By Jason Shetler
Here is my list of Pirates prospects who could be possible breakout candidates in 2014.
Barrett Barnes – The Pirates 2012 supplemental pick performed well for State College that year, as he posted an .857 OPS in 125 at-bats, but missed the final month due to a stress fracture in his leg. Barnes began 2013 with West Virginia, where he posted just a .545 OPS the first month before going on the disabled list in May with a hamstring injury. After returning in June, he had an .863 OPS, but was placed on the DL again in July, as he reinjured the hamstring and was out for the rest of the season. Barnes is likely to begin the year in Bradenton. Because he’s shown flashes of putting up good numbers, he could put it altogether this season, if he can somehow avoid the injury bug.
Clay Holmes – Despite being taken in the ninth round by the Pirates in 2011, Holmes signed with the Bucs for $1.2 million, which was way above slot money. He pitched well for State College in 2012, where he posted a 2.28 ERA along with a 1.08 WHIP in 13 starts. Holmes struggled out of the gate last year, as he posted a 4.95 ERA with a 6.0 BB/9 and a 6.0 K/9 in the first half, but pitched much better in the second half putting up a 3.20 ERA, a 4.4 BB/9 and a 7.6 K/9. Holmes has good stuff, so if he can improve his walk numbers and pitch the way he did in the latter part of 2013, he could be another dynamic pitching arm in the Pirates system.
Harold Ramirez – The Pirates signed Ramirez out of Colombia in 2011. He made his pro debut the following year for the GCL Pirates, where he posted a .644 OPS in 39 games. He played better last season for Jamestown, posting .763 OPS and a New York-Penn League leading 23 stolen bases. With his power potential and his ability to not strikeout a ton, the numbers could be intriguing for Ramirez in his first full year for West Virginia.
Willy Garcia – Signed by the Pirates in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic, Garcia has shown his power potential the past two seasons, hitting 18 home runs in 2012 for West Virginia and 16 in 2013 with Bradenton. However, the strikeout numbers have been alarming, as he posted a 26% K rate two years ago, and that figure went up to 32% last season. If Garcia can somehow cut down on the whiffs, there’s not much doubt that he can increase his power numbers.
Josh Bell – Out of all the Pirates prospects who have the best chance to really break out in 2014, it certainly could be Josh Bell. The 2011 second round pick of the Bucs, who most thought wouldn’t sign with them, had a very good 2013 campaign after coming off a serious knee injury in 2012. Bell posted a .453 slugging percentage thanks in part to his 37 doubles last year. Now that he’s fully healthy from the knee issue, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bell’s gap power turn into more home run power this season.