In 2014, the Bradenton Marauders featured the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league pitcher and player of the year. Tyler Glasnow was coming off an incredible season in West Virginia in 2013, when he won the Pitcher of the Year award. He followed that up with another impressive season in Bradenton, taking the award for the second year in a row. Josh Bell started the year in Bradenton, and started to show why he received a $5 M bonus in the 2011 draft. The Marauders also had strong pitching, beyond Glasnow, which was what led them to the post-season. Below is a recap of the hitters and pitchers at the level, followed by the top ten prospects this year.
Outside of Bell, the Marauders offense wasn’t great this year. Jose Osuna had the second best numbers on the team, and was the second best hitter on the team. A big reason for his numbers was due to a strong finish, with an .878 OPS in the final two months of the season. Osuna was highly regarded back in 2012, ranking up there with Gregory Polanco, Alen Hanson, and Willy Garcia. Polanco is now in the majors, while Hanson and Garcia spent the 2014 season in Altoona. Osuna’s upside has always been more limited due to the fact that he’s solely a first baseman. It didn’t help that he struggled last year in Bradenton. His 2014 numbers, and the strong finish, should be enough to move him up to Altoona next year. However, Josh Bell will be getting time at first base, which might make it harder for Osuna to find playing time at his current position.
The offensive production didn’t look good from the other players, although there are some prospects who are interesting to follow. Jin-De Jhang was highly rated coming into the year, and was actually skipped a level, going from Jamestown to Bradenton. The results were great in Jamestown, but didn’t carry over to the higher level. He’s got a lot of potential with his bat, with the ability to hit for some power and hit for average. Jhang will probably return to Bradenton next year, and will need to show that potential, as the catching in the lower levels is too strong for a player to struggle for more than two years at the same level.
Adam Frazier didn’t have a good stat line, and had a lot of errors at the shortstop position. However, he showed off some good skills, with a lot of speed and some good contact and gap power. Frazier also displayed some good range on the field, and the skills needed to be able to play shortstop at a higher level. Despite the poor numbers, I could see him going up to Altoona next season, especially since JaCoby Jones projects to go to Bradenton at shortstop.
A former shortstop who was moved to second base by Frazier, Max Moroff displayed a lot of gap power, along with a lot of walks. He led the team with 30 doubles, and also led the team with 54 walks. Moroff is very patient at the plate, but almost to a point where he is too patient. He’s very selective, waiting for his pitch to hit, rather than being aggressive earlier in the count. This leads to a low average, decent power, and a lot of walks. However, this is not a combination or an approach that leads to success in the upper levels.
Eric Wood showed some nice potential at the plate, with a decent average, good plate patience, and some pop in his bat. He was young for the level, and could return for another year in 2015. His defense didn’t look strong at the position, and he doesn’t look like a guy who has a good chance to stick at third base. For that reason, Wood is going to need much better numbers going forward in order to be considered a prospect.
There were other players who put up decent numbers with the Marauders, but because of their age and previous experience, it comes with the asterisk that they don’t project as prospects. The only other notable player was Barrett Barnes, who was limited to six games played due to injury. Barnes started in West Virginia, then went down with a hamstring injury early in the year. He returned and was pushed up to Bradenton, but suffered an oblique injury after a week at the new level. Barnes has a lot of talent, but his career so far has been derailed by constant injury issues.
Beyond Glasnow, the Pirates had some productive pitchers in the Marauders rotation. Chad Kuhl, Jason Creasy, and John Kuchno pitched in the rotation all year, while Orlando Castro was in the mix in the first half, and Shane Carle joined the rotation during the second half. Most of these pitchers were the same type of pitcher — a tall, right-handed sinkerball pitcher who generated a lot of ground ball outs.
The one exception from the right-handers was Creasy, who fit that profile up until this year. Creasy got a good number of groundouts with his two-seam fastball last year, but moved away from that this year, using his four-seamer more often, and using the two-seamer as a situational pitch. The four-seam fastball can hit 95, and sits in the low 90s. Creasy showed some of the best control on the team, at one point going over 40 innings straight without issuing a walk. He’s got a good changeup, and a good slider that he has been working with over the last two years. The 2011 draft is notable for Gerrit Cole, Josh Bell, and Tyler Glasnow. Clay Holmes (who was supposed to be with Bradenton this year before going down with Tommy John surgery) is also notable from the list. But Creasy is a guy often overlooked, despite the possibility for him to reach the majors as a starter.
Chad Kuhl fit the profile as a ground ball pitcher, putting up a 1.85 GO/AO ratio with his two-seam fastball. He also made strides to improve his changeup, which led to better results in the second half as the pitch improved. Kuhl had a 4.11 ERA in 76.2 innings in the first half of the season. In the second half he also had 76.2 innings, but posted a 2.82 ERA. The strikeouts were down a bit, and the walks were up, but his fastball was getting more groundouts, and he wasn’t getting hit hard by lefties as much.
When it came to ground ball pitchers, John Kuchno was on the extreme side of things. He had an amazing 2.54 GO/AO ratio in 144 innings, while posting a 62% ground ball rate. That was basically his entire game, as he didn’t get many strikeouts, and just worked to put the ball on the ground. Kuchno has some good velocity, and profiles more as a reliever in the future, likely in the Jared Hughes mold due to the heavy sinker approach.
Orlando Castro had a great run in Bradenton in the first half, but started to fade by mid-season, and struggled in the second half. This isn’t the first time that this has happened to the lefty. He had some dead arm by mid-season, which might have led to the struggles after that. This draws concerns about his ability to remain a starter, since his smaller frame doesn’t seem to be capable of holding up under a full season of a starter’s workload. Shane Carle replaced Castro in the second half, and had some good numbers, although he was basically a lesser version of Kuhl.
The Marauders’ bullpen had several guys who could throw hard, and projected as potential prospects, which isn’t always the case for High-A relievers. Yhonathan Barrios can consistently hit the upper 90s with his fastball, and has a decent slider which didn’t generate a ton of strikeouts this year. Jhondaniel Medina didn’t give up an earned run from the end of April until the playoffs, and his only homer of the year came in the post-season. He does struggle with massive control problems, but the stuff is electric. Ryan Hafner showed a lot of promise heading into the season, but struggled pitching in long relief out of the bullpen. Hafner still has a great arm and isn’t a guy the Pirates will likely give up on any time soon. Tom Harlan started the year with Bradenton, put up strong numbers as a reliever, then moved up to Altoona to be a starter, where he continued the good results.
Top 10 Prospects
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. Guys who are no longer in the organization were also excluded. The only player left off the list who would have drawn consideration for the top ten was Barrett Barnes. There was a big drop off after number two on this list. The guys after that were either rated because of potential over performance (Jin-De Jhang, Adam Frazier), or rated lower because they are still in the process of breaking out (Jose Osuna).
1. Tyler Glasnow
2. Josh Bell
3. Jose Osuna
4. Jason Creasy
5. Chad Kuhl
6. Jin-De Jhang
7. Adam Frazier
8. John Kuchno
9. Shane Carle
10. Eric Wood