GCL Pirates 2012 Season Recap: Top Prospects

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Top Prospects

When rating prospects this low in the minors, it’s all about potential. These players are so far off that it’s impossible to come up with player comps, or a range for their ceiling and floor in the majors. Some of these players might not even make the majors, as it’s a long path from the GCL. These rankings are based more on tools and potential, with some consideration given to numbers. The write ups below focus more on what a player can do, rather than what flaws a player has. Most players at this level have flaws and areas of their game to work on. That can be poor control as a pitcher, a lack of power as a young hitter, or questions about defense and long-term positioning. All of these are normal, and things to work on as a player progresses through the minors. Because every player at this level is on the raw side, the focus is more on the tools they have, and what their tools could potentially become, rather than the tools they lack at a young age.

1. Wyatt Mathisen, C

Mathisen was drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft.  He was considered a guy who could go in the compensation round of the draft, but fell to the Pirates and agreed to sign for slot. Mathisen is a great athlete, to the point where his high school coach used him at shortstop more often than behind the plate. The Pirates managed to see a few of his rare games at catcher, and felt he had what it took to stick at the position, which is hard for high school players to do. He has a plus arm, and is comfortable behind the plate working with pitchers. Upon signing, he immediately worked with Tom Prince and Milver Reyes on his catching skills the first few weeks in the system. Offensively he has the potential to hit for average and power, with very good bat speed. He showed the average this year, with a .295 average in the GCL. He also showed very strong plate patience, with a 16:19 BB/K ratio in 139 at-bats. Mathisen could be a two-way catching prospect going forward, and currently ranks as the second best catching prospect in the system, behind Tony Sanchez.

2. Tyler Glasnow, RHP

The Pirates have taken a lot of interesting high school arms in the draft over the last few years, and Glasnow might be one of the most interesting ones. He’s got a huge frame at 6′ 7″, 195 pounds, with an easy delivery. He already can throw 90-93 MPH, throwing on a downward plane. (UPDATE: Looks like Glasnow has added some velocity this year. He was touching 96 MPH in his State College debut.) He put up exceptional numbers in the GCL this season, and was rewarded with a promotion to State College at the end of the year. He could be a candidate to skip over to West Virginia next year for full season ball. Glasnow grew quickly in high school, adding eight inches to his height after his freshman year, and wearing a size 17 shoe. As he gets more comfortable with his tall frame, he’ll only get better, especially with his control, which was the main downside to his game this year. He could add more velocity going forward. One coach joked during Spring Training “He’s going to end up throwing 200 MPH”.

3. Dilson Herrera, 2B

Herrera was signed for $220,000 as a shortstop in 2010, making him the second biggest signing of the year behind Luis Heredia. Since then he hasn’t played a game at short, spending all of his time this year at second base. He’s a great hitter with a lot of bat speed. He broke out for some power this year, hitting seven homers in the GCL and putting up a .201 ISO. Herrera has a lot of speed, and barrels up on balls. His likely defensive position is at second base, as he doesn’t have the arm strength to stick on the left side of the infield. However, his bat is good enough to make him a top prospect, and he could end up being next year’s version of Alen Hanson.

4. Max Moroff, SS

The Pirates drafted Moroff in the 16th round of the 2012 draft and signed him away from a commitment to Central Florida for $300,000. Moroff was one of the contingency plans for Mark Appel, with the Pirates turning to him after Appel turned down their best offer. The shortstop has the arm strength to stick at the position, but there were questions about his speed and range out of the draft. Both looked good in the limited time that I saw him in the GCL this year. His bat was good in the GCL in a small sample, showing a line drive stroke that led to a .343 average and a .904 OPS. He also showed advanced plate patience, with a 17:11 BB/K ratio. Moroff could move up to West Virginia next year, skipping over short-season ball. If he can stick at shortstop, he’d move up the rankings near the top of the system.

5. Elvis Escobar, OF

Escobar was the second biggest signing in 2011, signing for $570,000. He grew up in a baseball family, with two of his cousins currently in the majors: Kelvim and Alcides. He’s got a great feel for hitting, with very quick bat speed and a line drive stroke. He’s got a solid arm and he’s an average runner, but both could turn in to plus tools in the future. There are questions about his power going forward. He’s a small player, at 5′ 10″, 180 pounds, which raise questions as to whether he can hit for power one day. However, his bat speed and feel for hitting could allow him to add power going forward, since power is usually based on bat speed more than the size of a player.

6. Harold Ramirez, OF

The $1.05 M bonus given to Ramirez in 2011 was the second biggest international bonus given to an international amateur by the Pirates. He has plus-plus speed and good defense, although he lacks a strong arm, which could put him in left field. Ramirez struggled a bit at the plate this year, hitting for a .259 average and a .644 OPS. However, he was one of the youngest players in the league, skipping over the Dominican Summer League. He’s got a great feel for hitting, and has a good line drive stroke with quick bat speed. There are questions whether he can one day hit for power, which could impact his value. He’s a very toolsy player with a lot of upside, and should only get better with more pro experience.

7. Jin-De Jhang, C

One of the big surprises this year was Jin-De Jhang, who received a $250,000 bonus in 2011 out of Taiwan. He’s got a thick frame, at 5′ 11″, 220 pounds. Despite that frame he’s able to move around well behind the plate, and flashes a plus throwing arm. At the plate he has excellent bat speed and some power potential. He hit for a .305 average this year in his first experience as a pro, and also flashed some surprising speed for his size. Jhang had two triples and stole a few bases, with one coming at a key moment in the post-season. He’s an all-out player with a good approach at the plate, and the skills behind the plate to stick at catcher. The overall package could make him a sleeper two-way option going forward.

8. Eric Wood, 3B

Wood was drafted in the sixth round out of the JuCo ranks. He showed some power in his debut, with a .180 ISO and four homers in 122 at-bats in the GCL. The power potential comes from his good bat speed. On the field he showed good skills to stick at third base, with quick reactions and a strong arm. The main appeal is the power potential. Combine that with the chance of him sticking at third base, and Wood becomes a rare commodity in the Pirates’ system: a third base prospect.

9. Dovydas Neveraukas, RHP

Neverauskas was signed out of Lithuania in 2010. He spent the last two years in the GCL, and returned to the level this year with improved results. The right-hander has gotten his fastball up to the 92-95 MPH range, hitting 95 in several different starts. He’s a tall, projectable arm with an easy delivery, and he has already added velocity. Neverauskas played mostly tournament ball in Lithuania, which is a much different schedule than pro ball. The main difference is that pro ball plays every day, and the pitchers in the Pirates system get used to throwing every day. That’s been the main adjustment for him the last few years. Going forward he will need to improve his control, but he’s a nice sleeper pitching prospect going forward.

10. Jon Sandfort, RHP

Sandfort didn’t put up the best numbers in his pro debut, mostly due to inconsistent performances. There were two outings where he combined to give up five earned runs with a 2:4 K/BB ratio, failing to get out of the first in each appearance. In the rest of his starts he combined for three earned runs in 12.2 innings, with a 5:6 K/BB ratio. Control was an issue, but that could be corrected with more time in the system working on fastball command. He’s ranked here mostly for his upside, and the fact that he’s a 6′ 6″, 215 pound right-hander who has touched 94 MPH and has a good curveball. He also has a good feel for a change, but needs work on the pitch. He could move to State College next year after getting his feet wet in the GCL, spending time in extended Spring Training next year working on his changeup and fastball command.

Just Missed (in alphabetical order): Colten Brewer, Cesar Lopez, Kevin Ross, Bryton Trepagnier, Luis Urena.