It’s hard for a prospect to have a trend when his pro career may be just a few weeks old, or when he’s only a few weeks removed from the Dominican Summer League. Players at the short season level should be considered more potential than actual prospects because they’re so far away from being major league players. It’s a particularly bad idea to start drawing many conclusions about recently drafted players; the hitters may be seeing a lot of quality breaking balls for the first time, the pitchers may be facing many hitters they can’t simply overpower for the first time, and so on. Thanks especially to a renewed international scouting program, the Pirates at least have a lot of players in the New York-Penn and Gulf Coast Leagues who have some potential to reach the majors. This is a report on the progress, so far, of the players who seem to have the best chance of turning into prospects, keeping in mind that this is an extremely early stage for most of these guys.
Barrett Barnes, OF: Barnes so far has been just what the Pirates would have expected from a supplemental first round pick. He’s shown good patience (16 BB, 20 K) and solid power (five HRs; the rest of the team has only three), leaving him with a 293/399/463 line. He also has ten steals in 14 tries.
Tyler Gaffney, OF: Gaffney was a two-sport player at Stanford and is coming off a very bad junior year, but he’s been an on-base machine for the Spikes so far, thanks to a very high walk rate and an extreme tendency to get hit with pitches, nearly one in every seven plate appearances. He’s also shown good gap power, with a line of 351/543/526. He signed late and so has played only for about three weeks.
Samuel Gonzalez, C: Gonzalez has had a disappointing season. He returned to State College after being an All-Star there last year. Shoulder problems have kept him from catching, so the Pirates have used him mainly at first. Whether it’s because of the shoulder or not, he hasn’t hit at all, posting a 218/291/287 line.
Jacob Stallings, C: Stallings looked like a possible organizational player when the Pirates drafted him, but he’s done better than expected with the bat and done a strong job defensively, as expected. He’s thrown out 13 of 33 potential base stealers and impressed the Pirates with his handling of the young State College pitchers. He’s also hit 282/323/411, thanks in part to 14 doubles. He won’t have to hit a great deal to have a chance to reach the majors due to his defense.
Jake Burnette, RHP: One of the “projectable right-handers” the Pirates drafted in 2011, Burnette has had uneven results. His WHIP is respectable at 1.33, thanks mainly to the fact that he hasn’t walked many. He’s fanned very few, though, just eight in 21 innings. His ERA is 4.71.
Jason Creasy, RHP: Creasy’s numbers are very similar to Burnette’s (1.34 WHIP, 4.63 ERA), except that his K rate, while low, isn’t nearly as low as Burnette’s. Creasy has fanned 21 in 35 innings.
Dalton Friend, LHP: A 12th round pick, Friend is a darkhorse prospect, but he’s interesting because he had one of the highest K rates in JC ball. He has erratic stuff, so he figured to be a project for the Pirates. His first outing was a disaster — six earned runs without retiring a batter — but he’s pitched very well since then, allowing just 15 hits and two walks in 17.2 IP, while fanning 16.
Luis Heredia, RHP: It’s been well documented that Heredia is off to an outstanding start, pitching in a league populated heavily with college draftees while he’s still only 17. Heredia has a 1.85 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, as his control is dramatically improved from last year. He’s not striking out many and he’s throwing only in the low 90s, but . . . well, he’s still 17.
Clay Holmes, RHP: Holmes has been nearly unhittable, as opponents are batting only .139 against him and his ERA is 0.80. He hasn’t struck out many and he’s had occasional control issues, but for a guy who completely skipped rookie ball he’s doing very well.
Joely Rodriguez, LHP: Like several other State College pitchers, Rodriguez has shown very good control while not fanning many. His WHIP is 1.16 and his ERA 3.08.
Adrian Sampson, RHP: Unlike most State College pitchers, Sampson is striking out a batter an inning. He’s also shown good control and has a WHIP of 1.21. Sampson was drafted out of JC ball and is still only 20, so he’s younger than a lot of the college players he’s facing.
GULF COAST LEAGUE PIRATES
Stetson Allie, 1B: Allie has struggled so far, fanning in a third of his ABs, although he’s walked a lot, too, and shown decent power. His line is 220/331/349. He struggled defensively at third, enough so that he’s now playing first.
Elvis Escobar, OF: The Pirates brought Escobar and Harold Ramirez to the GCL without having them play in the Dominican Summer League. That’s a challenging assignment and Escobar is still just 17, so he’d be expected to struggle. He’s held his own reasonably well, though, hitting 235/299/322.
Edwin Espinal, 3B: Espinal came into the season as a potential power hitter, but he’s struggled so far. It’s not hard to see why: he has 23 strikeouts and no walks. Overall, he’s hitting 175/175/238.
Dilson Herrera, 2B: Herrera so far has shown some similarity to Alen Hanson, although he’s stockier than Hanson and the Pirates have already moved him off shortstop. He’s shown good power this year, with a team-leading six HRs. His plate discipline hasn’t been great, but he’s hitting 254/311/500 so far.
Jin-De Jhang, C: Jhang has potential as a hitter, which explains why he’s been sharing the catching with second-round pick Wyatt Mathisen. He’s shown excellent plate discipline (11 BB, 8 K) and is hitting 316/407/392. He’s also shown a good arm, throwing out 32% of base stealers.
Wyatt Mathisen, C: Mathisen’s numbers have been very similar to Jhang’s: 308/391/385, 8 BB, 12 K. Unlike Jhang, he’s shown some speed, with eight steals, although he’s been caught five times. He’s thrown out 37%, which is surprising because he doesn’t have much experience as a catcher. He’s currently out with a fractured foot, but he’s expected back in a week or two.
Candon Myles, OF: The speedster Myles has hit well so far at 306/387/367. He’s walked 13 times and struck out 21, and stolen 11 bases in 16 tries.
Harold Ramirez, OF: The other half of the young outfield duo, Ramirez missed several weeks at the start of the season due to an infection. He seems to be more advanced than Escobar; at 323/373/355, he’s hit very well and his plate discipline has been good (four walks, seven Ks). The lack of power at age 17 isn’t a concern.
Kevin Ross and Max Moroff, SS: Unusually for them, the Pirates signed two HS shortstops in the 2012 draft. Both signed late and have played only briefly so far. Ross has started off slowly (2-for-24) and Moroff is 4-for-8.
Luis Urena, OF: Urena bears some similarity to pre-2012 Gregory Polanco in that he’s a tall, lean, extremely toolsy outfielder who’s also very raw. His power is starting to come around, as he has five HRs so far and is hitting 247/330/556, but he’s had problems making contact, striking out in 44% of his ABs. He’s not going to be able to hit at higher levels with that kind of swing-and-miss.
Eric Wood, 3B: Wood is something of a mystery, which is unusual for a sixth round draft pick. He’s had a good start, including some power, but it has to be kept in mind that he was drafted out of junior college rather than high school. He’s hitting 265/383/471 with three HRs in 21 games. He’s walked 11 times and fanned 13.
Colten Brewer, RHP: The GCL pitching staff doesn’t have a lot of very interesting pitchers, mostly just the two projectable high school right-handers drafted in 2011 and one in 2012. Brewer is one of the former. He’s done well in four starts, but he’s been hurt and hasn’t pitched in three weeks. He has a 1.18 WHIP and 3.71 ERA, and 13 Ks in 17 IP.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP: Another 2011 draftee, Glasnow also has pitched well, striking out a batter an inning and posting an ERA of 2.84 and WHIP of 1.16. Opponents have hit .197 against him.
Jon Sandfort, RHP: The 2012 third round pick has had a difficult time so far, failing to get out of the first inning in two of three starts. He’s walked five and allowed five hits in three and a third innings.