Pittsburgh Pirates – 2014 UTR Organizational All-Stars

C – Kevin Krause – Short Season Jamestown –  22 yo;  –  (2014 – 9th round) –
  • .276 – 7HR – 32RBi – 22R –  .363/.560/.923 slash   PAG: 3.87
  • Baseball America -NR   –  MLB Pipeline-NR   –  Baseball Prospectus-NR
  • Having spent most of my adolescence in central PA (approximately 2+ hours east of Pittsburgh) most of the people I knew (and still know) were/are Pirate fans. So, putting together my Pirates O.A.S. list has its (self applied) pressures. However, I want to ensure I please my Pirate fans as well as give them some food for thought long past the consensus top prospect lists. Now, I’m not taking the easy route in choosing 2013 – 1st rounder Reese McGuire as my O.A.S catcher .  Although the Kentwood HS (WA) draftee is the future behind the plate in Pittsburgh (advanced baseball IQ, supreme makeup, along with plus-physical skills on both sides), I chose 2014 Stony Brook University draftee Kevin Krause. Pound-for-pound,  the 6’0 – 200 lb. had as good a season as any catcher in the system.  He didn’t have a huge bat profile coming out of college, but debuted for Short Season Jamestown batting .276, posted a surprising 54% extra base percentage and led all Pirate hitters (HiA and below) in slugging percentage (.560).  Defensively  he has work to do having only caught 16% of would-be base stealers. Krause has better than average speed for a catcher, a solid arm and above average athleticism. The (good) problem is the Pirates have a serious glut of catching in the low levels. The right-handed Staten Island native could see an assignment to LoA West Virginia to begin 2015 with the possibility of sharing at-bats with another intriguing backstop in fellow 2014 draft pick (4th rd.) Taylor Gushue.  
1B – Jose Osuna – HiA Bradenton – 21 yo;  – (2009 – International FA signee-VE)
  • .296 – 23 2B  – 10HR  –  57RBi – 47R –  .347/.458/.804 slash   PAG: 3.12
  • BA-NR(2015)   –   MLB Pipeline-NR(2014)  –   BP-NR(2015) 
  • Any hardcore Pirate fan and/or fantasy baseball enthusiast is well aware of the recent problems the Pirates have had at first base at the major league level.  Prior to the Bucco’s making the late 2014 season announcement that top hitting prospect and physical beast Josh Bell is poised to make the full time transition to first, the 6’2 – 215 lb. Osuna was looked upon as the top first base option in the organization. When you look at Osuna’s PAG scores since his debut: (’10 – 3.08; ’11 – (cs) 3.58; ’12 – 3.13; ’13 – 2.52; and then this season) it’s not so bad. But Osuna’s journey appears to have so many moving parts. Beyond the box score, it’s difficult to put a finger on whether he’s still a prospect or soon-to-be suspect; especially with as prospect rich a system the Pirates currently possess. He boasts as much power as anyone in the system, has great plate approach, plays above average defense, yet the achilles heel is he’s limited to playing first.  Osuna hasn’t yet made that colossal statistical leap to prove the pending move of Bell won’t be justified. I tabbed Osuna as my Pirates Breakout prospect prior to the 2013 season and he’s shown glimpses of becoming a complete ball player, but he really needs to put it all together very soon in order for him to advance through the system successfully. He could see a 2015 assignment to Double A Altoona. 
2B – Max Moroff  – HiA Bradenton – 21 yo;  – (2012 – 16th round)

  • .244 – 30 2B – 1HR – 50RBi  – 57R – 21SB  –  .324/.340/.665  slash  –  PAG: 2.62
  • BA-NR(2014)  –  MLB Pipeline-NR(2014)   –  BP-NR(2015) 
  • Much like Jose Osuna above, second base O.A.S. choice Max Moroff presents a similar  enigmatic situation to the Pirates prospect landscape. The 6’0 – 175 lb. switch-hitter came to the Pirates with a good bat, workable speed on the base paths and the aptitude to play all over the infield. Beginning his pro career as a shortstop, Moroff struggled more so in the field committing 36 errors in his first 138 games as a pro (two seasons: 2012 – GCL (PAG: 3.35); and 2013 – LoA West Virginia (PAG: 2.99.)  Moroff showed impressive pop and solid plate discipline, yet his bat has been shrouded with inconsistency.  For HiA Bradenton, he batted only .244, but led all Pirate UTR prospects in doubles(30), stolen bases (21) and walks (54.) Frustrating.   With top INF prospect Alen Hanson’s improving stock slowly creating distance coupled with his move to shortstop, I would hope Moroff could step up his game especially with the emergence of a suddenly deep minor league middle infield. Like Osuna, he just needs everything to click; and take that vast leap forward very very soon. Moroff may have to make 2015 the year of his Breakout, instead of 2014 when I tabbed him as such.
3B – Chase Simpson – Short Season Jamestown  – 22 yo;  –  (2014 – 14th round)
  • .286 – 7HR – 31RBi – 27R  –  .369/.481/.851 slash   PAG: 3.18
  • BA-NR  –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • One thing to love about the Pirates is their continuous focus on addressing organizational weakness through the draft as well as addressing those same weaknesses internally.  To any casual or devoted Pirates fan, it’s no secret Pedro Alvarez hasn’t lived up to his ‘first round draft choice” billing. The organization didn’t necessarily ignore drafting third basemen since taking Alvarez #2 overall in 2008, but they quite possibly felt having organizational filler was sufficient enough since Alvarez could be THE guy for years to come. With my aforementioned catcher profile above, the position is now at a surplus and to help even out system depth, 2012 – 2nd rounder Wyatt Mathisen has been shifted from behind the plate to third base.  So, heading into 2015, the (possible) 3B depth chart may look a little like this: 1) Wyatt Mathisen – PAG: 2.56; 2) Eric Wood – PAG: 2.65; and 3) my O.A.S. pick Chase Simpson.  The 6’1 – 210 lb. switch-hitting Simpson didn’t come to the Pirates with a clear cut pedigree (having spent time in three different colleges), but he sure did outplay his draft status.  Pound-for-pound, the Wichita State draftee logged the best season of all UTR-qualifying three baggers.  He batted .286 with 43% of his hits coming in extra bases. He also posted an admirable 26:40 BB:K rate.  Although his defense was a bit suspect (.910 Fld. %), no Pirate 3B prospect is lighting the glove on fire. I believe the Pirates will let Wyatt Mathisen’s play dictate Simpson’s path. If Simpson logs another season in 2015 much like his 2014 debut, he could pull even with Mathisen making 3B a solid organizational strength again. 
SS – JaCoby Jones  – LoA West Virginia –  22 yo;  –  (2013 – 3rd round) 

  • .288 – 23HR – 70RBi  – 72R  – 17SB  –   .347/.503/.851 slash   – PAG: 3.56
  • BA/#19(2014)   –  MLB Pipeline/#12  –  BP-NR
  • There weren’t many hitters in the system that had as extraordinary a season as the Louisiana State University draftee. He was drafted 87th overall in 2013 and some scouts considered him the best athlete in the entire draft. So, the fact that Jones’ debut season was cut short (15 games) due to a knee injury it makes fans wonder if Jones could have been higher on current prospect lists heading into 2015.  But, in 2014 Jones made up for lost time batting .288, led the South Atlantic League in home runs and topped all Pirate prospects in homers, runs scored and total bases.  Now, when you step back a little bit and take a look at the orientation surrounding Jones and the Pirates positional landscape, it’s actually quite a dynamic. You have Jones, a superior athlete to say the least and the very deep and diverse positions in the system. What it  equals is quite the luxury. The 6’3 – 200 lb. Jones bat mixed with his athleticism allows him to play practically anywhere. His speed, power and defense gives the system leeway to slot Jones as either a middle infielder or even centerfield. Jones could be a big time organizational wild card moving forward. 
LF – Edison Lantigua – DSL Pirates –  17 yo;  –  (2013 – International FA/DR)  –

  •  .299  – 0HR  –  30RBi  – 30R  –  3SB  –  .390/.433/.823   – PAG: 3.38
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • Is there a more exciting outfield in all of baseball than the Pittsburgh Pirates? Looking toward 2015, the Opening Day lineup will include MVP Andrew McCutchen, young lefty slugging Gregory Polanco and budding superstar left fielder  Starling Marte. This outfield gives the organization plenty of time to slow cook the bevy of prospects presently manning the minors.  This gives my Pirates left field O.A.S. Edison Lantigua time to grow. In his debut season the 6’0 – 175 lb. lefty played left field exclusively, but his game skills also lean toward playing center. I think Lantigua did enough to garner a 2015 assignment to the Gulf Coast League where he can display his strong line drive stroke, above average plate discipline, speed, plus range and arm in the outfield. He could be a real fun kid to follow. 
CF – Barrett Barnes – GCL/LoA West Virginia/HiA Bradenton –  22 yo;  –  (2012 – 1st round)
  • .240  –  2HR  –  8RBi   –  9R  –  4SB  –   .406/.440/.846   – csPAG: 3.18
  • BA/#14(2014)  –   MLB Pipeline/#16  –   BP-NR
  • This is the kind of pick some may view as crazy. Then you come back to earth and realize what UTR is about. I’m in the majority that think 2013 – 1st rounder Austin Meadows is THE top CF prospect in the Pirates system. The 19 year-old can hit for average, has surprising power, speed to spare and is a good defender. His arm strength is his only below average tool. But still, Meadows is a future star. So, my head says to go with Meadows.  He posted a 2013 csPAG of 3.94 (GCL/SS) and a (three team) 3.07 csPAG in 2014  for Rookie Bristol, the GCL and LoA West Virginia. But, the heart of the UTR finger is pointing directly at the 6’1 – 195 lb. Texas Tech draftee Brandon Barnes. Crazy, I know, since he logged only 17 games in 2014.  In sports you hear the phrase ‘sample size” a lot. With Barnes, his fundamental production (both offensively and defensively) tells me he’s far from finished showing  Pirate faithfuls what he can do. In 101 career games dating back to his 2012 debut, Barnes’ PAG sits at 3.25. What’s frustrating about a kid like Barnes is so much potential is there, but his short career has been riddled with injuries. Stress fracture in 2012 (leg), 2013 – back and bilateral hamstring problems and in 2014, more hamstring issues and an oblique strain. I chose Barnes based on the specimen of production he posted during the ’14 season. All this kid needs to do is stay healthy for a full season. He has the bat, speed, defense and baseball acumen to shoot right back into the Pirates top prospect discussion. 
RF – Josh Bell  – HiA Bradenton/AA Altoona  –  21 yo;  –  (2011 – 2nd round)
  • .325  –  22 2B  –  9HR  –  60RBi  – 58R  – 9SB  –  ..375/.459/.834   – csPAG: 3.29
  • BA/#4  –  MLB Pipeline/#3  –  BP/#3
  • As you read in my corner infield bios above, the Pirates have made a few internal position shifts to help even out the systems depth. This helps unclog the abundance of one position while making the path to the majors more clear for a few kids at others.  Josh Bell, the 2011 – 2nd rounder from Dallas Jesuit College Prep, is one of them. Any Pirate die-hard knows that Bell is, bar none, the current, definitive hitting prospect in the Pirates organization.  The reigning Florida State League MVP is a big-bodied, extremely skilled switch-hitter who’s transition to first will hit 2015 most likely in Double A Altoona. All Bell needs is to add polish to his game and totally remove himself mentally from the 2012 injury that took nearly two years to recover from. With Bell’s bio my (personal) last, I’ll go on the record to say the Pirates farm system is embarrassingly rich, deep seated in talent, giving Pirate fans a ton of hope well past 2015.  Bell has the potential to play an extensive role in that success. 
 
 
 
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. RHP Tyler Glasnow – (15) SP/TPS .059
  • 20 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 5th round – 2011
  • Ranked # 3 by Baseball America / #3 Baseball Prospectus / #1 MLBPipeline
  • Glasnow is what I called a UTR tweeter as he fell right on the border with being drafted in the 5th round. I’ve mentioned him several times since 2011, but never thought he would have this much success so early on in his career. He’s the #1 prospect in the Pirates system and all eyes will be on him at Double-A Altoona. There, he will work on his control and to repeat his delivery.
2. RHP Buddy Borden – (13) cSR/TPS .087
  • 22 years old – (LoA West Virginia)
  • 7th round – 2013
  • 2-Time UTR Mentions (May 15thAugust 9th)
  • I was really starting to like Borden in the Pirates system, apparently so were the Tampa Bay Rays….as they acquired the right-hander that sent Sean Rodriguez to Pittsburgh to help shore-up the Pirates infield.
3. RHP Chad Kuhl – (12) SP/TPS .130
  • 21 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 9th round – 2013
  • 2-Time UTR Mentions (April 19thJune 21st)
  • With the future transition of the Pirates big league staff  going  to the younger end with the likes of  Cole, Taillon, Locke, and Kingham, its tough where the rest of the arms in the Pittsburgh system will shake-out. Also, add the recent acquisition of my 2014 Breakout pick from the Orioles in Stephen Tarpley who would replace Buddy Borden’s spot. Kuhl would have a tough time cracking that line-up, but receiving comps to Brandon Cumpton bodes well to have an arm in the wings in case any of the forementioned goes down with an injury. Kuhl is a groundball specialist who should join Glasnow in Altoona.
4. LHP Orlando Castro – (11) cSR/TPS .126
  • 22 years old – (HiA Bradenton / Double-A Altoona)
  • Undrafted – 2009
  • 4-Time UTR Mention  (April 12thMay 15thMay 20thJune 25th)
  • It was clicking along for Castro until he was promoted to Double-A Altoona. He was roughed-up over two starts (11.25 ERA) and then suffered a injury to his shoulder, placing him on the DL and ending his season. Castro’s ceiling would probably be best in long-relief.
5. RHP Jason Creasy – (11) cSR/TPS .141
  • 22 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 8th round – 2011
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (May 4thJune 1st)
  • I saw Creasy pitch with short-season State College back in 2012 and he struggled mightily. He’s come a long way since and had a decent 2014 with Bradenton, where he once went six outings (mid-June/mid-July) without issuing a walk.
 
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. LHP Josh Smith – (9) RP/TPS .086
  • 24 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 25th round – 2012
  • Another pitcher with a huge turn around in 2014. Smith posted 6.48 ERA in 2013 in 14 appearances over two levels. With Bradenton in 2014, Smith appeared in 35 games and finished with 1.93 ERA and 8 saves. His fastball ranges in the high 80’s, but touches 92 mph and has good movement.
 2. RHP Felipe Gonzalez – (7) cSR/TPS .090
  • 23 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
  • Rule 5 Pick (NYY) – 2013
  • The Pirates acquired Gonzalez in the 2013 Rule 5 draft and recently resigned the right-hander. He had a strong showing at West Virginia (33 appearances 2.81 ERA with 86 K / 25 BB) and earned a promotion to HiA Bradenton.
 3. RHP Jhondaniel Medina – (6) RP/TPS .077
  • 21 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • Trade from Baltimore – 2012
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (April 8thAugust 3rd)
  • Even with his high BB9 rate (5.2) Medina proved my prediction of a breakout year for the right-hander. Medina was acquired from Baltimore during the off season in 2012. In 35 appearances this season, the right-hander posted a .072 ERA with all the earned runs coming during two outings near the end of April. In fact, he didn’t allow an earned run at home during his 26 appearances in McKechie Field. He’s a fastball pitcher that throws a cutter that ranges in the mid-90’s. He’s made some improvements with his control, but needs it to revert back to 2012 when he was with the GCL Orioles.  
Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers
 
1. RHP Tyler Glasnow – SP/TPS .059
  • 20 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 5th round – 2011
  • Ranked # 3 by Baseball America / #3 Baseball Prospectus / #1 MLBPipeline
  • Its nice to have a pitcher like Glasnow, to validate your system. Glasnow is what I called a UTR tweeter as he fell right on the border with being drafted in the 5th round. Ive mentioned him several times since 2011 but never thought he would have this much success, so early in his career. He’s the #1 prospect in the Pirates system and all eyes will be on him at Double-A Altoona. There he will work on his control and to repeat his delivery.
2. LHP Hector Garcia – SP/TPS .081
  • 18 years old – (Appy League Bristol)
  • Undrafted – 2013
  • A lefty that reports state could have a huge up-side for the Pirates. The organization challenged the 18 year old by assigning him straight to the Appy League from the DSL. He made 13 starts for Bristol and put-up at 3.38 ERA and struck out 50 batters over 48 innings. Making the top of list during this first season in the states, Garcia quite possibly will make my watch list for 2015.
3. RHP Mitch Keller –  cSR/TPS .085
  • 18 years old – (GCL Pirates)
  • 2nd round – 2014
  • Speaking of the Orioles, Mitch Keller joins the UTR selection party with his brother Jon, who appeared in this same slot for Baltimore. The high school pitcher was predicted to go anywhere between the 5th-7th rounds in the 2014 draft. Throwing 95 mph fastballs during the showcase circuit gained the notice from the scouts, thus the Pirates taking him in the 2nd round. Assigned to the GCL where he posted a 1.98 ERA in 27.1 innings, the right-hander threw most in the low 90’s with some movement, but did touch 95 mph. His curve has above-average potential. Could be another nice young arm sailing in the Bucco fleet.
4. RHP Buddy Borden – (13) cSR/TPS .087
  • 22 years old – (LoA West Virginia)
  • 7th round – 2013
  • 2-Time UTR Mentions (May 15thAugust 9th)
  • I was really starting to like Borden in the Pirates system, so were the Tampa Bay Rays….as they acquired the right-hander that sent Sean Rodriguez to shore-up the Pirates infield.
5. RHP Montana DuRapau – cSR/TPS .101
  • 22 years old – (Short-Season Jamestown)
  • 32nd round – 2014
  • DuRapau had a nice debut with the Jammers, which will move their affiliation to Morgantown, West Virginia for the 2015 season.
Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
 
1. RHP Jhondaniel Medina – RP/TPS .077
  • 21 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • Trade from Baltimore – 2012
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (April 8thAugust 3rd)
  • Even with his high BB9 rate (5.2) Medina proved my prediction of a breakout year for the right-hander. Medina was acquired from Baltimore during the off season in 2012. In 35 appearances this season, the right-hander posted a .072 ERA with all the earned runs coming during two outings near the end of April. In fact, he didn’t allow an earned run at home during his 26 appearances in McKechie Field. He’s a fastball pitcher that throws a cutter that ranges in the mid-90’s. He has made some improvements with his control, but needs it to revert back to 2012 when he was with the GCL Orioles.  
2. RHP Brett McKinney –  RP/TPS .081
  • 23 years old – (LoA West Virginia / HiA Bradenton)
  • 19th round – 2013
  • Big bodied righty drafted out of Ohio State where served as their closer. Stats across the board are similar each year as a pro. He only saw one inning of work at HiA, so he will start the season in Bradenton in 2015.
 
3. LHP Josh Smith – RP/TPS .086
  • 24 years old – (HiA Bradenton)
  • 25th round – 2012
  • Another pitcher with a huge turn-around in 2014. Smith posted 6.48 ERA in 2013 in 14 appearances over two levels. With Bradenton in 2014, Smith appeared in 35 games and finished with 1.93 ERA and 8 saves. His fastball ranges in the high 80’s but touches 92 mph and has good movement.
 
2014 Breakout Grades
 
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
 
 SP Cody Dickson –  Dickson suffered from the UTR Selection jinx as he had a horrible first three months of the season before turning it around. Pirates prospects.com reports that Dickson’s has good stuff but must overcome his command issues. They also state that lefty pitching is weak in the Pirate system, so Dickson development is critical. Grade C
 
RP Jhondaniel Medina –  Medina made the above lists in having breakout year. Im excited to have the opportunity to see him firsthand coming from the bullpen at Double-A Altoona this season. Actually, the excitement will be seeing the whole Curve staff, which should be outstanding in 2015.  Grade A-

 

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