This morning we move forward with our organization reviews with a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season rankings and grades. This is a general review of 2014, not a detailed preview for 2015.
1) Gregory Polanco, OF, Grade A: Age 23, hit .328/.390/.504 with seven homers, 16 steals in 274 at-bats for Triple-A Indianapolis, then .236/.309/.345 with seven homers, 13 steals, 30 walks, 58 strikeouts in 275 at-bats for the Pirates. He’ll figure it out. Baseball is hard.
2) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Grade B+: Tommy John surgery at age 22.
3) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, posted 1.74 ERA with 157/57 K/BB in 124 innings for High-A Bradenton in the Florida State League, 74 hits. Exceptionally good K/IP and hit ratios reflect excellent stuff and his command is steadily improving. Elite prospect.
4) Austin Meadows, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, warmed up quickly after missing time with injuries, hit .322/.388/.486 with three homers, 14 walks, 30 strikeouts in 146 at-bats for Low-A West Virginia. Looks great so far.
5) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade B. Borderline B+. Age 22, fine season in Double-A and Triple-A, combined for 3.34 ERA, 119/52 K/BB in 159 innings, 141 hits, performance very similar and steady at both levels. Ready for a trial.
6) Josh Bell, OF, Grade B: Borderline B+. Age 22, hit .335/.385/.502 in 331 at-bats for Bradenton, .287/.343/.309 in 94 at-bats for Altoona. Season ended early with a knee injury. Power disappeared in Double-A but I think it will come back.
7) Alen Hanson, SS, Grade B: Borderline B+. Age 21, hit .280/.326/.442 with 21 doubles, 12 triples, 11 homers, 31 walks, 85 strikeouts, 25 steals in 482 at-bats for Altoona. Fine season, broad base of skills and young.
8) Luis Heredia, RHP, Grade B: Age 20, 4.15 ERA with 43/33 K/BB in 89 innings for West Virginia, 87 hits. He was more effective at the same level last year and seems to be stagnating.
9) Reese McGuire, C, Grade B: Age 19, hit .262/.307/.334 with three homers, 24 walks, 44 strikeouts in 389 at-bats for West Virginia. Threw out 39%, strong defensive reports but lack of power is evident.
10) Harold Ramirez, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Age 20, hit .309/.364/.402 with 11 walks, 35 strikeouts, 12 steals in 204 at-bats for West Virginia. Missed much of season with hamstring and shin injuries but effective when healthy.
11) Barrett Barnes, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, played just 17 games at three levels due to injuries, continually bothered by hamstring and oblique problems.
12) Tony Sanchez, C, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Age 26, hit .235/.337/.422 with 11 homers in 268 at-bats for Indianapolis, .270/.304/.365 in 74 at-bats for the Pirates. Should be in backup catcher mix for a long while.
13) Jin-De Jhang, C, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Age 21, hit .218/.263/.301 with 15 walks, 36 strikeouts in 269 at-bats for Bradenton. Jumping from NY-P in ’13 to FSL in ’14 was too much for his bat.
14) JaCoby Jones, OF-INF, Grade C+: Age 22, hit .288/.347/.503 with 23 homers, 17 steals, 33 walks, 132 strikeouts in 445 at-bats for West Virginia. The questions are still the same with this one: the power/speed tools are excellent, but will his aggressive approach hold up against better pitching?
15) Andrew Lambo, OF-1B, Grade C+: Age 26, hit .328/.389/.563 with 11 homers, 22 walks, 47 strikeouts in 238 at-bats for Indianapolis, .278/.278/.389 in 36 at-bats for the Pirates. Nothing left to prove in the minors but still looking for a role.
16) Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, posted 5.23 ERA with 38/16 K/BB in 33 major league innings, 34 hits. Should be in bullpen mix going forward, will need sharper control to take larger role but it is possible.
17) Brandon Cumpton, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25, sleeper prospect posted 3.03 ERA with 37/20 K/BB in 71 innings in Triple-A, 4.89 ERA with 46/18 K/BB in 70 innings in the majors, 82 hits. Doesn’t blow you away but throws strikes, could be useful back-end starter or bullpen arm.
18) Cody Dickson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 3.90 ERA with 105/58 K/BB in 129 innings for West Virginia, 138 hits. Not a great year but has potential, more effective in second half.
19) Blake Taylor, LHP, Grade C+: Age 19, traded to New York Mets in Ike Davis deal, posted 3.95 ERA with 30/30 K/BB in 41 innings between GCL and Appy League. Good arm but command needs a lot of work.
20) Wyatt Mathisen, 3B, Grade C+: Age 20, hit .280/.344/.360 in 375 at-bats for West Virginia, 33/54 BB/K. No power yet but he makes contact effectively.
The Pirates ranked fourth on the pre-season organization ranking list and are still one of the elite farm systems in the game.
Glasnow has developed into an exceptional prospect and Kingham is quite solid. If Taillon returns properly from Tommy John, so much the better. The 2014 draft brought in extremely promising Iowa prep right-hander Mitch Keller, who could follow in their footsteps. Adrian Sampson took a step forward, and Trey Supak is another ’14 draftee to watch closely. The Pirates have also shown the ability to mine the college ranks for sleeper pitching prospects like Cumpton. Right-hander Buddy Borden could fit in that category.
Brandon Cumpton, photo by Brian D. Kersey, Getty Images
Injuries were an annoyance for many of the hitting prospects but the upside depth is obvious. Another bat, Jose Osuna, hit .296/.347/.458 in the difficult Florida State League. He was repeating the level and has defensive limitations but is still just 21. Shortstop Cole Tucker from the 2014 draft adds some middle infield depth. Outfielder Wily Garcia hit 18 homers in Double-A at age 22 but needs to tighten up the strike zone (24 walks, 145 strikeouts). Catcher Connor Joe from the ’14 draft adds more catching depth.
Overall, the system has a good balance between hitting and pitching, tools and skills.