Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provided additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis, Altoona and West Virginia this week. We also had live coverage of Altoona and West Virginia in the past week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. We go with the top ten hitters and pitchers, giving you the 20 best players from last week.

HITTERS

Chris Bostick, IF/OF, Indianapolis – Christopher Bostick is in the midst of a 13-game hitting streak, but there’s been nothing cheap about his recent surge. He’s had multiple hits in five of his last six games, including a three-hit game at Scranton Wilkes-Barre on Saturday. He hit .454 in five games last week and is becoming an intriguing prospect, ranked 28th in the organization. He’s shown a good speed and power mix, hitting two home runs, two triples and seven doubles. And he’s one Indianapolis’ most versatile players defensively — splitting the first 20 games between infield and outfield positions. Bostick has played seven games at second base and three at third base; and he’s six games in leftfield and four in rightfield. He’s also played shortstop previously in his career, but has not done so this season with Max Moroff and Gift Ngoepe, before his promotion, at that spot. Bostick is on the 40-man roster and could make his major league debut this season, playing for his third organization. And if he continues to hit at the pace he has recently, Bostick’s promotion might come sooner than later if injuries continue to make depth a concern with the Pirates. – Brian Peloza

Will Craig, 1B, Bradenton – Craig has been steady this season, displaying the same on base skills we saw last year, while not hitting for the power that everyone hoped for from him. He had a big week last week from the team standpoint, driving in five runs on Wednesday and then three more runs on Friday when he connected on his first home run of the season. Through 22 games, he has a .282/.361/.376 slash line. In the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, that makes him an above average hitter. Craig has performed well defensively at first base this season, taking quickly to the position. The Pirates got him time there during the Fall Instructional League, which helped the transition to the new spot. It’s possible his stay in Bradenton won’t last more than half a season, though there shouldn’t be a rush to get a first baseman to the majors at this point with Josh Bell looking to have the spot tied up for the foreseeable future. I’d still expect him to be in Altoona at some point this season due to his advanced approach at the plate, even if it isn’t resulting in power numbers. – JD

Clark Eagan, OF, West Virginia – Eagan just barely got on to the list this week, with the tenth spot coming down to the last at-bat of our 11th place finishes, who struck out. A hit or walk (or HBP) and Eagan would have lost out. The season has been slow so far for the 2016 ninth round draft pick. In 19 games, the 22-year-old lefty hitter has a .246/.316/.333 slash line, with three doubles and a homer. The impressive part about his last week was the fact he didn’t strike out once in 22 plate appearances. He’s putting up decent numbers against right-handed pitcher, but lefties are holding him to a .433 OPS in 18 at-bats, with nine strikeouts. There hasn’t been much that has stood out for Eagan this year or last year, especially for a ninth round pick who received full slot money. He hasn’t hit for power or average and doesn’t run well, and his defense appears to be average at best in right field. He’s a lot like West Virginia’s right fielder from last year, Ryan Nagle. They’re the same size, age, both lefties, received the same bonus amount and neither has any tools that stand out. Basically, they are decent players to have around, but it’s hard to see upside at this point. Eagan is a 2016 draft pick, so it’s still early for him. – JD

Logan Hill, LF, Bradenton – Hill put on a power display this week to make the top ten hitters. He crushed two solo homers on Tuesday, then homered again on Wednesday, followed by a fourth homer on Friday. He had just two homers over his first 18 games. Power is the ticket for Hill, who turns 24 years old later this month, to continue up the system. He has a ton of raw power, but he usually isn’t making enough contact to get the full use out of it. He’s solid enough defensively in left field, and runs well enough, that if the power continues to show, Hill becomes a prospect with potential. The Pirates seem to like that potential, as he’s playing everyday and hitting fourth in the lineup most of the time. He is prone to extended slumps, and has 27 strikeouts already, so that is something to keep an eye on going forward. – JD

Casey Hughston, CF, Bradenton – Hughston’s biggest improvement this season, and the most important one at that, is that he doesn’t have an alarming strikeout total. Having 23 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances isn’t anything to brag about, except it’s a huge drop from the 34.9% strikeout rate he had last year. He’s also doing it while putting up a solid slash line of .312/.372/.481 in 21 games. We have seen high strikeout players in the past, who would cut down on the strikeouts, but do it while sacrificing power. Hughston is on a seven-game hit streak and he slugged his first homer of the season this past week. He’s had some shaky defense in center field the past week with a couple errors, and he’s just 1-for-4 in stolen bases. His speed and defense are usually average-to-plus tools, so the bigger focus should be on the drop in strikeouts while still putting up power numbers. Hughston has teased us with strong stats over a short time before, so it’s too early to get excited about him just yet, but he is worth following. – JD

Connor Joe, 1B/RF, Altoona – Joe is currently on a nine-game hit streak, with six of those games coming in the past week. Before the hitting streak started, he was batting .194/.306/.290 through 11 games. Joe now sits at .286/.375/.397, with two doubles, a triple and a homer. He has eight walks and just ten strikeouts in 73 plate appearances. Joe is splitting his time in the field between first base and right field this year. He was strictly at third base last season, and while he showed some improvements over the course of the season, he was still a below average defender. His road to the majors will likely be as someone who can play multiple positions, with the ability to get on base at a solid clip. Joe showed off some power late last year in the Bradenton playoffs, then homered twice in the Arizona Fall League, but that power hasn’t show up yet this season. The bat is just starting to heat up, so we could see a rise in the extra-base hits soon. – JD

Kevin Kramer, 2B, Altoona – Our pick for the breakout prospect of the year is looking like he’s in line to end up as our breakout prospect of the year. Kramer has been hot since day one of Spring Training. He was putting on impressive displays there while hitting for power. That hasn’t stopped with Altoona, where he is hitting .373/.478/.613 in 20 games. He has seven doubles, a triple and three homers. Kramer has reached base safely in all 20 games this year. He picked up two hits in five of his last seven games. Among Eastern League batters, he is tops in on base percentage and third in OPS. He is also playing solid defense at second base, showing range and the ability to turn double plays, while handling 76 chances without an error. He was a shortstop in college, so the tools are playing up at second base and he’s getting more comfortable there as he gets more experience. – JD

Jordan Luplow,  LF, Altoona – Jordan Luplow went 7-for-18 this past week with three doubles and a home run. Luplow has displayed quite a bit of strength and power capabilities from the plate this season, but it looks as though he has yet to hit his stride even with strong numbers last week. The home run he hit was a bomb to left center field, two pitches after drilling one just foul down the left field line. His pull power is evident, as he has driven quite a few balls extremely far yet just barely foul this season, and he will be even more dangerous if he can work on straightening some of those balls out. Luplow has had numerous deep fly outs this season, mostly sticking to the left side of the field. If he is able to work on his opposite field approach as the season progresses, he could become one of the best hitters on a deep Altoona team. –Sean McCool

Hunter Owen, 3B, West Virginia – Owen turned some heads this Spring Training with terrific hitting, earning some praise from those who watched him daily. He is hitting .301/.414/.452 after collecting three multi-hit games this week and hitting his first homer of the season. Owen is in a tough spot right now, even if he continues hitting. He is not a quality third baseman by any means, so if the Pirates want to leave him there, then he’s going to be behind Ke’Bryan Hayes all season. Since Hayes missed so much development time last year and he’s still so young for his current level, I could see him staying at Bradenton for most (all?) of this season. Sending him to Altoona at any point would really be an advanced placement at this stage. That means that Owen will spend most of the year at West Virginia. Defensively, if they want to keep him at third base, that’s a great idea. He’s 23 years old already though, so a better move (in my mind) would be to put him in the outfield, where I’ve seen him play well, and moving him to a higher level more suited for his age. – JD

Alfredo Reyes, Util., Bradenton – Reyes could be turning himself into a very interesting player and he’s certainly getting the playing time this season to state his case. The Pirates took him as a minor league Rule 5 draft pick before last year. He went to West Virginia, where he played strong defense at shortstop and stole some bases, but just like his time in the Mets systems, he didn’t hit enough to be considered a prospect. This year with Bradenton, the guy who owns a .236 average and .593 OPS in his career, is putting up a .303/.329/.421 slash line through 21 games. He has made starts at every position except first base, catcher and pitcher, but a scout we talked to thought his arm could work well on the mound. For now, we could be seeing a breakout from a very athletic player, who is an above average defender at shortstop, with the ability to play almost anywhere on the field. – JD

PITCHERS

Matt Anderson, RHP, West Virginia – Anderson had a 7.50 ERA after three appearances, one of which was a relief appearance cut short by poor performance. In his last two starts combined, he has allowed just one run over 11 innings, including a strong six inning outing this past week. Anderson allowed one run on four hits in those six inning, with no walks and eight strikeouts. He now has 23 strikeouts in 23 innings this season, as he gets his overall numbers for the year closer to respectable. He’s a 22-year-old, who was drafted as a college senior last year in the tenth round. Low-A ball shouldn’t be too much of a problem for someone with his resume, so expect him to have success in the starting role this season, though he might be moved to relief after this year. He has shown the ability to rack up strikeouts as a pro, with 65 in 54 innings, but that hasn’t led to a lot of success yet. – JD

Tanner Anderson, RHP, Altoona – The second Anderson here didn’t just have a strong start last week, he’s had a solid beginning to his first season as a starting pitcher. Anderson allowed one run over six innings on Thursday. That gave him a 2.01 ERA in four starts this year, while throwing a total of 22.1 innings. Anderson was a long reliever last year, who got the occasional spot start. He threw a total of 88 innings, then the Pirates stretched him out further by sending him to the Arizona Fall League, where he added to that inning total and also worked on his changeup. His low-90s fastball is his go to pitch, with some added deception due to a high leg kick in his delivery. He uses it to get quick outs on the ground, which has led to a 1.94 GO/AO ratio. That’s actually low compared to his career numbers, so we may not have seen the best from Anderson yet. He doesn’t get many strikeouts, but his slider is an occasional swing-and-miss pitch. He profiles as a ground ball reliever, which isn’t bad for a 20th round pick in the draft, but there could be a fifth starter in there if the Pirates stick with him in that role. – JD

Yeudy Garcia, RHP, Altoona – Garcia’s start on Saturday night in Altoona was easily his best of the young season, as he went 5.2 innings without allowing an earned run. He allowed five hits and struck out five batters while walking two, with both walks in the sixth inning when it looked as though he was tiring. He came into the game with an OPS-Against of 1.140 in three starts. On Saturday, he showed glimpses of his prospect status – locating well around the zone with his fastball and a dominating breaking ball and changeup. It looked as though his velocity was still down around the low 90s for most of the game, but I did see him pump it up to 94-95 on a few occasions. If Garcia can continue to stick with an established pitching game plan and not veer off on his own during a game, he could re-establish himself as a high level prospect. –SM

Taylor Hearn, LHP, Bradenton – Hearn had his best start of the young season on Wednesday, allowing one run over six innings. It was just the second time in his young career that he has gone six innings, with the first time coming in his second start this season. Hearn had some control issues in his debut this year, walking three batters over 5.2 innings. He also had some control issues in his third start, which led to just one walk, but he threw a lot of pitches to get through two innings, while giving up five earned runs. The good part is that he has just issued one walk in his three outings. With a high-90s fastball and a slider that can be devastating at times, Hearn could be a strong Major League starter down the line with improved control and command. He’s working on mixing in his changeup more often this season. It’s a pitch he didn’t throw often last year, though he personally considered it his best pitch. He shelved it last year in order to work on his slider. Now he is throwing all three pitches, so expect some uneven results early as he works to be a better pitcher and not just a hard-thrower. – JD

Gage Hinsz, RHP, Bradenton – Hinsz had a really tough outing back on April 21st, where he allowed six earned runs over just 1.1 innings. He didn’t come into that game off great starts either, posting a 6.52 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in his first two starts combined. On Thursday, he allowed just one run on five hits and two walks in six innings. It was a step in the right direction for Hinsz, but he still has some work to do. In that game, he was throwing around 50% strikes in each of the first three innings. His control got better over the final three innings, but he had an odd turning point. He didn’t start throwing more strikes until he hit a batter in the helmet, knocking that player out of the game. Hinsz finished up strong and looks to carry that success into his next outing. He has issued two walks in each of his four starts, while recording a total of ten strikeouts. He has the stuff to put up much better numbers, but he’s finding out that advanced hitters don’t chase as much and he needs to start throwing more strikes. – JD

Mitch Keller, RHP, Bradenton – Keller didn’t come flying out of the gates this season. His first start lasted just 2.1 innings. He went six innings in each of his next three starts, including his start on Tuesday. That game was an okay performance, but it’s not the reason he was considered one of the top ten pitchers from this past week. Keller made a second start on Sunday and threw seven shutout innings, picking up nine strikeouts. Part of his early season struggles (by his standards) come from something we have heard often with pitchers in Bradenton. The Pirates are not a results-oriented group on the minor league side. If a guy needs to work on something, they don’t mind sacrificing their ERA to get them the work in games. At Bradenton, we have seen pitchers not named Glasnow go heavy with changeups and that has led to poor results, but better changeups and more confidence in the pitch. Keller has been using his changeup a lot this year, sometimes in situations that don’t call for one, and it has had mixed results. So we might see some more uneven results from Keller as he works on making himself a better pitcher, but Sunday’s game showed that there shouldn’t be any concern over the early season numbers. – JD

Alex McRae, RHP, Altoona – McRae has been quite the pleasant surprise for the Curve so far this season, taking a leadership role with the team and assuming – dare to say – “ace” responsibilities as their best starter so far this season. This past week, McRae had two starts and went 13 innings allowing three earned runs. What was most impressive about his last start was that it was obvious he did not have his best stuff working; however, he pressed on, knowing that the team’s bullpen was taxed, and got through seven strong innings. McRae is best when his two-seamer in on, like all ground ball pitchers, but he has found different ways to persevere even when it is not its best. He is also working with a slider and changeup, as well as attacking up in the zone with a four-seamer every once in a while. Look for McRae to continue to get ground balls and allow his defense to clean things up behind him when he is at his best. –SM

Tate Scioneaux, RHP, Altoona – We try to get relievers on here, but usually it’s not hard to find ten starters who had noteworthy performances, especially when more teams are playing later in the season. Also, let’s face it, most pitching prospects are starters, and very few relievers pitch enough innings in a week to be considered. Scioneaux was hard to overlook this week, as he allowed one base runner in 4.1 shutout innings, while striking out five batters. He’s been impressive this season in seven appearances, posting a 0.00 ERA, a .152 BAA and an 0.69 WHIP, with 13 strikeouts in 13 innings. He doesn’t really fit the profile of someone who has success in the upper levels. Scioneaux doesn’t throw hard, with a mid-to-high 80s fastball, which he commands well. He’s also an extreme fly ball pitcher, possibly more than anyone else in the system. Scioneaux gets by with the command and some deception in his delivery which allows the fastball to play up. That’s not a recipe for a strong reliever, but he is obviously defying the odds early this season. – JD

Pedro Vasquez, RHP, Bradenton – Vasquez is the soft-tosser of the Bradenton group this season. While Taylor Hearn, Gage Hinsz, Mitch Keller and Dario Agrazal have all seen 95+ consistently in their starts this season, Vasquez is “only” 90-93 MPH, touching 94 in his last start. Of the five pitchers though, all of them 22 years old or younger, Vasquez is the one putting up the best results. As part of the return in the Arquimedes Caminero deal, he came to the Pirates with only eight starts above rookie ball. So this spot in the Bradenton rotation can be considered an advanced placement. Vasquez has taken the challenge and excelled. Last week he allowed two runs over six innings of work. In five starts, he has a 2.10 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, with just three walks and 15 strikeouts. Vasquez has solid fastball command and he showed an excellent changeup in an earlier start this season. He doesn’t have the upside of the other four Bradenton starters (he would be close to Agrazal), but he’s still very young and inexperienced, so there could be much more in that arm. – JD

Cam Vieaux, LHP, West Virginia – The only player to make each of the first three The Twenty articles, Vieaux has put up solid numbers in every start this season. This past week it was one run over six innings. His two previous starts were also one run over six innings, and he allowed just one run in his debut, though that start was cut short at 4.1 innings due to a high pitch count. In 22.1 innings, the 23-year-old lefty has a 1.61 ERA, a .230 BAA and an 0.94 WHIP. As I mentioned in his previous write-up, there are things for him to work on this season. He was a sixth round pick, with a strong college resume and control of three pitches, so West Virginia is a low level for him. His numbers I mentioned are strong, but he has just ten strikeouts this season and an 0.81 GO/AO ratio. You don’t want to knock someone who is doing so well at keeping runners off base, but a very low strikeout total from a fly ball pitcher isn’t a combo for success at higher levels.It’s still too early to be concerned, but it’s something worth watching. – JD

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Paging Austin Meadows for the 20 article. Us Pirates fans would love to see you make it next week.

  2. You forgot to mention the most important thing regarding Alex McRae. He hit a home run this weekend.

  3. pire prospects: I am dying from als and can hardly use my hands. I have paid for the year and have trouble typing the computer. Please do not ask for my password any more. Als is now called the veterned desise. I will die befoe the end of the year. Thank you.

    • Easy answer is yes because I think he’s better defensively than Tucker and Newman. The problem is that you’re talking about someone who took seven seasons to finally be able to hit well, and it’s just been a month. He will need to be re-signed this off-season if they want to keep him. By not playing him often at shortstop, even when he’s doing well, might mean he ends up elsewhere looking for an opportunity.

    • It’s a lot closer now than it was at this time last year. Newman really hasn’t looked like much this year, but he has a better track record. He hasn’t hit his stride this season. Kramer is making loud outs this year, while Newman is the one actually having some luck with grounders finding holes. I mentioned the one day recently he got a double on a bloop over second that the wind took. He got a double out of the play due to his hustle, but on a nice day, it’s a routine catch. It’s been lots of ground balls and pop ups, compared to what we were seeing from him last year. I haven’t seen many line drives or tough outs. His home run this week was nice though, just don’t expect many of those even when he is hitting well.

        • I wouldn’t say expected, but he could get there. They probably want to give him a full season in Altoona

      • This is not very encouraging news regarding Newman. Yes we know it’s still early but Newman is one of the only top prospects currently in the system who has a meaningful chance to substantially improve upon the production of the guy he is “replacing”. I think they really need Newman’s hit tool to be a legitimate and basically be a 3+ WAR SS when he is ready.

        Austin Meadows for all his recognition will be lucky to replace half the value of peak Cutch.

        Regardless what Mitch Keller is doing he is unlikely to match the production of Cole.

        Hayes is unlikely to match the production of Kang, etc, etc

          • negative or realistic? Too many people on this site have thin skin and can’t handle anything that can be remotely categorized as negativity….snow flakes….

            • It’s not thin skin, it’s this narrative that nobody in the system will ever match what we have at MLB level now. Are you being realistic or always looking for the bad in everything? We could have the top 5 prospects in all of baseball and you guys could figure out how to put a negative spin on it. ….. Negative Nancies….

            • Not at all. I don’t get over hyped or under hyped about any of them. I’ve seen very few of these kids play. You can’t form an opinion one way or the other by stat lines. They have so much development still to go, but yet you have formed an opinion on all of them, small samle or otherwise. If it were up to you, there would be no minor leagues because none of them are prospects.

    • It does not matter because we can bring them both up at the same time as soon as we figure out what to do with the 8 MI’s in front of them at AAA and MLB – Harrison, Mercer, Ngoepe, Hanson, Gosselin, Bostick, Moroff, and Weiss. Can anyone make sense of this?

      All kidding aside, Newman was ready for AAA to start the season. But when you add people from other teams in front of your “draft and develop” guys, this is what you get. My kingdom of MI’s for just one power hitter.

  4. Will Craig, 1B, Bradenton – Craig has been steady this season, displaying the same on base skills we saw last year, while not hitting for the power that everyone hoped for from him.

    Sounds like a RH John Jaso? 🙂

    ==========

    though there shouldn’t be a rush to get a first baseman to the majors at this point with Josh Bell looking to have the spot tied up for the foreseeable future.

    Just another reason why that was a head scratcher of a pick right from the beginning.

    • You got it – we took an athletically limited DH/1B with little power over an exceptional SS prospect – Devin Perez – who the Cards quickly grabbed after NH blinked and went the “safer and cheaper” route….very dumb, but this is the same FO that keeps Stewart on the roster while Diaz wastes away in AAA…..

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