By Jason Shetler
Now that the Minor League regular seasons have come to an end, here is a look at my projected Top 10 Pirates prospects for 2015.
10. Elias Diaz – After coming off a pretty good season in 2013, Diaz was even better this year. The 23-year-old catcher hit .328 along with an .823 OPS in 91 games played for Altoona. Behind the plate, he threw runners out 33% of the time, and was named the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League. Diaz was promoted to Indianapolis for the final two weeks of the season. He’ll return to Indy next season, and the timetable of his call up to Pittsburgh will be determined on whether or not the Pirates can re-sign Russell Martin.
9. Willy Garcia – Signed by the Pirates as one of their better amateur free agents in 2010, Garcia put up his best season this year. In 126 games for Altoona, he batted .271 with an OPS of .768, hit 18 home runs and stole 25 bases. Garcia’s strikeout rate was high at 31%, but to his credit, he was still able to hit for a good average. Defensively, he recorded 19 outfield assists, which is now the Curve franchise record. Garcia should begin next season in Indianapolis.
8. JaCoby Jones – Jones began this year playing his first full season in the Pirates system, and put up some solid numbers. His average was at .288 while he posted an .851 OPS. He also hit 23 homers and had 17 stolen bases in 117 games for West Virginia. MiLB.com named him the best shortstop in the South Atlantic League. Jones will be in Bradenton next season to man short.
7. Reese McGuire – The 19-year-old McGuire started his first full year behind the plate for West Virginia in 2014. In 98 games played for the Power, McGuire batted .262 along with a .642 OPS. During the month of May, he had himself a 19-game hitting streak. McGuire was solid behind the dish, throwing out 39% of would be basestealers. Baseball America honored him as the best defensive catcher in the South Atlantic League. McGuire is expected to begin at Bradenton next season.
6. Alen Hanson – After having a subpar stint with Altoona last season, Hanson returned to the Curve this year and performed much better. In 118 games played, he hit .280 with a .768 OPS and stole 25 bases. Towards the end of the year, Hanson started playing more second base, so the Pirates could make him more versatile. He continues to remain one of the better middle infield prospects in the minors. Hanson will start next year with Indianapolis, and should be a midseason call up for the Pirates.
5. Austin Meadows – The 9th overall pick in last year’s draft put up very impressive numbers in the Gulf Coast League where he posted a .918 OPS. This year didn’t start out the way Meadows wanted it to, as he suffered a hamstring injury in Spring Training and had a setback during a rehab stint. Meadows made his season debut in July for West Virginia, batting .322 and posting an OPS of .874 in 38 games. Despite the missed time, there’s a chance Meadows could begin next year playing in Bradenton.
4. Josh Bell – Bell began the 2014 season with Bradenton, and made the Florida State League look like child’s play, as he hit .335 with an .886 OPS in 84 games for the Marauders. He was promoted to Altoona in July where he batted .287 with a .652 OPS in 24 games played. Around the trade deadline, there were confirmed reports that the Boston Red Sox wanted to acquire Bell from the Pirates in a deal for Jon Lester. Bell will take part in the Arizona Fall League where he will play first base. He’ll head back to Altoona and will be their first baseman.
3. Nick Kingham – Kingham picked up where he left off in 2013, as he posted 3.04 ERA along with a 1.35 WHIP and a .259 batting average against in 12 starts for Altoona. His promotion to Indianapolis came in June where he had a 3.58 ERA in 14 starts. However, his WHIP and opponents average were much better with Indianapolis at 1.10 and .213 respectively. Kingham will return to Indy to start 2015, and is expected to join the Pirates during the summer.
2. Jameson Taillon – The Pirates suffered a significant blow this year when they found out that Jameson Taillon had to undergo Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, which would effectively end his 2014 season before it even started. The plan will be to get Taillon ready for the start of next season for Indianapolis, and have him called up to Pittsburgh during the year, barring a major setback.
1. Tyler Glasnow – Glasnow was able to carry over his dominance into this season. Despite missing the first month with lower back tightness, Glasnow put up a 1.74 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and K/9 of 11.4 in 24 starts for Bradenton. Batters were unable to figure him out, as he posted a .174 batting average against. He was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year, as his ERA and WHIP were tops in the league. Glasnow will begin 2015 anchoring the Altoona Curve staff.