Huntington on Blocked Prospects, Bell’s Power, Hanson, Diaz, Sanchez

Neal Huntington met with the media on Sunday, including our own Nate Barnes, and was asked about a lot of prospect-related topics. Most of these were topics we covered in the last week, so a lot of the notes below will include links to our articles for more analysis on the subject, along with Huntington’s thoughts. Here is the rundown.

**We talked a lot last week about prospects being blocked throughout the minors, whether it was Keon Broxton being held back in Double-A, or Jose Osuna and Chase Simpson being held back in A-ball. Huntington discussed this, and what it says about the organization.

“It’s a great spot to be in as an organization,” Huntington said. “I think that’s one of the things that we’ve worked hard to try to get to and we still have more work to do. There are some spots where we have guys off to great starts now. We’re not as quick and apt to move guys as maybe some would want us to be and a six-week start is a six-week start. There’s still work to be done with each of those guys at each of their levels and we’re able to have guys stacked up throughout the system, that’s a great spot to be in as an organization.”

What can we take away from those comments? For one, don’t expect Josh Bell to be promoted to Indianapolis after just a month and a half of production in Altoona.

**Speaking of Bell, this weekend Sean McCool had an article on his lack of power and his defense at first base. The lack of power has been a concern for a lot of people, but Huntington said the Pirates aren’t concerned.

“Absolutely zero concern to us,” Huntington said. “We want him to be a really good hitter and we believe the power that’s in there will show itself. The worst thing a young hitter can be asked or told is to hit with more power. You will create a ground ball monster as he tries to yank and pull too many pitches…It is zero concern to us that Josh Bell is not hitting with home run power because we’re working to get that young man to be a really good hitter. His strength and his power will show up.”

For what it’s worth, I think Bell’s power will eventually come. I’ve also yet to talk with a scout who is concerned with his lack of power over the long-term. Instead, the reports I’ve received have all been positive, including one glowing report saying he’s the best hitter in the minors. He’s hitting for a lot of extra bases, including five triples. That’s a promising sign of power, especially since his speed doesn’t profile as a guy who should have five triples at this point.

**Alen Hanson was off to a horrible start in the month of April, which has been a trend for him the last few years. He has since turned things around, and has a .917 OPS this month coming into the final week of May. Huntington discussed what Hanson needs to work on in order to reach the majors and stick at the level.

“He’s had a great month,” Huntington said. “He can do some things in batter’s box, he can do some things on the bases that are really exciting. We’ve still got time, maturity, development and growth. Him understanding what type of hitter he will be at the major-league level, how he can best exploit his abilities and his talents and skills. He’s had a really nice month stretch here where he’s done that on a consistent basis. We need to challenge him to continue to do it for not only months but years to come.”

Obviously Hanson would need a roster spot in order to make the majors. That would require an injury to Neil Walker, and then it would require that the Pirates didn’t use one of their other options, like Sean Rodriguez, Jung-ho Kang, or even moving Josh Harrison over from third (which would put Kang at third, which ultimately would mean they’d be choosing Jordy Mercer in the lineup over Hanson). Even with continued performance, it will be difficult for Hanson to crack the majors and see significant time this year.

**The Pirates have some catching depth in Triple-A, with Tony Sanchez and Elias Diaz currently splitting time at the level. Sanchez is the early season depth option, and was called up on the taxi squad last week when Francisco Cervelli’s health was up in the air. Diaz is the long-term option, profiling as the catcher of the future.

Both catchers in Indianapolis means that the Pirates have had to split their playing time. They have gone with a two days on and two days off schedule, with the off catcher getting time as the DH on the off days. This can be difficult when they play a National League team, since that removes the usage of the DH. That said, Huntington noted that this should prepare each catcher for how they will enter the majors.

“Both of those guys are probably going to break into the major leagues as a guy that shares time,” Huntington said. “So it’s not a bad thing for them to learn how to stay sharp and learn how to stay fresh and stay ready when their opportunity comes.”