Previewing the 2018 West Virginia Power

Shane Baz, photo courtesy of http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Shane+Baz+Chicago+Cubs+v+Pittsburgh+Pirates+G-HyMgB-b80l.jpg

Hey guys, welcome to the 2018 Sally team preview series, I’m excited to get these going again.  This is my 3rd year of doing the previews, they make for a great off-season project and I learn a ton from them.

Today I’ll be looking at the 2018 West Virginia Power, the Single-A full season affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  For a look back at the previous two previews, click the links.

 

Previewing the 2017 West Virginia Power

Previewing the 2016 West Virginia Power

 

For those not familiar with the series: I scour the rookie levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2018 and whenever possible I try to include a scouting report.   New for this year, I’ll also be interviewing some of my favorite prospectors to find out who they’re most excited about coming out of rookie ball.  Both the high end players and some sleepers to watch for.  I’m looking forward to collaborating with some talented people. Some that I know fairly well and others that I’m just a fan of there work.

Joining me to talk Pirates Prospects is Ben Wilson (on Twitter @TBDubbs11).  A talented but under the radar prospector.  He writes for Mark Nikolov over at realmccoyminors.com.   I haven’t known Ben for long but he strikes me as a good dude and I always look forward to reading his pieces.  It’s an honor to have him here.  He’s going to give us a lot of names to watch for coming out of short season.

At Notes from the Sally it’s all about live scouting.  Once I see the 2018 West Virginia Power, you can expect write ups on many of the players listed.  I’m planning to watch them in Hickory in Mid April and again in early June.

Lets meet the notables, I’ll be linking to some industry sources for some of the top players.  Ben will give his own takes on these players and many others below.

 

Shane Baz- photo courtesy of https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DFCv0tMUMAElWiL.jpg

RHP) Shane Baz- Age 18, listed 6’3″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted 12th overall out of High School in Tomball, TX (Houston Metro).

 

John Sickles of “Minor League Ball” recently released his top 20 Pirates Prospects and said this of Baz:   “Age 18, first round pick in 2017 from high school in Texas, posted 3.80 ERA with 19/14 K/BB in 24 innings in rookie ball; small sample, of course, but scouting reports are ahead of the stats at this point; fastball into mid-90s, with full complement of secondaries including slider, curve, cutter, and change-up; could end up with three plus pitches and two other solid ones; control needs work but that’s not unusual given his age; high ceiling, watch the K/BB ratio when he gets to full season ball for a read on how fast he may advance; ETA 2021.”

 

For the rest of John’s top 20 Pirates Prospects, click here:  https://www.minorleagueball.com/2018/1/30/16952252/pittsburgh-pirates-top-20-prospects-for-2018

 

 

 

 

Lolo Sanchez- photo courtesy of https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/tHL95S5DfkbfI5aCCatafeGBdEA=/0x0:4660×2796/1200×800/filters:focal(1964×537:2708×1281)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/55532705/Kevin_Sanchez_wm_92716.0.jpg

CF) Lolo (Kevin) Sanchez- Age 18, listed 6′ 150 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

 

Eric Longenhagen of “Fangraphs” counted down his top 25 Pirates Prospects recently and said this of Sanchez.

“Signed for $450,000 in 2015, Sanchez dominated the GCL in his first pro season in the U.S., slashing .284/.359/.417 with more walks than strikeouts. Sanchez loads his hands low, creating some natural loft in his swing. He’s short to the ball but still generates great extension through contact, a rare combination that signals there’s a chance Sanchez is going to hit for average and hit for power. At just 5-foot-10, his frame doesn’t suggest he’s going to grow into significantly more raw pop, but just on bat speed and an ability to pull the ball in the air reliably, he could hit for 40 or 45 game power. That could be enough to make him an All-Star in center field, as Sanchez is a plus runner and advanced defender. He could have a plus glove at peak. Look for Sanchez to receive an aggressive assignment next year and move quickly as a polished, four-tool, table-setter.”

For the rest of Eric’s top 25 Pirates prospects click here:   Top 25 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

 

 

 

 

Steven Jennings, photo courtesy of https://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2017/06/13/images/mlbf_1328184183_th_45.jpg

RHP) Steven Jennings-  Age 19, listed 6’2″ 175 lbs, bats an throws right.  He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Smithville, TN (65 miles east of Nashville).

 

Nathan Rode of the “Prep Baseball Report” has a detailed report on Jennings.  You can read that here.  https://www.prepbaseballreport.com/news/PBR/PBR-Draft-100-Spotlight-Steven-Jennings-2179843560

 

 

 

 

Cal Mitchell, photo courtesy of https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DFby2mGXoAAgKNz.jpg

OF) Cal (Calvin) Mitchell-  Turns 19 in March, listed 6′ 190 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in San Diego, CA.

Josh Sabo of “Pinstriped Prospects”, quoted industry sources in a pre draft write up of Mitchell.  You can find that here:  Draft Prospect Profile: Calvin Mitchell

 

 

 

 

Conner Uselton- Photo courtesy of https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/tulsaworld.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/9c/59c8ed97-9b53-5324-bc38-719d796ea0cb/5900d8df2f881.image.jpg

OF) Conner Uselton- Age 19, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft out of High School in Moore, OK (Oklahoma City Metro)

 

Adam Berry of “mlb.com” has a write up on Uselton, you can find that here:   https://www.mlb.com/news/pirates-take-of-conner-uselton-no-72-in-draft/c-235983718

 

 

 

Now here’s  Ben Wilson, giving us a lot of names to watch for potentially leaving rookie ball.

 

“The Pirates have had a busy offseason, trading away the longtime face of the franchise, Andrew McCutchen, and rotation stalwart, Gerrit Cole. McCutchen and Cole were products of the Pirates drafting acumen, as both were tremendous contributors to the organization during their time in Pittsburgh. As the Pirates faithful turn a hopeful eye towards the future on the farm, there are many exciting players to talk about.”

 

Question #1) The Pirates went back to back prep arms to start their draft, selecting Shane Baz at pick #12 and Steven Jennings at pick #42.  How good is there stuff? Ceiling? Floor? Do you see either arm being fast tracked?

 

Ben- “Recent history has shown that the Pirates are not shy about drafting high school talent in the early rounds. The list of high school draft picks by the Pirates comprises many of the current top prospects for the organization: Austin Meadows (1st Round, 2013), Cole Tucker (1st Round, 2014), Mitch Keller (2nd Round, 2014), Ke’Bryan Hayes (1st Round, 2015), Travis MacGregor (2nd Round, 2016), and Braeden Ogle (4th Round, 2016). The high school ranks also produced Andrew McCutchen (1st Round, 2005) and current Major League building blocks Jameson Taillon (1st Round, 2010), Josh Bell (2nd Round, 2011), and Tyler Glasnow (5th Round, 2011). Not only have the Pirates gone to the high school ranks early and often, they have also been successful in producing key Major League contributors to the franchise. That impressive list brings us to discuss the first two picks of the 2017 draft: Shane Baz and Steven Jennings.”

Shane Baz, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, was regarded among the top pitchers in the draft class. Baz was the fifth overall pitcher selected this past season (#2 Hunter Greene RHP/SS, #3 MacKenzie Gore LHP, #4 Brendan McKay LHP/1B, #5 Kyle Wright RHP), and the third high school pitcher taken behind Greene and Gore. Baz was selected out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas, the high school that also produced fellow Pirates prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes. He was committed to take the mound for the Texas Christian Horned Frogs (TCU) before signing with the Pirates for $4.1 Million.

“One of the most intriguing aspects of the pitching profile for Baz is the number of distinct pitches he throws at this stage in his career: his five-pitch mix includes a fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup. Baz is aggressive with the fastball early in the count, and works at 92-95 MPH and can reach back for upper 90’s heat. He works with a hard cutter to generate both weak contact and swings-and-miss, and the slider has more vertical dive than the more traditional horizontal cutter. The curve and changeup are presently used more to change speeds, even though Baz already varies the speed on his other offerings, but these can become effective big-league offerings over time. Broadly, the arsenal projects to be especially tough on left-handed hitters with both sliders-in and changeups-away, as evidenced by the weak, groundball contact generated by lefty’s against him in his professional debut. Baz will be plenty tough on right-handed hitters as well with the cutter/slider combination, the offerings which scouts are most excited about. The arsenal has the ability to change speeds in addition to eye level for the hitter, allowing him to work through the lineup multiple times.”

“The diversity and effectiveness of his pitching arsenal, and his overall feel for pitching, immediately gives him a mid-rotation floor. The fact that he has multiple above average offerings at this point makes him a unique high school talent that gives him ample hope of sticking as a starting pitcher, and end up being quite a good one at that. At just 18-years-old, his 6’3” frame has some present strength, particularly in the lower half. More lean than thick, I am reminded of another 6’3” RHP drafted out of a Texas high school, Clay Buchholz, when watching Baz. I think Baz will evolve to ultimately have much more durability than Buchholz, as he has already added strength in his first professional season. If there are any durability concerns, Baz would make for a dynamic closer given his stuff and competitiveness on the mound; however, Baz has a ceiling of frontline starter written all over him, and Pittsburgh has had a solid track record of developing pitchers. Expect the Pirates to be patient with Baz though: Taillon and Glasnow reached the majors 5-6 years after being drafted, but Baz and his advanced pitching arsenal could push him to the 4 year range and a 2021 debut in Pittsburgh.”

“Steven Jennings, the 42nd overall pick from the 2017 draft, was taken out of DeKalb County High School in Smithville, Tennessee. A baseball-football star in high school, the 6’2”, 19-year-old right-handed pitcher from the Volunteer State had a solid professional debut for the Pirates in the Gulf Coast League. The most important thing for Jennings to have accomplished this year is to present a clean bill of health, as he recovered from an ACL injury sustained on the football field in the fall of 2016. He recovered swiftly and pitched effectively this past spring before getting drafted, and demonstrated through the whole summer that he has an exciting future as he turns his attention squarely on professional baseball.”

“On the mound, Jennings has a traditional four-pitch mix of a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. The fastball sits comfortably around 89-92 MPH, reaching as high as 95 MPH. Scouts comment that the slider is his best secondary offering at present. In his professional debut, Jennings was able to produce plenty of ground ball outs, where he generated 32 groundouts, 15 flyouts, and 13 strikeouts in 26.1 IP.”

“Jennings likely fell in the draft because of questions about his signability after committing to Ole Miss, but it is clear that he has some solid potential as a pitcher. Watching the differences in his pre-draft tape and professional tape, the Pirates have already quieted the motion of his upper half in his delivery, demonstrating that he is receptive to coaching and has the athleticism to make adjustments and respond to the developmental savvy of the Pittsburgh organization. Jennings has a slighter build than Baz, but I like Jennings to be a 2-3 SP in the big leagues who will generate weak contact and miss enough bats to be a reliable pitcher in the rotation. Of the two, Jennings will probably take slightly more time in the minor leagues than Baz, even though he is a half a year older and will pitch this season at 19-years-old.”

 

Question #2) The Pirates then went back-to-back corner outfielders at picks 50 and 72 with Mitchell and Uselton. How would you rate their tools? Do they project to stay in the OF long term?

 

Ben- “Cal Mitchell was a first round talent coming out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego before an underwhelming offensive senior season slipped him into the second round. It is easy to see Mitchell’s gifts on the baseball field by watching his smooth, left-handed swing. A high-waisted, athletic 6’1”, Mitchell has the build and look of a baseball player prototype: he is basically out of central casting for the next Hollywood baseball movie. As for his tools, Mitchell’s primarily asset comes from what he does in the batters box: he boasts excellent barreling ability and makes solid, line-drive contact. Mitchell is at his best when he is driving the ball to both gaps instead of selling out for power, which was reportedly his mechanical issue during his senior year. Mitchell also has the ability to be patient and get on base, as he put up a very respectable .351 OBP with 13% BB rate while sporting a .245 AVG during his first professional season.”

“Considering Mitchell’s athletic build, he is not overly fast and his fielding grades as average. Mitchell’s below average speed will limit him to the corners; and his arm strength, while accurate, will limit him to left field. In 2017, Mitchell saw 35 G in LF, and his 3 G in CF and 2 G in RF were likely more experimental than anything else. Given the apparent limits to his defensive position, it puts pressure on his bat to deliver during his development. If there is anyone who has the ability and approach to be successful with this profile, Mitchell is that guy though. The overall toolset reminds me a little bit of Garret Anderson, a sweet-swinging left-handed hitter who was a talented, line-drive batsman, athletic without being overly speedy, and serviceable in LF. As Mitchell continues to mature physically as a 19-year-old, he could profile at the plate similarly to a left-hand-only hitting Josh Bell. Mitchell is certainly an exciting hitting prospect for the Pirates.”

“Conner Uselton has the physical makeup and baseball tools to look back on this pick years down the road and site this as one of the steals in the 2017 draft. Uselton was drafted out of Southmoore High School in Oklahoma City. The first thing you notice about Uselton is his tall, lean 6’3” build. He has long limbs that make him appear even taller. Uselton uses his strength in all phases of the game: he has dynamic raw power, a formidable throwing arm, and runs very well, especially for a player of his stature. Uselton does a lot of impressive things on the baseball field.”

“Uselton got into only two Gulf Coast games last summer due to a hamstring injury, but in limited action demonstrated that he could use the whole field and leg out an infield hit. If Uselton’s hit tool matches his raw power, he could be a 25 HR, 15 SB behemoth while playing a very good RF who will contribute high numbers of OF assists with his throwing arm. This puts him sort of in the “Domingo Santana-lite” profile if all works out: there is a long way to go and he must stay healthy, but Uselton is without a doubt one to watch in Pittsburgh.”

 

Question #3) Young Pirates CF, Lolo Sanchez is creating a lot of buzz. What are his carrying tools?  Do you see him being a fast mover? Does he project to stay up the middle defensively?

 

Ben- “In addition to having a superbly fun name, the buzz on Lolo Sanchez is certainly warranted. If you want to find more on the beginning of the trail on Sanchez, you will have to search using his given name, Kevin Sanchez. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old for $450,000, and at the time was viewed as a shortstop. Now nearly 19-years-old, Sanchez is a true center fielder, batting and throwing right-handed. His best tools are his contact ability at the plate and his plus speed. Given the quality of his loud contact, he has the ability to explode with attention as a prospect, and is mentioned these days as a player that could be bound for a breakout in 2018.”

“One of the most noteworthy aspects of Sanchez as a hitter is his ability to limit strikeouts, where he has walked more times than struck out in both 2016 (24 BB: 18 K) and 2017 (21 BB: 19 K). This is a good indication that he could have a top of the order, starting CF future with the Pirates. Another encouraging sign is Sanchez’s improvement in his SB technique, as he improved his success rate from only 33% in 2016 (4 SB, 8 CS) to 66% in 2017 (14 SB, 7 CS). Lolo is primarily a pull hitter, as he only had 3 hits to RF the entire season: much of his contact the other way resulted in infield popups or outfield flyouts. This will be something to monitor as he continues his development at the higher levels.”

“The Pirates are suddenly not very deep in the outfield at the upper level of the minors, leading them to acquire OF Jason Martin in the Gerrit Cole deal from Houston, and shifting their draft attention to the outfield with the high selections of Mitchell and Uselton. Since there is not a logjam in front of him positionally, and he has a relatively advanced approach at the plate, Sanchez could debut in Pittsburgh at the end of the 2020 season if he is able to build on his solid foundation. Time will tell if Sanchez will be a Top 100 prospect across the game, but he is becoming a popular choice among prospectors to be one of the next guys to take the leap forward in name recognition this coming season.”

 

Question #4) 3B-SS) Oniel Cruz was traded from the Dodgers to the Pirates last Summer.  What are his tools?  Do you like him to stay on the left side of the infield?

 

Ben-Oneil Cruz was a nice upside acquisition from the Dodgers as the Pirates dealt away reliever Tony Watson last summer. A 6’6” third baseman/shortstop out of the Dominican Republic, Cruz has some intriguing length, and also has the athleticism to make it work on the infield with some refinement. Ultimately, 3B seems to be a more natural fit as he continues to fill in his 19-year-old frame, as he spent virtually all of his playing time at 3B after being acquired by the Pirates. The defensive numbers were somewhat of an adventure: Cruz compiled 35 fielding errors (26 at 3B) in 93 G in the field in 2017. Cruz is certainly athletic and possesses good arm strength, but may need to iron out some things defensively to stay on the left side of the infield. While 3B is still new to him full time, and moving organizations mid-year is challenging for any young player, he could also make for a fallback option at 1B as a large target or alternatively land in a corner OF post if the Pirates determine it a better fit for him long term.”

“A left-handed swinger with a wiry build, Cruz draws visual comparisons to another very tall Pittsburgh Pirates player in Gregory Polanco. Cruz undeniably has huge power when he makes contact, even though Cruz has a ways to go before he is truly compared to “El Coffee” as a hitter beyond his lengthy frame. Cruz is able to drive the ball out of the ballpark to all fields, evidenced by 4 of his 10 HR in 2017 leaving the yard to LF. He has significant loft and length to his swing, leading to high flyball and strikeout numbers. With a K rate hovering around 30%, and a BB rate under 10%, Oneil has some steps to take to bring his contact potential to a place where he can be a middle of the order type of player. While he is a high-variance prospect at this point, Cruz could become a 6-7 hitter in the big leagues while providing some game-changing pop from the lower half of the lineup. Oneil Cruz is an intriguing lottery ticket type of prospect, and is easy to dream on if he puts it all together.”

 

Question #5) Any 2016/17 draftees not listed above that are still in rookie ball catch your eye?

 

Ben-Mason Martin, a 1B/OF, had a loud debut with the bat in 2017 after being drafted in the 17th round out of Southridge High School in Kennewick, Washington. Martin flat-out raked in the Gulf Coast League, earning the league’s Most Valuable Player honors, while slashing .307/.457/.630 and producing 11 HR and a 19.3% BB rate. Martin saw the most time at 1B (26 G), followed by RF (9 G), LF (3 G), and even made one start in CF. If he continues to hit like this, his bat will play anywhere on the diamond.”

“Another name that I listed in my opening paragraph, Braeden Ogle, is a pitcher that is worthy of some attention. Ogle was a 4th round pick by the Pirates in the 2016 draft, a left-hander out of Jensen Beach High School in Florida. Ogle can bring the fastball in the low to mid 90’s, and his clean mechanics gets the most out of his 6’2” frame. He incredibly allowed only one HR in 43.1 IP last season, and his is control took a step forward this year. As his secondary offerings continue to develop, he should see his already solid K numbers increase even further. It never hurts that he is a left-handed pitcher, and will be given every opportunity to stick in the rotation for the Pirates.”

 

Question #6) Any other Latin talent to be on the look out for graduating rookie ball?

 

Ben- “Domingo Robles is a promising left-handed pitcher who has been with the Pirates organization since he was signed out of the Dominican Republic 2014. Robles has a groundball-producing arsenal, and low walk rates in the minor leagues for such a young prospect. Robles saw an increase in his K rate to nearly 17%, which bodes well for the next stage of his progression. Robles is heading into his fourth professional season, and it will be interesting to see his development this year pitching as a 20-year-old starter in A ball.”

“Rodolfo Castro is a switch-hitting infielder who saw nearly equal playing time at 2B, 3B, and SS defensively for the Gulf Coast League Pirates in 2017. Castro slugged .476 while producing 12 doubles, 4 triples, and 6 home runs (4 HR while batting right-handed) while primarily hitting in the second spot in the lineup. Castro has a little bit of pop, in addition to producing 4 SB. Castro’s versatility, and across the board tools, helps ensure that he will get opportunities to find his way into the lineup and prove to be a valuable member of the organization.”

 

Question #7) Sleepers? Maybe a few players that excel at one tool, plus power or speed?

 

Ben-Sherten Apostel has an adoring fan in one of the other notesfromthesally.com guest writers, and one of my personal favorites in the industry, Ralph Lifshitz (on Twitter @ProspectJesus) so I have to give him credit on generating increased excitement around his name. Apostel is a solidly built 18-year-old third baseman out of Curacao, who is already a monolithic 6’4”, 215 lbs. Apostel put up an impressive performance in the Dominican Summer League in 2017, where he slashed .258/.422/.495 in 61 G. Like Lolo Sanchez, Apostel walked more than he struck out at 56 BB: 49 K, which, for a power-hitting prospect, is very exciting. This slumbering giant may not be long for the sleeper list, though!”

“Geoff Hartlieb is one of the faster moving Pirates prospects, as he was drafted in 2016 and has seen 31 IP at A+ already. Purely a relief pitcher, the right-handed Hartlieb started the year pitching for West Virginia in the Sally League in 2017, and impressed with 62 K: 15 BB in 63.2 IP last year between the two levels. Hartlieb is another tall lad at 6’6”, and pumps the fastball in the upper 90’s out of the bullpen. With the excellent control and strikeout stuff, Hartlieb may play an important role in the Pirates bullpen someday in the not too distant future.”

“While the Pirates do not have very much organizational upside at the catcher position, Deon Stafford presents as an exciting name that may break through and run with the opportunity. Picked in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of St. Joseph’s, Deon looks the part of a big league catcher with a short, solid build. He is praised for his work ethic and all around toolset. Stafford can hold his own with the bat and shows intriguing power, and also presents as a good defender. Stafford had a positive showing in the Cape Cod League in 2016 and belted 2 HR in 15 AB while playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. In 2017 Short Season ball, Stafford ripped 4 HR, slashed .280/.332/.418, and was successful on 3 of 4 SB attempts. Though he battled a shoulder injury earlier in the season, Stafford still threw out 24% of would-be base stealers in his debut.”

 

It’ll be interesting to see how many of these young players make the jump to full season.  Whoever is ticketed for short season, I’ll likely see in Bristol.

 

 

Around the diamond

I’ll highlight who I think are the starters

 

Catcher

Jason Delay– Turns 23 in March, listed 5’11” 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out Vanderbilt Univ.

Burke Granger of “2080 Ball”, released a Prospect Video of Delay back in April.  You can find that here:   Jason Delay

 

Deon Stafford- Turns 22 in March, listed 6′ 202 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft out of St Joseph’s Univ.

 

It’ll be interesting to see if both Delay and Stafford split time with the Power or if they keep them at different levels to maximize the playing time.

 

Any of these 3 could be returning:

Arden Pabst- Turns 23 in March, listed 6’1″ 202 lbs, he was drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 draft out of Georgia Tech Univ.   He was with the Power all year, getting into 50 games.

 

Yoel Gonzalez- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.  He got into 30 games with the Power in 2017.

 

Raul Hernandez- Age 22, listed 6′ 182 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of Venezuela in 2014.  He got into 18 games with the Power in 2017.

 

From Bristol

Paul Brands- Age 20, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Netherlands in 2015.

 

Corner Infield

1B) Jose Barraza- Age 23, listed 6’1″ 220 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was signed out of Independent Ball in 2016.  Originally a 7th round draft pick of the White Sox in 2012.

 

3B) Dylan Busby- Age 22, listed 6’3″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft out of Florida State Univ.

WTM of “Bucs Dugout” wrote about Busby at the time of his signing.  You can read that here:  https://www.bucsdugout.com/2017/6/28/15889182/pirates-sign-third-round-draft-pick-dylan-busby

 

 

3B) Oneil Cruz- Age 19, listed 6’6″ 175 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 by the Dodgers.  He was traded to the Pirates at the deadline as part of a package for Tony Watson.

Harold Uhlman of “Think Blue LA”  posted a piece on Cruz one week before the trade.  Good read.    Loons 18-year-old third baseman Oneil Cruz turning heads

 

From Bristol

1B) Jhoan Herrera- Age 22, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats left and throws right.

 

1B) Mikell Granberry- Age 22, listed 6’1″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of Mexico in 2013.

 

1B) Johan De Jesus- Age 21, listed 6′ 165 lbs, bats both and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

 

If Dylan Busby and Oneil Cruz are both playing for the Power, it’ll be interesting to see how the divvy up the playing time.  1B is kind of muddled with 4 players in the mix for playing time.  Busby and/or Cruz could get starts there as well.

 

 

Middle Infield

Up from the Black Bears

2B-SS) Tristan Gray- Turns 22 in March, listed 6’3″ 185 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 13th round of the 2017 draft out of Rice Univ.

 

2B) Raul Siri- Age 23, listed 5’9″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.

 

SS-3B) Robbie Glendinning- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 196 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 21st round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Missouri.

 

SS-2B) Brett Pope- Age 21, listed 6′ 180 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2017 draft out of Western Univ.

 

And from Bristol

2B-SS-3B) Melvin Jimenez- Age 22, listed 5’10” 170 lbs bats both and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

 

2B) Nick Valaika- Age 22, listed 5’11” 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2017 draft out of UCLA.

 

SS) Luis Perez- Age 24, listed 5’10” 170 lbs, bats left and throws right.   He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.

 

SS-1B) Kyle Watson- Age 22, listed 6’3″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 37th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Mississippi.

 

Both of these players could be returning:

 

2B-3B) Trae Arbet- Age 23, listed 6′ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 draft out of High School in Temecula, CA (90 miles south east of Los Angeles).   The .161 ISO stands out, as  does the 7/1 strikeout to walk.

 

SS) Adrian Valerio – Turns 21 in March, listed 5’11” 150 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican  Republic in 2013.  He could be back.  The .169 ISO stands out, as does the 6/1 Strikeout  to BB.

 

If Arbet and Valerio are promoted Tristan Gray is likely the everyday 2B unless he skips.  There’s no obvious selection for everyday SS.  It could be Luis Perez, Glendinning or Pope.

 

Other MI who could get playing time:  Kevin Mahala- 2B-SS,

 

Outfield

 

CF) Lolo Sanchez

 

LF) Chris Sharpe- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 14th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Massachusetts/Lowell.

 

LF) Matt Diorio- Age 22, listed 6’1″ 195 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 16th round of the 2016 draft out of Central Florida Univ.

 

CF) Jared Olivia- Age 22, listed 6’3″ 187 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2017 draft out of Arizona Univ.

 

 

CF) Michael De La Cruz- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 165 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

 

RF) Bligh Madris- Turns 22 in February, listed 6’2″ 200 lbs, bats left and throws right.  He was drafted in the 9th round of the 2017 draft out of the Univ of Colorado/Mesa.

 

From Bristol

LF-RF) Edison Lantigua- Age 21, listed 6′ 175 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.

 

RF-CF) Ryan Peurifoy- Turns 23 in March, listed 6’2″ 206 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 38th round of the 2017 draft out of Georgia Tech Univ.

 

And from the GCL

 

Cal Mitchell

Conner Uselton

 

I could see Olivia being the everyday LF and spelling Lolo in CF.   Or De La Cruz makes it as a 4th OF.  With Sharpe and Diorio both in the mix.  Keep an eye on Lantigua as well.

 

Other OF who could get playing time:   Ryan Nagle- LF,  Victor Fernandez- LF, CF

 

Starting Pitching

From the Black Bears

These 1st three are college arms and could go to the Sally or the Florida State League:

 

RHP) Scooter Hightower- Age 24, listed 6’6″ 215 lbs, Bats and throws right.   He was drafted in the 15th of the 2015 draft out of Community College in Clarksville, TN (50 Miles North West of Nashville).

 

RHP) Gavin Wallace- Age 22, listed 6’5″ 210 lbs, bats and throws right. He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2017 draft out of Fairfield Univ.

 

RHP) Stephan Meyer- Age 23, listed 6’4″ 190 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 18th round of the 2015 draft out of  Bellevue Univ (Omaha, NE Metro).   His last 6 starts were with the Power.

 

I think these two arms are coming our way.

RHP) Sergio Cubilete- Turns 23 in March, listed 6’4″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

 

LHP) Ike Schlabach- Age 21, listed 6’5″ 185 lbs, bats right and throws left.  He was drafted in the 19th round of the 2015 draft out of High School in Fort Worth, TX.

 

From Bristol

LHP) Braeden Ogle- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 170 lbs, bats and throws left.  He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Jensen Beach, FL (Port St Lucie Metro)

In July of 2017 Steve Samek of “Rum Bunter did a series of articles taking a look back at the 2016 draft.  Click here to read his piece on Ogle.     Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look at the 2016 MLB Draft, Braeden Ogle

 

RHP) Travis MacGregor- Age 20, listed 6’3″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Tarpon Springs, FL.  (Tampa Metro)

 

Dave Defreitas and Nick J Faleris of “2080 Ball” posted a Pirates organizational review prior to the 2017 season and said this of MacGregor:

“Quick Hit: MacGregor, a second-round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, elected to forgo an opportunity to play ball at Clemson, electing to sign with the Pirates for $900,000 and begin his professional career. With a broad build and projectable frame to go with a fluid, athletic delivery, MacGregor has a chance to blossom in the coming years as his body matures. The fastball velocity has already begun to tick up, with the righty now touching as high as 94 mph and working consistently in the 89-to-92 mph range.”

“His changeup is a solid second offering that can play to average at present with some room to grow into an above-average or better offering in time. His curveball is a soft breaker that lacks impact, though the hope is he will see improvements as his upper half adds strength, and his arm speed improves a notch. MacGregor loads well on his back side and does a good job of utilizing his size to create tough angles, making him a tough arm to lift. The developmental arc could be prolonged, but it’s a nice starting point from which the Pirates staff can work. There’s potential for a solid back-end of the rotation arm based on what we see now, and room for him to show more in the next year or two.”

You can find the rest of the piece here (good read):    2017 Organizational Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

 

RHP) Jacob Taylor- Age 22, listed 6’3″ 205 lbs, bats and throws right.   He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 draft out of Pearl River, Community College (Poplarville, MS)(80 miles Northeast of New Orleans).

 

RHP) Max Kranick- Age 20, listed 6’3″ 175 lbs, bats and throws right.  He was drafted in the 11th round of the 2016 draft out of High School in Archbald, PA (Scranton Metro).

 

And from the GCL

 

RHP) Shane Baz

There’s a lot of inventory ahead of him but if Baz is deemed ready, he’s coming.

 

RHP) Steven Jennings

Less sure about Jennings, I could definitely see him going to Bristol.  But if he’s pitching well he could make it to the Sally in the 2nd half.

 

I enjoyed the deep dive into the Pirates minors, big thanks to Ben Wilson (on Twitter @TBDubbs11) for stepping up, excellent interview.  There’s a lot of talent here, including quite a few intriguing arms.  Plus Lolo and the two 3B Busby and Cruz.   It’ll be interesting to see if either of the prep Outfielders Cal Mitchell and Conner Uselton make the jump from the GCL.  I suspect both will be in Bristol.  In terms of talent West Virginia will likely be a top five squad in 2018.

 

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