Best of each position in the Pirates system
By Steve Samek
Every year, MiLB.com honors the top players in each major league teams’ minor league system. This process takes place over the span of a couple months, and the Pittsburgh Pirates will have theirs announced in December.
Let’s expedite the process and announce my Pirates organization all-star list.
Note: The players will come from the top four levels of the system, and prospects that have contributed in Pittsburgh significantly will be left out.
SP – Mitch Keller – RHP – West Virginia (A) and Bradenton (A+)
9-5 – 2.35 ERA – 24 GS – 130.1 IP – 138 SO – .212 BAA – 0.92 WHIP
In a previous post, I made the case as to why Keller will rise to the top prospect position in the Pirates’ system. Keller was named both Pitcher of the Year and Breakout Prospect of the Year by Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com.
Keller has great upside as a pitcher after a breakout 2016 season. Keller will have a lot to prove, though, as all of his innings came at the A-ball level. Expect to see him in Double-A to start next year, which would be a similar progression path as current No. 1 prospect – Tyler Glasnow.
Keller is the highest-ranking pitcher in the Pirates prospect rankings other than Glasnow. Glasnow has seen time in the majors, and I expect him there to start the year with the Pirates, making Keller my pick at starting pitcher.
RP – Montana Durapau – RHP – Altoona (AA)
3-3 – 3.65 ERA – 22 saves – 51 SO – 49.1 IP – .229 BAA – 1.26 WHIP
Aside from having the best name in the system, this guy is a winner. He led Altoona in saves this year with 22. Durapau has 37 saves in 4 seasons in the minors and would be my bet to possibly get the nod as the Pirates’ closer in the future.
Altoona honored him this season with the Fireman of the Year award for best reliever. I am following suite and naming him my reliever of the year.
C – Jin-De Jhang Altoona (AA) and Indianapolis (AAA)
.288 BA – .330 OBP – 23 RBI
De Jhang had a solid year offensively while only committing two errors behind the dish. De Jhang additionally gunned down 17 of 39 would be base stealers.
De Jhang is often overshadowed by Elias Diaz, the Pirates’ No. 9 prospect, though De Jhang was able to make up some ground with Diaz missing a lot of the season with an injury.
1B – Josh Bell – Indianapolis (AAA)
.295 BA – 14 HR – 60 RBI
Bell was worthy of his call up before the All-Star Break. Then when you hit a grand slam in your second career at bat in the majors, you know you’re on track for greatness.
Bell is working on playing first base after being groomed as an outfielder. Though Bell’s defense is the difference maker as to if he’s an everyday player or a DH – something the Pirates can’t utilize him as. Bell committed 16 errors in Triple-A this year and five more in Pittsburgh.
Bell was named the Pirates organization Player of the Year for 2016.
2B – Alen Hanson – Indianapolis (AAA)
.266 BA – 8 HR – 32 RBI
Second base was a rough patch for the organization with no one really standing out statistic wise.
Hanson, the No. 13 Pirates prospect gets the nod here for his defense. Hanson committed five errors, which was the second least amount of errors by a second baseman in the system.
Hanson made some gains in his batting average and a few other statistical categories while cutting down his strikeouts from a year ago from 91 to 78.
Hanson received a September call up and looks to battle for a bench spot next season.
SS – Kevin Newman – Bradenton (A+) and Altoona (AA)
.320 BA – .389 OBP – 52 RBI
Newman was drafted in the first round in 2015 and has been shooting up the Pirates system. Newman has played at two levels for each of his past two seasons, reaching Double-A to end 2016.
Newman made improvements in almost every offensive stat this season while playing in 41 at High-A, slashing .366/.428/.494. I think Newman plays maybe another month for the Curve in 2017 before being moved up to Triple-A.
With a successful half season in Triple-A, he could be up in September 2017. Newman was named a Top 20 prospect in the Eastern League for 2016.
3B – Jason Rogers Indianapolis (AAA)
.263 – 6 HR – 40 RBI
Third base is another position of lacking in Pittsburgh’s system. Rogers is listed as a third baseman but can play first base and the outfield.
He only committed two errors in 105 games, while hitting a fair .263.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, the No. 6 prospect in the system, did look good early in the year, but an injury limited him to 37 games. Look for Hayes to make some noise next season.
OF – Jose Osuna – Altoona (AA) and Indianapolis (AAA)
.279 BA – 13 HR – 69 RBI
OF – Austin Meadows – Altoona (AA) and Indianapolis (AAA)
.266 BA – 12 HR – 47 RBI
OF – Barrett Barnes – Altoona (AA)
.306 BA – 9 HR 47 RBI
Osuna and Meadows both contributed big seasons with the bat at the upper levels of the minors in 2016. Osuna can also play first base, which gives him some versatility.
Meadows is the silver medal prospect in the system right now and could move up after Tyler Glasnow graduates to the majors.
Meadows is also gaining ground as the heir apparent in centerfield if Andrew McCutchen sees his last days in Pittsburgh. Meadows joined Newman as an Eastern League Top 20 prospect this season.
Barnes was an early round compensation pick in 2012. Each year, injuries have limited his playing time, but his numbers have been up there.
This season for Altoona, he played in 124 games, a career high for him. Barnes’ bat continued to show why he was drafted as high as he was. Barnes ranks 26th on the Pirates’ prospect list but may and should rise in the offseason reshuffle.
Photos and Stats courtesy of http://www.milb.com