The Pirates have a deep farm system, but only the top of the system and the elite prospects get much attention. There are plenty of hidden gems outside the top 20 prospects. Here are five players of interest to me that bear watching in 2015.
- 1) Catcher Jin-De Jhang – Jhang hasn’t always been off the radar. He was rated the #20 prospect in 2013 by PiratesProspect.com after receiving a $250,000 signing bonus. Since then he has lost some of his luster. Last season he struggled offensively. He posted just a .219 batting average in 77 games with the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. His struggles last season shouldn’t be unexpected considering Jhang skipped a level bypassing West Virgina in the SALLY League and going straight to Advanced A ball. Jhang probably wasn’t ready for such a jump, but the Pirates felt it necessary to sacrifice his development to allow Reese McGuire the opportunity to play every day with the West Virginia Power. Despite having a tough year in Advanced A ball Jin-De Jhang still flashed his potential. He wasn’t overpowered by pitching in the Florida State League. Jhang can make contact. His K% of 12.3% was quite good. Defensively he threw out 32% of base stealers. That is a strong rate. At just 21 years old he was nearly two years younger than the FSL League average. Jhang still has plenty of time on his side.
2) Left-handed SP Hector Garcia – Garcia isn’t currently the Pirates best left handed pitching prospect, but he is the best LHP prospect that you probably haven’t yet heard of. Garcia is a Dominican that the Pirates signed as an International Free Agent two years ago. The Pirates felt he was advanced enough to send him to the states last summer at age 18. That was after just one season playing in the Dominican Summer League. In 2014 Garcia was the youngest player assigned to the Bristol Pirates of the Appalachian league. He was also Bristol’s most effective starting pitcher. In 48 innings he posted a 3.38 ERA with a 9.38 K/9 and 3.56 BB/9. Watch out for Hector Garcia, he could be the Pirates next breakout pitching prospect.
3) Left-handed RP John Sever – While Hector Garcia was Bristol’s best starting pitcher, his teammate John Sever was the best reliever on the team. In fact, Sever was arguably the most dominate reliever in the entire farm system last season. Sever fanned 63 batters in just 40.2 innings. Perhaps the Pirates didn’t challenge Sever enough. He was drafted as a college junior in the 20th round of the 2014 draft. The Pirates usually send college draftees to their NY-Penn League affiliate. The NY-Penn League is stronger competition than the Appalachian League. However, Sever’s performance at Bristol was too good to be chalked up entirely to just inferior hitters. Sever stands 6’5″. Left handed pitchers with that kind of height and a low 90′s fastball can go a long way. Sever shouldn’t be ignored.
4) Right-handed RP Sam Street – Sam Street is one of the more unusual prospects in the Pirates’ farm system. That’s even if you can call him a prospect. The 22 year old native of Australia has a fastball that only tops out in the mid 80′s. He was drafted as a college senior in the 16th round. Not the most impressive of pedigrees for sure. But Street has an unusual sidearm delivery that hitters have trouble seeing. His first taste of pro ball was with the Jamestown Jammers of the NY-Penn League where he posted a sensational 0.614 WHIP. Street is a control freak. He walked just 4 batters in 27.2 innings. Even more impressive was that he allowed just 13 hits. It is unlikely that Street can be anywhere near that effective as he progresses up the ladder. But you never know for sure when it comes to players with unusual sidearm deliveries.
5) Infielder Sam Kennelly – Kennelly is an Aussie that the Pirates signed three years ago for $225,000 as an International Free Agent. He finally made his rookie ball debut in the states with the Gulf Coast Pirates last summer. He slashed 284/388/343 in 30 games. He showed excellent plate discipline with a BB/K rate of nearly 1 to 1 (16 walks and 17 Ks). His offensive numbers in the GCL were very similar to Cole Tucker‘s (Tucker was the Pirates 1st Rd draft pick in 2014). Kennelly is only 6 months older than Tucker. Kennelly mostly worked defensively at 2B. The GCL may be a long way from the major leagues, but Kennelly has gotten his pro career off on the right foot and at a relatively young age for the GCL.