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Pirates Prospects By Position – INF

Will Alen Hanson be crossing the plate at PNC next year? Photo by Jeremy Wadsworth/Toledo Blade

Will Alen Hanson be crossing the plate at PNC next year?
Photo by Jeremy Wadsworth/Toledo Blade

It’s been a good second half of the season in the Pirates’ farm system and while there are some players still underachieving and a handful who cooled off after hot starts, a number of hitters have elevated their status. Wednesday I’ll look at outfield/catcher spots and on Friday I’ll look at pitching, both starters and relievers.


The Pirates have used high draft picks to address the position each of the last two years. They have an interesting mix of upside and utility. While the power isn’t there across the board, they have several with potential for four solid-average tools.  The depth was very good until the recent news about Cole Tucker and his labrum (more on him in the Second Base section) and the trade of Jacoby Jones to DET for Joakim Soria.

1. Kevin Newman (.257/.318/.350, 668 OPS across two levels, short season/Low A)

The 2015 first round pick really struggled at the plate, especially when you consider his success in the wooden bat Cape Cod League, although his numbers came around a little following his late-season promotion to the SAL. He showed the ability to hit for average with a decent walk rate that we expected. While he’s not hitting for much power, it doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything that would hurt a team, either.

2. Adam Frazier (.324/.384/.416, 800 OPS at AA)

Frazier’s ability to hit AA pitching to all fields makes him a slightly interesting prospect right now. He doesn’t have a lot of raw power, but he can find gaps and runs well enough to stretch an extra base.

3. Adrian Valerio (.218/.270/.319, 589 OPS in Rookie)

He had a light hitting season in his stateside debut, but the scouts seem to love his upside. He certainly has some things to work on, but he’s young and has time. As caution, the GCL has been deceptive in the past.



In truth, the Pirates’ future at 2B are mostly players they threw at SS who didn’t work out there or they didn’t have room for at certain levels. Some might be able to play several positions, but 2B seems like the best fit.

1. Alen Hanson (.263/.313/.387, 700 OPS at AAA)

Keeps his top spot almost by virtue of tenure. He’s played at a high level for the longest. The converted SS would provide a defensive upgrade in the infield and his error-riddled arm shouldn’t matter as much.

2. Max Moroff (.293/.374/.409, 783 OPS at AA)

Moroff’s slumped a little in the second half but he hasn’t been overmatched all year. He’s drawing walks and his K rate dipped below 20% for the first time since rookie ball. With 41 extra base hits this season, there is some pop in the bat, even if his Isolated Slugging of .116 doesn’t look too exciting. He has a little bit of a Brock Holt feel as a guy who’s light on the tools, but just hits. On top of that, he’s young for the level.

3. Cole Tucker (.293/.322/.377, 699 OPS at Low A)

2014’s first round choice looked like a reach when he was selected by the Pirates and a slow start to his pro career seemed to confirm it. However, as the season progressed so did the bat. The last two months prior to his injury, he began to pick it up by out hitting more highly regarded, same aged prospects down the stretch.  In June and July, he posted OPS’s of 796 and 798, respectively.

Then, he had a labrum surgery and his future at short is in doubt.  It has been reported that Tucker will miss all of 2016 during his rehab. While he hasn’t played much at second to this point, it seems like his position of the future, if he recovers at all.



The historical black hole of the Pirates system still kind of stinks, but they have more interesting players than they’ve had in a while.

1. Ke’Bryan Hayes (.308/.408/.346, 754 OPS across Rookie/Short Season)

Right or wrong, Hayes will constantly be compared to his father throughout his pro career given that both play third and possess similar skill sets. The good news is that Hayes outperformed Dad in round one in the GCL. Given the length of Charlie’s career however, this is the first of twenty rounds.

2. Jordan Luplow (.264/.366/.464, 830 OPS in Low A)

Luplow switched from OF to 3B heading into this past season. He got off to a slow but not terrible start to 2015, but really had a strong finish to the season.  In July and August, his OPS’s were 995 and 992, respectively.  The gap power played all season and the rest came around in a big way in in July and August. If he had started the season this hot, fans would have clambered for a promotion. As it stands, he’s become one of the deepest sleepers in the system.

3. Dan Gamache (.312/.355/.413, 768 OPS across AA/AAA)

I always been higher than most with Gamache. He had himself a nice 2015 to follow up a strong 2014. Gamache has good pop and sprays the ball. He has a little home run power and given a better hitting environment for lefties than Altoona’s Peoples Gas field could benefit him. He was a little old for the level, but a well earned promotion to AAA shows signs of faith in him by the front office. He could also be a back-up plan at 2B.



While 3B has been the black hole of the minors, 1B has been the black hole of the majors, despite often having players to look forward to in the minors. Brad Eldred, Steve Pearce, Andrew Lambo and Matt Hague to name a handful have joined the graveyard of failed prospects. There have been others to show promise, as well. Still none established themselves and a mediocre stint by Adam LaRoche remains the best they’ve been able to muster in a long time from the position at PNC Park.

1. Josh Bell (.317/.393/.446, 839 OPS across AA/AAA)

While Bell’s lack of home run production likely bothers some, including our own Kevin Creagh, his all-around package makes him the Pirates’ best chance to break the streak of 1B busts in quite a while. I personally rate him not only as the top 1B prospect, but the best prospect in the Pirates system ahead of the highly ranked pitcher Tyler Glasnow.

Why?  Because he puts the ball in play consistently and the ball explodes off the bat when it does.

While the power hasn’t played up yet, it will in my opinion. His hit tool is too strong and the quality of contact is too good for it not to. Even if it doesn’t, his ability to make solid contact might be underrated to where he could hit for high average with a lot of doubles. In my humble opinion, the worst case scenario for Bell (barring injury) is as a switch hitting version of James Loney.

2. Carlos Muñoz (.310/.426/.566, 992 OPS across two levels of Adv. Rookie/Short Season)

I won’t write an opus on Muñoz the way I did with Bell, but he came out of nowhere and crushed the Appy League. Of course, it’s not a league that has traditionally been a proving ground for elite prospects, but rather where teams stuff their mediocre ones to ensure plate appearances and innings for the more highly regarded. The list of Appy leaguers OPS’ing over 1.000 and failing to reach the majors is surprisingly long.

3. Jose Osuna (.286/.329/.435, 764 OPS across High A/AA)

Osuna’s capable of playing 1B and both corner outfield positions. He has a line drive swing that he seems perfectly content to use to make contact and to pull singles into left field. At this point, he probably is what he is, but there is promise to the bat if he decided to adjust his approach, by sacrificing some balls in play for more balls to the wall.


The Pirates have a lot of infield prospects with a good chance to reach the majors and play some role. A lot of them have a long way to go and most will miss, but it could be the strength of the organization now.

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.