Baseball America released their list of the best tools in AAA on Tuesday morning. Alen Hanson was picked as the best defensive second baseman and Elias Diaz was named the best defensive catcher in the International League. While the article is on BA, the voting is done by managers and coaches from the league.

Diaz shouldn’t be any surprise, as he is rated as one of the top defensive catchers in the minors. He was voted the top defensive catcher in the Eastern League last year. Diaz has thrown out 31% of runners attempting to steal this year, which is where he was at last year. In 52 games, he has three passed balls and six errors.

Hanson might be a surprise to some due to his documented troubles at shortstop, but his issues were never skill related. He had all the tools to play shortstop, including above average range, but he usually had issues on the routine plays. If he had too much time to think about the throw, you usually knew something bad was about to happen. On plays where skill took over and he had no time to think, then he could look like a future Gold Glove shortstop.

Putting him at second base means you have a skilled shortstop making shorter throws. His arm strength at shortstop was considered average, so it plays better at second base. He still had a little trouble with the throws last year after his move to second base, but he has just eight errors this year in 92 games after four in 17 games at second base last year. According to Ryan Palencer, who covers Indianapolis for us, his defense has been solid all season.

Last year, Baseball America put out the AAA tools one day, AA the next, followed by High-A and Low-A the next day. We will update this article and push it to the top when others are added, depending on their schedule.

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95 COMMENTS

  1. I just hope Diaz keeps progressing.

    I will take some flak for this but im just not sold on Cervelli yet. I would like to see him put in another healthy year and repeat the work with the bat. Now, im pretty sure they may chase him for an extension, which I understand in their economic situation for doing so (and only one year of control left). Ive just seen over the years the rush to hand someone an extension when the sample size was pretty small…Maybe im wrong.

    • Skepticism is definitely warranted for anyone who gets a big chunk of his offensive value from extremely high BABIP. Nothing about Cervelli’s profile suggests he’s a guy who can maintain anything close to .371; he doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, he doesn’t hit a lot of line drives, and he doesn’t run fast or bunt. League-average offense is probably closer to what should be expected next year, which still leaves you with a fine catcher but probably not one you want to be committing to into his 30s.

      • Share the risk 🙂

        Health is still a big issue to for me. 2015 seemed like the outlier…so far anyway.

      • Hitting the ball hard is nice, but hitting them where they ain’t is nicer. Yes, the BABIP is high, and it was even higher last year with NYY, while his OPS/wRC+/wOBA were remarkably similar.

        OTOH, Cervelli is an interesting case. Looking at his spray charts, when he does pull, he’s hitting mostly IF grounders yet still hits .291. When he goes oppo or to CF he’s batting >.400.
        http://www.fangraphs.com/spraycharts.aspx?playerid=5275&position=C&type=battedball&pid2=5275&ss1=2015&se1=2015&ss2=2015&se2=2015&cht1=hittype&cht2=battedball&vs1=ALL&vs2=ALL

        Looking at his stats, while he’s hitting .308 on grounders with a wOBA of .271, the most logical place to expect a regression is in his line drives, where he’s .750/.717 as that’s a pretty absurd number. But again, his numbers there were even more ridiculous in 2014… so perhaps no regression is really due and the guy just knows how to hit.

        Here’s a phenomenal stat for you guys. I was looking at exit velocity stats couple of days ago. You’d probably never guess who had the 8th highest average exit velocity on struck balls in MLB this year at 94mph.

        Jose Tabata.

        • That’s probably why scouts projected power from him years ago. But he just doesn’t have any loft to his swing. Too bad for him that he can’t seem to be able to fix that.

        • And if hitting them where they ain’t was at all a skill with predictive value, Cervelli would literally be the first in the history of Major League Baseball to figure it out.

          That’s likely, right? 😉

          Major League average for line drives this year is .683, so Cervelli’s ground ball success is actually what is absurd. Nobody hits .300 on grounders unless they’re really, really fast or hit the ball really, really hard. Cervelli does neither.

          I’m not saying to expect him to be a true talent .275 BABIP guy going forward or anything silly like that, but he’s not a true talent +.350 BABIP guy either. He just isn’t.

    • Cervelli has always hit when healthy – and the big health issue in the past was concussions I believe. The defense was always there.
      Right now Cervelli sits at a WAR of 2.6 right between the two $15M a year guys McAnn [2.3] and Martin {3.0]. Looks like overall the Bucs catchers are second to the Giants.

      Cervelli is going to want a big raise if he can finish out the year healthy – I think he has 1 year of ARB eligibility – 2016. Could be an opportunity to do an extension and lock him in for 3-4 years – but that would delay Diaz.

      Stewart is going to be looking for a raise – he has delivered a nice 0.7 WAR in 1/3 the ABs of Cervelli – and like Cervelli he is ARB eligible in 2016 and a FA in 2017.

      Stewart does have a first baseman’s glove and has played six games over his career at first.

      • A .348 SLG won’t cut it as a 1Bman. But he could be an emergency RHH backup to Walker I suppose. But so could Tony Sanchez, who seems to have vanished from the face of the earth, or at least fan perceptions.

      • Broken foot, wrist, hamstring issues…he was hit a lot back there. On more than one occasion I thought he was headed to DL the way he acted. As I said, was this the outlier year?

        I think it’s a tough decision myself. Across the board the numbers are career highs. He’s gonna get a nice bump in arbitration and head into a walk year similar to Martin.

        Again, hope Diaz keeps progressing.

  2. “If he had too much time to think about the throw, you usually knew something bad was about to happen.”

    ^Exact reason I was skeptical of just how much “improvement” Hanson would see at 2B, where this issue would be ever more exaggerated. Very, very impressed with his development in the field this year. Sign of maturity, most certainly.

    Elias Diaz might be having the “quietest” season of any top prospect in the organization. Good to see him get a little love.

    • Hanson was a 2B/3B when he was signed, and I think he played 2B in the DSL and possibly his first year in the states. Then the Pirates moved him to SS. That was an experiment in terror! I think he will be able to play SS if needed, and may do so as he matures, but it became a monkey on his back that affected him at the plate and in the field. I am thrilled for the kid and I would say he probably has some phenomenal range.

      Seeing what the Dodgers did to get their future 2B is an indication of the worth of Hanson. Do you think NH will try to sign him long term before he gets promoted?

      • I sure hope not.

        As a hitter with below average power, poor on-base skills, and merely average contact rates he’ll be highly dependent on BABIP to be an above average Major League hitter. Plenty of risk to that profile, obviously. His value will largely depend on what he can do in the field and on the bases, and that’s not the kind of guy I think you have to protect in arbitration.

        Also not sure what you mean by the Dodgers situation.

        • I agree that signing him long term is way premature. But, factor in his speed and he has good “on second base percentage”. What seems to be off in Indy is his GO/AO. Looks like he is grounding out a lot instead of hitting line drives. Probably correctable in 1H2016 in Indy before promotion in mid Summer.

          • My issue with those guys is that you gotta get on base before you can steal another. Hanson could easily be a low-.300s OBP, if that, with his current discipline, especially if the quality of contact issues you bring up persist.

            I like a lot of what Hanson does, I’m just not sold on how much of it will end up translating.

            • NMR, Hanson has put up solid numbers throughout his minor league career without really out-of-wack BABIP numbers. I also am not sure I agree with the “below average power”…for a middle infielder, Hanson has pretty strong extra-base-hit numbers (although his HR numbers are down this year…is that really a surprise? They have gone down almost every year and I am not sure the organization’s approach to hitting isn’t partially to blame for that). You can, over a full 600 AB season expect right around 50 extra-base hits from Hanson (and that’s using this year’s numbers which are by far the lowest of his career in terms of SLG)…Hanson has 30 xbh in 387 ABs…in the same 387 ABs Neil Walker has 37…and this has been, again, Hanson’s worst year by SLG%. No, I do not think he should be extended currently.

              • Jared, Hanson has gone from 47% above average production in his low-A breakout to 21% above average in high-A, 11% above average in AA, and now 8% above average in AAA. He’s been exactly as productive as Elias Diaz this season, and you don’t hear a soul saying big things about his bat.

                He may very well figure out adjustments at the highest level to boost his overall production, but as he stands as a hitter right now you shouldn’t expect anything more than an average player, at best.

          • What I intended in the remark about NH trying to sign him long term before he gets promoted was a play on the present situation with Gregory Polanco.

            We really do need to have an agreed upon symbol for sarcasm.

            The Dodgers thing is the kid they just got in a trade and brought him up yesterday to play 2B – I think his name is Peraza – hit a triple for his first Major league hit.

    • The thing with 2b though is there is more room for errors on the shorter throw. He would throw a lot in the dirt from ss, but from 2b, they would just end up being low throws. If he gets rid of the ball quick and he pulls the 1b, it’s easier for the 1b to jump for a throw or go off the bag a little and get back. That being said, his throws have been fine this year according to Ryan

      • I think that was my mistake…I was interpreting the reports as more of an issue with his hands, as in he’d get a bit sloppy with the extra time and let routine grounders eat him up. Seems it was more of a throwing thing like you said.

        • What he doesnt have, is an offensive profile that suggests he’d be a top 10 type hitter at 1B in the league. This year he’d rank 8th in the NL and 15th overall at 1B.

          Better than Pedro, still a bit uninspiring overall.

          • The platoon issues are negated at 2B because that’s still a position of defensive value. As a 1B, I’m not sure why any club would pay good money for those at bats.

          • We have a black hole at first and had tried a number of options for too many years. I really don’t see the PBC paying Alvarez past this year and I don’t see them exploring options outside of the organization. If they keep one player it’s Walker. He would be an expensive platoon but I think he would be better defensively. Obviously Bell is waiting in the wings and Walker could be a one year transition. The key is would the PBC consider two rookies on the rs of the infield next year?

          • IF you give Walker at least average defense at 1B (and being a former 3B and 2B–even one with poor range–you might even expect better than average defense at 1B) and a top 15 1B bat (that is an average 1B bat)…then he is a huge improvement in WAR over what we have had in years. An average 1B bat and average 1B defense is probably worth at least another 1 win over what we have had…if not two.

            • I don’t think that’s really the argument Luke’s making, though. He’s smart enough to know that Neil Walker is obviously an improvement on the current situation, and likely next year as well. But this discussion only seems to come up in the context of an extension, in which case I tend to agree with him.

              • However, the reply wasn’t to the extension idea, it was to Bill W., thus it would appear that the objection is to even one year. I don’t know who Bucs would sign on a one-year deal for less than what Walker is making who’d do better. Possibly Steve Pearce, but that’s about it. Morse remains a strong injury risk if he’s your full time guy there until Bell arrives.

                • You’re right, I am reading more into it than what Luke explicitly said. It’s a little funny how you get to “know” guys on here after a while. I suppose I was speaking for what I *thought* he meant.

                  I very much agree with your logic, though, and would even be tempted to go as far as tendering Alvarez because of it if you believe he could be merely passable in the field. I doubt he sees much of a raise at all, and you’re not going to find a guy on a one year deal to fill his place for less. I like Walker in that singular role more, just not sure how much I like watering down the infield depth to do it.

                  • I wouldn’t trust arbitration to not provide Pedro with a substantial raise. Arbiters usually look at the body of work, not a single season or even two. And of course you have the Ross Ohlendorf case.

                    • True, you do never know. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of cold winter days to discuss such things coming up in a few months.

                  • How much do you really water down the infield depth to do it though? You would have Moroff and Frazier and Gamache in AAA along with JH Kang and Harrison in the majors. If anything it could be argued that Walker is blocking prospects and that moving him to a position of clear weakness instead of blocking a position of depth/strength would be the most advantageous route for the team.

                • My fault, my notion is that Walker isnt a good solution to 1B beyond a small stop gap. You can deal with his level of production for a year, but even then its not good. Its better than Pedro, but thats a low bar. Walker is fine for 1 year, but that still means you need a platoon partner and hope on Bell to be ready soon.

                  • I don’t see why Walker needs a platoon partner at 1B when he doesn’t have a full time one now at 2B. This year Walker is better than Alvarez at Ave/OBP/SLG/OPS. A one year use of Walker in 2016 from both sides of the plate upgrades the Alvarez/Serpico (Morse,Ishikawa) platoon, and it releases another roster position to be available for a more flexible player. We have too many 1B men right now, all due to Alvarez’s limitations. Walker is good but not great and will not be worth the money he could get in an extension or on the FA market. Simple 2016 plan:
                    In the first half:
                    3rd: Kang
                    SS: Mercer
                    2nd: Harrison
                    1B: Walker
                    In the second half:
                    3rd: Harrison
                    SS: Kang
                    2nd: Hanson
                    1B: Walker

                    • Jordy’s role should be as a backup up SS/2B, maybe 3B because he doesn’t hit RHP well enough. When he does start it should be against LHP. The question is, over a six year horizon who will be the better player, Mercer or Hanson. Hanson has the edge in speed, range and to some extent at the plate. When Hanson is ready for MLB he should play. Mercer is a place holder until that point in time. Kang’s bat has to play. I like him better at 3B, but his play at SS is adequate (Mercer like). My suggested lineup keeps Kang and Harrison as consistent starters, both of whom are better players than Mercer.

                    • hanson will be 2nd bseman so that is irrelevant. mercer will be a better shortstop as long as he plays. defense first at short pirataddict. you see the damage bad defense has to a game

                    • Walker needs a platoon partner because of his stats against LHP. Rocking the 82 wRC+ and thats more normal than outlier for him. You basically would have to assume last year, his only good year against LHP, was predictive and this year is just odd noise.

                      Walker would be an average hitting 1Bmen (nothing terrible about that) who is below average against LHP and plays average defense. Its an improvement, but you should have a platoon for him or his overall numbers drag down.

                  • You don’t need a platoon partner, but i’m sure we’ll have someone who bats righty on the team whom has a first baseman’s mitt and hits better than pedro or corey hart against lefties

              • Oh, I completely agree that I have no interest in extending Walker. I do think the team would be improved with a move to 1B…if that is something that we think he can actually pull off. His range is bad at 2B and despite the bat not profiling as well at 1B as it does at 2B, the overall net improvement would, I think, warrant the change IF he is on the team at all next year. Maybe Toronto, who has liked him in the past, would be interested in a trade for him…

              • I don’t think anyone really thinks extending walker is a good idea. I think he was just talking about next year

          • at some point we are going to have to be okay for uninspiring at first base, seeing as its a hell of an upgrade over what we’ve had for quite a long time

  3. Diaz should play every day in AAA and continue to get better and be the primary catcher should Cervelli get hurt. The bigger question is, if Cervelli continues to play as well as he has through next year will the team consider making him a priority free agent to sign? He’s been outstanding at the plate, behind it, and in the clubhouse. He may be the kind of guy you sign long term.

      • Another healthy season like this and his value could explode more than that. If he were to have a slight dip in offense next year but stay mostly healthy, to the tune of 120 games played with a 115-120 wRC+, he will have 3 straight solid offensive years with a good defensive reputation.

        Martin went for 5/82, i could see Cervelli bringing in 3-4 at 12+ AAV.

        • Did you realize Cervelli will enter free agency just one year younger than Martin when he signed that deal? Surprised he is that old.

          (Not really a point of agreement/disagreement with you post, just things I think)

          • Yeah his injuries, and thus lack of playing time, do make him seem young in terms of how long he’s been around.

            • His catcher age is still younger though, since he hasn’t had as much wear and tear as russ…..less mileage

        • Even though a decent defensive reputation, there are few who count Cervelli in the same league as Russ defensively. 4/40-4/45 is the ceiling in my opinion

          • Russ got the equivalent of 16 per year. I just dont see Cervelli, with another healthy and decent (if slightly less than this year) offensive year getting 6 million less per year because his arm isnt elite.

            Statistically, he is as good framing and he’s a quality blocking catcher. His arm isnt elite, its average. I still think given the catching market most years he’s looking at 12 million over 4 years and thats not something PGH really needs to do with Diaz close.

            • I don’t think we’d pay 10 per year or 12 so it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s a position we shouldn’t have to pay much for, for about the next ten years if we are smart.

              • Oh my bad, i thought we were discussing market value not what PGH will pay. No way PGH pays 10-12 million over 3-4 years with Diaz that close. Great spot to be in, not needing to pay near market value.

                • Lol, this one isn’t your bad Luke. There were a couple topics floating around at the same time. They were talking about what he’d get, and whether or not we’d resign him. As far as i’m concerned, I don’t care what he’s going to get cause we aren’t going to resign him (just like walker) what he could get is usually based on what big markets need a catcher. Luke, who do you think would be in the market for a catcher after 2016? I haven’t looked at any contract situations recently

                  • I havent looked that far ahead, really if Cervelli continues playing well plenty of teams will be in the market for a catcher like him.

                    If Cervelli is a FA coming off, say multiple 2+ WAR seasons where he played at least 100 games, he’s an upgrade for a good chunk of teams. Idk about a few years from now, but WSH could upgrade at C.

      • The interesting question, though, will be how much the Pirates can really afford to spend (I know here we go again with payroll, but hear me out)…with the cost of our players getting higher each year the Pirates are going to have to turn to prospects somewhere along the lines to lower the payroll numbers or, alternatively, they are going to see a payroll in the $120M range.

      • I just can’t see us extending him with Diaz and all the young catchers we have coming up. Yeah, it would be great trade bait because catchers are valuable, but….unless someone who has an extra power bat in the infield, i’m not really sure what we’d get that we need.

    • While I agree it’s a good idea to start Diaz out at AAA next year, Cervelli has a serious injury history to be signing him past his 20’s.

  4. Although Stewart has hit much better this year than I ever thought he would, I hope the Pirates move on from him in 2016 and actually give Diaz a shot to play in Pittsburgh next year. Hitting wise, he may be similar to Cervelli, but has a gun for an arm – that would be a great pairing.

    For Hanson, if the Pirates extend Walker, I’d move him to first and plug Hanson into second base next year.

    • The Pirates love depth here. I would think that they might start the year with a veteran (maybe even Sanchez) as back up. Their fear would be that not signing a veteran and letting Sanchez go (who I believe is out of options) would mean they would be in some trouble if there was an injury to either Diaz or Cervelli.

      • Not really…..Valle could certainly play as could Stallings and you wouldn’t be putting your team at risk, but I see where you are going here.

    • I really hope the Pirates don’t extend Walker. Hanson and Bell both have higher ceilings and 6 years of control at this point. If I were GM, the infield by next June would be Jay-Hay at 3rd, Kang at short, Hanson at 2nd, and Bell at 1st.

      • Walker could have some return value in a trade this winter. Alvarez probably very little unless he gets hot at the end of the year and an AL team in need of a DH takes the risk with him.

        Better use of Walker might be at 1B for one season until his years of control expire. I wouldn’t mind seeing Bell play the full year at AAA next season.

      • I like Bell a lot but he hasn’t done enough to merit a spot in Pittsburgh next year. If he is to be a decent future 1B he better become a better fielder and drive the ball a lot better. I see him needing another year at least to develop a power stroke.

      • i doubt they could afford him, even at a discount. As much as I love walker, i just don’t see the value in extending him, but i also don’t see him on the bench or traded, so you will not be seeing hanson at 2nd minus an injury to walker

    • If we do not teach some of these pitchers how to hold a runner and still be able to throw a quality pitch, then it makes no difference who is behind the plate or how strong his arm may be. Watching the Dodgers run the bases on Charlie Morton the other night was painful. The folks on ESPN were correctly criticizing him delivering the ball from the stretch in 1.50 to 1.70 seconds, and half the time Cervelli could not even attempt a throw.

      Slide step? How about a slide step combined with a pitchout? How about stepping off?

      • Slide step shouldnt be necessary, as Schilling pointed out. Yeah, you can use a slide step to keep a runner off balance on your regular delivery, but you just shouldnt ever be 1.50+ to the plate.

        Morton and AJ both are crazy slow to the plate.

        • I agree, but in the situation where you have a slow delivery to the plate, there are ways to at least throw a little doubt into the runner rather than performing the same slow delivery each and every time.

        • Really? You know this from your extensive knowledge of the future? Or are you always rude to others with your haughty attitude? Regardless, if I wanted to make you look dumb I would say that you’re wrong…Bell will, definitely, play 1B next year…just maybe not in the majors.

          • Jared. I don’t think a one word answer is rude. And he’s right, most likely, Bell will not be the first baseman next year, its not the plan as of now.

    • I wouldn’t be against moving Walker to first next year if we can’t get a decent first baseman. If we aren’t trading Hanson, we need to get him on the field. Walker even right handed is way better than we have now, i think he’d still be a decensive liability, but probably only half as bad as pedro

        • Don’t tell me, tell the people at BA who made Bell the top hitting prospect. And how would you know anyway just looking at OPS numbers ? Also, playing SS might drive WAR numbers but it doesn’t have a thing to do with hitting ability. Try again.

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