Top 10 Hitters: A Sleeper Catching Prospect in the Lower Levels

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. 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. Danny Arribas, C – The Pirates have no shortage of interesting catching prospects in the lower levels of the system. Reese McGuire is one of the top catching prospects in the game. Taylor Gushue and Kevin Krause were both taken in the top ten rounds of the 2014 draft, and both have gotten off to good starts in their careers. Yoel Gonzalez was given a $300,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic, and is currently playing in the GCL. One guy who gets overlooked is Danny Arribas.

The Pirates signed Arribas out of The Netherlands back in 2011. He spent two seasons in the DSL before making the jump to the US in 2013. He was playing on the same team as McGuire, which meant his time behind the plate was limited. He got more time at first base than he did at catcher. This year he has been moved back behind the plate in Bristol. He threw out 40% of runners last year, but is only at 17% this year. Offensively he has been strong, with a .291/.388/.417 line in 103 at-bats. Arribas is very athletic, to the point where he can play the corner infield spots, along with catching. He’s going to have a lot of competition at catcher, but he’s a sleeper prospect due to the athleticism, and a good ability to hit for average and get on base.

2. Willy Garcia, RF – Garcia is having a bit of a breakout season from a power standpoint. He’s got a .508 slugging percentage, 24 doubles, and 16 homers in Altoona this year. Since the start of June he has a .323/.338/.550 line in 189 at-bats, with nine of those homers. The downside for Garcia is that he doesn’t walk enough and strikes out too much. He’s got a 31.5% strikeout rate this year, and a 3.7% walk rate. He can be productive without the walks. Starling Marte only had a 3.8% walk rate in Altoona. However, Marte only had a 17.5% strikeout rate, and was never above 23.3% in the minors. Garcia has some impressive power, but his strikeout issues raises questions about his future in the majors.

3. Jose Osuna, 1B – The Pirates don’t have many first base options in their system, so the fact that Jose Osuna is heating up is encouraging. He had an .834 OPS during the month of July, and has a 1.099 OPS over his last ten games, just ending a 13 game hitting streak. Osuna also has a low walk rate, but at 5.1% he’s not as low as Garcia. He has an 18.6% strikeout rate, which is better than most Latin American players who have come through the system. The key to Osuna’s value will be his power. That is starting to pick up lately, but he’s going to need more than one month of hitting to show that his performance is legit.

4. Elias Diaz, C – Diaz has been one of the minor breakout players this year, emerging as a potential backup catcher in the majors in the next few years. He’s always had the defense to reach the majors, but now he’s starting to put things together offensively, with a .320/.367/.432 line in 303 at-bats this season. Just like Osuna and Garcia, his walk rate is low, at 7.4%. However, his strikeout rate is extremely low, at 14.8%. If Diaz continues hitting like this for the long-term, he could have a shot at being more than just a backup.

5. Josh Bell, RF – Bell got off to a slow start in Altoona, which is to be expected, since the jump from A-ball to Double-A is the hardest to make for hitters. He’s starting to adjust to the level and heat up, with a .368/.415/.421 line in 38 at-bats over his last ten games. Last year Gregory Polanco only had a .762 OPS in his time in Altoona, before tearing up Winter Ball and Triple-A. I don’t know if Bell is going to make the same quick adjustment, but I’m not concerned with his slow start to a difficult level, and his recent success is an encouraging sign that he’s starting to get over those early struggles.

6. Stetson Allie, 1B – Stetson Allie has had a mixed season. He’s hitting for power and getting on base, with a .183 ISO and a 12.6% walk rate. However, he’s not hitting for average and striking out too much, with a 26.4% strikeout rate. The strikeouts are actually lower than what he’s done in the lower levels, so that’s encouraging. He could be a three true outcomes guy (with most of his plate appearances ending in a walk, strikeout, or home run), but the problem with that is most three outcomes guys in the minors don’t make it to the majors. He’s hitting well lately, with a .368/.455/.500 line in 38 at-bats over his last ten games. Allie has stretches like this, but lacks consistency to do this on a regular basis.

7. Justin Maffei, OF – Maffei has been impressive in Bradenton this year, with a .387/.471/.520 line in 75 at-bats. He did have a .239/.353/.279 line in 226 at-bats in West Virginia earlier in the year, which makes it likely that his success at the new level is just due to a small sample size. He wasn’t close to this production last year in the GCL or NYPL, making it even less likely that this is legit.

8. Enyel Vallejo, LF – Vallejo has been one of the best players in Bristol this year, hitting for a .320/.341/.469 line in 128 at-bats.  This comes a year after he broke out in the GCL with a .306/.325/.468 line in 111 at-bats. Continuing a trend, Vallejo only has a 2.2% walk rate, but also keeps the strikeouts relatively low at 21.6%. He’s showing some power, with a .148 ISO. Vallejo is nothing more than a sleeper prospect to watch, but he really stands out on a Bristol team that has lacked a lot of good hitting prospects.

9. Carlos Ozuna, SS – Ozuna is on a hot streak lately, hitting for a .421/.436/.579 line in 38 at-bats over his last ten games. That doesn’t match up with his season numbers, as he has a .247/.316/.348 line in 89 at-bats in Bristol. A lot of that was due to the fact that he started the season going 2-for-28 during the month of June. Ozuna also struggled at the plate in the GCL, although he did show some promising defense up the middle, which should keep him in the lineup.

10. Pablo Reyes, 2B – Reyes is in a similar situation to Ozuna. His hitting has been poor this year, although he’s coming off a good week where he went 8-for-22 with two doubles and two walks. He shows some promise up the middle defensively, with the ability to play shortstop, so he’ll continue to get looks, despite the poor hitting.

  • Leefoo Rug Bug
    August 5, 2014 3:28 pm

    . If (Elias) Diaz continues hitting like this for the long-term, he could have a shot at being more than just a backup.

    To be honest, I expect him to be better than Tony S…jmo.

  • Hopefully some more of these sleeper prospects develop and break out; the depth of the farm system can provide a lot of value when it comes to making trades to strengthen the ML roster

  • Maffei, Is not projected to be legit going by last years numbers. At such low levels are players not constantly adjusting and being coached to adjust? IMO, last year was last year, in the low minors players work on their defects, what this guy shows me is that the ability is there, whether he can get consistent and hit as he goes up the ladder is something to watch, but to me anytime you hit better going up as Maffei is doing, that is a good sign. I will buy the small sample size more than what he did last year.

  • Scott Kliesen
    August 5, 2014 12:28 pm

    Tim, I have noticed Gift Ngoepe’s name more this year than in the past as it relates to his offensive production. Is it fair to say he is a viable reserve IF prospect for Pirates in the next year or two?

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