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Battling Bucs : Minors Update: Who's Performing Well

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
I figured it was time for a minor league update with the off day and all. I'm going to look at the hitters off to a decent or better start. Below is every player with at least 50 PA and a wRC+ of 100 or better (meaning they have been at least a league average hitter). I'll also include wRC+, level and age.
Player, Pos (wRC+, Level, Age)
Erich Weiss, 2B (142, A, 22)
Justin Maffei, OF (130, A, 22)
Dan Collins, 1B/OF (123, A, 23)
Candon Myles, OF (119, A, 21)
JaCoby Jones, SS/OF (115, A, 22)
Josh Bell, OF (129, A+, 21)
Jordan Steranka, 1B/3B (117, A+, 24)
Jose Osuna, 1B (114, A+, 21)
Stetson Allie, 1B (161, AA, 23)
Elias Diaz, C (142, AA, 23)
Gift Ngoepe, 2B/SS (137, AA, 24)
Mel Rojas Jr, OF (103, AA, 24)
Gregory Polanco, OF (213, AAA, 22)
Andrew Lambo, 1B/OF (163, AAA, 25)
Chris Dickerson, OF (138, AAA, 32)
Chris McGuiness, 1B (132, AAA, 26)
Blake Davis, 2B/SS (117, AAA, 30)
Matt Hague, 1B/3B (113, AAA, 28)
Chase d'Arnaud, SS/OF (106, AAA, 27)
As a general rule of thumb I tend to cap prospects age at 22 for A ball, 23 for A+, 24 for AA and I bump it up two years to 26 for AAA. If a player is past that age unless there are extra ordinary circumstances I tend to write them off as not a prospect. Let me emphasize this players at those ages would be considered old prospects for the level.
Over 22: The only player above 22 off to an above average start is Dan Collins. Collins was drafted by the Pirates in the 13th round of last year's draft. He got off to a hot start in short season ball but cooled off. Originally a 1B Collins has moved to the OF this year to allow Espinal to play the position full time and because the entire regular OF ticketed for this level is injured. Collins start has done little to change his future outlook because as an advanced college bat it is expected he should be able to hold his own here. TO really get noticed he'd have to be dominating and he is far from doing that.
Age 22: Maffei, Weiss and Jones were all selected last year in the 25th, 11th and 3rd rounds respectively. Maffei and Weiss can probably both be considered borderline prospects and while its encouraging to see them hitting well it needs noted that one of the big drivers of their success has been a high walk rate. Players who rely on high walk rates with little power in the lower minors tend not to pan out as they move up the ladder. Maffei is playing at this level for the sole reason of the entire outfield being injured and Weiss slid over to 2B to accommodate Wyatt Mathisen's move to 3B. Considering these road blocks it is obvious the Pirates don't consider these guys to be major prospects. Thier performances so far while good need to be build upon more hopefully with some power.
Considering the round he was drafted in ordinarily it would be a disappointment to see Jones in A ball rather than A+ but coming out of the draft he was considered more of an athlete than a refined baseball player and his primary position in college was 2B meaning he is also learning a new position. Jones has the athletic ability to stick at SS and the early results thus far have been promising. By no means has he gotten off to a red hot start but he is playing well and considering he was seen as a project that is a good first step.
Under 22: One player under 22 joins the list and that is Candon Myles. Myles was originally ticketed to be the team's 4th OF but injuries have forced him into being the full time LF. Myles best asset is his speed as he runs exceptionally well. He has little power but a speedy outfielder with good defense can be a valuable player except in Myles case he combines this skill set with a very high strike out rate. To be truly effective Myles has to put balls in play and despite the solid results thus far a 27.3 K% just isn't going to cut it.
Over 23:
Steranka is a local product out of Penn State. Some believe the Pirates originally drafted him in 2012 in part to help appeal to the State College Spikes who were thinking of (an ultimately did) end their relationship with the Pirates. Steranka never played for the Spikes though as sickness kept him out of action in 2012. Steranka was placed at this level to serve as a corner infield utility player and DH and he has done so admirably. His long term outlook remains that of an organizational player but so far he looks like he could be a quality one.
Age 23: No one.
Under 23: Bell is of course the big name here and he finds himself off to something of a roller coaster start to the season. He started off the season with a 7 game hit streak collecting multiple hit games 5 times, followed by just 3 combined hits in the next 8 games and now he finds himself on a 6 game hit streak with 3 multi-hit games. His overall line isn't as eye popping as most would like it to be but he has been solid and if he continues to play like this he should easily earn a promotion to AA by the end of the season. The other player here Jose Osuna is repeating the level after struggling last year in his first taste of it. Early on he is showing progress showing more power and getting better results with the balls he has put in play. His strike out and walk rates remain around the same but those weren't really a problem last year.
Over 24:
No one
Age 24: Ngoepe would be one of those extraordinary cases if he were a year older. His background is so much different than that of pretty much any other prospect that it is difficult to get a read on just how he is supposed to develop. The defense has been there for some time and this year he is showing marked improvement with the bat. His strikeouts are still high for a middle infielder but thus far he has cut down on them and has even shown the willingness to take a walk. He also continues to show a bit of surprising power. Its early but if he can build off of these gains he can put himself in a position to actually become a major league player. Rojas is off to a perfectly adequate start. If the Pirates choose to take the time with him Rojas might be able to be turned into a serviceable 4th outfeilder but right now he looks like a solid depth piece to have hanging around in the upper minors.
Under 24: Stetson Allie is just murdering baseballs. His slugging percentage is no longer in the .700 stratosphere but his numbers remain impressive especially considering the trouble he had adjusting to A+ ball last year. It remains early but I think we have to give the Pirates some credit here that they knew what they were doing when they gave Allie a seemingly very aggressive push to AA. Elias Diaz has been constantly just hanging on to his prospect status. He has been known for his defense for quite some time but has never gotten a chance to be an everyday player. Going into the year it appeared likely he would back up Carlos Paulino but the Stewart injury caused a chain of events that led to him gettign a chance as the regular catcher and he has taken advantage so far.
Over 26:
The Pirates AAA team has been just raking so far and the major league depth pieces are a big reason why. Four players over the age of 26 have produced league average results or better thus far. Chris Dickerson is essentially this years Felix Pie, a dependable outfielder who can in a pinch come up and be a serviceable bench player. Davis was signed to a minor league deal this offseason due to the Pirates lack of middle infield options and only got forced into duty at AAA once Robert Andino got injured. If Mercer or Barmes were to miss significant time it is likely he'd be called up to replace them. Hague and d'Arnaud we should all know about a little. They are major league depth that is young enough to have not moved around from organization to organization.
Age 26: Chris McGuiness was acquired this offseason for briefly a Pirates Miles Mikolas. He is not too far removed from joining the above group in the major league depth category. Right now he is probably third on the left handed first base depth chart behind Davis and Lambo. I'd be willing to guess if the Pirates end up needign a 40 man spot he'll be one of the first to go. If he manages to last on the roster he'll likely be a September call up though.
Under 26: Lambo and Polanco are both off to tremendous starts. At the beginning of the season both players had an apparent path to the major leagues but now Lambo finds his blocked by Ike Davis. It would take a Davis injury or a complete implosion for him to replace him on the roster now. Lambo might ultimately end up on the team as a reserve outfeidler or some bench spot as the Pirates are starting to have him play some OF again. As for Polanco his path remains clear and the call for him to be promoted is growing louder. It is a great start he is off to but its worth mentioning he doesn't even have 30 games at the AAA level yet.
Battling Bucs : Minors Update: Who's Performing Well
Too soon? Battling Bucs : Minors Update: Who's Performing Well very excited to see him once when he comes up. BB what do you think we can expect of him this year once he comes up? I want to believe he's the "NL Central race x-factor" everyone is saying but I have to question since he'll be playing in the majors for the first time. I'm sure he'll be good, but just how good?

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