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Morning Report: The Best Prospects in the GCL


If you noticed the top 30 on our Prospect Watch from last night, you’ll see that all of the top 30 prospects that were listed as “Extended Spring Training”, are still listed that way. That’s because once the GCL and Morgantown rosters were released, those players weren’t on either team. Those players are Mitch Keller, Trey Supak and Gage Hinsz, who will remain linked together for at least one more season. All three are projectable, right-handed pitchers with huge upside and all three required over-slot deals in last year’s draft. They are all going to Bristol together and we will have a preview for them tomorrow, but for now we will focus on the prospects for one of the other teams not represented on our top 30 list.

The GCL Pirates have a lineup full of potential, to the point there could put a prospect in every spot in the lineup. Most of them are too far away to make our updated top 30(sometime soon, be patient), but they still have a lot of upside. The catch is that the high upside comes with a low floor as well. As we have seen with Michael de la Cruz(pictured above), a lot can go wrong at such an early point in a career.

De la Cruz was our #20 prospect after the 2013 season, which was something we don’t normally do on our prospect list. Usually we don’t put players with no experience in the States, into our top 50 list. The only other player to get that treatment was Luis Heredia. De la Cruz made the list because the reports we got from the DSL were off-the-charts good and he was considered one of the top prospects in the league. He was also 16 years old for part of the season and putting up stats the had him among the league leaders in multiple categories. Then 2014 happened.

After coming over for a short time during the Fall Instructional League in 2013, de la Cruz returned in March and made his GCL debut in June. Right away he had some issues, one of which was him being homesick. That is something you can’t predict with a 17-year-old, but you also can’t be surprised when it happens. He had three minor injuries that cost him time, so a lot went wrong. He didn’t help himself over the winter by losing weight, which didn’t seem possible going by video I saw of him from the 2014 FIL season. He came into camp this year and the reports on his performance weren’t good. All that and he is still 18 years old. That just tells you how one problem can snowball and have someone drop from the 20th spot, to someone clinging to a top 50 spot. Hopefully his debut was a sign of good things to come, as he had two hits, a walk and a stolen base on Monday.

There are some very talented players that came over from the DSL last fall for the first time and they are playing in the GCL now. Shortstop Adrian Valerio was signed for $400,000 in 2013 based on his fielding alone. His bat was considered to be very raw. He is an above-average shortstop, up there in defensive talent already with Gift Ngoepe and Pedro Florimon, but there was also a chance when he signed that he could hit like those two players. Valerio held his own last year in the DSL and the reports from EST this year were very strong, so the bat could be developing a lot quicker than the Pirates hoped. You probably won’t see Valerio on our top 30 though, because he is still so far away from the big leagues. You can say that same thing for the other top prospects as well, though one is sure to make the list.

Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes will make our top 30 and that’s not just because he was drafted 32nd overall this year, it’s because there are great reports on how he did this season and in the past. He has a track record of strong performances. He won’t need to adjust to life in the U.S. and he comes from a baseball family. There is obviously a chance that Valerio ends up being the better player, but at this point you go with more of a sure thing. There are also three other players that could find themselves between Valerio and Hayes on that prospect list.

Jacob Taylor wasthea fourth round draft pick this year, but he could have been a second rounder according to some people. Taking rankings from four different sources for our tied ranking, he ended up as one of the top 100 prospects, which means a few people liked him even higher. Pitchers usually don’t see a lot of mound time in the GCL, so there isn’t much they can do to hurt or help their prospect status, unless their stats are at an extreme(good or bad), then we might rethink a ranking. A top 100 prospect in a draft that was deep on talent(just not high-end talent) is a very likely candidate for a top 30 spot. The Pirates drafted five players that fit that mold, with Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Casey Hughston going to Morgantown, and Hayes being the other.

After Taylor, the other two players that could end up between Valerio and Hayes are second baseman Raul Siri and outfielder Edison Lantigua. Siri should hit enough to get consideration and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is the best player on the team, but there are also 20 players younger than him on the club, so that has to be weighed in to the rankings. Lantigua has a shot to end up as the best prospect from this group years down the line. He’s a toolsy outfielder that has an advanced bat for someone playing this whole season as an 18-year-old. Just like with de la Cruz, he was named one of the top prospects in the DSL/VSL during his only season there. We got strong reports from the DSL on Lantigua, they just weren’t at the level of de la Cruz, so he wasn’t considered for our top 50 list.

For now you can put Hayes somewhere in our top 30, and give Lantigua, Taylor, Siri and Valerio a chance to make the list either during the upcoming update or the postseason update for our prospect guide. Maybe even de la Cruz will turn things around and show signs of the player that dominated the DSL two years ago. That is just for this year though, as down the line, this team has many other players that have the upside to make the list. The problem is that very few from this level actually reach their upside and it’s better to be patient when ranking them.

We will have live coverage and scouting reports from the GCL all season. That’s where we could find our sleeper prospect, as Gregory Polanco first showed some potential in this league and it wasn’t long ago that Tyler Glasnow saw an increased velocity, which led to better results and him climbing our list pretty quickly.


Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by six games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a half game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 4-6 in their last ten games, with four straight losses. They have a 3.5 game lead in their division.

Altoona is 6-4 in their last ten games and they have a two game lead in their division.

Bradenton and West Virginia have been eliminated from the first half playoff race. The Marauders have two games left in the first half and the Power begin their second half when the SAL All-Star break ends.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates had off on Monday. They will open up a series at home against the Cincinnati Reds tonight. Jeff Locke will take on Josh Smith, who is replacing Johnny Cueto. Smith is making his Major League debut. Locke gave up two runs over six innings in his last start. On May 5th, he gave up four runs over seven innings against the Reds.

In the minors, Bristol opens up their season today. We will have a season preview later in the day. Jayson Aquino gets the start tomorrow against Buddy Borden, the former Pirates draft pick, who played in the FSL All-Star game. Clayton Richard will make his eighth start for Indianapolis. He has four starts without an earned run this year, and nine earned runs over 16.1 innings in the other three starts. Chad Kuhl threw seven shutout innings in his last outing. West Virginia is on their All-Star break. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (39-30) vs Cincinnati (32-36) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Jeff Locke (4.74 ERA, 28:59 BB/SO, 74.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (42-29) @ Gwinnett (34-35) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Clayton Richard (1.88 ERA, 12:17 BB/SO, 43.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (41-28) vs Erie (26-43) 7:00 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (3.24 ERA, 24:53 BB/SO, 75.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (30-38) @ Charlotte (45-23) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jayson Aquino (3.77 ERA, 11:27 BB/SO, 43.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (37-32) vs Greensboro (29-40) 7:05 PM 6/25 (season preview)
Probable starter:  Colten Brewer (5.66 ERA, 11:32 BB/SO, 41.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (2-2) @ Williamsport (4-0) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter:  TBD

Rookie: Bristol (0-0) vs Greenville (0-0) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Neil Kozikowski (NR)

GCL: Pirates (1-0) vs Blue Jays (0-1) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (10-10) vs Mets2 (14-6) 10:30 AM  (season preview)


Here’s video of Sebastian Valle hitting a two-run double on Sunday, his tenth double of the season. He has a .263/.329/.361 OPS through 38 games.

Recent Transactions

6/22: Pirates sign Austin Sodders. Assigned to GCL.

6/21: Marek Minarik and Luis Paula sent to Bristol.

6/20: Pirates release Edgar Munoz

6/20: Pirates sign Garrett Russini as a non-drafted free agent.

6/19: Pirates sign Sean Keselica and Stephan Meyer. Both players assigned to Morgantown.

6/19: Collin Balester traded to Cincinnati Reds.

6/18: Steven Brault promoted to Altoona. Jin-De Jhang added to Bradenton roster.

6/18: Ten draft picks signed and assigned to various short-season teams. Link here with details. Five others were also signed later in the day. Details here.

6/17: Alen Hanson placed on disabled list. Kelson Brown added to Indianapolis roster.

6/17: Pirates sign Kevin Kramer, Tanner Anderson, Nicholas Economos and Mike Wallace. Kramer assigned to Morgantown. Anderson and Wallace assigned to Bristol. Economos assigned to GCL.

6/16: Pirates sign Ke’Bryan Hayes. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

6/15: Willy Garcia promoted to Indianapolis. Mel Rojas Jr. sent to Altoona.

6/15: Pirates sign Kevin Newman. Assigned to West Virginia

6/14: Angel Sanchez promoted to Indianapolis.

6/14: Tyler Eppler added to Bradenton roster. Ryan Hafner released.

6/13: Brad Lincoln and Wilkin Castillo placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Radhames Liz activated from reserve roster.

6/12: Pirates sign J.T. Brubaker, Seth McGarry and Bret Helton.

6/11: Pirates acquire John Bowker from the San Francisco Giants.

6/10: Yhonathan Barrios promoted to Indianapolis.

6/9: John Holzkom activated from Indianapolis disabled list

6/9: Brett McKinney promoted to Altoona. Ryan Hafner added to Bradenton roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a trade of note. Both players were pitchers, Ken Jungels(1942) and Bill Harris, who pitched for the Pirates from 1931 until 1934. Harris was used mainly in relief for the Pirates, starting 22 times and coming out of the bullpen 61 times. He had a 3.45 ERA in 276.2 innings. He didn’t have a great Major League career, but if you throw in his minor league stats, he had 281 career wins.

On this date in 1956, the Pirates sent second baseman Curt Roberts and pitcher Jack McMahan to the Kansas City A’s in exchange for second baseman Spook Jacobs. This trade did almost nothing for the Pirates, as Jacobs started 11 games and struggled with the bat. That got him a demotion to the minors, which opened a spot for minor league second baseman Bill Mazeroski to make his Major League debut.

On this date in 1909, the Pirates won 3-1 over the Cardinals to push their record to 39-13 on the season, the best record in baseball. In the last 100 games of that season, which was every game after June 23rd, Pittsburgh went 71-29. That was also the best record in baseball over that time. Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis threw a complete game against the Cardinals and Honus Wagner had two walks and two hits, including a double that drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.

John Dreker
John Dreker
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.

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