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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 2015 PRE-SEASON prospects in review

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Today we continue our summer reviews of the pre-season Top 20 Prospects lists with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

THIS IS THE PRE-SEASON LIST.
THIS IS NOT A NEW LIST.

THESE ARE PRE-SEASON GRADES.

This list was originally posted January 23, 2015.

1) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Grade A/A-: 2.44 ERA with 95/22 K/BB in 74 innings between two short-season starts on rehab, 12 Double-A starts, and one Triple-A start. Just 53 hits allowed. Maintains excellent K/IP and H/IP marks with improving command and control. Pure Grade A at this point.
2) Austin Meadows, OF, Grade B+:
Hitting .301/.359/.394 with 37 walks, 59 strikeouts, 17 steals in 396 at-bats in High-A. Impressive contact hitting skills but people still want to see more power. I think it comes next year, but then I thought that about Josh Bell too.
3) Josh Bell, 1B, Grade B+/B:
Hitting combined .296/.365/.410 with five homers,45 walks, 55 strikeouts in 385 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Power has not blossomed as expected with this one but the rest of his hitting skills remain sound.
4) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Grade B:
Missed 2014 with Tommy John, has missed 2015 with a hernia.
5) Alen Hanson, INF, Grade B: Hitting .275/.321/.413 with 14 doubles, 10 triples, 29 steals, 28 walks, 74 strikeouts in 378 at-bats in Triple-A. Playing very well on defense at second base, should get a September trial.

6) Reese McGuire, C, Grade B/B-:
Hitting .272/.318/.311 with 21 walks, 30 strikeouts in 302 at-bats in High-A. No power, makes contact, defense remains impressive. He’ll get to the majors with his glove but will he hit enough to play regularly?
7) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade B-:
Tommy John surgery.
8) Harold Ramirez, OF, Grade B-:
Hitting .354/.405/.497 with 17 steals, 15 walks, 26 strikeouts in 195 at-bats in High-A. Sample size is smallish but he’s hitting very, very well.
9) Cole Tucker, SS, Grade B-:
2014 first-rounder hitting .293/.322/.377 with 25 steals, 16 walks, 49 strikeouts in 300 at-bats in Low-A. Defense has been solid to go with the contact bat. Just age 19.
10) JaCoby Jones, SS, Grade B-/C+
: Hitting .263/.321/.419 with 13 homers, 18 steals, 34 walks, 115 strikeouts in 403 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Traded to Tigers. Intriguing power/speed combo but contact issues remain a question.

11) Jung-Ho Kang, INF, Grade C+: Hitting .292/.363/.448 in 322 plate appearances for the Pirates. Decision to sign him was certainly justified.
12) Mitch Keller, RHP, Grade C+:
Just made his first start for rookie level Bristol, fanning four in three innings with four hits and two hit batsmen. Second round pick in 2014 out of an Iowa high school, love his arm but need more data.
13) Elias Diaz, C, Grade C+:
Hitting .269/.330/.369 with 25 walks, 40 strikeouts in 271 at-bats in Triple-A. Defensive specialist not repeating strong hitting marks from 2014.
14) Connor Joe, 1B-C, Grade C+:
Hitting .225/.346/.298 with one homer, 31 walks, 25 strikeouts in 191 at-bats in Low-A. Playing first base instead of catcher and not hitting nearly enough to be a prospect there. Hit well in college but pro ball has been a different matter.
15) Wyatt Mathisen, 3B, Grade C+:
Hitting .265/.328/.317 with one homer, 26 walks, 55 strikeouts in 309 at-bats in High-A. Defense has improved at third base but bat appears stagnant, age 21.

16) Andrew Lambo, OF-1B, Grade C+:
1-for-25 in the majors, has missed the rest of the season with a foot injury.
17) Barrett Barnes, OF, Grade C+:
Hitting .254/.354/.409 with seven homers, 16 steals, 32 walks, 45 strikeouts in 264 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Not terrible but it looks like the time he missed with injuries has had an impact.
18) Willy Garcia, OF, Grade C+:
Hit .314/.354/.441 in 204 at-bats in Double-A, .252/.288/.413 in 155 at-bats in Triple-A. International League is tougher than the Eastern League and impatience catching up with him, but has time at age 22.
19) Luis Heredia, RHP, Grade C+:
Ugly: 5.94 ERA, 34/24 K/BB in 64 innings in High-A, 78 hits. He’s gone backwards over the last two years. Still just 20 but quite disappointing.
20) Adrian Sampson, RHP, Grade C+/C:
3.94 ERA, 100/29 K/BB in 132 innings in Triple-A, 142 hits. Traded to Mariners, deserving of a September trial, fourth/fifth starter type.

Jung-Ho Kang has been very helpful at the major league level, justifying the decision to sign him out of Korea though at age 28 he isn’t the age of a typical prospect. Still, it was a good bit of scouting.

The best news is the solidification of Tyler Glasnow’s status as an exceptional pitching prospect. Lefty Stephen Tarpley has performed well in Low-A and has the stuff to back it up. The Pirates are facing a 40-man roster crunch and will have to make decisions about who to protect from the Rule 5 draft. Candidates who have played well include 1B-OF Jose Osuna, infielder Max Moroff, and right-hander Angel Sanchez. Talented right-hander Clay Holmes is back from Tommy John and pitching well (2.20, 22/6 in 29 in GCL and FSL.

The bad news is that the two best pitching prospects in line after Glasnow, Taillon and Kingham, have both gone down with injury. Heredia’s performance has totally collapsed and while people should be hesitant to write him off at age 20, something really has to change there. It would be nice for Meadows and Bell to show more power and I think they will eventually. I am less sanguine on McGuire.

The 2015 draft brought in advanced college infielders Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer. Neither are hitting well at the moment but jumping from the University of Arizona and UCLA directly to Low-A isn’t particularly easy. Ke’Bryan Hayes is tearing up rookie ball so far (.368/.452/.437) and should rank well on 2016 Pirates lists.