ImageThe minor league season started two weeks ago today.  With the typical caveats that it is far, far, far too early to make any lasting conclusions about the performances in the minors, I thought it would still be a good time to see how things have started off so far.

Shown below were my Top 10 Prospects coming into the 2013 season, with a few snippets of how they are doing to date and their relevant statistics

1.  Gerrit Cole, RHP (age-22 season, AAA) 1-1, 3.65 ERA/3.77 FIP, 12.1 IP, 8.76 K/9, 4.38 BB/9.  Cole has been disappointing in the early going, as he has been pulled early from both starts due to high pitch counts in a single inning (30+).  Perhaps Cole is pressing to show that he belongs in the Majors and not at Triple A.  He’s still on track for a mid-June callup, but only if he realizes that he won’t get there by trying to blow the ball past every hitter, every time.

2.  Jameson Taillon, RHP (age-21 season, AA) 2-1, 1.00 ERA/2.87 FIP, 18 IP, 10.00 K/9, 3.5 BB/9.  Taillon, on the other hand, has been efficient and spectacular to date.  His curve ball is a true major-league plus-plus pitch and his mid-90’s fastball will help establish the zone.  He’s mixing in a 2-seam fastball now, which has a cutting action.  If he can keep working on his changeup, he will become a spectacular pitcher.  I still feel he’s more of a strong #2 long-term, but that would be fantastic.  The guy he is reminding me more and more of is A.J. Burnett.

3.  Luis Heredia, RHP (age-18 season) — Extended Spring Training.  Heredia is being held back in Bradenton in an effort to minimize his in-game innings this year.  He is scheduled to debut in Low A West Virginia in early May and will probably pitch around 100-110 innings this year.

4.  Alen Hanson, SS (age-20 season, A+) .176 BA/.222 OBP/.235 SLG (457 OPS), 5.6 BB%, 27.8 K%.  In contrast to last April’s supernova explosion onto the scene, Hanson has been immensely disappointing at the plate in 2013.  Coupled with his awful defense so far (10 errors in 11 games), it is looking like Hanson may have to shift off of shortstop before he arrives in Pittsburgh.  A move to 2B would drop his prospect value some, as it is not as challenging of a defensive position.

5.  Gregory Polanco, OF (age-21 season, A+) .351 BA/.397 OBP/.474 SLG (871 OPS), 6.3 BB%, 7.9 K%.  Polanco is having a muted start to his season power-wise, but it is still solid enough.  Polanco was amazingly consistent in his month-to-month splits last year.  His plate discipline is good and his defense is as strong as ever.  If you squint you can visualize an outfield of Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco.  That would be a dynamic outfield.  One of the underreported aspects of Polanco’s game is his base stealing efficiency.  In 2013, he is again off to a great start going 7 for 8.

6.  Josh Bell, OF (age-20 season, A) .254 BA/.302 OBP/.441 SLG (743 OPS), 6.3 BB%, 27.0 K%.  After missing the vast majority of 2012 with a torn meniscus, coupled with a longer-than-expected rehab that involved getting platelet rich plasma injected into his knee, not much was known about how Bell would respond.  So far, he is off to a solid start.  The plate discipline could be better, but the true test will be to monitor his knee’s health throughout the year.

7.  Nick Kingham, RHP (age-21 season, A+) 0-2, 4.02 ERA/4.03 FIP, 15.2 IP, 8.04 K/9, 2.30 BB/9.  One of my personal favorites, Kingham has started off 2013 similar to what he did in 2012, which turned into a strong second half of the season.  Kingham is a big-bodied future workhorse that looks to be a #3 starter, but with refinement to his secondary pitches he could be a #2 starter.

8.  Clay Holmes, RHP (age-20 season, A) 1-0, 2.57 ERA/4.41 FIP, 14 IP, 8.36 K/9, 6.43 BB/9.  Holmes has started off his full-season debut well so far.  His main concern moving forward is his control, as he already has 10 walks in 14 innings this year and had 4.50 BB/9 innings last year.

9.  Kyle McPherson, RHP (age-25 season, AAA) 0-1, 19.29 ERA/6.20 FIP, 4.2 IP, 3.86 K/9, 7.71 BB/9.  McPherson was a rotation candidate in Spring Training this year, but he was optioned to AAA.  At Indy, McPherson got off to a terrible start, plagued by unusual lack of control, and was recently put on the disabled list with forearm tightness.  That’s usually a precursor to needing Tommy John surgery, which would put McPherson out for the remainder of the 2013 season.

10.  Matt Curry, 1B (age-24 season, AA) .235 BA/.259 OBP/.353 SLG (612 OPS), 3.7 BB%, 29.6 K%.  I put Curry here as a placeholder, since I didn’t want to put an unproven talent like Wyatt Mathisen, Dilson Herrera, or Barrett Barnes.  Curry is probably not a full-time starter in the majors, as his bat doesn’t show the required power at 1B, but he can hit and take a walk.  He’s off to a fair start so far this season, but I doubt he will be at this point in the mid-season re-rankings.

3 Surprises at the Start of the Season

1.  Stetson Allie, 1B.  Given up on by every prospect hound last year (including me) after his decision to stop pitching, Allie floundered around in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2012 as a batter.  At the outset of 2013, he looks like Albert Pujols in his prime at 1B for West Virginia.  Allie was rated as a 3rd to 5th talent as a hitter in high school, but no one projected a .407 BA/.478 OBP/.780 SLG (1258 OPS). Allie leads the South Atlantic League in HR’s and RBI.  It may just be a monstrous hot streak, but Allie is putting him back on radar screens.

2.  Dilson Herrera, 2B.  I had Herrera ranked 13th pre-season, restricting him from the Top 10 due to only playing in the Gulf Coast League in 2012.  The 19-year old is off to a great start in West Virginia with a .286 BA/.410 OBP/.408 SLG (818 OPS) triple slash line.  It’s always great to see a young player with more walks (9) than strikeouts (8).

3.  Robby Rowland, RHP.  I’m a huge Rowland fan, who was traded for Brett Lorin prior to the 2012 season.  The Pirates re-worked his delivery and gave him a sinker, resulting in vastly improved stats for Rowland.  He’s carried that forward in 2013 with 14 strong innings so far, resulting in 6.43 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9 with a 2.57 ERA.

3 Disappointments at the Start of the Season

1.  Wyatt Mathisen, C.  Many prospect sites were quick to drop Mathisen into the Pirates’ Top 10 based on his great debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2012.  Mathisen’s full season debut as a teenager in the South Atlantic League shows why sometimes it’s good to pump the brakes a little bit on young catchers.  So far his triple slash line is an anemic .205 BA/.271 OBP/.227 SLG (498 OPS) and his defense has not been sharp either.

2.  Jerry Sands, OF.  I’m not a huge Sands fan, but I sure didn’t think he would be hitting .186 BA/.205 OBP/.186 SLG (391 OPS).

3.  The Entire West Virginia Bullpen.  Aside from Pat Ludwig’s 2.08 ERA, the rest of the bullpen’s ERA’s look like this — 4.82, 5.79, 6.75, 7.04, 9.72, 10.38, 12.86.  If you go to a Power game, don’t leave early if the Power have a lead.  Or maybe you so you have pleasant memories.

Kevin Creagh

Steel City Buzz Pirate Blogger