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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 prospects for 2018: mid-season review

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Let’s check in on the Bucs

Detroit Tigers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Colin Moran
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Continuing with our mid-season organization reviews, we turn our attention to Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

This list was originally published January 20th, 2018

*****THIS IS NOT A NEW LIST******

THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE PRE-SEASON LIST

THESE ARE NOT NEW GRADES

1) Mitch Keller, RHP, Grade A-: Age 22, second round pick in 2014 from high school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; combined 3.51 ERA in 131 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 123/52 K/BB, though control has wobbled at the higher level (45/19 in 41, 5.31 ERA); at this point looking more like durable workhorse type than a true ace but should not be under-estimated, grade on A-/B+ boundary for me.

2) Austin Meadows, OF, Grade B+/B: Age 22, first round pick in 2013 from high school in Georgia; breakout season, .295/.340/.489 in Triple-A, .292/.327/.468 in 154 major league at-bats, traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in Chris Archer deal; power has come around, just needs to stay healthy.

3) Colin Moran, 3B-1B-OF, Grade B: Age 25, first round pick by Miami Marlins in 2013 from North Carolina, then traded to Astros, now with Pirates following Gerrit Cole deal; hitting .268/.332/.382 in the majors, eight homers, 32 walks, 65 strikeouts in 340 at-bats, not a great hitting year but has held his job, needs offensive boost within the next year to stave off Ke’Bryan Hayes.

4) Cole Tucker, SS, Grade B-/B: Age 22, first round pick in 2014 from high school in Phoenix, Arizona; .249/.323/.340 in Double-A, four homers, 30 steals, 49 walks, 100 strikeouts in 473 at-bats; steady glove, I think there is more in the bat but that seems to be a minority opinion, stock in B- range but still interesting.

5) Shane Baz, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in Texas, 4.28 ERA in 48 innings in Appy League, 54/25 K/BB; command needs work but a very high ceiling arm, traded to the Rays to complete the Archer deal, should thrive in their system.

6) Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Grade B-/B: Age 21, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Tomball, Texas; son of former major leaguer Charlie Hayes; hitting .281/.362/.439 with seven homers, 51 walks, 77 strikeouts in 399 at-bats in Double-A; superb defender at third base, note his six errors/24 double plays ratio; it was eight/25 last year; doubles power is increasing, more homers may come next year, I really like him.

7) Luis Escobar, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 22, signed out of Colombia in 2013; 4.14 ERA in 128 innings between High-A and Double-A, 110/59 K/BB, 106 hits; no real change in profile, has a plus fastball and a plus curve but command/control remain inconsistent; at least a year away, could develop into a workhorse type.

8) Bryan Reynolds, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, second round pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2016 from Vanderbilt, over to Pittsburgh in the Andrew McCutchen deal; missed several weeks with a wrist injury, hitting .288/.369/.435 with 37 walks, 63 strikeouts in 285 at-bats in Double-A; a solid-enough year, has brought his walk rate up which is a good sign, some tweener risk but should be a strong role player at least and still has a shot at being a regular.

9) Jason Martin, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, eighth round pick by the Astros in 2013; on to Pirates in Gerrit Cole deal; hit .325/.392/.522 in 255 at-bats in Double-A but just .218/.281/.335 in 170 at-bats in Triple-A; like Reynolds he has some tweener risk but shows broad skill base when things are going well, needs more time in AAA.

10) Lolo Sanchez, OF, Grade B-: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $450,000; jumping from rookie ball to Low-A, hitting .242/.317/.321 with 27 steals, 36 walks, 63 whiffs in 343 at-bats; overmatched at times but runs very well, asset on bases and in outfield and young enough to develop much further with the bat.

11) Taylor Hearn, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, fifth round pick by Washington Nationals in 2015 from Oklahoma Baptist University, traded to Pirates in 2016; traded to Texas Rangers this summer for Keone Kela, 3.55 ERA in 119 innings in Double-A, 125/42 K/BB, 95 hits; very athletic, live arm, command and consistency improving, stock ticking up.

12) Kevin Newman, SS, Grade C+: Age 25, first round pick in 2015 from University of Arizona; .302/.350/.407 with four homers, 28 steals, 31 walks, 50 strikeouts in 437 at-bats in Triple-A; just promoted to majors; line drive hitter with speed and feel for the strike zone, very reliable on defense, range isn’t the best at shortstop but he makes few errors, would be quite good at second base; ready for a trial.

13) Kevin Kramer, 2B, Grade C+: Age 24, second round pick in 2015 out of UCLA; hitting .299/.357/.468 in Triple-A with 12 homers, 37 walks, 116 strikeouts in 432 at-bats, 12 steals; more power than Newman, approach isn’t as polished, solid with the glove at second, can also handle shortstop and third without hurting you, waiting his turn.

14) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, fourth round pick in 2010 from high school in Las Vegas, Nevada; solid in Triple-A (3.61, 58/16 in 62), inconsistent but promising in the majors (5.02, 56/19 in 61, 59 hits), will be in the mix as a fourth/fifth starter and might have a bit more in the tank if his command sharpens more.

15) Oneil Cruz, INF, Grade C+: Age 19, signed by Dodgers out of Dominican Republic in 2015 for $950,000; traded to Pirates in Tony Watson trade; hitting .286/.343/.488 with 14 homers, 11 steals, 34 walks, 100 strikeouts in 402 at-bats in Low-A; good progress this year, tapping power inherent in 6-6 frame, defense has improved abysmal (.828 fielding percentage in ’17) to weak-but-not-hopeless (.918) despite switch from third base to shortstop; very high ceiling and still very young, stock moving up.

16) Calvin Mitchell, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2017 from high school in California, hitting .281/.348/.425 with nine homers, 39 walks, 102 strikeouts in 395 at-bats in Low-A; strong reverse platoon split (.356 vs LHP, .259 vs RHP), more raw power than game power but showing signs of improvement, overall a solid year to build on.

17) Christopher Bostick, INF-OF, Grade C+: Age 25, 44th round pick by the Oakland Athletics back in 2011; has been traded three times (now four, traded to Miami Marlins on August 12th for cash) and has moved on and off prospect lists but is back on following very good 2017 season and strong follow-up in 2018 (.293/.355/.429 in Triple-A); he’s 9-for-30 (.300) in major league action and I don’t see why he won’t be a good role player.

18) Jordan Luplow, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, third round pick in 2014 from Fresno State University, hitting .297/.382/.487 in Triple-A, .174/.255/.348 in 46 major league at-bats; nothing left to prove in the minors, still looking for clear role in the majors.

19) Sherten Apostel, 3B; Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Curacao in 2015; was hitting .259/.406/.460 in 139 at-bats in Appy League then was traded to Texas Rangers.

20) Mason Martin, 1B, Grade C+: Age 19, 17th round pick in 2017 from high school in Kennewick, Washington; hit .200/.302/.333 in 150 at-bats in Low-A, sent down to Appy League where he’s at .236/.370/.450 in 203 at-bats; impressive power potential but raw, contact issues.

OTHER GRADE C+:

Stephen Alemais, INF; Hitting .278/.342/.347 in Double-A; very good with the glove at second base but others ahead of him.

Nick Burdi, RHP; Rehabbing from Tommy John, has fanned 12 in first nine innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A with five walks, 6.00 ERA

Will Craig, 1B; .249/.317/.462 in Double-A, 20 homers, 34 walks, 117 whiffs; power is real, but OBP/batting average questionable as he moves up

Clay Holmes, RHP; 3.35 ERA in 91 innings in Triple-A, 94/39 K/BB; 6.88 ERA in 17 MLB innings, 13/14 K/BB; command needs to settle down, could be similar to Kingham.

Steven Jennings, RHP; Raw arm, 5.31 ERA in 59 innings in Appy Leaue, 49/26 K/BB, just 19.

Dovydas Neverauskas, RHP; 1.45 ERA in 43 innings in Triple-A, 53/28 K/BB; 10.47 ERA in 16 innings in the majors, 17/9 K/BB; will get more chances in the bullpen.

Braeden Ogle, LHP; 2.65 ERA in 17 innings in Low-A, 21/10 K/BB, went on disabled list with sore shoulder on May 5th and hasn’t returned.

Pablo Reyes, INF-OF; .290/.342/.432 with eight homers, 14 steals in 373 at-bats in AA/AAA: another infield candidate but can play outfield, too, very versatile.

Edgar Santana, RHP; Very successful season in major league bullpen, 2.67 ERA in 57 innings, 50/10 K/BB.

Conner Uselton, OF; Supposed to have power but hitting just .234/.294/.262 with zero homers in 145 at-bats in rookie ball.

Adrian Valerio, SS; Hitting .236/.262/.333 in 433 at-bats in High-A; glove ahead of bat at this point

Pedro Vasquez, RHP; 5.33 ERA in 78 innings, 55/22 K/BB in High-A/Double-A; probably belongs in bullpen

Eduardo Vera, RHP 3.69 ERA in 141 innings in High-A/Doube-A, 83/29 K/BB, control artist from Mexico.

******************

Trading Meadows, Baz, and Tyler Glasnow to the Rays for Chris Archer is a blow to depth of course, but getting a guy like Archer is why you have a farm system in the first place.

Thinking ahead to 2019, 2018 first-rounder Travis Swaggerty will be in the top ten somewhere and Oneil Cruz will move up the list aggressively. Lefty pitcher Domingo Robles, catcher Deon Stafford, outfielder Jared Oliva, and ‘18 draftee Braxton Ashcraft also bear watching.