First Pitch: Breakout Candidates

In tonight’s Prospect Notebook I wrote about how Quincy Latimore is focusing on his plate patience issues. Latimore has some of the best power in the system, but he’s not much of a prospect because his power has always been negated by a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. He’s only 23 years old, so if he could turn those plate patience issues around, he could emerge as a very interesting prospect to follow.

I get asked a lot about breakout candidates for the upcoming season. The topic of Latimore got me thinking about some potential breakout candidates, and what they would have to do to break out. Here are my picks, using the Pirates Prospects top 50 as a guide. The top 50 is exclusive to the Pirates Prospects 2012 Prospect Guide, which can be purchased on the Products page of the site.

Candidate to Jump in to the 2013 Top 10

Alex Dickerson and Matt Curry - I tend to rate first basemen lower than most until they show that they can hit above A-ball. The reason is that their value has to come from their bats, and the first big test for those bats is at the Double-A level. Dickerson and Curry are similar first basemen. They don’t have strong defense, but they hit to all fields, and hit for power to all fields. Dickerson was rated slightly higher in the Prospect Guide.

Jarek Cunningham - He’s got great power for a middle infielder, and good speed. The problem is his plate patience leaves a lot to be desired, similar to Latimore. He posted a .516 slugging percentage last year. A second baseman who could do the same at the Double-A level would have to draw top ten consideration.

Sleeper Candidate - Willy Garcia. He has the same size as Josh Bell. He’s a five tool player. If we saw a breakout season similar to Starling Marte’s 2009 season, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit.

Candidate to Jump in to the 2013 Top 30

Jake Burnette - I saw Burnette pitch once last year. After watching him this Spring, there’s really not much of a difference between him and Clayton Holmes. In the rankings, Burnette ranked 48th and Holmes ranked 23rd. Burnette has the same 90-93 MPH velocity, has good movement on his breaking pitches, and worked on smoothing out his delivery over the off-season.

Jeff Inman - I talked to a scout who said Inman has the stuff to be a very good major league reliever. The scout said that the only thing holding him back has been his health issues, and if he were to stay healthy and put up good numbers in Double-A, he could quickly move up to the top level. Inman touched 98 MPH during the fall instructional league, although he’s been nursing a sprained ankle this Spring.

Sleeper Candidate - Carlos Paulino. He was in the top 50 at one point, but barely missed the cut. He’s got great defense, with an amazing arm. I just didn’t trust his hitting. He had a .184 average and a .448 OPS in 201 at-bats in A-ball in 2010. Then he hit for a .299 average and a .790 OPS in high-A. Was it legit? If he repeats those numbers this year, and carries them over to Double-A, he would easily jump to the top 30, especially when you pair the offense with his defense.

Big Movers Who Are Not in the Top 50

Jared LaKind - He should go to extended Spring Training, then move to State College. The first baseman has a lot of power, but is raw at the plate. He’s looked good this Spring, and if he can put up some breakout numbers this year at the plate, he’d easily move up the prospect ranks.

Quincy Latimore - He just needs to add some walks and cut down on the strikeouts. Improved plate patience should lead to some better hitting results, and possibly more power.

Gregory Polanco - He’s been hitting the ball well all Spring. You could also make a case for Luis Urena. Both players are highly projectable outfielders with a lot of good tools.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 6-4 to the Rays. Game story here, including a look at where Charlie Morton is in his recovery.

**Stetson Allie has improved command, but will he ever start?

**Prospect Notebook: Zack Von Rosenberg gets hit hard, and a look at Latimore’s focus on plate patience and pitch recognition.

**Pirates Notebook: Josh Harrison is feeling comfortable at shortstop.

**Keith Law took a stab at the top ten players in the majors five years from now. Andrew McCutchen was listed second.

**ESPN continued their top 500 players for the 2012 season with numbers 101-150. Joel Hanrahan came in at number 119.

**John Sickels had his favorite young players 25 and under. Andrew McCutchen was ranked fourth. He listed Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata in a second post.

About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • Justin Rossini

    For just a split second there, “Sleeper Candidate” became the greatest prospect name of all time in my head.

  • Lee Young

    Rooting bigtime for the power guys, esp Quincy. I’d love to have a player named after Jason (Foxtrot)’s Iguana. :)

  • Kevin_Creagh

    I didn’t have Kingham in my personal Top 10 for the Pirates Prospects Guide, so I’ll say that I think he’s going to have a fantastic year in Low A in 2012.  I think he’ll have a year that will get him on the periphery on Top 100 overall discussions.

    For other sleepers, I’ll echo Carlos Paulino.  Seeing him at Pirate City gun throws to second and first (pickoff) on frozen ropes was pretty eye-opening.

    I think Dilson Herrera is going to open eyes, too, even if it is in the GCL.