Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Bradenton had Gerrit Cole (for a little while) and Jameson Taillon, and not a whole lot else.
In prospect terms, the Bradenton Marauders this year were about as top heavy as a minor league team can get. They opened the season with the Pirates’ two top prospects, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, in their rotation. After that, though, there weren’t any marquee prospects. The team had a few players who were, and probably still are, decent prospects. One of them, LHP Colton Cain, got traded. By far the bulk of the roster, though, was made up of players still trying to get on, or back on, the prospect track. Few, if any, succeeded.
Even Cole and Taillon didn’t provide that much entertainment value. Cole moved up to Altoona after pitching well through 13 starts. Taillon pitched well the first month, then spent three months mostly getting hammered. He finished his time in the Florida State League with a 3.82 ERA and a mediocre 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings, numbers that weren’t remotely in line with the quality of his stuff. But then he went to AA and dominated for three starts. Go figure.
Among the remainder of the pitchers, Casey Sadler, Josh Poytress and Jason Townsend probably had the best seasons. Sadler moved into the rotation and pitched surprisingly well, although with a 6.4 K/9, he wasn’t dominant. Sadler is a sidearm thrower who struggles against left-handed batters, so if he’s a prospect going forward it’ll probably be in relief. Townsend profiles as a short reliever. He had the Pirates excited shortly after they drafted him due to mid-90s heat, but he threw only in the low-90s this year. He posted a good ERA (2.23), but he fanned only 5.5 batters per nine innings. The lefty Poytress had a 2.59 ERA, but terrible walk and K rates (5.6 and 6.3, respectively). He missed time with an injury.
Various other pitchers failed to step forward. Tyler Waldron, a fifth-round pick out of a major college program, got hit hard and posted a 5.09 ERA. Hunter Strickland managed to stay healthy after missing all or most of the last two seasons. He pitched well in nine starts, but with a 5.0 K/9. He moved up to Altoona and got hit fairly hard out of the bullpen. Quinton Miller, who more or less inaugurated the Pirates’ "projectable high school right-hander" strategy in Neal Huntington’s first draft, stayed healthy but imploded on the mound, with a 1.66 WHIP and 6.34 ERA.
The Marauders’ offense was below average for the league despite playing in one of the league’s best hitting parks. Probably the only two position prospects who can still be said to have some sort of prospect status are 1B Alex Dickerson and SS Gift Ngoepe. Dickerson put up merely decent numbers for an advanced college hitter who’s playing in class A and is limited to first base. He hit 295/353/451 with just OK plate discipline (39 walks, 93 Ks), and never got on a sustained hot streak. Ngoepe’s speed and glove are still carrying him. He drew a lot of walks, enough to post a .330 OBP despite a low batting average of .232, but he continued to struggle severely with offspeed stuff. Given his unique background, it’s hard to know whether he could still catch on, but it’d sure be fun if he did.
The rest of Bradenton’s lineup was comprised mainly of players struggling through mediocre seasons. OF Evan Chambers had a bad couple of months (.599 OPS) and then got promoted to Altoona to serve as a seldom-used backup. 2B Drew Maggi did a good job of getting on base, with a .352 OBP, but didn’t hit much. He got promoted at the same time as Chambers, except he served as a frequently-used utility player in AA. OF Mel Rojas, Jr., never got untracked and finished with a .657 OPS. He’s looking less and less likely ever to approach the ceiling that some scouts thought he had. OF Dan Grovatt did a little better, struggling through a bad first half but managing a .779 OPS in the second half. Finally, C Carlos Paulino finished with a mediocre .681 OPS despite repeating the level.