saw, and 66/83 times the second start. He has also struggled holding runners, going 1-for-8 in caught stealing attempts in those two starts, and that’s entirely on his slow delivery to the plate. You can read my reports from each start here: Game 1, Game 2.

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Top 10 Hitters: Is Mel Rojas Finally Putting Things Together? http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-hitters-is-mel-rojas-finally-putting-things-together.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-hitters-is-mel-rojas-finally-putting-things-together.html#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78696 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. Jaff Decker, OF - Jaff Decker is currently in the majors, but prior to the promotion on Sunday, he was riding a hot streak in Indianapolis. Decker had a .324/.439/.559 line in 34 at-bats over his last ten games. Last week he had a six game hitting streak, going 9-for-15 with five doubles and a home run. The streak ended with his 0-for-5 day on Saturday, before he was pulled and called up to Pittsburgh. Brent Morel was originally called up, and Decker replaced him due to the injuries in the outfield. Decker’s performance was good enough to lead the minor league system this week.

2. Keon Broxton, OF - Acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks during Spring Training, Broxton has been a surprise lately. He went 9-for-22 with two doubles, a triple, and two homers this week, raising his overall line on the season to .282/.371/.500. Broxton was a third round pick in 2009, and was the number ten prospect in the Diamondbacks system heading into the 2011 season. He’s very athletic, but has yet to put everything together on the field. It’s too early to say whether he is finally doing that, but the results of late have been encouraging.

3. Mel Rojas, OF – Rojas has a very similar story as Broxton. He was a third round pick, taken in the 2010 draft. He’s very athletic, but struggles to consistently use his skills in games. And this year he has some impressive numbers, with a .302/.379/.434 line in 129 at-bats. Just like Broxton, it’s too early to tell if Rojas is finally working out. One knock against him is that he spent a year in Altoona last season, which gives his current numbers an asterisk. That doesn’t mean they’re not legit. It just means we will need to see him have success in Indianapolis to make sure this isn’t due to already seeing the level. Rojas and Broxton both profile as strong fourth outfielders if they can reach the majors.

4. Nevin Ashley, C - With Tony Sanchez in the majors, Ashley has taken over the catching duties for Indianapolis. He went 10-for-27 this week, with two doubles and two homers. Based on his role with Indianapolis since Sanchez has gone to the majors, it looks like Ashley is number four on the catching depth charts.

5. Chris Dickerson, OF - A lot of attention in Indianapolis has gone to Gregory Polanco. Any left-over attention gets directed at Andrew Lambo for the big year he was having before his injury. But one guy who has been overlooked has been Chris Dickerson. On the season, Dickerson has a .309/.382/.474 line in 97 at-bats. He’s currently riding a ten game hitting streak, during which he has a .901 OPS. The Pirates had a need for an outfielder over the weekend, but Dickerson wouldn’t have worked out. He’s out of options, which means he’d have to be DFAd after spending just a few days with the Pirates. It would be better to save him for when he’s needed over a longer period of time.

6. Andy Vasquez, OF - Vasquez doesn’t get much time in the lineup as an upper level utility player, but he made the most of it this week. He went 5-for-10 with a double and a home run, taking the number six spot on this list.

7. Gregory Polanco, RF - If you want to know what a down week looks like for Gregory Polanco, this appears to be it. He “only” went 8-for-29 (.276) with three doubles, a triple, and four walks. Polanco has been in a mini-slump the last few days, going 1-for-16 with a triple and four walks over his last four games. This might be the adversity the Pirates want to see him face. My guess is that he’ll learn to overcome this type of adversity around the second week of June.

8. Wyatt Mathisen, 3B - Mathisen made the move to third base from behind the plate this spring. The move was made for a few reasons. First, Reese McGuire was the primary catcher in West Virginia, which meant Mathisen wasn’t expected to get much development time behind the plate. So he moved to third base, which was more of a need in the system. Mathisen was an infielder in high school, so this position would be easier to learn. The side effect was that this was expected to allow him to focus more on the bat. It seems like the bat is finally waking up, as he has a .325 average and a .972 OPS in 40 at-bats in the month of May.

9. Josh Bell, OF – Bell had a nice week at the plate in Bradenton this week, going 8-for-23 with two doubles and three walks, and finishing his week with a five game hitting streak. On the season, Bell is hitting for a .287 average. He’s not hitting for a lot of power, with a .139 ISO. That’s actually down from his .174 ISO in West Virginia last year. Looking at his splits, he has struggled against lefties, with a .483 OPS, compared to an .885 OPS against right-handers. Bell has faced a lot of left-handers, with 41 at-bats, compared to 88 at-bats against right-handers. He did have success against left-handers last year, with an .844 OPS in 106 at-bats. However, these struggles could be legit, as his swing can look off-balanced at times from the right side.

10. Erich Weiss, 2B - When Wyatt Mathisen was moved to third base this spring, the placement of Weiss seemed like an afterthought, or an issue that didn’t even need to be considered. The Pirates signed him to an over-slot deal last year, paying him $305,000 as an 11th round pick. They were paying for the bat, and that bat has shown up this year. Weiss is currently hitting for a .323/.392/.417 line in 127 at-bats. He’s not hitting for power, but he’s showing great contact skills, and a good ability to get on base. The fact that he can play second and third base adds value, especially if he can find his power stroke. Just like Bell, Weiss is struggling against lefties so far, with a .559 OPS, compared to an .893 OPS against right-handers.

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Top 10 Pitchers: Brandon Cumpton Continues Pitching Well…For Indianapolis http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-pitchers-brandon-cumpton-continues-pitching-well-for-indianapolis.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-10-pitchers-brandon-cumpton-continues-pitching-well-for-indianapolis.html#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78694 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 just two “gems” this week. Five of the top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. This was the second poor week in a row for starting pitching in the minors. Here are the top performers.

1. A.J. Morris – Morris made two starts this week for Altoona, giving him three starts overall since Zack Dodson went down with an injury a few weeks ago. He has made the most of that time, combining for a 1.83 ERA in 19.2 innings, with a 14:8 K/BB ratio. He topped the list this week with six shutout innings, giving up two hits, no walks, and striking out five. Morris was selected in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft this past off-season. Most of those players are capable of putting up good numbers in the minors, even in Double-A, but they don’t profile as prospects. Morris would have to do a lot to establish prospect status, especially since any results are clouded by the fact that he has already spent a season in Double-A, and he’s currently 27-years-old.

2. Brandon Cumpton – He returned to Indianapolis, and in his first start back he picked up where he left off. Cumpton threw seven innings, giving up two unearned runs on five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. He has four starts with Indianapolis this year, and all have gone 6-7 innings.  Overall he has a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings in Triple-A this year, with a 14:4 K/BB ratio and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio. Wandy Rodriguez will be returning to the Pirates’ rotation on Thursday, but Cumpton is the guy who is more deserving of the fifth starter role right now.

3. Vance Worley – After spending time in extended Spring Training getting stretched out, and working with Jim Benedict on some mechanical adjustments, Worley finally made his debut in the Pirates’ system. The outing was a good one, with one run on five hits in six innings, along with no walks and four strikeouts. The returns of Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler to the rotation leave Worley’s status up in the air. The final two rotation spots belong to Adam Wilk and Jake Brigham. To get a rotation spot, Worley would either need to bump one of those two from the rotation, or see one of the other starters get called back up to Pittsburgh.

4t. Adam Wilk – Wilk has made several appearances on the top ten list this season. He had two starts this week, and they couldn’t have been more different. His first start ended up being the worst start of the week in the system, with seven earned runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings. He rebounded well in his second outing, giving up one earned run on six hits in seven innings. Wilk has Cumpton, Sadler, and Locke ahead of him on the starting pitching depth chart. His best path to the majors would be as a lefty reliever if one of Tony Watson or Justin Wilson were to go down with an injury.

4t. Jeff Locke - Locke made two starts this week, with the first one occurring in the majors. That start didn’t go so well, falling apart in his final inning of work. He returned to Indianapolis on Sunday, and had a great outing. Locke gave up two earned runs in seven innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. At this point, I’d say Cumpton deserves the first shot if there’s an opening in the rotation, although Locke could get in that picture with a few more outings like this one. Ryan Palencer wrote about Locke earlier in the week, looking at how he’s trying to rebound from the second half of last season.

6. Jake Brigham – Once again, Indianapolis makes up at least half of the top ten. And once again, Brigham finds himself in the top ten. The minor league free agent gave up two earned runs in six innings of work. Just like Wilk, he doesn’t have much of a shot to make the majors as a starter. His best path is in relief, although it would be harder for him to make it to the majors as a right-hander. I’d actually move Brigham to the bullpen, and let Worley have his rotation spot, since Worley has a better track record as a starter.

7. Tyler Glasnow – He made two starts this week, with the first one landing him on this list. Glasnow gave up two earned runs on two hits and one walk, while striking out six. The next start, which I recapped on Saturday night, didn’t go as well. He struggled with walks, and opposing runners were stealing at-will on him. Glasnow was working mostly with his fastball, and in his first three starts he has been working mostly with the fastball/changeup in the early innings. He has less than a strikeout per inning right now, which is to be expected since he’s not throwing his curve often.

8. Cody Dickson – Dickson looks like a nice sleeper prospect from the 2013 draft. He was taken in the fourth round, but could have the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. The lefty can hit 94 MPH with his fastball, and has a nice breaking pitch. His issues are a lack of a changeup, and a lack of control at times. The control issues have popped up lately, with Dickson walking four and giving up four runs in four innings during his second start this week. The first outing showed what he could do when he limits the walks. Dickson threw five innings in his first outing, with one run on four hits and two walks, along with three strikeouts.

9. Brandon Mann – The lefty wasn’t the scheduled starter on Friday night, but came in for Altoona in the first inning after Tyler Sample had control issues. He gave up three earned runs in 5.2 innings in relief, with one walk and eight strikeouts. Mann has made two starts in the Altoona rotation since Zack Dodson went down with an injury, combining for two earned runs in nine innings, along with a 7:7 K/BB ratio.

10. Joely Rodriguez – Rodriguez has been inconsistent in his jump to Altoona, showing a few good performances, but having just as many bad outings. One concern is that he hasn’t been striking out hitters, with just ten strikeouts in 29.1 innings of work. He has never been a big strikeout guy, combining for 101 in 140 innings between West Virginia and Bradenton last year. However, his current pace is very low. Altoona’s infield defense has had some issues this year, which means that Rodriguez isn’t going to be in the best situation if he relies primarily on his 60% ground ball rate.

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Top Performers: JaCoby Jones Leads a Huge Week For West Virginia Hitters http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-performers-jacoby-jones-leads-a-huge-week-for-west-virginia-hitters.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-performers-jacoby-jones-leads-a-huge-week-for-west-virginia-hitters.html#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 21:07:52 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78182 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. JaCoby Jones, SS – It’s not a big surprise that West Virginia had a lot of top hitters this week. They had two double headers, and had more opportunities at the plate. Even without the extra games, the performance from JaCoby Jones this week would have been at, or near the top of the system. Jones went 9-for-27, hitting three home runs in four days to close out the week. On the season, Jones has a .288/.356/.471 line in 104 at-bats, with four homers. The fact that he’s putting up these offensive numbers from the shortstop position is a good sign, adding more value. It’s still too early to say whether he can stick at the position over the long-term, but he is athletic enough that he could stick at a valuable position even if he can’t remain at shortstop.

2. Edwin Espinal, 1B – Espinal has a ton of raw power, and a lot of promise. The past few weeks could be a sign that he’s heating up, or it could just be a small sample size, showing off his promise. He went 13-for-30 with four doubles this week. In his last ten games, Espinal is 14-for-37 with four doubles and an .855 OPS. On the season, he has nine doubles, which ranks second in the farm system. He’s not drawing many walks, and hasn’t tapped into his home run power yet. For now, these are good signs from a raw, but promising bat.

3. Andrew Lambo, OF – For the second straight week, Lambo ended up in the top three in the system. He went 8-for-23, hitting his first two home runs of the year, and adding four doubles. Lambo is hitting just as well as Gregory Polanco this year, and the Pirates would be wise to call him up tomorrow and give him a shot in right field. They won’t need a fifth starter until May 24th, and could use that extra roster spot on Lambo, while keeping Travis Snider and Jose Tabata around a little longer.

4. Wyatt Mathisen, 3B – Mathisen was the third West Virginia hitter to have a strong week. The third baseman went 10-for-30, hitting two home runs. The homers were the first two of the season, and the first two for Mathisen since 2012 in the GCL. His bat hasn’t been strong this year, with a .656 OPS in 103 at-bats. However, he might be heating up, hitting for a .316/.333/.500 line in 38 at-bats over his last ten games.

5t. Keon Broxton, OF - Broxton was a promising outfield prospect in Arizona’s system, but stalled in Double-A. He hasn’t been doing well in Altoona, with a .232 average and a .696 OPS. He did have a good week this week, going 7-for-19 with two doubles, a triple, and a home run.

5t. Michael Fransoso, OF – Fransoso went 7-for-16 with a triple and a homer this week. He was a late round pick in the 2013 draft, playing both middle infield spots in college. He doesn’t have much of a chance to get playing time at the middle infield spots in West Virginia, since those spots are taken by Jones and Erich Weiss. As a result, he has been playing a lot of outfield this year, filling in for all of the injured players in West Virginia.

7. Drew Maggi, 3B – Maggi has been getting some time at third base in Altoona, and went 7-for-16 this week, with a double and a home run. He’s a very athletic player, signing an over-slot deal several years ago as a shortstop out of college. He hasn’t hit on a consistent basis, and is more of an organizational player for the upper levels.

8. Michael Martinez, 2B - Martinez has been playing the middle infield spots for Indianapolis this year, showing off some nice speed. He went 7-for-19 this week, with two doubles and a triple. On the season, he is only hitting for a .682 OPS, with four doubles and four triples.

9. Danny Collins, OF – Collins has gotten a lot of playing time with the injuries to Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez, and Barrett Barnes. Collins has a .300/.355/.430 line in 100 at-bats. He hasn’t been showing a lot of power, with just one home run and a .130 ISO. He will need more power to stick at first base, his usual position. Unless he adds more power, it would be hard to see him having success beyond A-ball.

10. Alen Hanson, SS – Hanson got off to a slow start this year, but has started heating up the last two weeks. He went 7-for-22 with two doubles and a home run this week. In his last 16 games, he has a .308/.357/.477 line in 65 at-bats. That spans back to the middle of April, taking out the first two weeks of the season. Hanson also struggled the first two weeks of the season last year in Bradenton before things clicked with the bat. He has had some issues defensively, with eight errors during this span, including an error in four straight games. He shows good defensive abilities, but lacks consistency, leading to the errors.

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Top Performers: Another Pirates 2011 Draft Pick is Stepping Up http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-performers-another-pirates-2011-draft-pick-is-stepping-up.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/top-performers-another-pirates-2011-draft-pick-is-stepping-up.html#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 18:42:45 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=78164 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 four “gems” this week. Five of the top ten starters all had game scores of 60 or higher. That makes this a poor week for the starting pitching in the minors. Here are the top performers.

1. Jason Creasy – Creasy ended up on the top ten list twice this week. His best start came on Sunday, when he threw 5.2 shutout innings, with two hits, no walks, and six strikeouts. He was part of the 2011 draft class, which has really looked good from a pitching perspective. Gerrit Cole was obviously a top guy from that group, and Tyler Glasnow has broken out. Clay Holmes is also a top prospect from that group, but is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Creasy is stepping up this year, with a 2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings, along with a 19:8 K/BB ratio and a 1.12 GO/AO ratio.

2. Jake Brigham – He’s been doing well with Indianapolis this year, even remaining in the rotation over Phil Irwin when Jeff Locke returned. Brigham has a 3.81 ERA in 28.1 innings, along with a 29:11 K/BB ratio. This week he gave up one run on two hits in seven innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. Brigham doesn’t profile as a starting pitcher in the majors, but could help the Pirates throughout the year if they need bullpen depth.

3. Buddy Borden – Borden had two good starts this week. His first start of the week saw him throw six shutout innings, allowing two hits, no walks, and striking out three. The second start just missed the top ten, with three runs on six hits in six innings, along with no walks and five strikeouts. The encouraging thing here was that he didn’t walk anyone in 12 innings. Borden has some great stuff, but has dealt with control problems. Last week he walked four batters in four innings of work. He’s hard to hit, with a .196 BAA, and if he can limit the walks, he could be a special pitching prospect.

4. Tyler Waldron – It’s hard to know what to make of Waldron’s success so far this year. He threw five shutout innings this week in his second start with Indianapolis, allowing two hits, no walks, and striking out six. In his two starts, he has given up one run on four hits in nine innings, with one walk and 11 strikeouts. The Pirates have been very high on him in the past, drafting him in the fifth round in 2010, and keeping him as a starter, despite poor results in A-ball for a college pitcher. He’s a sinkerball guy, getting a 2.00 GO/AO ratio this season. He’s going to need more time with Indianapolis before he can be considered a starting prospect. I’ve always had him as a potential reliever in the majors, and I think it’s more likely that he ends up going that route.

5. Phil Irwin - He was removed from the rotation after two starts this year, and has been pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen ever since. Jeff Locke was removed from his start early on Thursday, in preparation for his spot start on Monday. Irwin came on in relief and had his best outing of the year, throwing four shutout innings, with two hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. He’ll probably remain in the bullpen in long relief. In his last three outings he has given up one run on seven hits in 9.1 innings, with two walks and eight strikeouts.

6. Jason Creasy – Creasy’s other start this week saw him give up one run on four hits in five innings, with no walks and four strikeouts. Overall this week, he combined for one run in 10.2 innings on seven hits, with no walks and ten strikeouts.

7. Henry Hirsch – West Virginia had two double-headers this week, leading to a start from Hirsch. He threw four shutout innings, allowing three hits, one walk, and striking out three. Hirsch is an interesting relief prospect, due to the fact that he can hit 96 MPH with his fastball. He has a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings this year, along with a 13:10 K/BB ratio.

8. Felipe Gonzalez – Gonzalez also got a start due to the double-headers in West Virginia. His start saw one run on three hits in five innings, with two walks and one strikeout. He has a 2.38 ERA in 22.2 innings this year, along with a 19:8 K/BB ratio.

9. Adam Wilk – Wilk, like Jake Brigham, has remained in the Indianapolis rotation from the start, and has been doing well. He has a 4.03 ERA in 29 innings, with a 24:9 K/BB ratio. His starts have all been of the “quality start” variety, usually around six innings and three runs. He’s got more of a chance to help the Pirates as a lefty out of the bullpen later in the year.

10. Jay Jackson – Indianapolis has already had to deal with a mess in their rotation. Jameson Taillon went down for the year with Tommy John surgery. Brandon Cumpton and Casey Sadler were both called up to the majors. Phil Irwin struggled and was removed. Jeff Locke started late, and now will get a spot start in the majors. That’s the entire expected Opening Day rotation, and as of this week, only one of those guys was starting in Triple-A (Locke, who was removed early for his MLB start). Indianapolis has seen some good pitching from the minor league free agents, with Jackson, Wilk, and Brigham making the top ten this week. Tyler Waldron and Phil Irwin also stepped up, also making the top ten. Most of these guys project as bullpen depth in the majors.

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Casey Sadler is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month For April http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/casey-sadler-is-the-pirates-prospects-pitcher-of-the-month-for-april.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/casey-sadler-is-the-pirates-prospects-pitcher-of-the-month-for-april.html#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 19:30:42 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=77838 Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. We also recap 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 April. 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

Casey Sadler is currently in the majors, thanks in part to a short-term need for bullpen arms, but also because of his strong performance in the month of April. Sadler put up a 1.67 ERA in 27 innings, with a 16:6 K/BB ratio. It’s because of that same performance that Sadler has been named the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for the month of April.

Sadler had four outstanding starts this month, going at least six innings each time, and going seven innings in his last three starts. He allowed two or fewer runs in each of those starts, and allowed five or fewer hits each time, only giving up five hits once. Sadler limited the walks, which combined with the hits meant he never had more than an average of one base runner per inning each game.

Like a lot of pitchers in the Pirates’ system, Sadler is a sinkerball guy. He had a 1.44 GO/AO ratio, as a result of a 51.3% ground ball ratio. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, focusing instead on getting early contact and going deeper into games. Ryan Palencer talked with Sadler, noting how the sinker-heavy approach has been effective.

Sadler was a 25th round draft pick in the 2010 draft, and spent the first two years of his career as a long-reliever. He displayed a promising 91-93 MPH fastball in the lower levels, and was eventually moved to the rotation during the second half of the 2012 season in Bradenton. The move came after Gerrit Cole was promoted to Altoona, causing a rotation spot to open. Sadler pitched well in his time as a starter, and never looked back. Last year with Altoona, he had a 3.31 ERA in 130.1 innings during his first full season as a starter, along with a 1.74 GO/AO ratio.

The competition throughout the system was strong this month. Sadler’s teammate, Brandon Cumpton, had a 1.42 ERA in 19 innings, with an 11:3 K/BB ratio in his time with Indianapolis. He also had a nice start in the majors. However, only the minor league time was considered, which eliminated Cumpton from consideration. Adrian Sampson dominated down in Altoona, with a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings, along with a 23:8 K/BB ratio. Pat Ludwig moved back and forth between being a starter and throwing in a piggyback role, but put up an impressive 1.80 ERA in 20 innings of work, along with a 19:5 K/BB ratio. Buddy Borden, a 2013 draft pick, had a great start in West Virginia, with a 1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings, along with a 19:9 K/BB ratio.

Minor League Affiliates

Here were the Pitchers of the Month for each minor league affiliate.

Indianapolis Indians (AAA) - Casey Sadler, RHP (1.67 ERA, 16:6 K/BB, 27 IP)

Altoona Curve (AA) - Adrian Sampson, RHP (1.82 ERA, 23:8 K/BB, 24.2 IP)

Bradenton Marauders (A+) - Pat Ludwig, RHP (1.80 ERA, 19:5 K/BB, 20 IP)

West Virginia Power (A) - Buddy Borden (1.37 ERA, 19:9 K/BB, 19.2 IP)

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Gregory Polanco is the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month For April http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/gregory-polanco-is-the-pirates-prospects-player-of-the-month-for-april.html http://www.piratesprospects.com/2014/05/gregory-polanco-is-the-pirates-prospects-player-of-the-month-for-april.html#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 17:18:53 +0000 http://www.piratesprospects.com/?p=77815 Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. We also recap 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 April. 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

It’s no surprise that Gregory Polanco is the player of the month for April in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system. He hit for a .400/.457/.632 line in 105 plate appearances, with four homers, six doubles, and two triples. Not only was this the best month out of anyone in the system this year, it was also arguably the best month of Polanco’s career. The only thing close was in 2012 in West Virginia, when he hit for a .406/.474/.604 line during the month of July. Polanco’s OPS this month edged July 2012 out by 11 points. And that’s not considering the difference in talent between Triple-A and Low-A, which makes this month’s performance even more impressive.

Polanco led the Pirates’ system in hits (38), average (.400), OBP (.457), slugging (.632), OPS (1.089), total bases (60), and finished second in home runs (4), and fifth in doubles (6). Looking at the International League leaderboards, Polanco led the league in average, OBP, hits, and total bases.

To get an even better idea of how impressive the month of April was for Polanco, he played in 24 games, and had a hit in 19 of those games. There were only two games this month where he didn’t reach base via a walk or a hit. He reached base at least twice in 15 of his 24 games. He had an extra base hit in 11 of his games.

The monster month from Polanco beat out some other impressive performances, especially from his own teammate, Andrew Lambo. The first baseman/outfielder hit for a .354/.440/.557 line in 91 plate appearances, leading the system and the International League with 11 doubles, and finishing second to Polanco in the system in average, OBP, and OPS. In a normal month, Lambo would have easily been the Player of the Month. Stetson Allie (.959 OPS in Altoona, with six homers) would have also had a shot.

Minor League Affiliates

Here were the Players of the Month for each minor league affiliate.

Indianapolis Indians (AAA) - Gregory Polanco, OF (.400/.437/.632, 4 HR, 105 PA)

Altoona Curve (AA) - Stetson Allie, 1B (.257/.373/.586, 6 HR, 83 PA)

Bradenton Marauders (A+) - Josh Bell, OF (.287/.323/.447, 2 HR, 101 PA)

West Virginia Power (A) - Erich Weiss, 2B (.337/.416/.438, 1 HR, 101 PA)

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