MiLB.com has named Tribe backstop Elias Diaz, utility standout Andrew Lambo and outfielder Gregory Polanco as 2014 “Organization All-Stars” of the Pittsburgh Pirates system. The annual All-Star list bestows honor to the “players — regardless of age or prospect status — who had the best seasons in their (respective) organizations.”
Diaz, who excelled in 91 games with Double-A Altoona prior to his promotion to Indianapolis, produced his strongest season of his six-year career in the minors. The 23-year-old combined across both levels to hit above the .300 mark for the first time in his career and established personal bests in runs (45, +7 from previous best), hits (112, +40), total bases (151, +44), homers (6, +1), walks (33, +2) and slugging average (.421, +12 points). He also cut down an impressive 31 percent of potential basestealers over his 101 minor league contests.
This fall, Diaz is hitting .279 (12-for-43) with seven runs scored, six RBI and a .392 on-base percentage through 13 games in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He has reached base safely in all but two of those 13 contests, including collecting 9 base knocks in his last 24 at-bats for a .375 clip since Oct. 23.
“(The AFL) was a good opportunity for him to get more experience controlling a game from behind the plate with guys from different organizations,” said Pirates director of Minor League operations, Larry Broadway. “Offensively, continuing to solidify his approach and plan have been the focus.”
The “utility” Organizational All-Star, Lambo, victimized International League hurlers to the tune of a .328 average (78-for-238) with 32 extra-base hits (11 homers) in 61 games between right and left field, first base and designated hitter with the Tribe. The slugger worked around an early-season thumb injury to conclude the year ranked first on the team and third in the IL (min. 250 PA) in the advanced metrical measures of weighted on-base average (.418) – which places different weighted values on the manner in which a batter reached base safely – and wRC+ (‘weighted runs created plus,’ 160) – which compares the percentage of runs created to the league average, where in Lambo’s case, he ranked third in the IL by creating 60 percent more runs than the league’s average batter.
Lambo also went 10-for-39 (.256) with four doubles and three runs scored in 21 games at the big league level, including scoring the game-tying tally in the bottom of the eighth of a 2-1 win on Aug. 29 vs. Cincinnati.
“I just want to get better in every facet of the game,” said Lambo. “I want to have fun and play this game the way that I know that I am capable of and play hard.”
Also rated as Baseball America‘s equivalent of the ‘top star’ (prospect) of Pittsburgh’s system, Polanco fit the No. 1 billing with accolades as the Tribe’s Player of the Month in April and the first player in team history to win two IL Batter of the Week awards in the same season. The 22-year-old phenom also helped lead the Tribe to a 41-28 record while on the active roster by creating 46 percent more runs than the league’s average batter, or a 146 wRC+ which ranked sixth in the league and just three spots behind fellow All-Star Lambo.
Upon reaching the majors, Polanco set a Pirates franchise record with the club’s first 11-game hitting streak to begin a big league career.
“He’s the kind of player you like to cheer for,” said Indians hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo. “He’s a classy kid and a gentleman, the kind you want to root for.”
MiLB.com 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Organizational All-Stars
C – Elias Diaz (Double-A Altoona/Triple-A Indianapolis)
1B – Jose Osuna (Hi-A Bradenton)
2B – Erich Weiss (Lo-A West Virginia)
3B – Chase Simpson (SS Jamestown)
SS – Jacoby Jones (WV)
OF – Josh Bell (ALT)
OF – Keon Broxton (ALT)
OF – Gregory Polanco (IND/Pittsburgh Pirates)
Utility – Andrew Lambo (IND/PIT)
(Starter) RHP – Tyler Glasnow (BRD)
(Starter) LHP – Orlando Castro (BRD)
(Reliever) RHP – Jhondanial Medina (BRD)