Today I wrapped up a long road trip which started a few days before the trade deadline, and spanned four levels, including the majors on Sunday night. Most of the focus was on the lower levels, giving me a chance to see a lot of the guys from the 2014 draft in West Virginia, and most of the 2015 draft picks in Bristol and Morgantown. I’ve currently got about 40 interviews to transcribe when I get home, and that doesn’t count the interviews from the articles I already wrote.
I’ll have a ton of content from these levels over the next few weeks, and some of that has already started. For example, there is my article on Carlos Munoz from last week, or my article on Kevin Newman over the weekend. There is also pretty much every Prospect Watch over the last two weeks, which featured live reports and a ton of information from each game.
For now, and because I’m tired and have one more day of travel tomorrow, here is a quick rundown of each level.
Summary: They don’t have a ton of big prospects. Most of the prospect talent is on the pitching side, and two of the pitchers (Mitch Keller and Trey Supak) were just about to return from injuries when I was there. The offense didn’t have a lot of talent. Carlos Munoz was the most interesting guy there, and I went into detail on him in the article linked above. They have some guys with interesting tools and potential, like Trae Arbet, Nick Buckner, and Sandy Santos. But Munoz is the only non-pitcher who could crack the top 50 in the system this off-season, and he probably wouldn’t get very high on the list.
The Standout: I’ve been high on the pitchers heading into the year, and Billy Roth is a big sleeper of mine. But the guy who really stood out was obviously Munoz. I really liked him last year, but I’m generally skeptical of first base prospects, and in this case, concerned about his size. I like his approach at the plate, both with his two strike approach, and his hand/eye coordination. I’m not sure about his long-term still, due to the weight. I’d still be skeptical until he has success in Double-A, which is my feeling for most first base prospects, but he’d remove some of that doubt if he moves up to West Virginia next year and continues doing so well.
The Disappointment: The offense obviously was the big disappointment here. There just aren’t any prospects on this team on the hitting side, despite a few big bonus international signings, or over-slot prep hitters. That could change in the future, as all of these guys are still young, but none have broken out just yet, and as noted above, I’m still unsure about Munoz.
Summary: The Pirates went heavy on college players in the 2015 draft, so most of their top picks were playing with Morgantown. It’s hard getting a good feel for new draft picks in a short amount of time, and any view I could give would come with the disclaimer that I’ve only seen these guys for a few games. That will change for some during the Fall Instructional Leagues. I did talk with a scout who had seen these guys a bit more than I had, and who had also seen the 2014 group. This scout liked the 2015 group much better than the 2014 group (in the context that he was looking at the guys taken outside of Cole Tucker in 2014). I don’t put a lot of emphasis on the stats at this level. There were a few guys who have great numbers who I didn’t like nearly as much as guys with poor numbers. There is also the consideration that most of these guys are coming off a college season, and haven’t played this much baseball in a year, making it difficult to get the same read on them that you’d get at the start of the year when they’re fresh.
The Standout: The one guy who was really surprising was Logan Hill. He was a 25th round pick, but has a great build, having the physical look of a future big leaguer. He has been tearing up the level, although I don’t put a ton of stock on stats at this stage. He did make solid contact, and looks like a great athlete. I’ll have more on why he might have slipped through the cracks in an upcoming article, but Hill looks like a guy who should have gone much higher than the 25th round.
The Disappointment: I didn’t expect to see Hector Garcia this series, since he hadn’t pitched in a month. However, he was an interesting prospect in the lower levels, and I was hoping to find that he’d be on his way back, much like Keller and Supak in Bristol. Instead, I learned that Garcia had Tommy John surgery and will be out through the 2016 season.
Summary: This was the second time I’ve seen West Virginia for an extended period this year, seeing them for a full turn through the rotation each time. This time around I saw Stephen Tarpley, who was just promoted to the level after the last trip. I was impressed with Tarpley, and liked what I saw from several other pitchers. Most of the top prospects on this team are on the hitting side, but there are some intriguing pitchers. Tarpley stands above the rest, while Yeudy Garcia is still impressive, even if he had a down night tonight. The hitters showed some improvements from last time, with a few guys quietly having a good season.
The Standout: I’m going to go with two here. Jordan Luplow and Michael Suchy are two of the guys quietly having a good year. They’re not flashy players, but they’ve been good hitters this year, with a lot of extra base power, and some home run power. They’re both capable of hitting to all fields, and both have been performing really well in the second half after some adjustments throughout the year, which I’ll get to in more detail once I break down all of the interviews I got.
The Disappointment: I was hoping to see Cole Tucker, as the 2014 first rounder had been putting up solid numbers since the start of June. Unfortunately, he was out the entire time I was there the first trip through the level, and was on the disabled list when I got back. The hope here is that there’s nothing major with Tucker, as he was doing a great job before going on the DL.
**I’ll be on the road all day tomorrow, with a few prospect articles lined up. John Dreker will have updates on the site during the day.
**Prospect Watch: Trey Supak Makes Brief Return to Mound. Includes my live report from Charleston tonight, with a big look at Yeudy Garcia.
**Hill, Garcia and Munoz All Win Player of the Month Awards. A lot of guys performing well in the system lately.
**Andrew McCutchen Named the NL Player of the Week. Speaking of players performing well, let’s hope this keeps up throughout the Cardinals series.
**Pirates Will Be Active on the Waiver Wire, But What Do They Need? I don’t think the Pirates have any needs outside of adding more depth. That’s not saying they’re a perfect team. It’s just saying they don’t need to be perfect to have success.
**Morning Report: The Minor League System is Full of Average Hitters. John Dreker points out that the Pirates farm system is collectively doing a good job of hitting for average.