Last week, we looked at the progress of the top international prospects from 2012 and how they were doing in the system two years later. Now we take a look at the Pirates’ 2012 draft class and how those twenty signed players are doing in the system. That was the year the Pirates didn’t sign Mark Appel and also missed out on fourth round pick Brandon Thomas, so this class was immediately hurt by losing upside talent. The Pirates also lost the slot money from their bonus pool for each of those picks, so there wasn’t money available to sign more players without paying a significant penalty.
Barnes made a brief appearance with Bradenton this year
Right away, we can knock out five of those players signed in 2012, from what was already a small signing class. Both Lance Breedlove and Dalton Friend were released, while Kyle Haynes and Jimmy Rider were traded away. One of the other players is Tyler Gaffney, who is still with the Pirates technically, just on the restricted list. He lost two years of baseball time due to playing football and now he is injured, with a torn meniscus in his knee. He’s a talented player, but with so much lost time, you can basically write him off. He wasn’t a top prospect anyway, so that time off would be tough to recover from.
The highest signing picks were Barrett Barnes and Wyatt Mathisen, taken 45th and 69th respectively. Both have had some injury issues, though they have been much worse for Barnes. In three seasons, he has played 101 games. He’s a very talented outfielder, but he turned 23 back in July and has missed a lot of development time, which has kept him from reaching his upside.
We looked at Wyatt Mathisen’s progress a couple weeks ago and he finished the season up strong, hitting .317 in his last ten games. At age 20, he hit .280/.344/.360 in 103 games, while also learning a new position, manning the hot corner. In 84 games and 211 chances at third base, he committed 19 errors. While the numbers are great by any stretch, he had a strong season at a good age in full-season ball.
Third round pick Jonathan Sandfort had a disastrous season on the mound for Bristol, allowing batters to hit .401 against him in 37.1 innings over 15 appearances. He had a 10.85 ERA and a 2.17 WHIP. He just turned 20, so he was young for his draft class, but being over-matched in rookie ball during your third season isn’t a good sign. He has a good arm and great size, but there is a lot of work to be done.
Fifth round pick Adrian Sampson was the breakout pitcher in the system, showing good stuff without results at Bradenton last year. This year, he breezed through AA ball, getting a late-season promotion to AAA. The results weren’t good there, but he landed himself much higher on the Pirates prospect list than he was at this time last year.
Sixth round pick Eric Wood actually had a nice season in that he was promoted to High-A at a young age and improved on his 2013 stats. He’s still lacking the power to play a corner spot and he isn’t a toolsy player, but you want to see a young player improve as he moves up and he did just that.
Jacob Stallings signed quickly as a senior for $10,000 and the Pirates have got their money’s worth out of him just from his defensive work with young pitchers. Repeating High-A isn’t a good sign and he turns 25 in December, but he’s the type of player that could stick around for awhile and eventually work his way to the Majors for a cup of coffee if everything goes right. His offense was down from 2013, but he finished very strong and had some key hits during a pennant run. As some have mentioned before, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him end up as a coach someday.
Kevin Ross signed as a shortstop and three seasons later he was an All-Star first baseman for Jamestown. He did not finish the season strong, which made his season stats look poor, with a .633 OPS. He missed time last year dealing with personal issues, so he has only played 70 games as a pro. That puts him behind with his development. Ross needs to start taking some walks to be considered a potential prospect. He has just seven in three years, but he has also struck out just 27 times.
The Pirates went with a senior sign in the ninth round, hoping to save money for over-slot picks. D.J. Crumlich is 24 and has hit .145 and .190 in two brief stints(53 total games) with Bradenton. In the tenth round, Pat Ludwig looked like a potential steal for $5,000 as another senior sign. He started this season of great at Bradenton, then got hit hard in a couple trials in the Altoona rotation. He finished the season missing the last three weeks on Bradenton’s disabled list.
Chris Diaz signed for $100,000 in the 11th round, the highest bonus possible after the tenth round without going into the bonus pool. He has done nothing in two years with West Virginia, posting a .593 OPS this year. He value comes from his defense at multiple positions. Nothing standout, but he gives you solid play at shortstop, second base or third base.
Tom Harlan(13th round) is a big lefty that relies on excellent control to get by. He looked good in the Bradenton bullpen, then move up to the Altoona rotation and had some solid outings, with decent overall stats except for his low strikeout rate(26 in 60.2 IP). They could try him out in the rotation again next year, though he profiles more as a lefty out of the pen.
With the next three picks, the Pirates signed three players to over-slot deals. John Kuchno, Max Moroff and Hayden Hurst got the extra cap money let over when Appel wouldn’t sign. Hurst pitched once in three seasons, then moved to hitting in the GCL, where he struck out a lot and all 13 of his hits were singles. Moroff went to Bradenton, where he should return next year after mediocre results, though he is just 21 still. Kuchno had some real strong outings at Bradenton, but the overall results were just average due to a high walk rate and low strikeout rate. He gets a ton of ground balls, but will need to improve his K/BB ratio to really be make an impact on the mound.
The final two players are Josh Smith and Jordan Steranka, both turn 25 soon and they spent the year at Bradenton. They both did their job well, Smith in the bullpen where he occasionally closed and Steranka as the DH/1B. It’s hard to project much from them due to their age and role. If you’re in the bullpen in A-ball, getting just 56 total innings, that doesn’t look good for your future, especially at Smith’s age. With Steranka, he’s a corner infielder without power, which means you better really excel at something else, or it will be tough to get past AA.
The early results have a top prospect in Sampson and two fringe prospects with Mathisen and Barnes. Then you have Moroff, Kuchno and Wood, who will end up in the second half of the top 50 prospect list. It’s possible you might get some MLB bullpen innings from Smith, Harlan or Ludwig if everything goes well. Ross and Sandfort are young with flaws and everyone will point to Stetson Allie’s GCL time as a reason not to give up on Hurst yet. It’s not the best you could hope for from one particular year, but it probably won’t be the worst class we have seen in the last decade.
Pirates Game Graph
The Pirates game against the Cubs from Friday was suspended in the seventh inning with the score tied 3-3. Pittsburgh ended up win 5-3 in 11 innings. The game graph for the regularly scheduled Saturday game is below.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates are 4.5 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead and a half game behind both Atlanta and Milwaukee for the second Wild Card spot. They are 4.5 games behind San Francisco for the first spot.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates won twice on Saturday over the Cubs and look for the sweep this afternoon. Gerrit Cole will make his 18th start of the season today. He has faced the Cubs once, throwing six innings back on April 10th at Wrigley Field. Cole gave up four runs(three earned) and struck out ten batters, his season-high. The minor league season is over. Bradenton was the only affiliate to make the playoffs. They lost their series Wednesday night. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. We will post other season recaps soon.
MLB: Pittsburgh (73-68) @ Cubs (64-78) 2:20 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.96 ERA, 97:37 K/BB, 105 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)
AA: Altoona (61-81)
High-A: Bradenton (78-61)
Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)
Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)
RK: Bristol (22-46)
GCL: Pirates (20-40)
DSL: Pirates (34-36)
With the minor league season over, it’s time to take a look back at some recent video from the GCL, which we will continue to do over the next few days. All videos are courtesy of the GCL Pirates fan page. Below is a video of Barrett Barnes, who spent some rehab time in the GCL this year. It was after he injured his hamstring with West Virginia and before he joined Bradenton. Barnes ended up playing seven games with the GCL Pirates, more than he played for either West Virginia(four games) and Bradenton(six games).
9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.
9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.
9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list
9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.
8/30: Brent Morel promoted to Pittsburgh. Jeff Locke sent to Indianapolis.
8/30: Blake Davis activated from disabled list.
This Date in Pirates History
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including Ed Poole, who was a pitcher/outfielder for two NL Pennant winning clubs. Poole started with the Pirates in late 1900, after winning 20 games in the minors. His first appearance came as an outfielder after HOF player/manager Fred Clarke got hurt running out a hit. Poole saw regular time with the 1901 club that went 90-49, winning the first pennant in franchise history. Since there was no World Series that year, that made the Pirates the league champs. He was with the 1902 club very briefly, as the team was on it’s way to a 103-36 record.
You can read the bio of Poole, plus four other players born on this date, at this link here. Also included is a game recap from the 1974 season, in which a young Cobra struck in extra innings.
That 1901 club linked above lost to the Phillies 4-1 on this date to snap a ten game winning streak. At the beginning of the streak, they were three games up on both Brooklyn and Philadelphia and after going 10-1, they only picked up a half game in the standings over the Phillies. The other amazing part is that the ten games were played over seven days, which included four doubleheaders in five days. The Pirates beat the Giants six straight games in New York between September 4-6, scoring at least ten runs in each game, outscoring the Giants 80-23.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
I think Eric Wood will emerge as the top player from this group.
The early results have a top prospect in Sampson and two fringe prospects with Mathisen and Barnes.
GMs would take that in every draft. Historically, that is about all you can ask our of every draft.