Top Performers: Hanson, Garcia, Ramirez, Keller, Tarpley, Williams

Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provide additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis and Morgantown this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis, Bradenton, West Virginia and the GCL in the past week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. This week we went with the top ten hitters and top ten pitchers. With more teams playing, we went with the top ten hitters only to keep the list manageable. In the past, we included everyone who reached an .800 OPS with 20 plate appearances, but the list would have been much longer if we continued that method with eight affiliates playing now. Here are the top guys this week, and the rundown on their performances:

HITTERS

Barrett Barnes – After a slow start this season, Barrett Barnes hasn’t been handled like a prospect. He isn’t playing everyday and he’s been at the bottom of the lineup as well. That could change with his recent hot streak, in which he put up a .978 OPS this past week, and an .832 OPS over the last four weeks. Barnes was drafted as a toolsy player, but it seems like all of the injuries and missed time have taken their toll on him. He’s a corner outfielder, with a below average arm. He has just one homer this season after hitting nine last year, beginning that year in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. The speed seems to be at least average still, which is a good sign with all the hamstring issues he has had. Barnes has eight stolen bases and six triples. He’s going to be 25 soon, though he still hasn’t put in two full seasons worth of games. – John Dreker

Willy Garcia – After a very long drought without a home run, Garcia hit two this weekend, giving him three on the year. He has drawn more walks this year than in the past, and his average was still decent despite a higher strikeout rate, but those numbers are only good if the power comes along with them. He still has the best outfield arm in the system, which is a legit plus-plus tool. The defense otherwise is at least average in right field, but Garcia has lost a step on two over the years, going 3-for-11 this season in steals, when he used to look like an above average runner. We saw last year with him that he was unable to combine better plate patience with power, it was either one of the other. With the recent show of power, which includes some doubles as well as the homers, it will be interesting to see if the OBP stays the same or even gets better, which would help his prospect status. – JD

Jordan George – George is putting up some good numbers in Morgantown this year, repeating his solid performance from last year in Bristol. He’s got a .906 OPS, showing a great ability to get on base, with 17 walks and only 9 strikeouts in 67 at-bats. This past week he went 6-for-18 with six walks, and reached base safely every single game, extending that streak to nine games. The big disclaimer here is that he’s 23 years old, coming out of college last year and going into rookie ball. He’s in the NYPL this year, which is usually for college players from the most recent draft, who are a year or two younger than him. He also hasn’t hit for much power, and is a first base only option. This combination means that George isn’t going to be a prospect, but could be a good organizational guy, helping the lower level teams win. – Tim Williams

Alen Hanson – Hanson has been on a hot streak lately that has been lost with all of the prospects getting called up. It also gets lost in his season stats due to a very poor month of May. In his last 22 games, he has a .350/.424/.450 slash line, with 11 walks and eight strikeouts, as well as 11 stolen bases. That kind of streak with his Triple-A and brief MLB experience would probably get him called up in the past. The problem is there is nowhere to put him at this point unless you switch him with Adam Frazier and either way, one of them wouldn’t be getting enough at-bats. Over that streak, Hanson has started games at second base, third base, left field and center field, adding versatility that will allow him to be an option in multiple spots, instead of just waiting for second base to open up. If nothing opens up, then you may not see him in Pittsburgh until September, where his plus speed would play well off the bench. Waiting until then would also allow him to get more experience at other positions besides second base. – JD

Jhoan Herrera – Herrera has some power potential from the first base position, but that hasn’t shown up until recently. He’s hitting for a .339/.409/.542 line in 59 at-bats so far this year, with two homers and six doubles. The home runs came in his last seven games, and he went 7-for-19 in the last week, with one of those homers. He originally came up as a third baseman, but switched to first base full time last year, and remained at the position this year. It’s a small sample size for his offense this year, and he will need to continue that in order to be a first base prospect going forward. – TW

Jordan Luplow – Last year, Jordan Luplow got off to a slow start, hitting for a .694 OPS through the month of June. He followed that up with a .307/.420/.574 line down the stretch for West Virginia, and looked to be a promising guy to watch heading into this season. He got off to another slow start this year, although has been gradually getting better as the season has gone on. He had a .579 OPS in April, a .711 OPS in May, and exploded for an .893 OPS in June. He’s carried that over into July, with an .824 OPS. That includes going 6-for-19 with a double and two triples last week. Part of his issue could have been labrum surgery last off-season on his non-throwing shoulder. He returned early from the injury, but it could have impacted him early in the season. He’s been moved back to the outfield this year, where his bat will have to provide more value, making it more important that he puts up these strong numbers. – TW

Harold Ramirez – Ramirez had a big week with a .360/.448/.480 slash line. That raised his season OPS to .768 through 80 games. That’s a significant game total because it ties his career high for games played. Ramirez has had some injury issues in the past and he wasn’t in game playing shape at the beginning of last year, so he has never put in a full season. Despite that, he’s 21 years old and doing well in Double-A at the plate. Ramirez is a player where the bat is well ahead of the rest of his game, so he will need a full season in Triple-A next year, even if the offensive numbers tell otherwise. He is raw as far as game experience and it shows out in the outfield and on the bases. So while the logjam in the Pittsburgh outfield seems like it would hold him back, he probably won’t be ready before 2018 anyway and a lot can change between now and then. – JD

Michael Suchy – I write the same thing about Suchy every week. He’s a big guy who has some surprising speed for his size, but doesn’t hit for much power. He does have a good ability to hit for average and get on base. The latter is what gets him on this list so often, but the lack of power might hurt his prospect status going forward. He did show some power this week, hitting a home run for his only extra-base hit. He also went 6-for-16 with four walks. Suchy is looking like a platoon player at the moment, putting up a .294/.398/.448 line with all four of his homers against right-handers, and a .203/.313/.217 line in 80 plate appearances against left-handers. – TW

Adrian Valerio – Valerio is one of the best defensive shortstops in the system, with a strong arm, a lot of range, and smooth fielding skills. He also has the ability to make solid contact with the ball, with a line drive stroke and speed that gives him the ability for extra bases. He’s off to a good start in Bristol at the plate, with a .323/.333/.462 line in 70 plate appearances. There aren’t many walks involved, but also not many strikeouts, with just nine on the season. He had a big week this week, going 8-for-20 with three doubles. He also had three multi-hit games. He will get plenty of time at shortstop in Bristol, but it will be interesting to see how the team handles him and Stephen Alemais next year as both get set to move up to West Virginia. – TW

Eric Wood – Wood hit his 11th home run on Sunday in his 235th at-bat, which equals the amount he hit over the last three seasons combined in 1,097 at-bats. Wood spent last year in Altoona and had a .608 OPS in 101 games. This year he has a .799 OPS in 69 games, already collecting more total bases than in 2015. He has also looked better defensively, and his fielding percentage reflects that with a 30 point jump over last year. It’s not just the errors though, he’s making tougher plays. A 23-year-old third baseman with a .799 OPS and an improved glove in Double-A is a prospect to keep an eye on, especially if he can continue it over the entire season. – JD

PITCHERS

Dario Agrazal – Agrazal pitched twice last week, allowing two runs over 6.1 innings on Monday, followed by one run over six innings when I saw him on Saturday night. In that Saturday night game, he was hitting 94 MPH consistently, while touching 95 MPH. That is improved velocity over what we saw from him during his first three seasons with the team. The increase began in the Fall Instructional League, where he was touching 94 MPH. In the spring, he was sitting 92-93, up from the previous reports of sitting 87-91 MPH. Now he has even increased more since then while still throwing strikes. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise he added velocity, because he’s 21 years old now and still filling out his 6’3″ frame. He also had one of the easiest/low-effort deliveries in the past, almost looking like he was just out there playing catch. Agrazal is still a pitch-to-contact pitcher, relying on quick outs and ground balls. The higher velocity while still commanding his pitches well, should give him more room for error. – JD

Wilfredo Boscan – With the inexperienced starting staff in Indianapolis at the beginning of the season, Boscan got his chance in the major, making one start and five relief appearances. Now he is in a tough spot behind four pitchers who have already been called up, while also competing with Trevor Williams for the top option after all of them. Boscan has the toughest job of them all as the non-prospect, pitching on short rest at times, being thrown into a bullpen role in the majors, then coming back to start. He has handled it well, allowing one run over six innings in his last start, and posting a 3.65 ERA, with seven walks and a 1.48 GO/AO ratio in 66.2 innings at Triple-A. At this point he is just bullpen depth, but might see the majors before September if the Pirates overwork their bullpen at some point and need a long man. – JD

Matt Eckelman – The Pirates drafted Eckelman in the 21st round this year, and moved him to Bristol, which is a lower assignment for a guy out of college, but not uncommon for a later round pick. Bristol had a double-header this week, and that allowed him to get a start. Prior to the start, he was a long reliever, combining for two runs on five hits in six innings, with a walk and eight strikeouts. He was impressive in the start, going five shutout innings, with two hits, no walks, and four strikeouts. He was a college senior with a four pitch mix and outstanding control, so he’s expected to have good results in rookie ball. However, it will be interesting to see if he remains in the rotation going forward, or if that was a one time deal, despite his early success. – TW

Cody Dickson – The last three starts in June for Dickson saw him allow 12 earned runs over 16.1 innings. The two starts since then have been the same line of one run over six innings. Prior to his poor end to June, he had allowed five earned runs total over his last seven starts. His numbers at the beginning of that streak included a 6.45 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP. Those numbers are down to a 3.69 ERA and 1.59 WHIP on the season. Dickson still has issues with walks, even when he is successful. He has just one game this year in which he hasn’t walked two or more batters. Part of the problem is control, while he also doesn’t do himself any favors by trying to get guys to chase rather than pitching to contact and trusting him stuff. If he ever learns to do that, then he would become a legit Major League option at the back-end of a rotation because the arsenal is there. – JD

Bret Helton – Helton pitched twice this week, allowing two runs over six innings on Tuesday, then one run over 6.2 innings on Sunday when I saw him pitch. In the Tuesday game, he set a new career best with seven strikeouts. He has had just one start since the beginning of May in which he allowed more than three runs. Helton doesn’t wow with his stuff. He sat 86-90 MPH on Sunday and didn’t throw many off-speed pitches, but he got results by commanding his fastball. He will need to work in more secondary pitches for that velocity to work at higher levels. As a soft-tossing right-handed pitcher who turns 23 in two weeks, it’s hard to see much upside despite the success. Going to the pitch-friendly FSL next week will help since he isn’t a huge ground ball pitcher, but he could run into trouble once he reaches Double-A – JD

Mitch Keller – Keller allowed two runs on five hits and one walk over seven innings in his only start this week. One of those runs was caused by Logan Ratledge losing a routine fly ball in center field, which landed about 15 feet in front of him despite him never moving a step for it. He was hitting 96 MPH consistently in the game and had less variance in his speeds than earlier in the year when I saw him. In that first game he was 91-96, probably averaging right in the middle of that range. On Thursday, his average fastball was probably closer to 95 MPH. He also threw his changeup more often the second time and was getting more strikes with his curve. Keller is leading the South Atlantic League with an 0.88 WHIP. Batters are hitting just .208 against him while he has 11 walks and 91 strikeouts in 81.2 innings, and that’s coming from someone who turned 20 in April.  – JD

Yunior Montero – Montero gets the reliever spot this week for one hit and no earned runs over 5.2 innings. The 23-year-old, 6’4″ righty has quite the background that got him to Low-A so far. He was originally signed by the Pirates in 2009 out of the Dominican, but MLB couldn’t verify his age so his contract was voided. The Pirates re-signed him a year later and then when he pitched his first game in 2011, he threw five shutout innings. Right after that game, MLB stepped in again and voided his contract. They had to sign him again in 2013 and just as he was about to pitch, MLB made him sit and wait. The crazy thing about all of that is that he age never changed, so the final decision was that it was correct from the beginning, basically costing him four full seasons (minus one game). Here he is now finally in Low-A ball and in his first two games he has an .059 BAA and a 5.00 GO/AO ratio. Montero is a big kid who hit 93 MPH with ease on Saturday night. There is probably more in his arm because he was hitting 94 MPH when they first signed him. – JD

Ike Schlabach – The Pirates didn’t have many over-slot prep pitchers in the 2015 draft, and of the group, Schlabach is the most interesting. He’s a lefty with a tall, projectable frame, and has the ability to touch the low 90s with his fastball. He’s dealt with some control problems early in his career, walking six batters in 11.2 innings last year in the GCL, and starting off with five walks in 8.2 innings during his first two outings in Bristol (with 4 in 3.2 innings in his second start). In his most recent start, he went six innings, allowing one run on four hits, with the biggest thing being the zero walks allowed. This was also his longest outing, so it was good that he not only had control, but held it for so many innings. – TW

Stephen Tarpley – I haven’t had a chance to see Tarpley since he moved to Bradenton, although that will change tonight. On the surface, his season has been decent, with a 3.42 ERA in 55.1 innings, along with an 8.5 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9. Breaking down the numbers, he got off to a slow start, with a 5.87 ERA in 23 innings after returning from the DL early in the year. Since then, he has a 1.67 ERA in 32.1 innings, with a 30:10 K/BB ratio. That includes seven shutout innings this week, with five hits, two walks, and six strikeouts. That was his longest outing of the year, and his best outing in an impressive stretch, rebounding from his only poor performance since the start of June. – TW

Trevor Williams – Williams has pitched great recently, making this list last week when he faced the minimum over seven innings. He followed that up with one run on five hits and a walk over seven innings on Friday night. The overall stats are still poor at Indianapolis due to giving up too many hits in his first few games back. Williams gets a lot of ground balls and weak contact, so sometimes his hit totals can be a bit deceiving. He mixes his pitches well and does a good job of keeping the ball down. He seems to be throwing a little harder than in his first few starts back, regularly hitting 94-95 with movement in his last game. He’s trying to pitch to contact and limit his pitch counts, but the strikeout totals have been better recently. That’s a good sign of the stuff he has, as it’s a combo of getting the quick outs while being able to get swing and misses when needed. – JD

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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piraddict

I love seeing the increased number of walks from Hanson! Is he responding to coaching on understanding the strike zone or has he just been facing bad pitching?

Given Kang’s troubles Eric Wood suddenly gains greater importance., though I suppose Hanson or one of the super utility guys gets first dibs at 3B if Freese doesn’t resign.

leefoo

Tim….you wrote:

Suchy is looking like a platoon player at the moment, putting up a .294/.398/.448 line with all four of his homers against right-handers, and a .203/.313/.217 line in 80 plate appearances against right-handers. ”

I’m assuming that one of those RH should be LH, but which one?

Thx

Lee

Tim Williams

The second is left-handed.

john fluharty

Reminds me of conversations I used to have with my mom growing up- “it’s on your right; no, your other right.” 🙂

emjayinTN

Hanson has hit his stride and should be considered seriously for a promotion long before September. He had a strong ST and the stats above indicate he is a very strong hitter from the leadoff position. He fields very well and in 1.5 years at AAA he has stolen 62 bases. I know Jaso is the leadoff hitter temporarily, but if the Pirates are thinking straight they bring up Bell to play 1B, and then Hanson to be the leadoff hitter. Just my $0.02

John W

Hanson to be leadoff hitter with a .312 OBP over 2 years in Triple A? So shave that down even more when he will be facing MLB pitching.

Yes, it’s inane that John Jaso takes at bats away from Josh Bell. But I don’t see how one can reasonably think Hanson is capable of being leadoff hitter for Pirates right now.

leefoo

Hanson doesn’t walk or hit for average.

What about that screams “leadoff”?

Even after this hot streak he is only hitting .270 with a .312 OB Pct.

John W

It’s sad Lee. Well over 800 PAs in Triple A and below league average hitter. 2012 breakout was a loooooooong time ago. Hanson has had a good hot streak. A lot of kids do. Not expecting this to be much different than his performance from last May when he was reputedly turning the corner.

emjayinTN

Since June 1 in 37 games/139 AB’s, Alen Hanson’s slash line is .302/.370/.417/.787 OPS with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR’s, 11 RBI, 15W/13K, 18SB/4CS. Instant offense, and almost all of that comes from the leadoff position in the batting order at AAA.

Playing to win – now and in the future. Nobody can predict how prospects will do when they get to the big time, but the Pirates youngsters have helped to inspire a season-saving run the last few weeks.

John W

What if we took the best 100-140 PAs from every prospect in the system? So after 800 PAs we can find an arbitrary end point where Hanson has a 787 OPS. So for that cherry picked sample he’s slightly exceeded what Moroff has done in his first year at Triple A over more than 300 PAs(769 ops). And Moroff is younger.

Moroff has an 820 ops over his last 136 PA since June 1.

Y2JGQ2

historically he has hit for average just fine. This hot streak really just undid the horrid Jun he had- it’s even. He’s probably a .340 OBP guy but i propose we start looking at another stat, number of bases added. This would include any stolen bases, going to second on defensive indifference, going from first to third on singles, errors caused (fielding their ground balls, throwing errors trying to throw them out at any base plus any additional bases gathered), scoring from 1st on doubles, and tagging up and going to second or third (since both take some amount of speed typically) on fly balls. I’m tired of speed being ignored in OPS and WAR mostly as well, and even in systems that try to measure value from baserunning, does anyone have a clue how it’s done?. Noone has really tried to measure value from speed on the bases, while we try to measure something insane like “pitch framing”

Players like Juan Pierre end up looking like they are league replacement when we all know by watching the games they play…..how much value they can add.

John W

340 OBP guy? We have about 900 Triple A PAs that tell us he is exactly a 312-313 OBP guy in Triple A.

Y2JGQ2

He’s still young, I expect him to get better. If you don’t, that’s fine.

deacs

You bring up an interesting point. In your scenario then who leads off when Jaso inevitably goes to the bench? Marte? Polanco? Marte has more SBs even though he hates walks. They have almost identical OBP.

Y2JGQ2

The way Marte has shifted his game this year to take away power and focus more on contact and moving runners over, I think Marte is by far a better hitter than ever in his career and not a great leadoff hitter, but probably the best option. all of those steals are now basically doubles…..maybe the slugging % stat should be changed to have the total bases component include steals as total bases. That would give credit to the player in terms of increasing his overall OPS….. anyways…..Polanco, when healthy could do this as well but I think he is more value at #2 because he either can hit through the hole with a runner on or drive marte in from 2nd (since he almost always steals 2nd now) Quite honestly I think OBP is overrated for a leadoff hitter. Frazier is a great leadoff guy, but I don’t think he is good enough to start regularly at any position he would likely play unless Harrison goes down with injury I (although luke very strongly disagrees with me) believe in the energy and intangible value which comes from someone fast and dangerous getting on base ahead of your more dangerous hitters, far more than getting a slow worthless slug on first base. 1. That player can steal 2. He can more easily beat out a force or disrupt a double play 3. he can score on a double from first 4. he can distract the pitcher and end up giving better players in front of him better pitches to hit. Players that can make things happen on the bases provide a spark which cannot be measured….and maybe that’s why Luke and others refuse to count it as having value…..but i’m not that shortsighted.

piraddict

Actually Bell might do well at leadoff. The way he worked his 3rd AB showed he knows how to control the plate. But I would put Cutch at leadoff before Polanco or Marte. Polanco needs to be encouraged to swing the bat foe power. And Marte does better when he is not asked to take many pitches.

John W

Hanson is going to be a nice weapon in September for pinch running alone. Could “steal” a ballgame or 2 in late innings.

deacs

I was thinking the same thing. It’s annoying when the Pirates are on the other end of that in September. Hanson will make a nice bench bat next year. I can’t imagine them striking gold again with one year contracts of Joyce, Freese and Rodriguez and I really don’t think they’ll have to. They’ll have Frazier, Jaso, Hanson, Stewart or Diaz and then Rodriguez who will be signed once again to a one year contract. They may have to throw a player option his way. It’s only fair.

Y2JGQ2

It’s only fair? He was worthless last year- I doubt anyone else offered him a major league contract this year- he owed us. Now we are even.

deacs

I was being a little facetious. He did owe us. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and it’s just not.

Y2JGQ2

haha, well played.

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