Top Performers: Craig, Hanson, McGuire, Tucker, Garcia, Hinsz, Holmes

Every week we have live reports from all over the system, while I provide additional views of the minors via MiLB.tv, which included Indianapolis, Altoona and Morgantown this week. We also had live coverage of Indianapolis, Altoona and the GCL Pirates in the past week. All of these reports are combined and used each week to highlight the top performers during that time span. With more teams playing, we went with the top ten hitters and pitchers only, just to keep the list manageable. In the past, we included every hitter who reached an .800 OPS with 20 plate appearances, but the list would have been much longer if we continued that method with eight affiliates playing now. Here are the top guys this week, and the rundown on their performances:

HITTERS

Stetson Allie – Allie had a big week, highlighted by a 5-for-5 day where he also hit his 10th homer of the year. After putting up an OPS under .700 in May and June, Allie picked up his hitting in July, with a .947 OPS and four homers. He still had his usual strikeout issues, with 24 in 78 at-bats. This is Allie’s third year in Double-A, and he’s striking out at a 26.7% rate, which is one of his lower totals, but still pretty high. He walks and hits for some power, but strikes out too much and doesn’t hit for a high average. His overall results probably won’t carry over to the higher levels with the current strikeout issues, although it will be interesting to see if he gets a shot in Triple-A at some point this year. – Tim Williams

Will Craig – Craig is currently riding an eight game hitting streak, and has really picked up his hitting after a slow start to his pro career. In the month of June, he hit for a .551 OPS in 11 games, spanning 50 plate appearances. In July, he picked up his production, with an .849 OPS in 93 plate appearances. A lot of that production came in the second half of the month, when he had a 1.077 OPS in 54 plate appearances, including his first pro home run. Craig was drafted because of the bat, and that’s starting to show up. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him getting a promotion to West Virginia at some point soon, much like Kevin Newman did last year under similar circumstances. – TW

Elvis Escobar – I wrote Sunday’s Morning Report about Escobar and how he just finished one of the best months of his career with an .868 OPS in July. He’s 21 years old, with career stats that don’t match the tools. Escobar has a strong arm and solid defense, with the ability to play all three outfield positions. He has above average speed and a line drive stroke that provides some extra-base power. The problem is that there has never been much consistency to his game. He has always been on the young side for the level he has played at, starting with the GCL when he was 17 years old back in 2012. Escobar gets good experience playing winter ball in Venezuela each year against older competition and his playing time increased this past winter. He could see more time this year, which would help him as he tries to continue to move up the minor league ladder. At the end of June, he seemed destined to repeat Bradenton next year, but a strong finish similar to his month of July could change those plans. – John Dreker

Huascar Fuentes – Fuentes is an interesting case, as a 24-year-old, who only has 91 games as a pro. A little background info might help. Teams were scouting him well before he signed, but his parents wouldn’t let him sign. He had to leave home to sign with the Pirates and then five games into his career, he suffered an ankle injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season. He returned to the DSL last year and put up a .932 OPS in 60 games, earning him an invite to the Fall Instructional League. Due to his age and advanced bat, the Pirates skipped him to Bristol, where he’s only three years too old for the league. Fuentes has a .305/.364/.442 slash line so far in 27 games. We won’t really know if he can be considered a legit prospect for a while, since his age says he should at least be in Altoona, but his pro experience says he is right where he should be at this point. – JD

Mikell Granberry – Granberry started his pro career as a catcher, but the Pirates have used him almost exclusively at first base this year. He started playing first base last year in the DSL when he was having throwing issues behind the plate. The Pirates wanted to keep his bat in the lineup and give him a mental break, as opposing runners were going wild on the bases and the pitchers weren’t holding runners on. Granberry has a strong bat for a catcher, but he is going to need to hit more as a first baseman. He was splitting the positions fairly evenly in Extended Spring Training. He struggled at the plate to begin the season, then made an adjustment two weeks ago, getting set up sooner, and it seemed to pay off. Granberry is hitting .349 in his last 11 games, with a .760 OPS, which is 102 points above league average for the Gulf Coast League. – JD

Alen Hanson – Hanson went 5-for-14 at the plate last week, but had seven walks in 22 plate appearances in the process. That is very notable, as it is almost double the amount of walks he had in the months of April and May combined, when he walked four times in 168 plate appearances. The walks and strikeouts have really turned around for Hanson lately. He had 39 strikeouts and 4 walks in 168 plate appearances the first two months. He improved to 10:10 in 112 plate appearances in June, and had a 15:11 BB/K ratio in 101 plate appearances in July. This is huge for him, because he’s a speedy guy who has a lot more value when he gets on base. That obviously happens by walking more, but by striking out less often and putting the ball in play, he’s going to see a higher average. In July he didn’t hit for a lot of power, but had a .284 average and a .404 OBP. If he continues this, he’ll work his way back into the mix for the big leagues, with the chance to be a September call-up. – TW

Reese McGuire – McGuire has shown flashes of his offensive potential throughout his career, and has actually seen his numbers improve in his jump to Double-A this year. However, he’s still inconsistent, with a few big games, followed by several hitless games. Last week he went 5-for-17 with a double and a triple, although four of his hits, including the triple, were in one game. That was his highest hit total of the season in a game, and he’s had three other games with three hits. I’d expect him to repeat Double-A next year, which is fine due to his very young age for the level. The defense is outstanding, but the offense needs to catch up. The tools are there for that to eventually happen. – TW

Carlos Munoz – Munoz had a solid week, driven by his ability to take walks. With 43 walks and 38 strikeouts this season, he is one of the rare players in the system with more walks than strikeouts. That has been something he has done every season, now in his sixth year in the system. Unfortunately for Munoz, he hasn’t shown the power we saw at Bristol last year, and he has a .249 batting average. That won’t cut it at first base, especially for someone who is average at best defensively and a poor base runner. His biggest problem this year hasn’t been an issue in the past. He has a .433 OPS against left-handed pitching in 90 at-bats. The lefty hitting Munoz has put up strong numbers in his career against southpaws, but the more advanced pitchers are really keeping him down this season. While his numbers weren’t great last month, it was his best month this season, so he could really use a strong finish to the year to regain his marginal prospect status – JD

Jeremias Portorreal –  After receiving a $375,000 bonus on his 16th birthday back on August 7, 2013, Portorreal was described as toolsy player, who was a raw hitter with power potential. Now in his third season, he has hit three homers and stolen four bases, while posting a .207 average. Basically, except for his arm in right field, the tools haven’t show up yet. Portorreal might be turning a corner in the last couple weeks, and it’s important to remember that he turns 19 on Sunday, so he is still very young. He picked up hits in all five games he played last week, including three multi-hit performances. While his .678 OPS doesn’t scream improvements, he has cut down on the strikeouts, and he reached base in all 17 games he played in July. His .791 OPS last month is a career best, and he posted a 10:9 BB/SO ratio. I would expect his to get an invite to the Fall Instructional League this year. – JD

Cole Tucker – Tucker has shown good hitting tools during his time in Bradenton, but hasn’t put up the numbers to match the on-field performance. That wasn’t the case last week, as he went 10-for-22 with two doubles. I do wonder if he will move up to Altoona at the start of next season, or if he will return to Bradenton. There’s no need to rush him, as he’s very young, missed a few months at the level after labrum surgery last year, and the Pirates have Kevin Newman ahead of him. He has the tools to be a solid hitter and a guy who can stick at shortstop, and with some more time to develop his game, he could get to a point where that shows up more consistently in the stats. – TW

PITCHERS

Danny Beddes – Beddes got a Game Score of 73 for his six shutout innings on Tuesday. He gave up four hits, no walks and struck out five batters, while posting a 10:1 GO/AO ratio. Beddes was a 15th round draft pick this year, signing quickly as a senior in college. He was a starter all four seasons at Utah Valley, compiling 91 strikeouts and a 4.40 ERA in 92 innings this season. He can hit 95 MPH with his fastball and also throws a curve and a cutter. Beddes has a huge frame at 6’6″, 240 pounds. In 37.2 innings for Morgantown, he has a 2.39 ERA, with 30 strikeouts, a .205 BAA, an 0.98 WHIP and a 1.20 GO/AO ratio. He had some control issues in college, but early in his pro career that hasn’t been a problem. – JD

Wilfredo Boscan – He seemed to be turning a corner back to respectability after multiple rough outings. And then he left his start with a right oblique injury. Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said Boscan is day-to-day with the injury. Boscan will likely not make his scheduled start for the Indians on Wednesday, after not throwing at all on Sunday. That would be unfortunate as the start at Columbus was going to be a good test. Boscan has proven he can throw well at home for the most part, compiling a 1.59 earned run average in 11 starts. On the road, Boscan has a 8.23 earned run average in six starts. Boscan had a rough stretch of outings, culminating with a two-inning performance. That prompted Treanor to say Boscan needed to show something to the organization that he could still be counted upon at the major league level. He answered with a solid, but not spectacular outing against Charlotte on July 24 in which he allowed two hits and one run, but walked four in 6.1 innings. In his lone outing last week, Boscan threw 5.1 shutout innings, allowing four hits and walking one. But his right oblique injury cut that outing short. Boscan will need to hope his injury is not long-term. He’s on the 40-man roster and could be a roster addition at the end of this season, but will need to show something before that point. – Brian Peloza

Yeudy Garcia – Garcia has been putting up better numbers lately, showing stronger command in some of his outings the last two months, compared to the first two months of the season. This week he pitched 6.2 shutout innings, although he did give up five walks. Despite the high walk total, he didn’t look like he lacked command, with 87 pitches in 6.2 innings, and 52 strikes. Compare that to early in the season when he was around 80 pitches after four innings, and you can see the continued improvements. It wasn’t his best outing, but was a good sign that his command continues to improve, which is due to an improved changeup this year — as in, he actually has a changeup now. – TW

Miguel Hernandez – This year, Hernandez has either been unstoppable or a disaster, with no middle ground. This week he pitched five shutout innings, giving up two hits, two walks, and striking out five. That was the fourth start this year where he had zero earned runs and pitched five innings. His other two starts saw him give up three earned runs while just recording one out, and four earned runs in 4.1 innings. The key to the success is his control. In his good outings, he had four walks in 20 innings. The bad outings have seen him walk eight in 4.2 innings. He can hit 95 MPH pretty consistently, and shows some promise with his secondary stuff. The GCL team is notable for all of the prep arms from the 2016 draft, but Hernandez is the guy who really sticks out from the international group coming up from the DSL. – TW

Gage Hinsz – On Saturday morning, I wrote about the improvements made by Gage Hinsz this year compared to last season. On Sunday, he improved on all of those numbers, allowing one run on five hits and no walks over 5.1 innings. Hinsz struck out eight batters, one short of his career best set back on June 14th. The area where he has shown the most progress is his fastball command. Not only is he throwing a lot more strikes than last season, he is keeping the ball down in the zone and doing a nice job of pitching inside. In 38 innings last year with Bristol, Hinsz issued 23 walks. Through 60.2 innings this year, he has walked 11 batters. He has a 3.26 ERA now and he has pitched at least five innings in every start. Throw in the fact that he has shown increased velocity this season, as well as a better curve, and Hinsz is starting to look like a top prospect. His one area of concern is too many fly balls, but he also doesn’t give up a lot of hard contact. – JD

Clay Holmes – Holmes pitched twice this week, allowing two runs over six innings on Tuesday, followed by one earned run over five innings on Sunday. In that second game, he had an 8:3 GO/AO ratio, gave up just two hits, and retired ten batters in a row at one point. It was a nice rebound from his start the previous week when he allowed five runs on five hits and five walks in four innings. Since he worst outing of the season back on June 11th, Holmes has lowered his ERA from 5.66, down to 4.34 after Sunday’s game. During this current nine-game stretch, he has surrendered two earned runs or less in eight of those games. His BAA has dropped 38 points during that time, and he has continued to get a high rate of grounders, posting a 2.63 GO/AO ratio on the season. Holmes has been mixing in his two-seam fastball (90-92 MPH) more often recently, giving up some of the fastball velocity for quicker outs, but he can still run it up to 96 MPH when needed. – JD

Travis MacGregor – MacGregor has been fantastic in his pro debut. He threw five shutout innings this past week, getting up to that five inning mark for the first time. So far, he has combined for two earned runs in 16.1 innings, with an 11:6 K/BB ratio. There are some command issues at times, and his curveball is still a work in progress. There’s also a lot to like about MacGregor, as he’s a very tall and skinny pitcher, with good velocity already (capable of hitting 93 MPH), and the frame to add more velocity in the future as he adds more muscle to his frame. There were questions about taking him in the second round, with the pick looking like a bit of a reach. However, MacGregor shows a lot of potential, and was a late bloomer in 2016, so this might be a case where the Pirates were ahead of some of the national rankings. – TW

Adonis Pichardo – Pichardo was one of the top pitchers signed by the Pirates during the 2014-15 July 2nd signing period. He got a $105,000 signing bonus, which was a little bit lower due to being 18 years old already when he signed. Pichardo really struggled last season in the DSL, though some of that was injury related. He tried to pitch through a lat strain, then later was shutdown due to arm fatigue. This season, he has shown a lot of improvements, giving up less hits, while getting more grounders and throwing more strikes. In his start last week, he allowed one run over five innings, which is the maximum innings per game Pirates allow for their DSL pitchers. Pichardo should be an invite to the Fall Instructional League this year. He had one of the best fastballs last year and he’s controlling it better this season. – JD

Domingo Robles – Robles got off to a rough start this year, giving up 10 earned runs in eight innings in his first two starts. He has since rebounded well, with three earned runs in 16.1 innings over his last four outings. This week he went five innings, giving up one earned run on four hits and no walks, with three strikeouts. He’s a soft tossing lefty with great control, which means he’s probably going to get a lot of innings for the Pirates in the lower levels, since they’ve had a lot of those guys in the lower level rotations over the years. None of them have done much beyond A-ball, which is why any success from Robles will be taken with a grain of salt until he has some upper level success. – TW

Cam Vieaux – Vieaux threw six shutout innings on Thursday night, giving up four hits, no walks, and he struck out four batters. This was his best outing since he threw four no-hit innings in his second pro start. That was the only other time Vieaux made the Top Performers article. He hasn’t had any poor outings though, never giving up more than three earned runs in a start. In 37.1 innings, he has a 3.39 ERA, with a .234 BAA and a 1.05 GO/AO ratio. His 15:23 BB/SO ratio is less than stellar, especially for a 23-year-old sixth round pick in the New York-Penn League. The 6’4″ lefty is known as a finesse pitcher with command of four pitches. – JD

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Jason K

Headline had me flashing back to the Bay trade.

leefoo

I did the same thing….lol….then I saw the comma.

Zachary F

I hated that Hurdle came out in the media b*tching about balls/strikes. The whole team (and now their manager) are a bunch of cry babies that want to blame everything but their awful play.

If it were up to me, I would sell the whole veteran farm: Jaso, Freese (deadline), Joyce (deadline), Liriano, Locke, Niese (deadline), AND Andrew “hot garbage” McCutchen. I feel bad for Cutch…its tough to watch a once great player not be able to field or hit.

emjayinTN

Tim: If we wait until Sep to promote Hanson, he could just as well be traded. It would probably be better for both he and the organization.

leefoo

As someone who has been down on Hanson most of the last two years, this W/K turnaround is VERY encouraging.

If he can play that good “D” AND get on base, he will be a very valuable player.

Let’s hope he can keep it up!

Gallatin

Disagree. Keep him in AAA, keep him focused on plate patience and OBP.

Honestly I have been one of the people that don’t think he is gonna make it the last year and a half because of his undisciplined approach at the plate. The last couple months have been music to my ears, but it takes at least 100 days for a dramatic change in approach like this to really settle in.

Start him back at Indi next season, and if he can get his OBP up over 370, then you promote what hopefully is your new leadoff guy and trade Harrison.

andrew.oneill88

If the Pirates promote Will Craig to the Power, what happens with Hayes? He hasn’t played since July 10th…will he be coming off the DL soon, or will his absence provide an opportunity for Craig to see some Low-A pitching until Hayes is healthy?

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