Ironically, as I write this I’m preparing to go to a AAA game. No, it isn’t the Indianapolis Indians, as I’ll actually be watching the Charlotte Knights take on the Durham Bulls.
As I skim through the rosters for both teams I recognize some names. Blake Snell of the Bulls and Tim Anderson and Matt Davidson of the Knights are very good prospects, but I’m also seeing Chris Volstad, Travis Ishikawa and Jaff Decker.
As Alabama said in there 1994 song, “Our ball club is minor league but at least it’s AAA”:
While there is some good talent for both teams, there are only maybe 2-3 legit prospects for both the Bulls (Rays) and the Knights (White Sox). This is nothing like the Pirates AAA squad at Indy. I’ve mentioned subtly in my articles this year, but my boss KC (I guess we’re the Sunshine Band?) told me to try my best to inform the TPOP readership of how good the Pirates AAA squad currently stands. Well here goes:
First, coming up with comps that TPOP and Pirate fans will know is a little tricky. Also, HT to the rest of the Sunshine Band for helping me tighten up this list. I organized the list so that it could read like a starting lineup, partial rotation and partial bullpen. It’s just coincidence that our eight could be put into a lineup… and a credit due to the position flexibility of the players.
The Pseudo Prospects:
Gift Ngoepe can’t hit RH pitchers worth a darn, but his glove is amazing, he hits LHP well and he has good pop and speed for a SS.
Dan Gamache hits LH, can play all infield positions and has a good amount of patience at the plate. He might not quite hit enough, but he could reach that Rob Mackowiak ceiling.
Boy is Willy Garcia huge but he can still stay play a decent CF and has a cannon for an arm. Also, he has great splits against LHP and should be able to one arm homers the opposite way at PNC. His ceiling of Jose Guillen is a pipe dream and his most likely of Craig Wilson is totally an offensive comparison.
The C+ Prospects:
Adam Frazier’s position flexibility is what will get him called up; that and his ability to avoid striking out (lifetime K% of 11.5%). Frazier also has the “correct” platoon split, as he hits better against RHP than LHP ( .331/.390/.424 in 331 ABs against RHP last year). Cross your fingers and hope for Ben Zobrist or Mark Ellis.
My son’s name is Max Anthony and he’s a wildcard. Max Anthony Moroff is a wild card as well. Moroff has one less elite minor league season than Frazier, but he’s two years younger at the same level. He looks like a good fit at 2B where I watched him display plus range in Altoona last year. He’s scuffling a little at AAA this year but he’s not needed for a while. By June of ’17 he could be called up to infuse some life into the offense like….
…Alen Hanson is doing as we speak. Hanson is heading to Pittsburgh to fill in for Starling Marte while he’s on paternity leave. Hanson has been on prospect folks’ radar for a long time. He’s a guy that can fill up the stat sheet with 2B, 3B, HR’s and SBs Hanson is still young and could be our 2B for a long time once he gets the opportunity.
One of the big missing players this season has been Elias Diaz. Diaz, the cannon-armed cat of a catcher, needed arthroscopic surgery to clean up his elbow and has been on the DL. Diaz will not hit like Mike Piazza in the show but as long as he hits like Michael Lavalliere that will be fine. Diaz also has a strong platoon split, as he crushes LHP, which might be convenient as he will probably backup initially.
The Bullpen(?) Triumvirate
Chad Kuhl might end up as a back end starter with his good two pitch mix and Steven Brault might use his cutter to go 5-6 innings in the show. Trevor Williams is still the new guy with not many innings due to some minor injuries and he could be a starter for the Bucs as well. My money, and most other people’s, is that they’ll all be relievers; but they’ll be really good relievers. Look at the stability Melancon, Watson and Hughes have brought to the bullpen the last few years. The three guys in AAA could do the same thing for 6+ years and for cheap.
The Hopeful Cornerstones
I love the Will Clark comp for Josh Bell (H/T Steve DiMiceli) as Bell’s at-bats harken back to Clark. Bell battles at the plate and doesn’t give the pitchers anything. He also stings the balls and rarely K’s. He could be a batting champion and his makeup is incredible. The sky is the limit.
We can’t say much more about Glasnow and Taillon that hasn’t been said. Taillon was a big investment that hasn’t been utilized yet, but looks solid and Glasnow looks likes a lottery ticket that may hit. We’re lucky to have these two gems and hope they can lock down rotation spots for a while.
Realize all these players will receive the league minimum salary for three years (plus the first half season if past Super Two), then have cheap arbitration salaries for a couple more. This gives our team tremendous flexibility with its 25 man roster.
Back in the dark ages of 1997 the Pirates had a whole payroll of $9,071,667 but the team was terrible. In a couple years a large portion of the team could be making the league minimum and yet be really good. That’s what a stellar minor league system can do for you.