Complete Bradenton Coverage
Going through all of the players at the Bradenton level, and coming up with a top ten list of prospects was difficult. For one, a lot of players were promoted quickly, and didn’t qualify for this list. Guys like Jeff Inman or Kyle Kaminska might have qualified for the top ten, but neither had enough innings. Colton Cain definitely would have qualified had he not been traded to the Astros.
A bigger issue was that the 2012 Marauders were disappointing. They had the top two prospects in the system at the start of the year, and a lot of guys with good tools and potential. However, none of those guys really broke out. Alex Dickerson has the potential to be a power hitting first baseman, but was inconsistent at the plate. Gift Ngoepe has made some strides with his game, but is still raw. High draft picks like Mel Rojas and Evan Chambers struggled again to turn their tools in to on-field production. The only breakout story at the level was Casey Sadler, who grades as an eventual back of the rotation starter and more of a top 30 guy, rather than a prospect who could crack the top 20.
Teams can run in cycles with talent. Last year the Marauders were the big story in the farm system, with breakout players like Robbie Grossman and Ramon Cabrera. Next year might be another good year with the expected promotions of guys like Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco. But this year there weren’t many good stories beyond Cole and Taillon, making it a disappointing season. The end result is that a lot of the guys on the top ten are fringe prospects, but probably wouldn’t have made the top ten rankings with any other team in the system.
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP
Gerrit Cole got off to a slow start, but quickly showed why he is considered the top prospect in the system. The right-hander didn’t have much trouble with high-A batters, striking out over a batter an inning before his eventual promotion to Double-A. His overall numbers were about what you’d expect from the top prospect, with a 2.55 ERA and a 69:21 K/BB ratio in 67 innings. He’s got three plus pitches, throwing an upper 90s fastball that touches 100, a slider that works in the 89-92 MPH range, and a changeup that is thrown 87-90 MPH. He compliments those pitches with a two-seam fastball in the low-90s, and a mid-80s curveball that acts like a slurve. Cole has the arsenal needed to be a top of the rotation starter one day, possibly as early as June 2013.
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP
Coming in to the year there might have been an outside shot at Taillon making it to the majors in 2013. After his first seven starts in high-A, he looked like he could be on pace to speed through the minors. Then the right-hander started to struggle. He wasn’t throwing his pitches with confidence, and struggled making decisions on which pitch to throw at the right time. Taillon improved his confidence in late-July, which led to much better results and a late season promotion to Altoona. In Altoona he pitched much better than his overall time in Bradenton, and could be back on that path to get a shot in the majors by the end of 2013. Like Cole, Taillon has top of the rotation upside. He throws an upper 90s fastball, which touches 99. His curveball is a plus offering, with hard, sharp break, almost acting like a slider. He gets a lot of swings and misses on the pitch. This year he made some big strides with his changeup, and the pitch has the makings of a future plus offering. Taillon also reintroduced a two-seam fastball at the end of the season. It was a pitch he had prior to joining the Pirates, but something he shelved the last two years while focusing on fastball command.
3. Alex Dickerson, 1B
Dickerson didn’t have the season you’d expect from a college hitter who is known for his bat. The first baseman started the season slow at the plate, eventually picking up the pace in June. He did improve on his defense in the first two months of the season, which was a silver lining to the slump. The first baseman picked up the pace offensively once June rolled around, but his defense went the other direction and started to slump. After two strong months, Dickerson finished with a sub-par month of August. The most important thing for his future is hit bat. As a first baseman, that’s where his value will come from. He’s got the potential to be a plus power hitter, but needs to do a lot better than his 2012 season. Dickerson should make the jump to Double-A next year, which is always the most difficult jump for a hitter to make.
4. Gift Ngoepe, SS
When Gift was signed, it seemed more like a publicity move, with the novelty of signing a guy out of South Africa. It was a great story, but the odds of the infielder turning in to a prospect were small. He has surprised in his time in the minors, most notably with his defense. Not only can Ngoepe play shortstop, he’s probably the best defensive infielder in the entire system. He also has plus speed, and is one of the fastest players in the system. What was notable this year was that he hit for some home run power, belting nine homers. He’s still a bit raw, which is to be expected considering his background. But the fact that he’s now a legit prospect, and could make the jump to Double-A, makes this good story even better.
5. Casey Sadler, RHP
Sadler was taken in the 25th round of the 2010 draft, and given $100,000 to sign out of the JuCo ranks. The right-hander started throwing his sinker in the 91-93 MPH range in the second half last year, and carried that velocity over to this season. With the trade of Colton Cain to the Astros, and the promotion of Gerrit Cole, there was an open spot for Sadler to make the jump to the rotation. He handled the jump well for someone who had been a reliever his entire career. Toward the end of the season Sadler started to wear down, which inflated his numbers. The extra innings did allow him to work on improving his changeup, which he used to go deep in to a lot of games. Sadler pairs a hard slider with his fastball and changeup, using the slider as his out pitch. He has a future as a starting pitcher, although he’s probably more of a back of the rotation starter. A lot of his success will depend on the consistency of his slider, and the further development of his changeup.
6. Mel Rojas, OF
Rojas has been a frustrating player to watch if you’ve seen him live. He’s got all of the looks of a future big league player, and a lot of good tools. Most of those tools aren’t applied in the game, at least not on a consistent basis. He’ll go through hot streaks where he picks up several multi-hit games in a row, including a few three or four hit games. However, he follows that up with a prolonged cold streak, going hitless over several games. There have been more cold streaks than hot streaks, as he continues to look raw at the plate. Rojas has improved his defense in center field, and has five tool potential. He might be a threat to return to high-A next year, as his hitting this year wasn’t enough to move him to the next level.
7. Tyler Waldron, RHP
Waldron pitched most of the year as a starter between Bradenton and Altoona, but his upside might be as a relief pitcher. As a starter, Waldron works in the 90-92 MPH range with his fastball, although he can get that up to 96 in shorter outings. He didn’t strike out a lot of batters this year, and was hit around in Bradenton, mostly due to a lack of movement on his fastball. The Pirates will be sending him to the Arizona Fall League this off-season, and gave him time in the Altoona rotation at the end of the year, so obviously they like him as a prospect. If he remains a starter, his upside is a back of the rotation guy, and he’s more likely to end up a relief pitcher.
8. Jason Townsend, RHP
Townsend was drafted as a hard thrower out of Alabama, taken in the 31st round of the 2010 draft. He could hit 97 MPH with his fastball, but struggled controlling the pitch. Townsend added control in 2011, but it came with lower velocity, topping out at 95. His control continued to improve this year, but he saw a decrease in his strikeouts. The right-hander made good adjustments to not only control his fastball, but keep the ball down in the zone. He did this by focusing on lengthening his stride. Townsend still throws with good velocity, although he hasn’t been hitting the upper 90s like he did in 2010. The trade off is that he’s a better all-around pitcher, and a sleeper relief prospect to watch going forward.
9. Eliecer Navarro, LHP
Navarro was much better in the bullpen this year, and that will probably be his long-term role. His results come with the disclaimer that he’s a lefty with good breaking stuff, which puts him in the same category as people like Porfirio Lopez, Jhonathan Ramos, and Josh Poytress. He did have better results than those three in the bullpen, and spent time as a starter throughout the season, showing he was higher on the depth charts.
10. Drew Maggi, SS
Maggi eventually moved up to Altoona this year, although his results at each level were poor. He’s getting a little old for where he is in the minors right now, so the Pirates need to start seeing some results. He’s an athletic player who can play anywhere on the field, including moving to the outfield in Double-A. Maggi has a lot of speed, but doesn’t hit for a lot of power, and didn’t hit for average this year. He does have good K/BB numbers, and could profile as a utility player if he starts hitting for average in the future.