Coming into the season, the GCL Pirates looked like a very interesting roster, with a lot of the best picks from the 2014 draft, along with several interesting players making the jump from the DSL. Not every player worked out, but the GCL roster lived up to the hype. The result at the end of the year as one of the strongest prospect groups of any team in the system. Below is a recap of the hitters and pitchers at the level, followed by the top ten prospects this year.

The Hitters

The top prospect in the GCL was Cole Tucker, who was taken in the first round by the Pirates in this year’s draft. The selection of Tucker was controversial at the time, as he was ranked much lower than where he was drafted. After the draft, I started receiving word from scouts in other organizations, along with people in the prospect ranking industry, that Tucker was probably ranked too low, as he was a lock to go right around where the Pirates took him, even if he didn’t land with the Pirates. He was 17 for most of the season, which is very young, even for the lowest level of pro ball. Tucker displayed good plate patience and good contact skills, along with some speed. On the field he looked rusty early in the season, but his defense improved in the second half, with good reaction times, and good range. The biggest issue he had was a throwing accuracy issue. It wasn’t due to a lack of arm strength, but throws that went wild. There were reports that Tucker had a shoulder injury, but that wasn’t the case. He actually had a thumb injury early in the year, although some of the wild throws came before that injury.

The other young prospect at this level who was viewed as a potential top 20 guy was Michael De La Cruz. The Pirates have seen a lot of Latin American prospects break out in the lower levels of their system. Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Alen Hanson are some of the notable names on the list. Harold Ramirez was the big breakout last year. So it only made sense that MDLC would be the next guy to step up, especially after dominating the DSL in 2013. Instead, he struggled in a big way. We heard that he was dealing with some adjustment issues moving to the US and away from his home and family. He also dealt with at least one injury during the year. There’s still a lot of upside here, but MDLC might have to return to the GCL for another season next year.

Julio De La Cruz, no relation to Michael, was also a top prospect based on his bonus. He’s a big third baseman with power potential. He didn’t show off much power this year, although it’s too early to say he won’t be a power hitter in the future. He also struggled defensively, and it’s not too early to say that he won’t stick at third base. Every game I saw Julio play third base, he missed at least one routine play for a third baseman. He didn’t have the reaction times quick enough to play the hot corner, and as he fills out his frame, he will lose quickness at that spot.

The Pirates had two outfielders who really performed well this year. Tito Polo had some of the best numbers on the team, showing an ability to hit for average, get on base, and displaying some power. Aside from the great name, Polo is a toolsy outfielder who will probably make the jump to West Virginia next year, and looks to be one of the best prospects who will be going to that level. Alexis Bastardo also had a good year, although he might not make the jump to West Virginia, depending on who will end up there. Polo will probably get the priority, and if Harold Ramirez and Austin Meadows return to West Virginia next year, there won’t be a spot for Bastardo.

Carlos Munoz was an intriguing player. He’s a short, stocky first baseman who moves well for his size, and has outstanding plate patience. Munoz drew almost twice as many walks as strikeouts, while also displaying some power and an ability to hit for average. The size from Munoz raises questions about whether he can be successful in the upper levels, especially if he doesn’t keep his weight in check. The strong plate patience should get him a shot at the upper levels.

The Pirates had a lot of high bonus or high draft pick hitters who didn’t have good seasons. Yoel Gonzalez is a big bonus catcher who made the jump from the DSL this year. He showed good potential behind the plate, but might need another year in short-season ball, possibly in Bristol. Nelson Jorge was drafted by the Pirates out of Puerto Rico in the seventh round this year. He was a shortstop, but switched over to second base due to Tucker. Jorge struck out way too often, and didn’t show good defense at second base. Hayden Hurst was drafted as an over-slot prep pitcher, but moved to first base this year. The results weren’t strong, with a strikeout in almost every other at-bat. Eric Thomas has elite speed, but that looks to be his one tool. Henrry Rosario got a lot of time and put up good numbers, but doesn’t rank as a prospect due to his small size.

The Pitchers

Three of the best draft picks from the Pirates’ 2014 draft were pitchers. Mitch Keller and Trey Supak were both second rounders, and both received a decent amount of innings this year in the GCL. Of the two, Keller looked much more polished. He looks more like a first rounder who needs a few minor fixes to be a top pitching prospect. The main fix comes with his control. He suffered with lapses in his control at times, although his stuff was good enough to make up for the control issues. That won’t be the case in the upper levels.

Trey Supak was a little more raw, and looked a lot more like a projectable prep pitcher than Keller. He had control problems, but also needs to develop his secondary stuff and add some velocity in the future. The Pirates didn’t send any prep pitchers to the NYPL this year, although Keller and Supak could be candidates to make that jump next year.

The other top prep pitcher was Gage Hinsz. He signed late, which limited him to only eight innings in the GCL. He could return to the GCL next year, or at least go to Bristol, rather than getting the aggressive push that Keller and Supak should receive.

As for prep pitchers who returned to the GCL, Neil Kozikowski was an over-slot pitcher in the 2013 draft. He returned to the GCL this year, and struggled in the second run through the level. Last year the numbers were good, but Kozikowski had the tendency to leave the ball up in the zone and flatten out his pitches. He did the same this year, leading to a lot of hard hit balls. He’s still got some upside due to his projectable frame and a decent fastball at the moment, but he’s probably going to be on the slow track until he starts working down in the zone.

The rest of the pitchers at the level looked like lower level organizational guys. The one exception was Dario Agrazal, who had some good stuff, with a low 90s fastball. He also displayed strong command, and would have had better overall numbers if it wasn’t for his defense. Agrazal doesn’t really rate as a prospect right now, but he at least has a shot to develop into a prospect with more looks as a starter in the upper levels. He’s a candidate to go to Morgantown next year.

Top 10 Prospects

The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 70 at-bats, 20 innings pitched, or 10 relief appearances. The biggest name who missed the cutoff was Gage Hinsz, who would have been ranked in the top five, right behind Supak. Most of the list is based on upside, rather than the results this year. These players are so far away that even their upside is hard to peg. I could see this list changing by the time the 2015 Prospect Guide is finished.

1. Cole Tucker

2. Mitch Keller

3. Trey Supak

4. Michael De La Cruz

5. Tito Polo

6. Carlos Munoz

7. Yoel Gonzalez

8. Dario Agrazal

9. Alexis Bastardo

10. Neil Kozikowski

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I have MDLC at #2. If he does get moved up to Jamestown or Bristol, which is possible, he could reach the show earlier than anyone since Bonds. He could reach the show by 20 (as could Tucker.. AND Meadows).

    He had a HR the last day of the season off a legit prospect and added a single.

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