Morning Report: West Virginia’s Prospect List is Second to None in the System

On Thursday afternoon, we posted the West Virginia Power season recap and top ten prospect list. This is the deepest prospect list we have seen among the five released so far. You can find links to the rest of the recaps/lists below in the Today’s Schedule section. If you followed the lower levels, you’ll know that the lists for Bristol and Jamestown are rather weak and while the GCL has some potential, it doesn’t compare to the West Virginia list, so this is the one to get most excited about.

JaCoby Jones has huge upside, but still has much to prove (Photo Credit: Robin Black)
JaCoby Jones has huge upside, but still has much to prove (Photo Credit: Robin Black)

The Power had enough prospects this year that there are players outside the top ten with good chances of making the majors. When you look at players like Erich Weiss, Yhonathan Barrios and Elvis Escobar, each has potential to make the majors. Weiss is more of a polished player with limited upside, while Barrios and Escobar are more raw, but they have tools. Last year, we also heard strong reports about Isaac Sanchez, who haven’t translated that into success yet, but he was the same age(or younger) as many draft picks from this season.

While the team was loaded with prospects this year, those players were inundated with injuries. Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez and Luis Heredia all missed significant time. Barrett Barnes missed so much time that he didn’t qualify for the prospect list. Reese McGuire, Wyatt Mathisen, Edwin Espinal and JaCoby Jones all spent time on the disabled list as well. Despite the injuries, it was still a pretty good season from a prospect standpoint.

On the offensive side, you basically had an entire team of players with potential if you counted Barnes(or even Escobar). The following is assuming they were all healthy at the same time. With McGuire behind the plate and Mathisen, Jones, Weiss and Espinal in the infield and Meadows, Ramirez and Barnes/Escobar in the outfield, you would have been able to put an entire lineup together with no one out of position. That is something you don’t see often in the minors. You could have also put Luis Heredia, Buddy Borden or Cody Dickson on the mound and completed the all-prospect/potential team.

The thing to realize with this list, is the same thing that I pointed out in yesterday’s article about the GCL. These players are a little more advanced obviously, but they all still have a lot to prove. Both JaCoby Jones and Buddy Borden put together strong seasons, but they both went to major college programs and spent the entire season in Low-A after seeing time at Jamestown last year. Erich Weiss and Cody Dickson both had decent years and they both fall into the same group as Jones and Borden, being too old to spend an entire season at the level. For Dickson it was necessary because his fastball command really needed work. The tenth ranked prospect is Shane Carle and he displayed excellent command, which allowed him to be promoted to Bradenton and rank on that top ten list as well.

As for the better players, they are all young with huge upside, though the questions are still there. Reese McGuire got strong reviews for his defense, but his season at the plate could be considered a disappointment if you expected anything like his showing in the GCL last year. At age 19, holding your own in full-season ball is a good sign. McGuire hit .262 and struck out only 44 times. On the flip side, he walked only 24 times and had 18 extra base hits all year. Both of those numbers need to show a lot of improvement before you’re convinced that he can hit enough to be a starter in the majors.

With Ramirez, the main issue is now health. I was able to see him play four times this year and his bat looked good. He also finished his season with a 23 game hit streak. Ramirez has strong defense and above average speed, so he looks to be a well-rounded player. If he can stay healthy, then the upside is high. He missed time with a hamstring injury and shin splints this year, plus missed during the 2012 season, so there are going to be questions until he can stay healthy for a full season. Another year with a lot of lost time would start to affect his prospect status.

Austin Meadows might be the safest bet among the entire group because he’s a polished player for his age. His defense is strong in center field, plus he’s athletic, displays solid plate patience and he already shows some power, which will get better as he fills out his frame. Meadows has the highest upside in the top ten and a chance to be the top prospect in the system in the near future.

That leaves us with Luis Heredia and there seems to be a split on the progress he is making. The stats were better in the second half, but the reports from scouts and first-hand views(my own included) were not good. If you talk to the coaches, they saw the improvements, so it’s possible he is starting to come around finally. It’s hard to write him off because he is so young, with a huge frame and big arm.

You can look at his age(he turned 20 in August) and say he still has plenty of time, or you can look at where he was as a pitcher when he signed and realize that he has now been in the system for four full years and say he has been disappointing. It’s probably a little of each situation and how he handles a higher level next year will give you a better idea if the second-half progress was legit, or just a small sample size from someone that has made 32 appearances at the level. Heredia is playing winter ball this year, so that will be something interesting to follow this off-season.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday night. They are one game 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 won 10-1 on Thursday night over the Braves. Vance Worley will make his 17th start of the season tonight. Pittsburgh has three games left this season, all against the Reds in Cincinnati. Worley started once against the Reds back on August 30th and allowed one earned run over 6.1 innings. He also faced the Reds in his only relief appearance and gave up two runs over two innings. On the road this year, he has a 3.47 ERA in 57 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 and the West Virginia recap and top ten.

MLB: Pittsburgh (87-72)  @ Cincinnati (74-85) 7:10 PM
Probable starter: Vance Worley (2.93 ERA, 75:22 K/BB, 104.1 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 a highlight from Thursday night. Jordy Mercer makes a play in the hole and somehow got a fast runner at first base without jumping in the air away from his target to make the throw.

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

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including a player from the 1991-92 NL East champs.

Daniel McCutchen, pitcher from 2009 until 2012. Came to the Pirates in the six-player deal that involved Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. McCutchen was drafted four times before he finally signed with the Yankees in 2006. With the Pirates, he made 108 appearances, 15 as a starter. He had a 4.77 ERA in 188.2 innings.

Yurendell de Caster, 2006 Pirates. Went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in three games for the Pirates, his only big league time. Spent seven seasons in the Pirates farm system.

Brian Shouse, pitcher for the 1993 Pirates. Gave up four runs over four innings in six relief appearances. Shouse pitched briefly for the 1998 Red Sox, before finally sticking in the majors in 2002. He ended up pitching 467 games in the majors over ten seasons and 565 games in the minors over 18 years.

Steve Buechele, third baseman for the 1991-92 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him on August 30,1991 for two minor league pitchers and he hit .246 with four homers over the last 31 games. He hit .304 with four walks in the playoffs. The next year, Buechele was traded in July to the Chicago Cubs for Danny Jackson. He played 1,334 games over his 11-year career, spending the majority of his time with Texas

Bobby Shantz, pitched for the 1961 Pirates. Played 16 years in the majors, winning 24 games and the MVP award in 1952. Won 119 games total. Led the AL in ERA in 1957 with a 2.45 mark. Pitched against the Pirates three times during the 1960 World Series.

Joe Sullivan, lefty pitcher for the 1941 Pirates. He was purchased mid-season from the Boston Braves and went 4-1, 2.97 in four starts and 12 relief appearances. Was sent to minors in 1942 and played seven years without returning to the big leagues.

Bob Coleman, catcher for the 1913-14 Pirates. He hit .245 in 97 games. His only other big league time was a brief stint with the 1916 Cleveland Indians. He managed a total of 38 seasons in pro ball, the first eight as a player-manager and three years for the Boston Braves in the majors.

On this date in 1906, Pirates pitcher Lefty Leifield threw the first no-hitter in franchise history. During the second game of a doubleheader, Leifield no-hit the Philadelphia Phillies. In game one, Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis threw a 5-0 shutout.

  • John, if WVA’s talent was so good, and so deep, why did they end up with, by a substantial margin, a losing record?

    • It was a very young team and most of them missed a lot of time. Their second half record was above .500, I think that gets lost in the poor first half that included a 14 game losing streak. Very rarely do prospects = wins. The Pirates won all the time with a poor farm system back in the day because they were experienced players doing the winning. Bradenton was the only team that went to the playoffs and after Glasnow and Bell, who was only there half a season, there weren’t any top prospects. in fact, they made the playoffs because of their second half performance(second half division winner), so Bell had almost nothing to do with that.

  • Really appreciate your ability to balance the positive and negative in such concise blurbs for each player, John.

    McGuire has such little loft to his swing that he’ll need more than physical maturation to ever develop any power. His bat stays in the zone so long, though, and combined with his good bat speed he shouldn’t have any problems with contact as he moves up. You certainly do have to question how well he controls the zone if he can’t even muster a 6% walk rate in the SAL. Salvador Perez strikes me as a good comp for McGuire’s ceiling.

    As for Heredia, I really doubt you can bet on any physical projection left. He obviously isn’t growing – at least in a positive way – and the arm has clearly plateaued. I’d be interested in seeing if a move to the pen allowed him to tap into his stuff a little more.

    • If he can get the walk rate up, maybe he’s Jason Kendall.

      • McGuire looks like he is just trying to put the ball in play and he honestly did a good job of that in the three games I saw him play. Kendall on offense might be a good comp for his ceiling.

      • Always enjoy looking back on former Bucs, and Kendall’s a fun one. Just not a lot of guys with that hitter profile in the league these days.

        I’ve wondered just by scouting McGuire’s stat line – which admittedly is usually a terrible idea – if he could actually be making TOO MUCH contact, specifically on pitches out of the zone. Sub .300 BABIP in low-A is definitely a sign of poor contact.

    • I like talking to coaches to find out what a player is working on, but I don’t like getting their opinions on progress because most(not all) highlight the positives. If they do talk about negatives, it’s always followed by a BUT, then a positive spin on things. I like going to scouts and people that see the team often. Heredia’s situation is an extreme one, where what the coaches say doesn’t match the scouting reports and what I saw myself. I thought he looked noticeably better last year. Granted I didn’t see his late starts which were better, but he still lacks the strikeout rate of a prospect.

  • All that talent at WV and and that is only one team in system, anyone thinking the Pirates are looking at a window of time to contend right now are looking through the wrong window, with the talent in this system they could contend for many years, the Walker’s, McCutchen’s, Martin’s and Alvarez’s will drift away and they will be replaced by the Bells, Meadows, McGuires, Mathisens and Ramirez and many more.

  • If we clinch Home Field for the Wild Card game tonight, but the Cards win in Arizona (i.e. our chances of winning the division outright are very, very small; realistic best case is a one game playoff in StL to win the division), do you pitch Liriano at 1pm Saturday or do you hold him back?
    I ask because it sounds like SF is holding Bumgarner back for their 1st playoff game no matter their position on Sunday when he was scheduled to pitch next.

    • Tim wrote about that this morning. He says Liriano for the WC and I think I agree, but as you pointed out, I’d wait to see what happens tonight. I wouldn’t be against using Volquez on normal rest if it means taking a shot at the division but tonight’s results will play a big part in that decision

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