First Pitch: High Upside Position Players

In writing up the A-ball previews over the last two days, I noticed something. The Pirates have a lot of interesting hitting prospects. It’s not really new to me. I’ve noticed this before, specifically when people say the system has no hitting.

The hitting prospects aren’t guys who have broken out yet. It’s not like a few years ago when the Pirates had Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker at the top of the system. Right now the Pirates have two standout hitting prospects: Starling Marte and Josh Bell. You could put Robbie Grossman in that category, although I’d rate him in the tier below Marte and Bell.

What the team does have is a group of prospects who have the chance to break out to that level. They’ve got a lot of high upside guys, although none of them have broken out.

At first base the Pirates have intriguing options at almost every level. Matt Curry, Alex Dickerson, Jose Osuna, and Jared LaKind will start from Altoona down to State College. All four have raw power and good hitting potential.

West Virginia will have a group of international prospects who are all toolsy, and all have a shot at a Starling Marte-2009 season. Alen Hanson is one of the top shortstop prospects in the system, with plus speed, strong defense, and a good approach at the plate. Willy Garcia and Gregory Polanco are both five tool talents with projectable frames and the defensive skills to play center field.

Tony Sanchez is the top catching prospect in the system, and is coming off a down year in 2011. But Sanchez is no longer the only catching prospect in the system. The 2011 season also saw Ramon Cabrera and Carlos Paulino break out in Bradenton, emerging as potential starting options.

The Pirates are weak in some areas. While they have a few intriguing catchers, Sanchez is the only one who has a good shot at being a two way player right now. The entire system is weak at third base, which is a concern with Pedro Alvarez not looking like a guarantee these days. While Hanson has some upside, the Pirates don’t have a standout shortstop prospect, which is a pretty common problem for a lot of organizations. And until the guys mentioned above break out, the team still has just 2-3 top hitting prospects. The progress of these breakout candidates will be a thing to watch in 2012.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost to the Phillies 4-3 in an exhibition game. Game story here.

**Here is my weekly chat transcript.

**Next up for the Pirates 2012 preview: the Starting Lineup.

**And for the minor league preview: the 2012 Bradenton Marauders.

**A rundown of how the draft prospects did in the last week, plus a look at the new draft rules, which pretty much create a new draft.

Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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