The Gulf Coast League is one of the most pitcher friendly leagues in the minors. The parks are huge, and the weather can be brutal, playing at noon every day in Florida during some of the most humid months of the year. That’s one thing to keep in mind when looking at these stats. The good performances become even more impressive when you consider the pitcher friendly factors, and the poor performances come with that disclaimer that the numbers might be down due to the league factors.
As an example of this, Alen Hanson hit for a .263 average and a .782 OPS last year in the GCL. This year he hit for a .309 average and a .909 OPS in West Virginia. I was hearing a lot of great things about Hanson last year, so it’s not as if he suddenly learned how to hit.
Below are the stats from each hitter in the GCL, broken down by age groups. The first age group is where you’ll find the majority of prospects. The second group can include prospects, but these guys are getting closer to being too old for the level. The final group is mostly organizational depth. A breakdown of each group can be found below.
Complete GCL Coverage
19 and Under
A lot of the younger players at the level were guys making the jump from the international rookie leagues. The three youngest guys — Elvis Escobar, Harold Ramirez, and Dilson Herrera — were all big bonus signings. Escobar and Ramirez signed last year for $570,000 and $1,050,000 respectively. Both made the jump to the GCL without any time in the DSL. Considering that jump, they both performed well. Neither hit for much power, but they both displayed good bat speed at the plate, and a lot of tools to work with on the field. Herrera spent one year in the VSL, and was the best hitter this year for the GCL Pirates. If you’re looking for a list of potential Alen Hanson/Gregory Polanco players, the list starts here with these three guys, with Herrera leading the way.
Edwin Espinal is an interesting player. He’s a huge third baseman, earning him the nickname “Tank”. He’s got a plus arm, and a lot of power potential, which could keep him at third base for now. He’s still raw, as seen in his numbers this year, and his size could eventually move him to first base. He did a lot of work in extended Spring Training to lose some weight and get in better shape, and the difference was obvious. Because he’s raw at the plate, he’s more of a sleeper prospect.
One of the more surprising international guys was Jin-De Jhang. The 5′ 11″, 220 pound catcher not only showed off a good bat in his first pro season, but he also displayed some good defense behind the plate. Jhang is a big catcher, but is surprisingly agile for his size, and has some impressive speed. He hit two triples this year, and can steal a base on occasion, including a big stolen base in the GCL playoffs. He has the potential to be a two-way catcher, and while he’s older than some of the international guys above, he’s still young enough to be considered a legit prospect.
The 2012 draft brought in a few interesting prospects. Catcher Wyatt Mathisen, taken in the second round, is another two-way catching candidate. He spent a lot of time early in the season working with Tom Prince and Milver Reyes on his defense behind the plate, after spending most of his time in high school at shortstop. At the plate, Mathisen hit very well. He didn’t show a lot of power, but his average and on-base percentage were solid for a guy out of high school making his pro debut.
Max Moroff and Kevin Ross are two intriguing middle infielders. Moroff, a switch hitting shortstop, was signed to an over-slot bonus in the 16th round. He missed the first few weeks of the season after signing late, but put up some impressive numbers after turning pro. Defensively he looked good at short, although it’s still a long way from suggesting he could stick at the level. Offensively he hit for average and displayed good plate patience, while showing some speed on the bases.
Ross was taken in the eighth round as a shortstop, although he played mostly second base in the GCL. He’s a big middle infielder who looks like he could eventually hit for some power. He’s got the arm strength to play third base, although the Pirates had a lot of options at the hot corner, so his time was limited. Ross got off to a slow start in his pro career, but he has the look of a legit prospect, and is a guy to watch going forward.
Eric Wood was taken in the sixth round this year, and had some of the best power on the team. The third baseman hit four homers and put up a .180 ISO, which ranked third on the team. He looks like he has the ability to stick at third base defensively. It’s a long road from the GCL to the majors, so while his power was impressive this year, there’s no guarantee that he will hit for that same power going up the system. If he can keep hitting for power, he’d become one of the few third base prospects in the system.
Candon Myles is more of a leadoff candidate, with a lot of speed, but not a lot of power. He stole 12 bases in 17 attempts this year, which isn’t a good success rate for a guy with his speed. He had trouble finding playing time with Escobar, Ramirez, and Luis Urena getting the bulk of the time in the outfield.
The two guys in this group who are still considered prospects are Luis Urena and Stetson Allie.
Urena has the build and all the tools to be the next Gregory Polanco. He just hasn’t broken out, and unlike Polanco, he struggles with plate patience. He does have a lot of power, putting up the best ISO on the team this year. He keeps showing potential, but it’s getting closer to the point where he needs to be more polished at the plate.
Allie made the switch to a hitter this year, so it’s expected that he would be raw at the plate. He showed some power potential, but his strikeout rate was too high, and he didn’t hit for average. He also struggled on the field. The move to him being a position player was questionable at the time. He was struggling as a pitcher, but he had a plus fastball and a plus slider. His road to the majors was never going to be easier as a hitter. In either case he had work to do with his game. Now that we’ve seen how ineffective he was as a hitter (at the lowest level) it raises the question of why they didn’t just keep him as a pitcher and let him work through his control problems. He might not have made the majors as a pitcher, but I think his chances have been reduced after being switched to a hitter.
Ages 22 and Up
All three guys in this group eventually moved on to State College or higher.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Perhaps Stetson’s poor showing as a hitter will convince him to go back to being a hitter? Maybe he had to get it out of his system?