Yesterday, Pirates Prospects posted State College’s minicamp roster. This serves as something of a preliminary roster for the early season, but there will inevitably be changes as more players from the recent draft sign. In fact, some players have agreed to terms but aren’t listed yet because they haven’t officially signed their contracts. The makeup of the Spikes has some very minor added interest due to the recent, silly “mandate” that the Pirates received from State College management, threatening to find another affiliation if the Pirates don’t put a winning Spikes team on the field this season. It’s safe to assume that the Pirates will continue to prioritize development and, if State College isn’t comfortable with that, so be it.
So here’s my attempt at a rundown of players to watch:
With a number of younger pitching prospects on the staff, the Spikes no doubt will continue to employ some sort of piggybacking system where the starter goes 3-4 innings and is followed by a reliever who pitches a similar amount. This allows the Pirates to get a good innings total for a number of younger pitchers, rather than just five, while not running their innings counts up too high.
The marquee player on the Spikes’ roster will be 17-year-old Luis Heredia, who shouldn’t need an introduction. There are several other highly regarded prep pitchers from the 2011 draft: Clay Holmes, Jake Burnette and Jason Creasy. Of the three, Holmes has gotten the most attention because he got the largest bonus and probably has the best present stuff. The three of them will be looking to avoid the struggles that have afflicted many of the Pirates’ other former prep pitchers this year. Two other prep pitchers from 2011, Colten Brewer and Tyler Glasnow, are not listed but could appear later. The Pirates typically have sent prep pitchers to State College for their first full seasons, but it could be their experiences with pitchers like Stetson Allie and Nick Kingham have made them a little more cautious.
The roster lists two interesting left-handers. One, Dalton Friend, was drafted in the 12th round this year out of junior college. He’s had erratic results, with some control problems, but had one of the highest strikeout rates in the nation. The other, Joely Rodriguez, has a good arm and at times has gotten his fastball up to 95 mph, but is still inexperienced and missed most of last season due to injury.
The two catchers listed on the roster, Ryan Hornback and this year’s 7th round pick, Jacob Stallings, both have strong defensive skills. Stallings played four years at North Carolina, which has a tradition of strong pitching staffs, so the Pirates will probably look to him to work with their young pitchers. Both will need to hit to establish themselves as prospects.
Part of the infield isn’t set, as the Pirates have not yet officially signed two of their middle infield draftees, D.J. Crumlich (9th round) and Christopher Diaz (11th), both of whom have agreed to terms. They may make up the starting middle infield. Also on the roster is Yhonathan Barrios, a high-profile international signee from Colombia. He was originally a shortstop, but may play third due to a heavy lower half. The firstbaseman figures to be Jared Lakind, an above-slot signee in 2010 who struggled in the Gulf Coast League last year. He showed significant improvement in camp in March. The roster also lists Samuel Gonzalez, who was an All-Star catcher for State College last year, as an infielder. He’s making the move from behind the plate, although his position hasn’t been specified. Stetson Allie, now making the transition from the mound to third, is not listed, so he’ll start his hitting career in the GCL.
The premier hitting prospect on the State College team figures to be Barrett Barnes, the Pirates’ choice in the supplemental first round this year. He’s agreed to terms, but hasn’t officially signed yet. He adds a track record of both power and on-base ability, as well as the possibility of playing centerfield. Hopefully, the Pirates will also reach a deal soon with 4th round pick Brandon Thomas, who’s very similar to Barnes. The two could share center for the Spikes. The roster also includes Rodarrick Jones and Raul Fortunato. Jones is a raw player who was drafted out of college last year and who has power potential. Fortunato was one of the best players in the Dominican Summer League last year, but it was his third year in that league, so the Pirates evidently will have him skip the GCL.
OF: Barnes, Thomas, Fortunato/Jones
Key Pitchers: Heredia, Holmes, Burnette, Creasy, Friend