I was listening to the Baseball Prospectus Podcast today and I came across an episode where the guys (Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks) went over the Pirates top prospects. After talking about the top guys like Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, and Luis Heredia, they got into some of the lower ranked guys.
First of all, Goldstein said one guy he liked more than most people was Alen Hanson. The reason for that is because he believes that the guy can hit. I don’t fully understand that premise because he’s only been in the system for two years, and last year he hit just .260/.349/.418 in rookie and A- ball, but I guess it was encouraging to hear such a well-respected baseball guy say nice things about him. We’ll see what happens with Hansen this year, but he is still a good ways from the major leagues, so don’t think too much of 2012 campaign.
Now Parks’ guy was Colton Cain. He said some interesting things about Cain. Here’s the quote:
“I like Colton Cain. I like Colton Cain because he’s a lefty who has good stuff and can throw strikes. I think those guys become major leaguers. I don’t think he’s a special pitcher, but i think he’s going to be a major leaguer and help the Pirates in some form… It’s great to have high ceiling talent [Taillon, Cole, Heredia], it’s also great to have realistic talent, and I think Colton Cain is going to be a major leaguer. He’s a big bodied lefty… and can fill up the zone, and that’s a good thing. If he can settle into his stuff and settle into his body and has the feel, I think he is a guy that can certainly move up.”
Kind of a back-handed compliment there from Parks. When Cain was drafted, he had a distant upside to be a top of the rotation starter. That is still a huge long shot, but the guy has shown good signs in his professional career thus far. In his first pro season he had a 4.66 ERA (which you shouldn’t look into) with 8.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. He followed that up with a 3.64 ERA in 2011 with 6.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. The strikeouts went down but so did the walks. Watching him pitch, it seems like Cain has a more major-league look about him.
Like Parks said, Cain isn’t anywhere near the level that Taillon and Cole are on right now, and he’ll never have the upside that they do, but he could be a better bet to actually pitch significant major league innings someday than them. The Pirates have a really top-heavy system, it’s full of high-risk high-reward guys without a lot of those guys that are really good bets to make an impact at the big league level. If the top guys don’t work out, the Pirates are screwed because they have too many guys that could go their whole careers without ever making an impact at the major league level, just because of their makeup. Cain doesn’t appear to be one of those guys. He seems to be a pitcher that will move up the system without astounding numbers, but will eventually make the major leagues and help the Pirates at the top level.
When you’re keeping tabs on the Pirates farm system this year and you get a minute when you stop drooling over Cole and Taillon, check on Cain, because he’s a guy that you’re probably going to see in Pittsburgh at some point in the near-ish future.