Early Look at the 2016 Pirates Minor League Rosters – Outfield Edition

After finishing the 2015 season recaps for all of the infield positions, I took an early look at the Opening Day infield projections for all of the full-season minor league teams. Now that the outfield recaps are completed, I wanted to do the same type of early preview. The outfield is a lot easier to project, as you don’t have many position-specific assignments. You do have the factor of who will play center field, and who will play which corner, but that’s less of a problem than finding a guy who can play third base, or a guy who can hit enough to warrant being a first base prospect.

Here is a breakdown of each level and the projected outfield, starting with the most talented group first.

Altoona

I’m starting with Altoona first, because the outfield here could impact the outfield in Indianapolis. Austin Meadows and Barrett Barnes made the jump to Double-A in 2015, and Harold Ramirez should make the same jump at the start of the 2016 season. That gives Altoona a great outfield of prospects, and not much time for anyone else.

The guys who could factor in the mix are Stetson Allie, Mel Rojas, and Jose Osuna. Of the three, Osuna looks the most deserving of a promotion to Indianapolis. His playing time in Altoona would be limited all around, as he won’t find much time in the outfield, and would be splitting first base/DH duties with Edwin Espinal. Basically, it’s the same situation as the start of the 2015 season in Bradenton, only this time Osuna might not get much time in right field at the start of the year, like the did in 2015 when Harold Ramirez was out with a skin infection.

Up in Indianapolis, Osuna wouldn’t get much time at first base, with Josh Bell holding down the position, but would have more of a chance in the outfield. As for Allie and Rojas, they both seem to be upper level organizational guys right now, although Rojas could get one final shot in Triple-A with the Pirates if he continues his strong performance this winter.

Indianapolis

This group will largely depend on who gets the fourth outfield spot in Pittsburgh, and how many minor league free agents the Pirates sign. Right now, the candidates for the starting jobs are Keon Broxton, Jaff Decker, and Willy Garcia. I think Broxton and Decker are the lead candidates for a bench role, and Decker would need to clear waivers to make it to Indianapolis, as he’s out of options.

Garcia probably won’t be ready at the start of the 2016 season, and will be a lock to get playing time in Triple-A in the outfield. You might see one of Broxton or Decker taking another spot. The Pirates have also gone with outfield projects in Triple-A the last few years. In 2015 it was Gorkys Hernandez. It was Chris Dickerson in 2014, and Felix Pie in 2013. Expecting them to go without a lot of minor league free agents in the outfield is reasonable. Expecting them to go without any minor league free agents in the outfield is unlikely. You can probably expect one guy, just for depth purposes.

My guess is that the outfield will be made up of Garcia, either Broxton or Decker, and a minor league free agent. There would still be room here for Rojas to factor in the mix. Osuna could also factor in, especially if the Pirates lose Decker and have Broxton in the majors to start the year. He will likely see Indianapolis in the second half as a first baseman, after Josh Bell gets promoted to Pittsburgh.

Bradenton

Bradenton won’t see as strong of an outfield in 2016 as they did in 2015, but they should have some interesting guys. I’d expect the entire West Virginia group to move up. That includes Tito Polo, Michael Suchy, Elvis Escobar, and Jerrick Suiter. Those guys should take up most of the playing time, with the possibility of Justin Maffei or Jeff Roy sticking around in a bench role. There’s not much mystery involved here, and I don’t think the Pirates will aggressively promote any of their 2015 outfield draft picks at the start of the season to disrupt things.

West Virginia

Just like in Bradenton, I think we’re going to see a station-to-station thing here. Casey Hughston, Ty Moore, Logan Hill, and Ryan Nagle should move up from Morgantown and take most of the time in the outfield. It’s possible that some of these guys could move up to Bradenton mid-season, as they’re all college guys, but that would probably require a system-wide chain reaction.

The Chain Reaction

Again, this all starts with Altoona. The guys in Indianapolis are good, but only Garcia would warrant keeping the guys in Altoona down. The Pirates don’t exactly need outfield help in Pittsburgh any time soon, so they don’t have a big need to push Meadows, Barnes, or Ramirez to Triple-A in 2016.

Barnes would have the best case for a promotion. He spent the most time of the group in Altoona in 2015, and is older than the other two. He could also end up on the 40-man roster this off-season if the Pirates protect him, and they’d want to get him to the majors as quickly as possible.

It would be the same situation with Ramirez, who could also end up on the 40-man roster this off-season, although he has a better chance to start in the future, and is also younger. Therefore, it would make more sense to keep him in Altoona all season.

If anyone moves up from Altoona to Indianapolis, that would open the door for a promotion from Bradenton, which would lead to a promotion from West Virginia. Injuries could also factor in the mix, and trades could play another role, whether they happen in the off-season or during the year.

The Outfield Depth

The Pirates have no need for outfield help in the majors any time soon. They’ve got Andrew McCutchen under team control through the 2018 season, Gregory Polanco through 2020, and Starling Marte through 2021. The next wave will be led by the Altoona trio, with Austin Meadows and Harold Ramirez serving as the top candidates to replace one of the current three. That will likely be McCutchen, unless the Pirates extend him in the next three years. That move would seem surprising at the moment, considering the current makeup of the position in the majors and the depth in the minors.

Beyond Meadows and Ramirez, the Pirates have some guys who could start, but none that look like potential impact players. Barnes and Garcia are the closest to the majors of that group, but the guys projected to open the season in Bradenton and West Virginia could also factor in the mix.

The fact that the Pirates have no immediate need for outfielders, and plenty of talent at the position in the system, could also lead to this position being used as trade depth this off-season. Just like they did at the deadline, this would allow the Pirates to deal from a position of strength, while seeing no negative impact in the short-term or long-term.

  • I could see Tito Polo coming back to WV in 2016. Still young and would follow the path of Elvis Escobar. With the depth in the upper levels, this move makes sense (though I am biased of course).

  • I still see Garcia as the best prospect in AAA outfield. He kind of reminds me of Ozuna in Miami.
    I’ve suggested NH consider trading from this talent pool though in this off season to acquire a 3b… and the Phillies are the perfect team to match with as Cody Ashe would be a nice fit at 3b leaving Kang to short where he excels. Ashe is still young and has plenty of upside worth shelling out a prospect for and the Phils have no use for him in the outfield… I could see a Garcia / Ashe move making sense for both clubs… or whoever really just not Meadows.

    • I believe this is the third time im mentioning it to ya, but NH was about as clear as could be with the media in saying they have Kang as a 3Bmen going forward.

      0 signs they want Kang at SS, likely because when you break your leg you lose range that he already didnt have an abundance of. We should come to grips with the fact that Kang is likely a 3Bmen from now on, and hope the rest of his game recovers overall. SS is a need, not 3B.

      • I just can’t believe nobody has had the heart to break it to Brian that Cody Ashe is really bad at baseball.

        • He’s not so ba….i mean he does….if he keeps…

          He really does suck. Only on the Phillies does a corner IFer who has never hit well at all in the majors get that much playing time 2 years in a row.

          • TIL: Cody Ashe has rated worse at 3B than Pedro, and yes, that includes Pedro’s 2014.

            Seriously though, I hope Brian knows we’re just playing around. This place would get awful boring without it.

            P.S. Cody Ashe is still really really bad, tho.

            • Truly, tis what happens when i hit 5 oclock at work and decide “i did enough for today”. Purely jest, with a very real appraisal of how bad Asche has been anytime he stepped on a major league field.

    • Cody Ashe has no business starting for a contender. He will not be a starter on the next good Phillies team either.

  • Larry Wingard
    November 3, 2015 1:29 pm

    Carl Anderson was on the fall instructional league roster. Will he be back?

  • I look at both Garcia and Osuna and I can’t help but think that they are 2 guys that’ll end being guys that suddenly show up in the majors at like age 27 or 28 and have success. I’m not exactly sure how to elaborate on my thought process but I just think of guys who had the upside but not the results and suddenly everything clicked… like a Chris Davis or Ryan Ludwick or Jose Bautista or Josh Donaldson or even David Ortiz (obviously he’s an extreme example but he was definitely a late bloomer). Some guys take longer to develop and I think these 2 look like that type.

  • Tim,

    Is the omission of Andrew Lambo intentional – as in, he’s either ticketed for Pittsburgh or exclusively a 1B? He still has an option left.

  • Just don’t see any reason to keep Decker around – he actually might be able to help some other team as a bench guy and the right thing to do would seem to be DFA him and give him a chance to get an invite to a team for spring training.

    I really like Osuna – but he seems to be a first base only option. I know you want to push Espinal to Altoona – but why not let Osuna play first base every day there until Bell is promoted and keep Espinal at Bradenton – his OPS is not very impressive for a first base prospect – I know he is young – but focus on developing Osuna.

  • Outfield depth gets even more interesting past Altoona when you consider that most of the ’14 college bats – Luplow, Suchy, Joe, Suiter, Gushue – can fill a corner if needed. Beauty of that draft strategy.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    November 3, 2015 11:58 am

    Of the guys listed as potential 4th OFers in Pitssburgh, I think Broxton is the best of the three – he has more experience than Garcia, who could use more time in Indy. He also is a better athlete with better speed and OF skills than Decker. I think Rojas is another candidate, with similar skill set as Broxton.
    If they lose Decker to waivers, that will conclude what was a dumb trade from the beginning….trading a first baseman (which we had precious few of in the system) for an outfielder which we had an overabundance of.

    • The Pirates didn’t use Dickerson as a 1B in 2013, and the Padres have only used him at 1B twice in the last two years in the minors. He wasn’t really much of a first baseman. He also hasn’t really done much to show he’s any different than Decker in terms of value.

    • Got to disagree – Decker played a useful role over the last two years while younger OF prospects were developing – and made the Bell move to 1st less painful. But there is just no need for him now – Broxton has become a decent hitter – plays good defense in all three OF spots and has superior speed. He should get every chance in ST to win a spot on the ML team as fourth OF. Dickerson would be in a similar bind – no reason to keep him around at this point.

      Tim didn’t even mention the possibility that Lambo returns – if he does he goes to a corner OF spot in Indy at least to start the year – he will need regular at bats given how long he was out this year- and Frasier could see time in the OF also.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    November 3, 2015 11:54 am

    Given he isn’t a prospect, I would move Allie to Indy and out Osuna at first base full time in Altoona….he needs to be playing, not Allie.

  • Foogive me if I missed something, but why will Garcia not be ready for the beginning of the 2016 season? I don’t remember him having a major injury.

  • It would be nice if things came together for Harold Ramirez and he turned into something. Would give them an option, trade chip, whatever. Definitely a guy Im keeping an eye on next year.

  • Personal opinion is that Barrett Barnes has zero chance of being taken in the Rule 5 draft and is therefore not worthy of a 40 man spot this season.

    • Guy that can handle all three outfield positions with speed and already is projected to be somewhere around a .246/.304/.378 hitter in the big leagues? Before even factoring the development time lost to injury making his production when healthy look even more impressive, that seems to me like the *exact* kind of guy we would’ve been looking at as Pirate fans circa 2010. Free talent, no risk.

    • Barnes still has upside. He’s lost time due to injury but if he were exposed to the Rule 5, he’d be pretty close to the first guy taken.

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