Results tagged ‘ Pirates ’
The 2011 Major League Baseball Rule IV Draft was widely considered to be one of the best drafts in recent memory, if not all time. Although there was no consensus “generational” talent that would go #1, such as 2009’s #1 Stephen Strasburg or 2010’s #1 Bryce Harper, the depth of top-flight talent would be the calling card of the 2011 draft.
There were five elite pitching prospects that went in the first seven picks; college pitchers Gerrit Cole (#1, Pirates), Danny Hultzen (#2, Mariners), and long-tossing Trevor Bauer (#3, Diamondbacks); and Oklahoma High School pitchers Dylan Bundy (#4, Orioles) and Archie Bradley (#7, Diamondbacks). Each of the first four picks have generated significant buzz: Cole for his blazing fastball and ace projection in High A; Hultzen for his absolute dominance of college hitters while at Virginia and continued dominance in AA; Bauer for his routine of 500-foot long-tossing, throwing his first warm-up pitch off the backstop, dominance at UCLA, and continued dominance in AA; and Bundy for his 100-mph fastball and ace projection, coupled with his near perfect dominance of Low A hitters thus far (64 batters faced over 20 innings, allowing only two hits and two walks, while striking out 33.
Perhaps the best one of them all, and the one generating the least buzz, has been the #7 pick: former Broken Arrow Tiger Archie Bradley. Bradley’s tale started long before he was drafted. After to transferring to Broken Arrow High School before his junior year, Bradley quickly became a multi-sport star as the starting quarterback for the football team and the ace pitcher for the baseball team. After Bradley’s junior season, he was named to the 2010 Aflac All-American Baseball Classic as a pitcher for the West team.
Prior to the 2011 baseball season, there was considerable buzz surrounding Bundy and Bradley. As often happens with elite athletes who play in the same area, Bundy and Bradley becoming friends when they were roommates for the Dallas Baseball Academy of Texas (D-Bat) Mustangs, an amateur team that played in the DFW Metro Scout League and in the Connie Mack World Series, the premier tournament for high school-age baseball players.
During Bradley’s senior season, he led his team to a 36-1 record and the Oklahoma 6A State Championship, Broken Arrow’s first since 1991. Bradley pounded the strike zone with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and power curveball, striking out 14 and only allowing two hits. Three of Bradley’s strikeouts were by Owasso’s star pitcher Dylan Bundy, who was playing third base (he pitched the previous day). Bradley finished the season with a 12-1 record, allowing only three earned runs across 71.1 innings, while striking out 133 (16.8 K/9).
In February, Bradley committed to play both football and baseball at the University of Oklahoma. Bradley, a big Sooner fan, was going to redshirt his freshman year in order to acclimate to college. Bradley, when asked about his choice to go to Oklahoma or play professional baseball, said:
It’s going to come down to what I really feel is best for me. I’ve used this analogy a bunch: Andrew Luck staying at Stanford proved that money isn’t everything. I have to make a decision that I can be happy with. I’ll weigh it out, whether it’s OU or pro ball is right for my future. It’s gonna be a big decision.
On June 6, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Bradley with the #7 overall pick of the draft. Bradley had a choice: go to Oklahoma to learn, play football and baseball, and hope to improve his draft stock in three years; or sign for guaranteed millions with the Diamondbacks. Before the draft, Bradley and fellow Oklahoman Bundy had made waves with their pre-draft comments about expected signing bonuses, as reported by Baseball America’s Jim Callis:
Neither Bundy nor Bradley will top Strasburg’s [$15.1 million] contract. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bundy equaled or surpassed Beckett and Porcello [both $7 million], or if Bradley topped the $5.25 million two-sport deal that quarterback/right hander Zach Lee got from the Dodgers in 2010.
Just minutes before the deadline, Bradley signed a contract worth $5 million, spread out over five years due to his two-sport abilities (players who could play multiple sports in college are eligible to have their signing bonuses spread out over a number of years, while one-sport athletes must get theirs all at once).
After signing, Bradley was sent to the Missoula Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ Rookie Level affiliate in the Pioneer League. Bradley appeared in two games for one-inning each, allowing one hit, zero walks, and zero runs, while striking out four. In 15 innings with the Diamondbacks during instructional league play, Bradley gave up four runs, walking four, giving up just five hits, and striking out 22.
After the season, the prospect prognosticators repeatedly stated how much they liked Bradley’s potential, with Baseball America ranking Bradley #2 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #25 overall, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranking Bradley #3 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #37 overall, and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com rated Bradley #18. John Sickels stated that it is “[h]ard to say that a guy picked #7 overall is a “steal,” but he may very well be.
The glowing reports came in during Spring Training, with the buzz focusing on Bradley’s velocity and power curveball. One of the people commenting was Diamondbacks starting catcher, Miguel Montero:
I wanted to see what he had. I don’t believe what people say, so I wanted to see it. I saw the real deal right there. The ball was coming out of his hand like he was throwing 200 mph, an explosion. Those kids had no chance. Then I’m like, ‘He’s got just a fastball,’ and then he threw a hammer [curveball]. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s only 19, but if he stays healthy the way he is, he’s going to be here probably sometime next year. I guarantee that.
Montero continued, discussing Bradley on a personal level:
He’s a good kid. He has a great personality; I like it. Seems like a great teammate. He’s dedicated, he wants to get better and he wants to play in the big leagues soon.
Bradley’s pure stuff has been the focus of the attention with his blazing fastball, as was stated by Diamondbacks’ minor league pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyer, Jr.:
You know how some hitters, there’s a different sound off the bat? It’s a different look on how that ball comes out of his hand. We’ve got some other good arms out there; take nothing away from them. But this is different. We stay out of his way.
Bradley’s curveball has also gathered attention, as it was called a “knockout curveball” by Jim Shonerd at Baseball America and a “power curve” that is an above average pitch by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. The most hyperbolic was Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, stating that Bradley’s “power curve is an executioner pitch, thrown with impressive velocity and achieving a very late and heavy break. Scouts have not been shy about throwing a future 7 on the offering, saying it could miss bats at any level of professional baseball right now.”
After spring training, Bradley was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the A Level Midwest League. Bradley, the third youngest pitcher (only Raul Alcantara and John Barbato are younger) and 11th youngest player in the league, immediately began dominating the league. In Bradley’s first six starts, Bradley has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than two runs. Even after a poor seventh start (4 innings and 5 runs – 3 earned – against the Great Lakes Loons while giving up his first home run), Bradley’s statistics are imposing: 4-1 record and a 2.57 ERA with 38 strikeouts and only 13 hits over 35 innings. While Bradley has walked 21 batters, his 0.971 WHIP shows just how dominating he has been in his brief time in professional baseball.
So what should we expect from Bradley? Unless you are a fan of the Diamondbacks or in an exceptionally deep keeper league, Bradley probably will not be of relevance until late 2014, if not 2015. Bradley’s ability, coupled with his size (6’4″ and 225 pounds) and simple, easy delivery make him a top prospect based upon current ability, and he has the potential to become even better. In order to become the top of the rotation starter the Diamondbacks envisioned when they drafted him, Bradley will have to improve his command, sharpen his power curveball, and turn his average-at-best curveball into a solid third pitch.
[T]here’s still so much that could go wrong with Bradley’s development. … Lower-level arms are tantalizing to dream on, but the odds of them panning out as planned are disturbingly small, which is something to remember before declaring Bradley as a sure-fire bet to anchor the D-backs rotation in 2014.
But don’t sell Bradley short just because he was the 5th pitcher taken in the 2011 draft – he may have the most potential.
We are now about a month into the major league and minor league seasons, and I think it is about time that I post my current top 15 prospects in the Pirates’ system. I plan on making a new one every month during the season, just to see which top prospects are rising through the rankings due to performance and/or adjustments, and to see which players are dropping for any reason. It’s only a month into the season, so upside is more important than performance for some of the younger prospects. My rankings for each player in my September rankings are in parenthesis.
1.) Jameson Taillon (2)–RHP–20
Taillon was the instant #1 prospect in the system when he was taken 2nd overall in the 2010 draft, but fell to #2 in many rankings after Gerrit Cole was drafted in 2011. After a stellar start to the season, Taillon has reclaimed the #1 spot in my eyes. He has a 1.76 ERA and 0.82 WHIP to this point, along with strong secondary numbers, including a 5.6 Hits/9, 9.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, and zero home runs allowed to this point. Taillon has gained this top spot because he has outperformed Cole at the same level at a younger age, and his changeup, the pitch that helped keep him behind Cole, seems to be coming along nicely. That pitch is added to an already plus fastball and plus curve.
2.) Gerrit Cole (1)–RHP–21
Cole has done nothing wrong to lose his top spot in the rankings. Taillon has just been performing very well. Cole has struggled at points in this season, but has a 3.54 ERA and 10.9 K/9, while not allowing many hits. Cole was the #1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, and may already have three plus pitches. He should be up in AA sometime in the next month. General Manager Neal Huntington said that both Cole and Taillon are on the “right track” for AA promotions.
3.) Starling Marte (3)–CF–23
Marte had a great spring training and this caused many fans to call for him to start the year in the majors. Management made the right call by putting him in AAA, as he was not ready for the majors. His average in AAA as of now is .268, but he has a respectable .780 OPS. His walk rate is up a little, which has been a problem in the past, but so is his strikeout rate, now at 23.2%. The speedy, rocket-armed outfielder has spent most of his time in center field this year, but unfortunately was hit in the hand by a pitch on May 6th, but Huntington said he is day-to-day.
4.) Josh Bell (5)–RF–19
Bell started the year in Low-A, but after only 62 at-bats, got injured while running the bases. He underwent surgery, and has begun his rehab. In those at bats, Bell had a .274 average with one homer and a .691 OPS. He still has the best power in the system, coming from both sides of the plate, so this knee injury definitely hurts the organization.
5.) Luis Heredia (4)–RHP–17
Heredia has yet to pitch this year in real games, and will begin his season with the short season State College Spikes when they begin their season in June. Heredia has the highest upside of anyone on this list, but to reach this potential he will have to learn to better control his pitches, and continue to show good velocity. At 17 years old, there is definitely time for him, and no need to rush him.
6.) Stetson Allie (6)–RHP–21
There is a huge drop off from #5 to #6 on this list. There is no player that is a clear choice for this spot, and with many players struggling in the system, I went with the remaining player that has the most upside. I’m not going to speak about Allie and his current 108 BB/9 right now, but he was said to have improved control (can’t really get much worse) in spring training. He has two plus pitches with his fastball and slider, and if he ever learns to control them, he could be a very good pitcher. He was demoted to extended spring training to work on his control.
7.) Kyle McPherson (9)–RHP–24
McPherson has yet to pitch this year due to shoulder inflammation. He was able to move up two spots in the rankings because the guys ahead of him have not performed and are showing little signs of improvement. McPherson has great control and three solid pitches, and will start his season in AAA whenever he can return. He is currently on a throwing program, but shoulder injuries are never a good sign for a pitcher, with an example being Evan Meek.
8.) Rudy Owens (18)–LHP–24
Owens made the biggest jump in the rankings of anyone on this list. So far in his second year of AAA, he has posted a 2.12 ERA and 0.79 WHIP, to go along with much improved walk numbers (which was never really a problem). He has now set himself up to be the first person out of the AAA rotation to be called up if the Pirates ever need another starter due to injury or trade.
9.) Jeff Locke (12)–LHP–24
Along with Owens, Locke is having a very good year in AAA, and is giving himself the opportunity to be called up to the majors if needed. He has a 2.34 ERA so far, which gives him a 2.27 ERA in 63 career AAA innings. Locke has good control and good overall pitches, which gives him decent upside in the majors, probably more so than Owens.
10.) Tony Sanchez (7)–C–23
Sanchez has yet to figure out how to really hit AA pitching, which is the toughest jump for a hitter. However, coming out of college as a first rounder, Sanchez should be hitting by this point. Not only is his hitting not improving by much, his fielding is not really improving either. I’ve read that his throwing accuracy has gotten worse, but his caught stealing percentage is about the same as last year. Time seems to be running out for the 2009 fourth overall pick to establish himself as a top prospect.
11.) Nick Kingham (11)–RHP–20
Kingham has struggled so far in Low-A, but the potential is still there. He put up a great statistical year in 2011, and showed good velocity in spring, consistently throwing in the low to mid 90′s. His curve and change can be solid pitches, but he has mainly focused on his fastball to this point. His control has escaped him this year, which is the probable cause to his early struggles. He is young enough that his upside is still the most important thing for him.
12.) Colton Cain (10)–LHP–21
Cain had a solid year in Low-A in 2011, but has had mixed results in High-A this year. His ERA is at 4.88 after six starts, mainly because a couple bad starts. Cain has decent control of his fastball, which sits around 90 MPH, and compliments that pitch with a curve and change, with both pitches having the potential to be above average.
13.) Matt Curry (15)–1B–23
Curry has the most upside of the first baseman in the upper levels, and is off to a nice start offensively in AA this year. He currently has a .317 average, to go along with an .843 OPS, two homers, and 17 RBI. If Curry continues to hit the way he is, we could see him up in AAA this year at some point, pushing Matt Hague to third base. Again, Curry has more upside than Hague, and is currently the best bet of being the Pirates’ first baseman of the future.
14.) Alen Hanson (NA)–SS–19
Hanson has gotten a lot of coverage this season because of his hot start, flirting with an average above .400 for a long time. His average currently sits at .385 before his game on May 7th, and he has an OPS of 1.059 to go along with that. This may be a stretch to rank him this high on the list, but a 19 that is hitting like than and who has a chance to be a good defensive shortstop in the future as well definitely deserves some praise. He also has great speed, stealing 11 bases to this point.
15.) Robbie Grossman (8)–CF–22
I was a little hesitant to put Grossman at #8 last time because all his success came in his second year in High-A. So far in his jump to AA, which is the hardest jump for a hitter, he has struggled a good deal at the plate, with a .225 average and .660 OPS. Grossman suffered a broken hamate bone in the fall, while he was tearing up the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is a league where many of the top prospects in baseball play after the season is over, so it was nice to see Grossman perform the way he did there. He is still young, so he has time to adjust to pitchers in AA. In 2011, he was the first minor leaguer since Nick Swisher in 2004 to score 100 runs and walk 100 times.
If you have any questions or comments on these rankings, please send them to me on twitter @mikemaw45, or comment below.
Dan Gamache was selected by the Pirates in the 2011 amateur draft out of Auburn, where he played third base. Gamache hit very well in his first two years of college, with an OPS of 1.146 in his first year and 1.024 in his second year. His production declined in his third year of college, but he still hit for a decent OPS of .878, leading to his selection in the sixth round of the draft.
In college, Gamache didn’t hit for a lot of power, which assisted in the Pirates’ decision to move him over to second base as a pro, where his offense was more suitable for the position. He struggled in the field in his 26 games for the Pirates in the rookie level Gulf Coast League and State College (Short Season) last year, where he committed nine errors. Six of these errors came at third, with the other three coming at second. However, Gamache is said to be a strong defender with good range and a good arm, so these struggles shouldn’t continue down the road. So far with Low-A West Virginia in 2012, he has played six games at second and six games as the DH, and has yet to play third.
As for his hitting, Gamache has yet to impress with his bat. In his limited time in the minors, he has hit for .262 average and .695 OPS in a total of 126 at bats, all in the lower levels of the minors. For a hitter that had success for three years in college, you would expect better production. To this point in 2012, he has improved slightly with a .268 average and .744 OPS. It is still very early in his career, so there is definitely a chance that his offensive numbers will rise in the future.
Gamache is still young at 21 years old, and has good defensive ability and is talented enough to hit, at least at the lower levels. He will probably stay at second base for the most part down the road, but with fellow prospect Jodaneli Carvajal playing primarily second base, Gamache will probably see at lot of time as the DH. At the plate, he could hit for a decent average, but unless he adds power to his game, he will probably end up as an organizational player in the upper levels of the minors.
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In my rankings last September for my blog “Bloggin Buccos”, Starling Marte was the #3 prospect in the Pirates’ organization. He was coming off a year where he hit for a .332 average and an .870 OPS, along with 12 home runs and 24 stolen bases. He followed his stellar 2011 campaign with a great offensive showing early in spring training this year with the major league club, hitting .520 with a 1.440 OPS and three home runs in 25 at bats. This had many fans calling for the team to keep Marte on the major league roster to start the season, but management made the right decision by sending him to AAA Indianapolis to work on plate patience and to get time at the corner outfield positions, where he will most likely play as long as Andrew McCutchen is in center for the Pirates. But having Marte one step away from the majors in AAA leads to the question, when will he get the call?
Marte’s arrival in the majors really depends on a couple factors. Obviously, one of them is how he is performing in AAA. If he continues to hit like he has, then it will be very difficult for the Pirates to keep him down. The other factor in his call up will be how Alex Presley and Jose Tabata perform. If one of these two struggle, then that will lead to a higher possibility of Marte getting the call. Likewise, if both of these players exceed expectations, then that will lower the chances of Marte having a spot on the major league roster. If Marte doesn’t respond well to the more advanced AAA pitching, it will not matter how Presley and Tabata hit, and will show that Marte needs more time in the minors.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, Marte needs to work on his plate patience and get more experience in left and/or right field before he can be called up to the majors. In his minor league career leading up to this season, he has struck out in 21.6% of his at-bats. That’s not too bad, and he even lowered his strikeout rate to 18.7% in 2011. However, he has a career walk rate of 4.7%, and 3.8% in 2011. That is bad. Obviously, this hasn’t really affected his performance too much in the minors, but if he continues this, major league pitchers will exploit this weakness. Marte is an aggressive hitter, many times swinging at pitches that are not in the strike zone. But, if he would allow these pitches to go buy as balls, he would get more walks and see better pitches to hit later in the count. Not only would this raise his on base percentage, it could also raise his average because of the more hittable pitches.
Marte is a very good defensive centerfielder, probably better than McCutchen. However, he has very little experience at the corner outfield positions in the higher levels, and in spring training, he looked a little lost at those spots. For the Pirates, Marte will most likely play left field, where he has only played seven times in the minors. Being a good fielder, this shouldn’t take long for Marte to adjust to, but it is better to get him used to the position in the minors, rather than with the major league club. PNC Park has a very large left field, so it will be good having a player with Marte’s speed and defense to man that position.
So, when should Marte get called up? The earliest time I could see the Pirates calling up Marte is early to mid June. This will give the team enough time to evaluate his performance at AAA, and to see how Presley and Tabata handle themselves at the majors. If Marte is hitting .300-.315 or better with an OPS of over .820 and his strikeout and walk numbers improve, then he should get serious consideration by the beginning of July. Even if Presley and Tabata are hitting well, you can’t ignore Marte’s talent and potential impact on the team, and it really wouldn’t benefit him to stay in AAA. In the majors, Marte could be an .300+ hitter with 15-20 homers a year, with great speed and great defense. The Pirates could have a very good duo with Marte and McCutchen, and hopefully we will get a taste of what that is like at some point this summer.
Michael Mawhinney-follow me @mikemaw45 and read http://www.blogginbuccos.blogspot.com