Heading in to the season I had the West Virginia Power as the team to watch in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, due to Josh Bell and the international talent that would be there. That international talent, led by Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco, ended up making West Virginia a team to watch, not just in the system, but in all of minor league baseball.
Below are the stats from each hitter in West Virginia, 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 West Virginia Coverage
Top Prospects (Coming Later Today)
21 and Under
Two of the biggest stories of the year — not only in the Pirates’ system, but in all of baseball — came from this group. Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco had huge breakout seasons, and they came after an aggressive push to full season A-ball. To put Hanson’s season in perspective, he had 62 extra base hits. Andrew McCutchen is having an MVP-contending season in Pittsburgh, and only has 57 extra base hits, with 28 extra at-bats.
Hanson started out hot, but cooled a bit in July before finishing the season strong. The slow July lowered his numbers, and allowed Polanco to pass him with the season numbers. Polanco had a better average, and had an OPS that was one point higher. He was also very consistent, never dropping below an .800 OPS in any given month. In the final three months of the year, Polanco posted an .872, 1.078, and .901 OPS, respectively.
While Hanson and Polanco received all of the attention, Jose Osuna and Willy Garcia both opened some eyes. Both players made the jump to low-A, although neither had the impressive numbers that Hanson and Polanco had. Osuna had a much better second half, hitting for a .293 average and an .837 OPS, with 12 homers in 239 at-bats. Osuna is a first baseman with no defensive value, so he’s going to have to hit for power going forward to provide value as a prospect.
Garcia also has power potential, although he pairs that with a five tool upside. He’s got the same upside as Hanson and Polanco, although he’s more raw. His power was apparent this year, with his 18 homers leading the farm system. The success of Hanson and Polanco disguised how big of a jump it was for these players to go from the GCL to West Virginia. It’s not unexpected that Garcia and Osuna were inconsistent this year and looked a bit raw. Both have the chance to sharpen their games going forward.
Coming in to the year, the biggest hitting story of the year for the Pirates was supposed to be Josh Bell. The outfielder didn’t get much playing time, going down in late-April with a knee injury. After undergoing meniscus surgery, Bell missed the rest of the year. He was originally expected to return this season, but swelling in his knee extended the recovery time, and could put him out until Spring Training next year.
Dan Gamache was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He was seen as more of a defensive minded infielder, although he showed a bit of pop in his bat this year at second base. Gamache led the farm system with 40 doubles, and his runs created was fourth on the team,
There were a lot of other younger international players on this team, but most profile as organizational guys. Jodaneli Carvajal got off to a hot start, but cooled off and was sent to State College. The one standout is Elias Diaz, who has the potential to be a two-way catching prospect, although his raw hitting skills kept his numbers down in West Virginia for the second straight year.
Last year, Eric Avila was in the same situation as guys like Jose Osuna and Willy Garcia. He had some power potential, but a raw bat kept him from breaking out in West Virginia. Avila didn’t play much in the first half this year, but got a lot of playing time in the second half, and showed that power. After the All-Star break, Avila hit for a .291/.328/.564 line with 11 homers in 165 at-bats. His K/BB ratio wasn’t strong, and his numbers come with the disclaimer that he was in his second year at the level. However, it’s hard to ignore his power numbers, making him a guy to watch.
Most of the other players in this group profile as organizational guys. Taylor Lewis was taken in the tenth round of the 2011 draft, and got off to a good start, but faded in the second half with a .236 average and a .662 OPS after the break. Kirk Singer didn’t hit well this year, but showed some defensive value on the left side of the infield. Francisco Diaz had some interesting numbers as a catcher, but they come with the small sample size disclaimer.
Ages 24 and Up
Carlos Mesa was signed out of Cuba last year, and has shown a few tools, but is old for the level and looks more like an organizational player.