Jamestown season review

USA TODAY Sports

Young team makes playoffs, led by 2013 draftees and international prospects

In a bit of irony, after seven mostly losing seasons with no playoff appearances in State College, the Pirates' New York-Penn League affiliate reached the playoffs as a wild card in its first year of what's expected to be a short stay in Jamestown.  They stayed well over .500 most of the year, but bullpen breakdowns contributed to nine losses in their last 12 games, leaving them at 43-32.  They lost in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jammers relied heavily on a high-average offense that led the league in runs despite having the third-youngest hitters.  The NYPL tends to be a very low-offense league; Jamestown's team average of .270 ranked second, but was 32 points higher than the third-best team.  Jamestown's pitching staff, the league's second-youngest, ranked tenth of the 14 teams in ERA.

The Hitters

Normally, the Pirates do a lot of sorting out at the short season level, so numerous players may get significant playing time as the team tries to figure out which ones merit the most time.  This year, though, nine position players got most of the time, as no other player player got more than 83 plate appearances.  This was partly due to the team's decision to release several players who were apparently getting a last look before the college draftees showed up.  It was also partly due to a season-ending injury to third-round draft pick JaCoby Jones after just 15 games.  Jones had gotten off to a good start, posting an .817 OPS.

Jamestown didn't have much power, totaling only 27 HRs in 75 games.  Most of it came from three players.  Outfielder Harold Ramirez hit 285/354/409 as an 18-year-old, with five HRs and 23 stolen bases.  That earned him the top spot on Baseball America's list of the NYPL's top 20 prospects.  1B/DH Danny Collins led the team with both 15 doubles and seven HRs, hitting 259/319/434.  A lot of his production came early, though, and he slumped as the season wore on.  Catcher Jin-De Jhang batted 277/338/414 with five HRs and threw out 47% of opposing base stealers.

Several college draftees excelled at getting on base, drawing a lot of walks but showing little or no power.  Adam Frazier and Michael Fransoso shared the middle infield positions and posted lines of 321/399/362 and 253/359/320.  Outfielder Jeff Roy hit 292/376/324 and stole 23 bases in 27 tries before going out with an injury.  Frazier, a sixth round draft pick, is the real prospect of the three, while the other two probably profile as organizational players.  (One good indicator is that, despite hitting for little power, Fransoso struck out in a quarter of his ABs and Roy once every three and a half, while Frazier struck out only once every seven times up.)  Another college draftee, third baseman Erich Weiss, signed late and torched the ball initially before slumping badly; he had an OPS of .956 in July and .451 in August.

Two Latin American teenagers rounded out the regular position players.  Outfielder Elvis Escobar, born on the same day as Ramirez, didn't have the same success, hitting 268/293/350 and striking out 47 times while walking only nine.  Edwin Espinal, who shared 1B and DH with Collins, hit for average but little else, with a 288/316/350 line.  On the plus side, he started showing some power for the first time late in the season, slugging .416 in August and September.

The Pitchers

The Jammers' pitching staff was a mixture primarily of 2013 draftees and international players.  For the most part, the draftees, all college players, had strong debuts, while the international players got more variable results.

The most prominent pitcher was lefty Cody Dickson, a fourth round pick who posted a 2-0, 2.37 mark in 14 starts.  Dickson showed better command than he had in college and fanned over a batter an inning.  Possibly the other most interesting debut was seventh rounder Buddy Borden, who signed late and pitched only 16.2 innings.  He made the most of the limited time, striking out 23 and allowing only two runs.  Chad Kuhl and Shane Carle, both groundball finesse pitchers, also had good debuts.  Kuhl pitched out of the rotation and, despite not missing many bats, managed a 2.11 ERA by walking very few and allowing no HRs.  Carle served as a swing man and had a 2.15 ERA.  He missed more bats than Kuhl, with a passable 7.7 K/9.

Some later round college picks pitched out of the bullpen.  Brett McKinney served as the primary closer, saving 11 with a 3.45 ERA.  Henry Hirsch fanned 26 in 24 innings, allowing just 13 hits and five walks.  Justin Topa had a 2.19 ERA and lefty Will Kendall 3.09.

The rotation featured three international signees.  Isaac Sanchez, who was born in the Bronx but signed out of the Dominican, went 1-1, 3.45 in 13 starts.  At age 20, he was getting his first significant workload.  Soft-tossing Australian lefty Jackson Lodge was too hittable and eventually moved to relief, finishing with a 5.18 ERA.  He was only 19 despite being in his third pro season.  Lithuanian Dovydas Neverauskas was inconsistent, going 4-4, 4.01 with a low 5.8 K/9, but . . . well, how do you judge the progress of a 20-year-old Lithuanian pitcher?

The remainder of the bullpen was a little shaky.  Axel Diaz posted a 3.60 ERA and fanned almost 11 per nine innings, but he walked nearly six per nine.  Roberto Espinosa struck out and walked almost as many, but was harder to hit and posted a 2.55 ERA and five saves.  The bullpen's two lefties (apart from Kendall), converted first baseman Jared Lakind and soft-tossing Andy Otamendi, struggled to ERAs of 4.56 and 5.89, respectively.

Biggest Surprise: Hirsch.  (It's hard to be a surprise when you were just drafted.  It might have been Jones had he stayed healthy.)

Biggest Disappointment: Escobar.

Top Prospects

  1. Harold Ramirez, OF
  2. Cody Dickson, LHP
  3. Jin-De Jhang, C
  4. Adam Frazier, IF
  5. Buddy Borden, RHP, or JaCoby Jones, IF/OF
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