Baseball America released their top 20 prospect list for the Gulf Coast League, kicking off their league-by-league prospect rankings. The Pittsburgh Pirates had two representatives on the list, Cole Tucker and Mitch Keller. They had two other players in outfielder Michael de la Cruz and pitcher Trey Supak, who both deserved consideration for the top 20. They also had pitcher Gage Hinsz, who didn’t pitch enough to qualify for the rankings, but ranks right up there with the other four players.

One interesting thing to see on the top 20 list, is Baseball America’s look back at their list from the 2009 season. There was just one Pirates player on that list, Brooks Pounders, who came in at #15 on the list. Part of the reason that list had no other Pirates was the fact that draft picks didn’t sign as quick back then, so they weren’t eligible for the prospect list. Not signing quick eliminated “over-slot” draft picks Zack Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, Trent Stevenson and Zack Dodson, as well as catcher Joey Schoenfeld, who was taken in the tenth round and signed for a $195,000 bonus. The only draft picks from 2009 that played enough to qualify for the BA list were Pounders, Walker Gourley and Ryan Beckman.

Von Rosenberg last started during the 2012 season
Von Rosenberg last started during the 2012 season

If you could go back and rank the top ten players from that 2009 GCL Pirates team, using only qualified players, the team would look rather weak, so there is no surprise that they only had one player ranked. You could say Pounders was only on the list because he was a second round draft pick and did well in his limited time, but he obviously hasn’t progressed well since then(partially due to injuries), so it looks like a bad pick.  As for those that missed, there was the case of Wes Freeman, who was a toolsy player that lacked contact skills. He was still a teenager back then and considered raw. Looking back on it, he would have been a horrible choice because he went nowhere in the pros, but he was one of those high upside/low floor players that usually fail, but the team sees enough in them to pay for the potential and hope for the best.

So far the 2009 team, including players that didn’t qualify for the Baseball America list(but not rehab players), hasn’t produced a single MLB player. The list of players still in the system is a short one. Starting with the pitchers, you have Von Rosenberg, Dodson, Beckman, Jhonathan Ramos and Rinku Singh, who was in his first season of pro ball. On the position players side, you have Gourley, Gift Ngoepe and Ramon Cabrera, who comes with the asterisk that he was traded away two years ago and just returned last month as a waiver wire pickup.  That’s eight players and only Cabrera has seen AAA in his career. The best prospects from that group are Dodson and Ngoepe, but both are back-end of the Pirates top 50 prospect list right now.

The one thing you worry about with the 2014 GCL prospect list is that there is a lot of upside, but there are no guarantees. When we looked at players like Von Rosenberg, Cain, Dodson, Pounders and Stevenson, we saw five pitchers with upside. Both Cain and Von Rosenberg would have made the top 20 back then had they been eligible because both were top draft prospects that fell due to bonus demands. They were better prospects at the time than Pounders. Five years later, three of them have reached AA with minimal success and Stevenson has been out of baseball since retiring in 2012. I don’t think many people would have believed back then that it’s very possible that none of them ever make the majors.

When you look at players in the GCL, you see what possibilities they have, but they are so far away that it’s tough to do anything more than just give projections based on their potential, while also pointing out that there is a better chance that they fail. Baseball is a game of attrition and the best thing to do is build depth and hope for the best. As we saw in the DSL/FIL article from yesterday, there is a lot of talent that came over from the Dominican last year, but a lot of them struggle with the adjustment to the States and the higher level of talent they see in the GCL.

It’s good to see two players represent the Pirates in the GCL top 20 prospect list. It’s also good to know there are other similar upside players that should be considered for the list, plus reinforcements are on the way, but the real measures of a strong farm system will be the amount of players that make the full-season lists. Both Altoona and Bradenton will have players near the top of the list. West Virginia had the most prospects this year and it will be interesting to see how many of them Baseball America puts on their South Atlantic League top 20 prospect list.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night. They are 1.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead. They are one game ahead of San Francisco for the first Wild Card spot. Pittsburgh holds the home field advantage if the two teams should finish tied.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes:  The Pirates lost 6-2 to the Braves on Wednesday night. Edinson Volquez gets his 31st start of the season tonight and his first against the Braves. He threw seven shutout innings in his last start, giving up three hits and three walks, with six strikeouts. Volquez has a 3.28 ERA in 13 road games this year. Since the All-Star break, he has a 2.41 ERA in 74.2 innings. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. The Indianapolis season recap and top ten. The Altoona season recap and top ten. Bradenton recap and top ten.

MLB: Pittsburgh (86-72)  vs Braves (77-81) 7:10 PM
Probable starterEdinson Volquez (3.15 ERA, 130:70 K/BB, 185.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)

Highlights

While we wait for more video from the Fall Instructional League, take a look at the highlights from Tuesday’s playoff clincher.

Recent Transactions

9/24: Pirates claim Chaz Roe from New York Yankees. Place Charlie Morton on 60-day disabled list.

9/16: Pirates activate Charlie Morton from disabled list.

9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.

9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including the last Pirates player to lead the league in stolen bases.

The most recent former player is pitcher Vance Worley, who turns 32 today. He played for the Pirates during the 2014-15 seasons. Worley posted a 12-10 record for the Pirates, with a 3.31 ERA in 182.1 innings, making 25 starts and 16 relief appearances

Tony Womack was drafted by the Pirates in 1991 and made his MLB debut two years later. He played three partial seasons (1993-94,96) before finally getting a chance to play full-time in 1997. That year he finished ninth in the Rookie of the Year voting and made the All-Star team. Womack stole 60 bases to lead the National League. The following season, he led the NL again with 58 steals. Each of those two seasons he scored 85 runs. Prior to the 1999 season, Womack was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitchers Jason Boyd and Paul Weichard. That year, he led the NL for a third straight season in steals, swiping a career-high 72 bags. He also set a career-best with 111 runs scored.

Also born on this date, Michael Crotta, who pitched 15 games in relief for the 2011 Pirates. He had a 9.28 ERA in 10.2 innings. That was Crotta’s only big league experience.

Dick Davis, outfielder for the 1982 Pirates. He hit .182 in 39 games. Davis was acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays for Wayne Hordhagen, who played just one game for the Pirates after he was acquired for Bill Robinson ten days earlier.

Dave Robertson, outfielder for the 1921 Pirates. While with the New York Giants, he led the National League in homers in 1916 and 1917.  The Pirates dealt pitcher Elmer Ponder to the Cubs to get Robertson in June, 1921. With Pittsburgh, he hit .322 with 48 RBIs in 60 games. Robertson held out during Spring Training in 1922 and was released.

On this date in 1960, the Pirates clinched their first National League title in 33 years. They lost to the Milwaukee Braves, but a 5-0 loss to the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals from the division. The Pirates went on to win their third World Series title that year, defeating the New York Yankees in seven games. Here’s the boxscore.

 

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Michael de la Cruz??

    You are kidding right? Didn’t he hit something like .150 this GCL year? Did you confuse him with Julio de la Cruz?

    • Didn’t confuse him at all. We have written plenty about de la Cruz this year and what he went through. He was easily the best DSL player that came over last year and he had multiple injuries, plus a tough time adjusting to the different culture in the U.S. and being away from home for the first time as a 17 year old.

        • He is at Pirate City in the Instructional League. We had video of him on here the other day, lining a hit into the gap that the right fielder cutoff and MDLC’s speed turned it into a double

      • I get all of that and I trust that he is still a very good prospect. But, I don’t know how anyone can justify including putting him on a top 20 list following this year – unless you completely ignore actual performance. Otherwise, the whole exercise loses credibility.

        It would be like declaring that a college football team deserved to be in the top 20, even though they were 2-9 – and basing that on the raw talent and potential of their players.

        • Because if he had an average year, he would have probably been in the 8-10 range, so consideration for the top 20 means he could have even fell in the 21-25 range, which is a huge drop-off from 8-10 range

          • Not to argue, but again how do you ignore actual performance? If he had a below average season with mixed reviews and results, I could see focusing on the pluses – but he was a complete washout in the GCL this year.

            I know he is only 17, and maybe next year he performs like a top prospect again. But, based on this year, putting him in the top 20 just smacks of homerism.

            I have always contended, that Julio de la Cruz will prove to be the better prospect in the long run – time will tell.

            • It’s a prospect list, not an all-star team. It’s based on future potential. He came into this year with a chance at the #1 spot because his scouting reports were off the charts last year. He does a lot of things right. Look at the stats from Tyler Kolek, the #2 prospect on the list. He had a 4.50 ERA, didn’t hold his velocity well and gave up too many walks. Going by what you are saying, he shouldn’t have made a top 50 list. He is also seven months older than MDLC, so he has that working against him. You don’t judge players purely on one season worth of stats. We aren’t going to knock Jameson Taillon out of the top 50 because he didn’t play, he will be judged based on prior stats and future potential. MDLC came into this year showing five tool potential, with great strike zone judgement and he is younger than Cole Tucker by a week and Tucker gets extra credit due to his age. He definitely didn’t make the top 20 based on stats, his year was middle of the pack in the GCL.

              De la Cruz missed time early on with skin issues, which took him out of the lineup. Then he hurt his ankle, missed a few games, played two non-consecutive games and then missed two weeks. He was finally 100% at the end of the year and reached base six times in his last three games. He has outstanding plate patience, he is very quick with above average defense in center field. From a scouting standpoint, when he is healthy, he has four above average tools and a chance to fill out more and add power. He turned 18 during the season, younger than all but one player on the team. So he has tools, plate patience, prior success and age all on his side and that is how someone gets consideration for the back-end of a top 20 list.

              • Also, since you brought up Julio de la Cruz twice, here is why he isn’t as good a prospect as MDLC. On defense, Julio is a hack at 3B that has shown regression since last year when he was bad and his future will probably be 1B. Michael is an above-average center fielder. Julio is slow, while Michael is an above average runner. If you want to take just defense and speed into consideration, Julio is a poor man’s Pedro Alvarez and Michael is McCutchen. Plate patience, there is a huge difference between the two players. Julio had six walks this year in 41 games, Michael had 15 in 65 less at-bats and led the DSL in walks last year. It’s as big a difference as their speed/defense. Michael is nine months younger, which is a big difference at that stage of their career. The only advantage Julio has is more raw power, but he needs to do a lot for it to be usable raw power and at first base instead of third base, he will need to hit even better.

              • I don’t know much about Tyler Kolek, but would not categorize a pitcher with a 4.50 ERA as equivalent to a batter with a .150 BA. One is mediocre, the other is horrific.

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