The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to have a phenomenal minor league system with several players that are projected to be impact major leaguers. Not only that, but the system is extremely young with only one player older than 22 making this list. The organization is deep behind the plate with one player set to take over in the major leagues in 2015, one premium prospect who’s still just 19 years old and one more catching prospect hanging around the list.
This is another of my consensus lists. I looked at five different top prospects list (unfortunately, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus haven’t released their 2014 lists yet) and ranked players. Only 11 players different players were named in the top 10 on the five different lists showing that there’s an incredible amount of agreement at the top of this system. For the last four players, I looked at who was named in the Top 15 of different lists and those players earning their way onto more Top 15s were ranked higher.
Some of the “where will they end up in 2014″ projections may be a bit off. The Pirates are adding a minor league team for 2014 — the Advanced-Rookie Bristol Pirates in the Appalachian League — and that may affect the club’s decisions as to where to send players.
Triple A: Indianapolis Indians (International League)
Double-A: Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
High-A: Bradenton Marauders (Florida State League
Class-A: West Virginia Power (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League)
Advanced-Rookie: Bristol Pirates (Appalachian League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Pirates (Gulf Coast League)
Foreign-Rookie: DSL Pirates (Dominican Summer League)
Willy Garcia – OF
Date of Birth: September 4, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’3″/180 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010; $280,000 signing bonus
Analysis: Willy Garcia, a big outfielder from the Dominican Republic has some extremely good-looking tools. Scouts love his arm and his raw power but he’s still figuring out how to hit better pitching. He played in Bradenton in 2013 and pretty much had the same type of season he had the year before: Good power, mediocre batting average, low walk rate but tons of strikeouts. He also shows decent speed with 13 stolen bases in 19 tries. His arm continues to rack up assists, gunning down 20 runners in 2013.
2014 Prognosis: Garcia has just turned 21 but still has plus power to go along with his cannon of an arm. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates have him repeat the level in Bradenton or promote him to Double-A Altoona.
Wyatt Mathisen – C
Date of Birth: December 30, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’1″/210 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft
Analysis: Despite not catching much in high school, scouts love Mathisen’s arm but the 20 year old still needs to polish some other aspects of his defensive game as runners ran rampant on him in his time in West Virginia. that might have been an aggressive assignment for a young catcher in his second pro season as a 19 year old. It’s hard to tell how his bat is developing; Mathisen really struggled in Class-A ball in West Virginia but looked like he was doing better against a lower caliber of opposition. His potential is to be a major league average hitter with good defense and athleticism behind the plate.
2014 Prognosis: Mathisen could return to West Virginia to give him more reps but Reese McGuire may be the starting catcher there next year. Hopefully Mathisen has learned from his first trial under fire and is more prepared to face better quality pitching.
Tony Sanchez – C
Date of Birth: May 20, 1988
Height/Weight: 5’11″/230 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (4th overall) of the 2009 draft
Analysis: After a solid minor league season in which he spent most of his time in Triple-A Indianapolis, Sanchez got his first taste of the major leagues in 2013, playing in 22 games for the pirates and holding his own and showing some pop with the bat. Scouts aren’t thrilled with his throwing accuracy at times and they think that he can get lost a bit mentally when he makes errors.
2014 Prognosis: With one more year on Russell Martin‘s contract and with Chris Stewart added in the offseason, Sanchez is likely to head back to Indianapolis this season. He’ll be Martin’s heir apparent, at least until Reese McGuire makes it through to the top of the system.
Clay Holmes – RHP
Date of Birth: March 27, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’5″/230 lbs
Acquired: 9th round of the 2011 draft
Analysis: Coming later in the same 2011 draft that brought Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell into the Pirates’ system, Holmes is still trying to figure out some things after a solid but unspectacular first attempt at full-season ball. Still, getting through 119 innings in A-ball as a 20 year old is an excellent feat and Holmes looks like a big, durable righty who was able to make some adjustments throughout the season, finishing very strongly. His fastball sits in the low-90s and touches 94 or 95 mph at times and he is still working on his secondary pitches, as can be seen by his pedestrian strikeout totals for the season. Holmes keeps the ball on the ground very well, using his height and downward plane to induce ground balls.
2014 Prognosis: Holmes will head to Bradenton to pitch in the friendlier Florida State League. If his breaking stuff comes around, he could finish the season with Altoona.
Barrett Barnes – OF
Date of Birth: July 29, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’1″/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (45th overall) of the 2012 draft
Analysis: With a lot of upside, Barnes has been getting hurt too much to really increase his prospect stock. In 2012 it was a leg injury that only allowed him to play in 38 games and in 2013 it was a recurring hamstring injury that let him get just 206 plate appearances for West Virginia. With solid raw power and good speed, Barnes acquitted himself well when he managed to get on the field, hitting 14 extra-base hits and stealing 10 bases. His strikeouts are a bit high and he definitely needs to start catching up by getting a full season of at bats.
2014 Prognosis: He could easily return to West Virginia for a full season although Bradenton wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Most importantly, Barnes needs to stay on the field and off the trainer’s table.