Morning Report: Factoring Age Into Prospect Status

Alen Hanson tends to get lost in the system sometimes because his numbers haven’t popped out at you since his breakout season in 2012. There is a good reason to be optimistic about his future though. He has just 11 plate appearances this season against a pitcher that is younger than him. It’s mostly been against Pawtucket’s Eduardo Rodriguez, who is a top 100 prospect in the game and almost six months younger. He has faced Indianapolis twice this year and Hanson led off both times. On the other hand, Hanson has faced pitchers old than him 152 times this year.

What that low total against younger pitchers tells you is that he is very young for the league and since he is hitting well recently(.919 OPS in May) that says a lot about his prospect status. There are other players in the system that have splits similar to Hanson and they all have one thing in common, they are top ten prospects.

Cole Tucker hasn’t faced a single pitcher younger than him yet this year. It happened just ten times in the GCL, but he skipped two levels this year and was one of the youngest players in the league on Opening Day. For comparison, Tito Polo is 1.5 years younger than league average and he has 18 plate appearances against younger pitchers. That speaks well for Polo too, but it tells you a lot about the pitchers Tucker is facing.

Austin Meadows turned 20 earlier this month and he’s one of the youngest in the Florida State League. Just like Tucker, every pitcher he has faced this year has been older than him. Meadows is handling the older players well, hitting .324/.393/.441 in 34 games. That is what makes him one of the top prospects in the system.

Reese McGuire is only 62 days older than Meadows, which basically makes them the same age. It’s a big enough difference though, that he has batted against a younger pitcher six times this year. McGuire had a quick start to this season, but has been pretty bad ever since. He has a .592 OPS in 30 games. His prospect status is based more on his high quality defense at a premium position, but the age of the pitchers he is facing, should figure into how well he should be expected to hit this year. A .592 OPS isn’t good, but a .592 OPS from a strong defensive catcher in a league where the average player is 2.7 years old than him, now looks better.

Hanson has been able to move up the system at a pace that keeps him among the youngest players in the league, so you need to factor that in when judging him. That is especially true for AAA, where the average player is 4.9 years older. If Tucker and McGuire can keep moving at a pace that keeps them among the youngest, and they do it while holding their own at the plate and on defense, then they will maintain their spots in the prospect rankings. Meadows is rated higher for a reason and if he continues to play like he has, then you could see him at the top of the Pirates’ prospect list in the near future, especially once Tyler Glasnow uses up his prospect eligibility.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 8-5 to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. Jeff Locke gets the start for the Pirates today, his eighth start of the season. He lasted just 3.2 innings in his last start, giving up five runs on six hits and three walks against the Cubs. Mike Pelfrey will get the start for the Twins

In the minors, both Indianapolis and West Virginia have morning start times today and the AAA game has a tough test for the Indians. Henry Owens, who is the second best prospect for the Red Sox, gets the start against Casey Sadler. Owens threw six shutout innings in his last game and has a .168 BAA. Sadler has gone at least six innings in every start this year and he has allowed three earned runs or less in every game as well. Jayson Aquino makes his second start since being acquired by the Pirates. He threw seven shutout innings in his debut last week. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (18-21) vs Twins (22-17) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (5.40 ERA, 14:30 BB/SO, 40.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (23-17) vs Pawtucket (22-18) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (2.50 ERA, 7:24 BB/SO, 39.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (22-14) @ Portland (16-22) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (2.84 ERA, 13:22 BB/SO, 38.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (20-19) @ Ft Myers (18-21) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jayson Aquino (0.00 ERA, 1:4 BB/SO, 7.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (21-17) @ Hickory (27-10) 11:00 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (5.28 ERA, 7:19 BB/SO 29.0 IP)


From Tuesday, Alen Hanson hits his fifth triple of the season. As mentioned above, he has been one of the better hitters in the system this month and all those singles from April are starting to turn into extra-base hits.

Recent Transactions

5/19:  Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel and Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training. Bradenton adds Henry Hirsch, Felipe Gonzalez and Brett McKinney to roster.

5/19: Jose Tabata added to 40-man roster and recalled. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis.

5/19: Justin Seller transferred to 60-day disabled list.

5/19: Matt Benedict assigned to Altoona.

5/17: Jeff Roy placed on disabled list. Trace Tam Sing added to WV Power roster

5/17: Bradenton adds Julio Eusebio, Cesilio Pimentel and Ryan Hafner to roster. Henry Hirsch, Felipe Gonzalez and Brett McKinney assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/16: Luis Heredia added to Bradenton roster. Matt Benedict promoted to Indianapolis.

5/16: Wilfredo Boscan added to 40-man roster and promoted to Majors. Steve Lombardozzi sent to Indianapolis.

5/16: Brandon Cumpton transferred to 60-day disabled list.

5/15: Charlie Leesman placed on Indianapolis disabled list.

5/15: Antonio Bastardo activated from Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise optioned to Indianapolis.

5/14: Charlie Morton assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

5/14: Pirates sign catcher Paul Brands.

5/13: Hayden Hurst placed on Voluntarily Retired List.

5/12: Indianapolis placed John Holdzkom on disabled list.

5/11: Felipe Gonzalez added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/11: Charlie Leesman added to Indianapolis roster.

5/11: Antonio Bastardo placed on Paternity List. Bobby LaFromboise recalled from Indianapolis.

5/11: Connor Joe added to WV Power roster. Trace Tam Sing transferred to WV Black Bears.

5/10: Pirates acquire Jayson Aquino from Toronto Blue Jays for cash. Aquino assigned to Bradenton.

5/9: Pirates released Justin Howard.

5/8: Charlie Morton assigned to Altoona on rehab.

5/8: Nick Kingham placed on disabled list. Adam Miller added to Indianapolis roster.

5/7: Clayton Richard assigned to Bradenton. Felipe Gonzalez assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/7: Colten Brewer added to WV Power roster. Eric Dorsch assigned to WV Black Bears

5/7: Jeff Inman added to Altoona roster. Tyler Sample sent to WV Black Bears.

5/6: Andrew Lambo placed on 15-day disabled list. Steve Lombardozzi selected from Indianapolis.

5/6: Adam Frazier activated from Altoona disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to Indianapolis.

5/6: Brad Lincoln added to Indianapolis roster. Charlie Leesman assigned to WV Black Bears.


This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, one of them is among the most underrated players in team history. George Grantham played seven seasons for the Pirates, spending time at first base, second base and outfield. He was a member of two teams that went to the World Series, the 1925 and 1927 teams. He had a .901 OPS in 913 games with the Pirates and never posted an OPS below .850 with Pittsburgh. That OPS ranks him fifth in team history and second only to Ralph Kiner among players with more than 3200 plate appearances.

The other player born on this date was Joe Harris, who was not only a teammate of Grantham for two years, he also played first base. He is a lot like Grantham in that he is relatively unknown despite a solid career. He was a .317 career hitter and batted .329 with the Pirates in 145 games. Harris once got a lifetime ban from MLB for signing with a semi-pro team, but was reinstated based on his service during WWI.

  • John…I am really getting into these morning reports of yours. Always thought provoking stuff.

    • Agree wholeheartedly with Foo – lots of good research and presentation. About Alen Rery Hanson, he was my pick for Pirate Minor League Player of the Year when his teammate Gregory Polanco won that honor. Check the stats – just a hitting machine, and I think his arrival will serve to settle the top of the order.

    • I’ll also add that I, personally, can tell distinctly different styles and delivery between Tim and John, which I appreciate as a reader.

  • Wasn’t George Grantham the original drummer for Poco? 🙂

  • Once Hanson arrives, the speed of him, Polanco, Marte Nd Cutch will be stunning. They will win lots of games on the strength of their legs alone.

  • Would like to see this studied more, but I actually think the opposite of what John concluded re: Alen Hanson’s performance being more impressive due to age gap.

    I don’t think this concept works linearly across levels. AAA will inherently have a bigger age gap between actual prospects and league average because this is the level AAAA guys go to die. Is there really an appreciable difference in 28 yo Chris Volstad vs 22 yo Chris Volstad, which was his age when he first went through AAA? Some, sure, but I’d most definitely argue that difference becomes little to nothing once you hit 24 or 25. Those additional years would seem to skew the number without changing the actual skill.

    To me, age gaps are most severe at the lowest levels because you’re compounding not only gaps in experience, but gaps in physical development.

    • John Dreker
      May 20, 2015 11:44 am

      I’m not sure where you got Hanson being more impressive from. If I thought it was more impressive than others, he wouldn’t be the 7th ranked prospect in the system and behind McGuire, who hasn’t hit much the last two seasons despite a much smaller age difference.

      • “Hanson has been able to move up the system at a pace that keeps him among the youngest players in the league, so you need to factor that in when judging him. That is especially true for AAA, where the average player is 4.9 years older.”

        Please correct my understanding of the English language if I’m wrong, but by explicitly emphasizing the AAA age gap in judging Hanson you seem to be implying that his performance is either more impressive or less apt to be judged than that of the other prospects mentioned.

      • Sorry John…I am with NMR…it did sound like Hanson should be thought of more highly because he is constantly younger.


  • I’m hoping Hanson makes the jump by the end of this year. Part of me feels like Hanson should be giving a shot a second and NW should move to first with Pedro parked on the bench.