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2017 Pirates Minors Breakdown – Safe, But Not Sexy

Dovydas Neverauskas should see time in the Pirates bullpen starting this year…as long as he his off-the-field flareups under control.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Here comes round two of our prospect break down. Last week we looked at the fringe prospects who have both a low floor and a low ceiling. This week we’ll look at the “low ceiling, high floor.”

Every prospect has a range of potential outcomes for their career, some being wider than others. We decided to break the break the system down into tiers this year grouping players based on their ceiling and floor. For the sake of this conversation a player with a ‘high ceiling’ would be an average or better position player or a #3 or better in a rotation. A ‘low ceiling’ would be like a bench or non-closer type bullpen role. Meanwhile a player with a ‘high floor’ is someone who we felt pretty good will stick in some capacity on a major league team for multiple seasons. Meanwhile a ‘low floor’ would include your AAAA, cup of coffee or career minor leaguers.

Below, you’ll find players who probably won’t ever make an All-Star game, but they’re players who should stick in the majors for a little while. They may even get a couple of seasons as a regular. They should make it through their pre-arbitration years and might make it to year three. Some might even play an important role in the bullpen or fill in for an injured starter in the rotation.  These players add value especially early in their career as they cost next to nothing in salary. Generally speaking, they’re also close to being major league ready. If you don’t have guys like these, teams need spend a few million a year just to get a decent bench player sucking up resources that can be allocated to more important positions. You can’t build a contender with these types of prospects, but every team needs good role players.

Again, there isn’t perfect agreement on where we thought these players fit, but I tried to fit them in as best I could.

Steven Brault

Kevin Creagh (KC) – Brault outlasted Tarpley in the Battle Of The Steves. I think Brault is a #5 long-term and don’t think much of him as a bullpen piece.

Michael Bradley (MB) – Keith Law said his best use is reliever.

Alex Stumpf (AS) – He’ll return to the majors in 2017. His strikeout and walk rates both spiked after making the jump to AAA. Doesn’t have a killer fastball, but works around it. Potential back of the rotation starter.

Kurt Hackimer (KH) – Brault made seven starts in the majors last season as the Pirates tried to patch together their injury-riddled rotation, but his deceptive sinker-slider combination would probably be more effective coming out of the bullpen. Fastballs left up in the zone will frequently be crushed.

Elias Diaz

KH – Even though Neal Huntington insisted that Francisco Cervelli’s contract extension and Diaz’s early season elbow injury are unrelated, it’s tough to buy that as a coincidence. Diaz is a great defensive catcher, but has already has multiple 60-day DL stints under his belt and it remains to be seen if that elbow injury affects his stellar arm strength. Unless Cervelli is traded, it seems as if Diaz’s path to the majors will include a fourth year at Triple-A and a stint as a backup.

AS – If Francisco Cervelli would have left in free agency, Diaz probably would have been the starter this year. Great arm and has been praised for his ability to call a game. Bat leaves something to be desired.

MB – He could be a 10 year backup or second tier starter.

KC – Diaz can’t stay healthy and his bat has evaporated for the most part.  His advanced age is playing against his “prospect” status for me.  I think he’s just a backup catcher.

Alen Hanson

Steve DiMiceli (SD) – If the ghost runner on second extra innings rule becomes a thing, every ML bench will have a spot for somebody like Hanson.

KH –  Hanson has been around forever and his profile is obvious:
Speedy, switch-hitting utility guy who can’t get it together at the plate. He’s out of options, so the Pirates will have to either keep him on their bench or let him go elsewhere.

MB – Could use another year in AAA

AS – There was a time that Hanson looked like the second baseman or shortstop of the future. After two very average years in AAA, that does not seem like the case. His best tool now is his speed, but he doesn’t get on base enough to use it to its potential. Spring Training is “do or die” time for him since he’s out of options.

Clay Holmes

KH – Like many other pitchers on this list, Holmes is a borderline major league starter with a major arm injury on his record. Holmes has a good fastball that might play up in relief and a variety of off-speed stuff that shows room for improvement. Could make his major league debut sometime this season as a spot starter.

AS – Prognosticators worried the Pirates would lose him in the Rule 5 draft two years in a row. Needs to make progress as a starter or he may be put in the bullpen.

MB – Seemed to struggle with command post-TJ, but did get added to the 40 man.

SD – His fastest path to the majors is in the bullpen or as trade bait.

Max Moroff

KC – Moroff is a little bit like an earlier prototype of Kevin Newman, in that I think he could be a 2B, but is more likely a utility guy in the majors. But his speed and moderate power should at least get him a bench spot one day.

AS – Moroff has always been able to draw free passes, walking in 17.3% of his plate appearances in Indianapolis last year. Can play three infield positions. I wrote a whole article gushing about him, so maybe I’m a little biased. If I was a GM of a team that’s rebuilding, I would trade for him and give him a full season in the field.

MB-  His patience and power and slick glove will be rewarded.

KH –  If Moroff possessed the raw tools that Hanson has, he would be in the major leagues right now. Moroff is a polished fielder who can play all over the infield. He’s a patient hitter, but probably lacks the pop to secure a consistent starting job in the major leagues. Could still contribute in a bench role.

Dovydas Neverauskas

KC – Strictly a bullpen guy, but he could be a dominant one with his fastball.  If his stuff backs up or if his off field issues linger, he might just be a middle reliever type.

KH – Neverauskas was never a prospect as a starter, but somehow seems like a shoe-in to join the Pirates as a reliever in 2017. Weird. I guess some guys are just cut out for bullpen work.

AS – He and his mid-90s fastball should reach the majors sometime in 2017. There were control and off the field issues last year, but if he straightens them out, he could be a gem.

MB – Barfight shame will cause him to dominate Spring Training

Trevor Williams

AS – The Pirates have plenty of middle of the pack rotation arms and Williams is the most major league ready. AAA pitching coach Stan Kyles praised his makeup and composure on the mound when I talked to him in July. Potential swing-man/reliever.

MB – Could be the new goofball, 6th inning groundball guy.

KH –  Williams’s 94-mph sinker just screams “Pirates,” but he’ll struggle to amount to anything more than a fringe starter if he can’t refine his command of that pitch. Has a good slider that will help him against lefties. His changeup probably won’t play as anything more than a supplementary pitch.

KC – Pretty much the exact same thoughts as Brault — #5 pitcher with no true out pitch that might not work out of the pen.

About Steve DiMiceli (137 Articles)
Steve is a naturalized yinzer hailing originally from just north of Allentown, PA. He came to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and decided to stick around after graduation. Steve is best known for his contributions to Duquesne hoops community as the owner of the Duquesne Dukes forum on Yuku and as the former editor of We Wear the Ring on the Fansided network. He is an avid Pirates fan, home cook and policy nerd. He is the co-founder of the Point of Pittsburgh. Easily irritated by people who misuse the word regress.

2 Comments on 2017 Pirates Minors Breakdown – Safe, But Not Sexy

  1. Norm Cubellis // February 15, 2017 at 10:43 AM //

    Good reviews, I like this series.

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