Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects for 2016
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Grade A: Age 22, posted 2.39 ERA with 136/43 K/BB in 109 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, just 77 hits. If you don’t like Tyler Glasnow, you don’t like baseball. Terrific example of textbook development, morphing raw high school arm into professional dominator, 95-99 fastball, double-plus curve, change-up steadily improving, excellent sabermetrics. With just a bit more command sharpening, can be an ace.
2) Austin Meadows, OF, Grade A-: Age 20, hit .310/.360/.420 with seven homers, 43 walks, 84 strikeouts, 21 steals in 533 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Personification of smooth, impressive glove with speed, strong pure hitting skills, main issue remains how much home run power he develops but I am fairly optimistic about that. Big question now is recovery from spring training eye injury/orbital fracture.
3) Josh Bell, 1B, Grade B+: Age 23, hit .317/.393/.446 with seven homers, 65 walks, 65 strikeouts in 489 at-bats in Double-A/Triple-A, switch-hitter with extremely polished approach, power output does not match 6-2, 235 pound body but as with Meadows I think more homers will come eventually. Doesn’t have Meadows’ defensive value so a notch lower on the grade.
4) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Grade B: Age 24, missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery and all of 2015 with hernia surgery. Reports on health are positive at this point but impossible to know how this will pan out until we see him in real games in April. When healthy shows mid-90s fastball with power curve, change-up, but even when healthy the results never quite matched the potential.
5) Harold Ramirez, OF, Grade B/B-: Age 21, hit .337/.399/.458 with 22 steals, 25 walks, 48 strikeouts in 306 at-bats in High-A, pure hitter who runs well despite unusual 5-10, 210 pound build; another young Pirate hitter who may or may not develop additional home run power. I’m a little less sanguine about his case than Meadows or Bell.
6) Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Grade B/B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2015, hit .308/.408/.346 in 185 at-bats in rookie ball and New York-Penn League, 28 walks, 31 strikeouts, stole eight bases, played very well defensively. Polished as you’d expect from a bloodline player (Charlie Hayes’ son), only missing aspect right now is game power but I think more of that will come. Grade feels aggressive but I like him (well duh, otherwise he wouldn’t be ranked this high).
7) Cole Tucker, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, first round pick in 2014 from high school in Phoenix, hit .293/.322/.377 with 25 steals, 16 walks, 49 strikeouts in 300 at-bats in Low-A until suffering shoulder injury, impressive glovework, speed, solid line drive bat; I think there is some power projection in his 6-3, 185 frame. Will need to see if shoulder injury hampers arm strength.
8) Kevin Newman, SS, Grade B-: Age 22, first round pick from University of Arizona, hit .257/.318/.350 with 19 walks, 30 strikeouts in 257 at-bats between NY-P and Low-A, stole 13 bases, didn’t wow with the bat in pro debut but scouting reports are enthusiastic about pure hitting ability, speed, can likely stay at shortstop.
9) Alen Hanson, 2B, Grade B-: Age 23, hit .263/.313/.387 with 17 doubles, 12 triples, 35 steals, 37 walks, 91 strikeouts in 475 at-bats in Triple-A. Defense at second base was very good; line drive bat with gap power, speed, all-around tools are solid or better, main issue remains concern about emotional maturity.
10) Yeudy Garcia, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, not sure why he doesn’t get more attention, posted 2.10 ERA with 112/41 K/BB in 124 innings in Low-A, 92 hits, not a soft-tosser with fastball up to 94-96, slider has plus potential, change-up needs work but dominated in his first look in full-season ball and he has plenty of stuff. Larger leap forward possible this year.
11) Kevin Kramer, 2B-3B, Grade B-: Age 22, second round pick out of UCLA, hit .291/.375/.366 with 30 walks, 36 strikeouts, 12 steals in 227 at-bats between NY-P and Low-A, polished college bat with strong contact skills, gap power, under-rated defense at second base; Pirates really focus on being strong up the middle.
12) Stephen Tarpley, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, live-armed lefty acquired from Orioles in Travis Snider deal, went 11-4, 2.48 with 105/25 K/BB in 116 innings in Low-A, major step forward in consistency and command, up to 94-95 and breaking ball flashes plus, mid-rotation possibilities or power reliever as backup option.
13) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade B-: Age 24: posted 4.31 ERA with 32/7 K/BB in 31 innings in Triple-A, ready for major league trial but blew out elbow and had Tommy John surgery in May. Rehab reports positive at his point. When healthy, throws three slightly above-average pitches for strikes and could be number three/four starter.
14) Steven Brault, LHP, Grade B-/C+: Age 23, acquired with Tarpley in Snider trade with Orioles, posted 2.43 ERA with 125/40 K/BB in 156 innings between High-A and Double-A, doesn’t have Tarpley’s pure stuff but is much more polished, fastball at 88-92 with solid-average slider and change-up, sharp command, inning-eating strike-thrower type.
15) Elias Diaz, C, Grade C+/B-: Age 25, hit .271/.330/.382 with four homers, 29 walks, 47 strikeouts in 325 at-bats in Triple-A, excellent defensive catcher ready for majors glove-wise, bat has some occasional pop but not in an impact way. Ranking higher on other lists but I think he is more of a valuable rule player than a regular. That said, players with this profile sometimes have offensive surges in their late 20s.
16) Reese McGuire, C, Grade C+: Age 21, hit .254/.301/.294 with zero homers, 26 walks, 39 strikeouts in 374 at-bats in High-A. Excellent defensive catcher but bat hasn’t developed, though still young enough to do so. Ranking much higher on other lists and many still see him as an elite prospect. However, I have grown less confident in his bat. Try to look past reputation as a top high school prospect.
17) Trevor Williams, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, acquired from Marlins as unofficial compensation for Miami’s hiring of Jim Benedict out of Pirates front office, former Arizona State stalwart posted 3.85 ERA with 101/43 K/BB in131 innings in Double-A/Triple-A with 1.51 GO/AO, power sinker attracts Pirates, slider and change-up are average, throws strikes, number four starter projection, stuff could play up if used in pen.
18) Max Moroff, 2B, Grade C+: Age 22, hit .293/.374/.409 with 28 doubles, seven homers, 70 walks, 27 steals, 111 strikeouts in 523 at-bats in Double-A. Often overlooked due to all the middle infield talent in this system but he does a lot of things well, switch-hitter, draws walks, runs well, some gap power, still young.
19) Chad Kuhl, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, posted 2.48 ERA with 101/41 K/BB in 153 innings in Double-A, 1.69 GO/AO, ninth round pick in 2013 from University of Delaware, sleeper prospect has emerged as real rotation candidate with low-90s sinker, average slider and change.
20) Adam Frazier, SS, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .324/.384/.416 with 34 walks, 42 strikeouts, 11 steals in 377 at-bats in Double-A, sixth round pick in 2013 from Mississippi State, shortstop glove is solid though not spectacular, can also play outfield.
OTHER GRADE C+: Willy Garcia, OF; Mitch Keller, RHP; Jordan Luplow, 3B; Carlos Munoz, 1B
OTHERS OF NOTE: Barrett Barnes, OF; Jessie Biddle, LHP; Luis Escobar, RHP; Logan Hill, OF; Clay Holmes, RHP; Casey Hughston, LHP; Jin-De Jang, C; Gift Ngoepe, SS; Jose Osuna, 1B; Jacob Taylor, RHP
The first few slots on this list are obvious but once you get into the mass group of B- types, it could be ordered in any number of ways with valid logic. The key point to come away with: this system is very deep. Focus on middle infielders and ground ball pitchers is clear.
I will post some book snippets in the comments section.