Top 10 Hitters: JaCoby Jones Has Huge Week, While a Second Baseman Makes Third Straight Top 10 List

JaCoby Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. Notes on the top ten players from the last week can be found below the chart.

*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).

The Top Ten

1. JaCoby Jones, SS –  Jones was easily the best hitter in the system this week and it looks like he will finish as the best hitter in the system this year. He and Josh Bell had similar stats going into last week, but Jones had ten hits, which included four homers, and Bell has been out with a bruised knee. Jones leads all Pirates players with 22 homers and 217 total bases. He has the top OPS of any player with more than 275 plate appearances and he is just three stolen bases away from being the first 20/20 HR/SB player in the Pirates system since 2007. He still has the flaws that keep him from being among the top ten prospects in the system, but it’s a group he could join next year with another solid season. He has to improve his defense at shortstop to stick at the position, but even if he doesn’t, he’s athletic enough to play many other spots. If he keeps hitting as he moves up the system, then getting his bat into the lineup won’t be a problem, it just gives him the most value if he can do it at shortstop. Jones will need to improve his 33:128 BB/K ratio to succeed at the highest levels.

2. Jordan Steranka, 1B – Steranka is having a solid season and showing improvements over last year. He still projects to be an organizational player because his only position is first base and he doesn’t hit enough, or add other value elsewhere(running, fielding). Steranka has a .719 OPS this year and he had 11 hits this week, including four doubles. His career 25:157 BB/K ratio really holds him back.

3. Elvis Escobar, OF –  Escobar came into this season as a possible sleeper prospect and really hasn’t lived up to that hype, although he was rushed to West Virginia when both Barrett Barnes and Austin Meadows went down with long-term injuries. Harold Ramirez also missed time and that moved Escobar up to fill-in for the Power. His stats weren’t the best there, but since joining Jamestown, which is where he was projected to start, he has hit .330/.375/.412 in 26 games. He is still shy of his 20th birthday, so he will be a very good age next year in the West Virginia outfield. Escobar can play center field well and he has a little more speed than he has shown so far. Just like the previous two players, he suffers from poor plate patience, which could hold him back.

4. Chris McGuiness, 1B – Some people might be shocked to learn that McGuiness has been on the 40-man roster all year, playing everyday at Indianapolis, and he leads the organization in doubles. That’s because he hasn’t been one of the many call-ups during the season, so his season has been overlooked. He has a .756 OPS and has drawn 53 walks, so while his stats aren’t great, he’s been solid. There is a chance he could be a lefty bat off the bench in September. Clint Hurdle has said that he never wants to be short-handed late in a September game with playoff implications, so McGuiness could be around. With lefties Ike Davis and Andrew Lambo presumably ahead of him(Besides Gaby Sanchez and possibly Pedro Alvarez), his playing time would likely be limited to pinch-hitting duties.

5. Pablo Reyes, 2B – Last week I went a little in depth into Reyes when he made the top ten list for the second straight week. Basically, he was called the best pure hitter in the DSL last year and he has carried that into Bristol this season, jumping right over the GCL. Reyes has obviously been on a hot streak for awhile now, you can’t make the top ten for three straight weeks and not be hitting well. I expect him to move to West Virginia next year and be a possible breakout prospect. There aren’t any infield prospects ahead of him at Jamestown and his bat should be good enough to handle Low-A ball next year.

6. Henrry Rosario, OF –  Rosario is 21 years old and in his second season in the GCL, so you can’t take too much from the stats he is putting up. This is his best season by far, posting an .833 OPS through his first 39 games, so it’s always possible he is a late bloomer. He’s going to need to put up similar numbers at a higher level next year(higher than Bristol) to truly show his numbers aren’t just a result of an older player beating up on younger pitching.

7. Edwin Espinal, 1B –  Espinal is a huge human at 6’3″ at at least 240 pounds(his 210 listed weight is definitely wrong). He hits the ball hard and is more of a line drive hitter now. He has a chance to add power to his game and at 20 years old, he is still filling out and holding his own in Low-A ball. He is going to have to make it far on his bat and that will depend on whether or not he does add power. He has one homer in his last 47 games and only hit four in his first 65 contests. Espinal is painfully slow and average at best at first base. He does have a great arm, but he is limited to first base, so that doesn’t add much value.

8. Eduardo Figueroa, OF – Earlier this week, I did a comparison/update on Tito Polo and Alexis Bastardo, two toolsy outfielders with the GCL Pirates. They were teammates last year with Figueroa, who was basically called the poor man’s version of those two players, toolsy, but not as good. As it turned out, Figueroa moved up to Bristol this year, which doesn’t necessarily make him the better player. The 20-year-old Figueroa is listed at 5’10”, 156 pounds and he bats and throws lefty.  He is part of a common theme with the players this week, sporting an 11:40 BB/K rate that needs work. He has some tools, so you can’t write him off due to his .593 OPS this year, but until he shows more  with the bat, he will remain more of a suspect than prospect.

9. Michael Fransoso, IF – Fransoso is a 24-year-old in low-A ball. That’s about all you need to know for his future. He’s a decent player, whose value lies in the fact he can play multiple positions, including shortstop

10. Tony Sanchez, C – It seems like the promotion of Elias Diaz to AAA sparked something with Sanchez. He had five hits and drove in five runs in two games since Diaz joined Indianapolis. On the season at AAA, Sanchez has struggled. He is hitting .229/.340/.432 in 70 games. On defense, he has made nine errors and thrown out 11% of runners attempting to steal, which is his lowest career total. He should still be joining the Pirates on or around September 1st, but it will be interesting to see just how much playing time he gets.

  • Does jacoby’s bat have a chance to play at 3b?

    • It’s honestly tough to tell with him because he played at a major college and he is 22 years old, so Low-A ball is too low for him at this point. He also has the BB/K issue, which needs to improve. He has all the tools and athleticism to play almost anywhere on the field and I’m sure he could handle third base, although I doubt they would move him there when he’s proved he can play 2B and CF already. I think he stays at shortstop through at least AA.

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