Top 10 Hitters: Meadows Starting to Live Up to Expectations

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. Austin Meadows, CF – Austin Meadows has been back in the lineup regularly for about a month now, after missing the start of the season with a hamstring injury. This week’s performance was good enough to earn his the South Atlantic League Player of the Week award. He’s showing the hitting that everyone hoped to see from him this year, with a .337/.375/.469 slash line through 24 games with West Virginia. He’s playing center field regularly and has hit seven doubles and two homers, all as a 19-year-old(which he will still be at the start of the 2015 season). If he finishes off the season strong, there is a chance that this won’t be a lost year and he could still move up to Bradenton to start next season.

2. Mel Rojas, OF – Rojas had just 14 at-bats this week, but four extra-base hits gave him the second best week among Pirates players. We featured one of those hits in the Prospect Highlights today and summed up the season for him. Basically, Rojas is having the best season of his career and other than some extra strikeouts, his performance hasn’t dropped off at all with the move to AAA. It’s possible that he could make his Major League debut this September to add depth to the Pirates bench for a playoff run. The combination of speed, switch-hitting and the ability to play all three outfield spots, makes him appealing for a September role this year and possible fourth outfielder role next year.

3. JaCoby Jones, SS – Jones went 8-for-27 this week, hitting his 18th homer, which leads all Pirates minor league players. He also has 17 stolen bases, as he closes in on a 20-20 season, which is made even more impressive by the fact he is a shortstop. He could very well be having the best season of any Pirates hitter in the minors. There are still some flaws to his game. He needs work on defense, which could come around just from repetition at shortstop. His 32/120 BB/SO ratio in 409 at-bats in one of the worst in the system and he is 22 in Low-A ball. Coming from someone who spent three years at a major college program, that takes a little luster off his season. Still, despite those current flaws, if he continues to hit as he moves up the system and can remain at shortstop, he’s going to be a very valuable player for the Pirates some day.

4. Jacob Stallings, C – Stallings is known more for his defense than his hitting, and it’s not really close. He went 6-for-11 this week, with a double and homer. The 6’5″ backstop will go as far as his glove takes him in pro ball, unless his fine hitting this week becomes something he starts doing more on a regular basis.

5. Andrew Lambo, OF – Lambo was hitting well early in the year when a thumb injury shut him down for an extended time. The timing was bad as the Pirates had a hole in right field that he could have filled. Lambo hasn’t missed a beat since coming back to AAA, though his rehab outings with Jamestown and in the GCL didn’t go so well. He went 9-for-21 this week and he’s batting .341/.407/.547 in 47 games at Indianapolis this year. He should be making an appearance in Pittsburgh in about three weeks, adding a strong lefty bat off the bench for the playoff run. There isn’t much more for him to show at AAA at this point. He’s proving that the thumb is healthy now and he deserves a chance to show what he can do in the Majors.

6. Pablo Reyes, 2B –  Pablo Reyes isn’t a name most Pirates fans know, but maybe you should. He spent last year in the DSL and skipped over the GCL this year, going right to Bristol. While doing the 2013 DSL recap last year, I was told by multiple sources that Reyes was the best pure hitter on the team. That’s a team that included Michael de la Cruz, who was our 20th ranked prospect this year. The push to Bristol was an advanced placement for the 20-year-old second baseman and his overall stats aren’t that impressive. In 43 games, he has a .259/.350/.353 slash line.

Over his 154 game career in the pros, Reyes has 69 walks and 63 strikeouts, showing a good eye at the plate and impressive contact. His 7-for-16 performance this week is just a sample of the current 16-for-40(.400 avg) streak that he is on right now in his last ten games. With a lot of light-hitting infielders at Jamestown this year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Pirates challenge Reyes next year in Low-A ball with West Virginia. If he can handle that jump like he is handling the one this year, Pablo Reyes will be a name that a lot more Pirates fans know.

7. Elias Diaz, C – We have been mentioning Diaz a lot recently and it’s because he has continued to have a breakout season and the batting doesn’t seem to be going away. The 23-year-old catcher has a .324 average and .812 OPS this season, which are obviously strong numbers, but his defense is his strong suit. He has basically gone from someone that looked like he could make the Majors at some point, to someone that could be a solid backup catcher soon in Pittsburgh. He will need to be added to the 40-man roster this year and Diaz also needs to show he can continue to hit at AAA before he becomes a top prospect in the system.

8. Jarek Cunningham, 3B – If it seems like Jarek Cunningham has been around forever, it’s because he has. Now in his third full season at Altoona and standing at third base instead of second base, he has raised his average, cut down on his strikeouts and drawn some extra walks. Unfortunately, he’s now hitting for less power and as a 24-year-old, he is no longer young for the level.

9. Max Moroff, 2B – Moroff has 27 doubles and five triples this year, which is pretty good for a 21-year-old in High-A ball. He also has one homer, 107 strikeouts, a .662 OPS and has been caught stealing 14 times in 32 attempts, so there are some flaws. Luckily age is on his side, even if he repeats the level next year. He had three doubles and drew five walks this past week.

10. Chris Diaz, 2B – There isn’t much to say about Diaz that isn’t summed up by being a 23-year-old with a .586 OPS in Low-A. On the good side, he’s a versatile fielder that you don’t mind sticking out there on defense at SS/2B/3B.

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