Baseball America has been rolling out their annual Best Tools lists for every level, and has a few members of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization recognized. The MLB version saw Andrew McCutchen named as the second best hitter, the best strike zone judgment, the third best base runner, and the most exciting player. Edinson Volquez was also named with the third best fastball, behind Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, which was surprising.

Moving down to the minors, a few Pirates prospects saw recognition in the upper levels (the A-ball lists haven’t been announced yet). Gregory Polanco was named the Best Batting Prospect and the Most Exciting Player this year in the International League. On the Double-A list, Elias Diaz was named the Best Defensive Catcher, and Willy Garcia was named as having the Best Outfield Arm.

None of these are a surprise. Polanco had a huge year in the International League, and propelled himself to being one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Diaz and Garcia received the same awards last year in the Florida State League, so it’s clear that they’re still highly regarded for those specific skills.

The good thing about both players is that they’ve improved this year beyond just having those two tools.

Diaz has always been a strong defensive catcher, but has been hitting well in Altoona, with a .326/.372/.446 line in 307 at-bats. Right now I would say he is the top option to be the Pirates’ future backup catcher in the majors, passing up Tony Sanchez. I won’t say that this hitting is legit, based on such a small sample size, but if this hitting continues he might be a sleeper as a starting candidate.

Garcia is also having a big year in Altoona, mostly from a power standpoint. He has a .275/.305/.504 line in 363 at-bats, with 25 doubles and 16 homers. His .229 ISO continues a trend of carrying his raw power to the field. He’s gone from a .163 ISO in 2012, to a .180 in 2013, to the current number, all while moving up a level in the minors each year. The concern with Garcia is that he doesn’t walk (3.9% walk rate) and strikes out too much (31.3% strikeout rate). He’s got enough tools that he could be a useful player without the walks, but he’s going to have a hard time making it to the majors with those strikeouts. If he can cut down on the strikeouts, Garcia could be a sleeper starting right fielder.

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39 COMMENTS

  1. Didn’t Willy Garcia used to be Wily Garcia? I’m pretty sure that you used to spell Willy with one L. Reason being that I had grown used to calling him Wile Coyote Garcia. Wily would be pronounced with the long vowel sound. But add an L and it then becomes pronounced with the short vowel sound. (That is the general rule we were taught in elementary school.) So which is it?

    • He might have been. It’s such a weird process with names out of Latin America. Jose Osuna used to be Jose Ozuna. There have been guys named Jhonatan who have changed to Jhonathan. Also guys named Yhonathan who changed to Jhonathan. Then some guys keep the original spelling.

      Right now Garcia’s first name is spelled Willy.

  2. Hitting .300 in double A is no easy chore. The fact that Diaz has done so all season, and is actually hitting .26 points higher than that, makes me believe that his hitting is legit. I also think he is a candidate to be a starter. His defense and arm were already starter quality.
    I still would prefer that Russell Martin be resigned, but it is good to know a catcher like Diaz is waiting in the wings.
    Ideally Diaz will get to back-up Martin for the next couple years.

    • Monsoon…I am with you on Diaz. I’ve seen him this year and last and his hitting approach is much, much better. He used to flail….now he seems to have a plan.

      I expect him to be the heir apparent to Martin (or whomever we get to replace him).

      • I may be dreaming but any chance Diaz could develop like Yadier Molina, who was elite defensively but pretty poor offensively early in his career but then developed into a very good offense catcher too?

        • I have seen Diaz a lot Matt, and while I am a huge fan of his, ( ask John Dreker ) I don’t think he will ever develops the HR power to compare to Molina. He does have good gap power though.

    • Yeah, I think I am warming up to the Diaz bandwagon. He actually started showing a decent bat last year, with a .781 OPS in A+ (where he only got part time duty – 220 PA.) He has a very acceptable k rate just under 15%, is showing a little pop now and his defense is stellar. I think that translates pretty well into at least a MLB gig, if not a starting one. With Diaz going to AAA next year, T. Sanchez may be in a position where where next spring is make or break, and if he doesn’t make (the big league squad), his window will be closed.

        • Maybe?

          How viable would Tony’s bat be at third? It’s basically replacement level for first. I think it would probably be a better value to just trade him, as a catcher.

          • You could be right regarding trade value. But consider that Bucs are currently paying almost $10 million to 3 guys with a combined 0.1 WAR (Davis 0.2, Pedro 0.0, Gaby -0.1).

            Maybe Tony is just replacement level, but he’s a lot cheaper than all of the above. At a minimum he could be Ike’s platoon partner if he wears elevator spikes. And unless Neal is going shopping this winter, what are the other options?

            • JHay plays 3B if Pedro doesn’t trun things around, the 1B platoon will be starting to get expensive next yr

  3. They also name Cutch as best defensive outfielder. That goes pretty strongly against every defensive metric.

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