One of the big questions surrounding the lower level roster makeup has been the lower level outfield crunch. Specifically, there was a question as to whether Austin Meadows would move up to Bradenton, or would return to West Virginia to get more time at the level after missing half of the 2014 season. The same scenario surrounds Harold Ramirez, who also missed half of the 2014 season in West Virginia.
The Pirates have held guys in similar situations back in previous years. The most recent case was with Josh Bell, who missed most of the 2012 season, then returned to West Virginia in 2013. I asked last week whether Meadows would make it to Bradenton, and Pirates’ Farm Director Larry Broadway said that he had a chance to move up. In that same link I talked about how Meadows has lowered his hand position to shorten his swing and try to hit for more power.
Today I was told that both Meadows and Ramirez would be starting the year in Bradenton. This news largely clears up the lower level outfield situation. Meadows and Ramirez will both be starters, and will most likely be joined by Barrett Barnes. Last week I reported that Reese McGuire and Luis Heredia would also start the year in Bradenton. That is going to set the Marauders up to be one of the best teams to watch this year from a prospect standpoint. The current lineup looks like this:
C – Reese McGuire
1B – Jose Osuna
2B – Erich Weiss
SS – JaCoby Jones
3B – Wyatt Mathisen
OF – Harold Ramirez
OF – Austin Meadows
OF – Barrett Barnes
DH – Jin-De Jhang
Jhang will most likely get time behind the plate as well, although McGuire will get the bulk of the work. I’m not sure where the Pirates will have the outfielders playing specifically, but I’m guessing Meadows will be in center field, with Ramirez and Barnes at the corners.
As for the rotation, that is also shaping up well, with Heredia, Steven Brault, Cody Dickson, Tyler Eppler, and Clay Holmes looking like the starting five. Holmes will begin the year in extended Spring Training as he returns from Tommy John surgery. 2014 13th round pick Frank Duncan could take his place in the rotation until he returns.
With Meadows and Ramirez moving up, this creates opportunity in the West Virginia outfield. I learned today that Tito Polo will be getting a push to West Virginia, making an aggressive jump from the GCL. Polo has looked impressive in batting practice, showing an ability to drive the ball to all fields. He was also one of the standouts on offense last year in the GCL, and looks like an early breakout candidate. He will be joined by 2014 third round pick Jordan Luplow. The top contenders for the final outfield spot will be Michael Suchy and Elvis Escobar. Kevin Krause could also factor in to the mix, when he’s not getting time behind the plate.