With Labor Day behind us, the 2014 minor league season is officially in the books. The Pirates will see just one of their affiliates — the Bradenton Marauders — in postseason play. Despite praise for individual standouts, the overall teams had a rough year in 2014. Here’s a round-up from the Pirates’ system…
Top 10 Prospects (MLB.com)
1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
Stats: 12-5, 1.74 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 (124.1 IP)
3. Josh Bell, OF
Levels: Bradenton, Altoona
Stats: .325/.375/.459, 9 HR, 60 RBI (108 games)
4. Austin Meadows, OF
Levels: GCL & Bristol (rehab), West Virginia
Stats: .317/.394/.488, 3 HR, 16 RBI (45 games)
5. Nick Kingham, RHP
Levels: Altoona, Indianpolis
Stats: 6-11, 3.34 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 (159 IP)
6. Alen Hanson, 2B/SS
Stats: .280/.326/.442, 11 HR, 58 RBI (118 games)
7. Reese McGuire, C
Level: West Virginia
Stats: .262/.307/.334, 3 HR, 45 RBI (98 games)
8. Harold Ramirez, OF
Level: West Virginia
Stats: .309/.364/.402, 1 HR, 24 RBI (49 games)
9. Cole Tucker, SS
Level: Gulf Coast League Pirates
Stats: .267/.368/.356, 2 HR, 13 RBI (48 games)
10. Mitch Keller, RHP
Level: Gulf Coast League Pirates
Stats: 0-0, 1.98 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 (27.1 IP)
Team by Team
Indianapolis Indians (AAA)
73-71, second place in International League West, 6.0 games back
There were high hopes for the Tribe entering 2014, with top prospects Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco starting the season in Indy. Unfortunately, Taillon fell victim to Tommy John surgery and missed the entire year. Polanco didn’t disappoint in his AAA action, hitting .347 with a .945 OPS before graduating to the big leagues in June. After missing an opportunity to break camp with the MLB club, Andrew Lambo crushed International League pitching once again by slashing .328/.389/.563. Some of Indy’s best arms (Casey Sadler, Brandon Cumpton) have seen time in Pittsburgh, while others (Vin Mazzaro, Andy Oliver) have been stuck in the minors. Two rising pitching prospects, Nick Kingham and Adrian Sampson, got their first taste of AAA action after midseason call-ups.
Altoona Curve (AA)
61-81, fifth place in Eastern League West, 18.0 games back
Alen Hanson spent a full season in Altoona this year — he picked up the bat after a slow start, but committed 29 errors in the field, moved to second base, and was benched for extended periods of time for not growing up. Pitcher-turned-position-player Stetson Allie was bumped up to AA after pretty limited time in A-ball — he mashed again, launching 21 homers in 117 games. One of the breakout players of 2014, catcher Elias Diaz batted .328/.378/.445 for the Curve while displaying “the strongest pure throwing arm” in the Bucs’ system. Sampson (2.55 ERA) and Kingham (3.04 ERA) headlined the pitching staff before heading to Indianapolis.
Bradenton Marauders (A+)
43-27, first place in Florida State League South
Two blue chip prospects, Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell, led one of the best teams in the Florida State League. A bunch of solid players on this squad, though those two led the way — Glasnow and Bell were named the FSL Pitcher and Hitter of the Year, respectively. Glasnow keeps getting better and better, while Bell hit .335 before being promoted to Altoona.
West Virginia Power (A)
34-33, fourth place in South Atlantic League North, 7.5 games back
The top two picks of the 2013 draft class spent time with the Power this summer. Outfielder Austin Meadows hit well after returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for months, while catcher Reese McGuire struggled with the stick but threw out nearly 40% of base stealers. A third round pick last year, shortstop JaCoby Jones broke out with the Power by knocking 23 home runs and leading the system with a .503 slugging percentage. West Virginia’s pitching staff was lacking; one familiar name — Luis Heredia — posted a 4.15 ERA in 18 starts.
Jamestown Jammers (A-)
35-40, second place in New York-Penn League Pinckney, 12.5 games back
Hard to draw much from a short season A team, especially when no top prospects are around… You can find their stats here. The Jammers are relocating to Morgantown next year.
Bristol Pirates (A-Rookie)
22-46, last place in Appalachian League West, 16.0 games back
A first-year affiliate of the club, the Bristol Pirates were absolutely terrible… Stats here.
Players to Watch
– Obviously you should keep an eye on Tyler Glasnow. Now the #1 prospect in the system, he continues to rise on overall prospect lists — MLB currently has him at #19 in baseball. A-ball hitters weren’t much of a challenge for Glasnow, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does next season as he moves to Altoona.
– Josh Bell ripped the cover off the ball this year. You probably know that the Pirates have quite a bit of outfield depth right now, and it doesn’t appear that Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, or Gregory Polanco will be going anywhere anytime soon. That being said, Bell will play first base in the Arizona Fall League and will probably start there in Altoona next year. The Pirates haven’t had success with internal first base options (pretty much don’t draft any), nor have they gotten great production from the external options they’ve acquired. Let’s see if Bell can stick at 1B; his bat should certainly play there.
– Of course, keep tabs on Taillon. He’ll need time at Indy upon returning to competitive action, but could make an impact in Pittsburgh next year. Another guy in that category — Nick Kingham. He’ll be a legit option in camp next year, though I’d expect him to start the year in AAA. Kingham’s been called “a poor man’s Gerrit Cole.”
– Adrian Sampson tore up Eastern League hitters for much of the year, even taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning back in July. He doesn’t strike many out but limits his walks; he’ll be an interesting guy to watch as he starts in Indianapolis next year.
– Ever since Neal Huntington said something along the lines of “if Russell Martin is as expensive as we think he’ll be, we have Tony Sanchez,” another catcher has gotten a ton of attention — Elias Diaz. Not sure if that’s a coincidence or what, but it’s interesting because Diaz ended up replacing Sanchez at Indy just days later, bumping Tony to first base. Keep an eye on Diaz.
– Now 132 games into his professional career, JaCoby Jones is slashing .291/.349/.498 … The power he showed in 2014 (21 doubles, 3 triples, 23 home runs) is impressive, especially if he can stick at shortstop.
– Top 2014 draft picks: Cole Tucker, Connor Joe, Trey Supak, Mitch Keller.
The Pirates’ system had one of the lowest organizational winning percentages in all of baseball…
The Pirates are widely considered to have one of the best systems, obviously due to their strong top prospects and not just their team-by-team production. Few other systems can match the kind of talent the Pirates have in the top 10. It ultimately comes down to how many of those prospects will graduate to the big leagues and make an impact. We’ve seen Cole, Polanco, Marte, and others rise through the system recently; Glasnow, Bell, Taillon, Kingham, etc. could all join them within a couple of years. They say the waiting is the hardest part… Hopefully waiting for these prospects to reach Pittsburgh will be worth it.