Bonus Pirates prospects: Nos. 21-25
We continue our march through my teams’ 21-25 prospect lists. Next up is the Pirates, a fun system to talk about, and not just because I live in Pittsburgh and get to see these guys when they make it up to the big leagues.
Last November in a Pipeline Perspectives piece, I touted the Pirates as having the best farm system in baseball. Since that time, Jameson Taillon (and Clay Holmes, for tha tmatter), needed Tommy John surgery. But the mark of a good, and deep, system, is that the loss of a top prospect to injury doesn’t disproportionately impact the strength of your organization. Several years ago, a Taillon-type injury would’ve been huge for the Pirates. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not good now, but the system can take the hit and still be successful.
Much of the talent is at the lower levels, though some of the top guys reached Double-A and above this year. There was still plenty of talent to choose from for the 21-25 set:
21. Joely Rodriguez, LHP: This lefty spent time on the Top 20 earlier in the season, coming out with the re-rank and the addition of draftees over the summer. The move up to Double-A was a bit rough for him, though he did show the ability to get a ton of groundball outs, thanks to his sinking fastball. He did leave it up a bit too much, making him more hittable than he’d been the previous year. He has a breaking ball that has the chance to be average and a changeup that is above-average with sink as well. If he can get back to commanding the baseball better within the strike zone, he has the chance to be a back end of the rotation type of starter.
22. Elias Diaz, C: Sometimes it takes a Minor Leaguer a while to hit his stride. For catchers, it can take even longer given all of their responsibilities behind the plate. Diaz toiled away during his first few years in the organization as a strong-armed backstop who couldn’t hit. He spent two seasons in the Class A South Atlantic League. His bat started to show signs of life in 2013 with a move up a level, hitting .279. He hit .328 this past year in Altoona, being named an Eastern League All-Star and earning a late promotion to Triple-A. There hasn’t been much power to speak of, but he doesn’t strike out much. And his arm gets a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale according to some. Like Rodriguez, he spent some time in the Top 20.
23. Chad Kuhl, RHP: Looking for a good under-the-radar pitcher? Kuhl’s an excellent candidate, a ninth-round pick out of the University of Delaware who pitched well during his first full season of pro ball, in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. He improved as the season went on, lowering his ERA by well over a run in the second half compared to the first. He can touch 95 mph, sitting in the low 90s, with his power sinking fastball. He has a slider and changeup as well, which are inconsistent, but improving. He goes right after hitters and has solid command. If the secondary pitches continue to develop, he has the makings of a solid mid-rotation starter.
24: Erich Weiss, 2B: This University of Texas product grew up around the game, with father Gary spending parts of two sesaons in the big leagues. Weiss’s best tool is his bat, with a quick stroke that can send line drives to all fields. There’s room for some power to come, though it hasn’t much yet. He makes the most of his average speed and is aggressive on the basepaths. The 2013 11th-round pick was a third baseman initially, but spent all of 2014 in the South Atlantic League playing second. He doesn’t have a true defensive profile, leading some to believe a super-utility type role might be the best bet.
25. Gage Hinsz, RHP: The Pirates went to Montana to find Hinsz, a high school right-hander they took in the 11th round of this past Draft. The limit for picks after the 10th round is $100,000, with any overages counting against your pool for the top 10 rounds. The Pirates liked Hinsz enough to give him $580,000 to walk away from Oregon State. With no high school baseball in Montana, Hinsz played with the Canadian travel team, the Langley Blaze for a while. He has an intriguing three-pitch mix and there’s confidence all will become better with coaching and experience. He made his debut, albeit a brief one, in the Gulf Coast League. He may take a while, but organizational patience could provide a huge payoff.