The Pirates Top 50 prospects list turns out to be a little less exciting than it could have been, as, at the time of this writing the Pirates have neither traded Andrew McCutchen nor traded for Jose Quintana. Nonetheless, the Pirates system definitely has some top-tier talent, with 5~6 top 100 prospects for you to feast on. The system has improved immensely over the last few years, and the pitching has been especially good. So, without further ado, here are your 2017 Top 50 Pirates prospects!
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years.
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor.
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor.
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact. (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster.
1. Austin Meadows, OF
Age: 21 (DOB 05/03/1995)
Meadows is widely expected to take over in center field for Andrew McCutchen when Cutch leaves Pittsburgh, whether that is at the 2017 trade deadline or Opening Day 2019. He’s got the entire package, with a quick swing, plus game power, and average speed.
2. Josh Bell, 1B
Age: 24 (DOB 08/14/1992)
Josh Bell is only rookie-eligible by 2 AB, but that’s good enough for this list. He’s always had a great eye, is a top 20 prospect in OBP leagues, and is probably the top 1B prospect. Given 550 AB, he projects to hit 16 HR and slash .280/.390/.420, and should be a quality starter on your fantasy teams this year.
3. Mitch Keller, SP
Age: 20 (DOB 04/04/1996)
Mitch Keller is a name familiar only to die-hard Pirates followers until this year. He had a massive breakout, showing off a 97 mph fastball and a plus curveball. If he can keep it up, I fully expect Keller to be a top 10 pitcher by this time next year.
4. Kevin Newman, SS
Age: 23 (DOB 08/04/1993)
Newman, the Pirates 1st round pick from 2015, has a great eye, with a K/BB of 36/43 over two levels. He doesn’t have much power, but he should be an OBP machine and has a very high floor.
5. Tyler Glasnow, SP/RP
Age: 23 (DOB 08/23/1993)
Glasnow has experienced a fall from grace over the last 6 months, struggling when he got the big league call. His fastball is a 70 grade with a 60 grade curveball, but his third best pitch is a 35 grade changeup. He is more likely to be a closer than a starter at this point. However, he is distinctly better than any prospect after this. The top 5 in the Pirates system should all be top 100 prospects.
6. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
Age: 19 (DOB 01/28/1997)
Hayes has a lot of projectability, and is likely to stick at 3B with excellent defense. He hasn’t displayed much in-game power to go along with strong slash lines, but he could well add that in the future.
7. Will Craig, 3B/1B
Age: 22 (DOB 11/16/1994)
Craig, the Pirates 1st round selection this year, disappointed somewhat in his initial debut, but improved his power and zone-judgement as the season wore on. Even if he does have to make the transition to 1B, I’m confident that his bat will be extremely useful to fantasy owners, especially in OBP-leagues.
8. Nick Kingham, SP
Age: 25 (DOB 11/08/1991)
Kingham fell to the Tommy John last year, but came back strong in 2016. He made it back to AA before the season ended, and you can expect to see him get a look in 2017. He hasn’t got much to prove, and should try to take a path similar to Taillon’s path back.
9. Yeudy Garcia, SP
Age: 24 (DOB 10/06/1992)
Right after the reasonably safe pitcher in Kingham come the high-ceiling/high-risk pitcher in Yeudy. Yeudy could shoot up this list if he displays better command over next year, or he could plummet like a rock. Be sure to watch the reports coming on his performance through the first few months of the year.
10. Elias Diaz, C
Age: 26 (DOB 11/17/1990)
Diaz has long been viewed as a safe player to make it to the majors. He has some of the best catcher defense in the minor leagues, but will his bat ever arrive? If you need someone to fill your C spot, this could be a player to keep an eye on.
11. Cole Tucker, SS
Age: 20 (DOB 07/03/1996)
Cole Tucker, a first rounder from 2014, is slowly rounding into form. He still has a very good chance to be a SS in the big leagues, and only turns 22 in July. For a bit of perspective on that, Kevin Newman reached AA when he was 22. Could he follow in Newman’s footsteps?
12. Steven Brault, SP/RP
Age: 24 (DOB 04/29/1992)
Brault has a high floor, as he’s already made it once and should be back again this year for more. He did well enough in his debut, but can he beat out the plethora of pitchers for a spot in the rotation?
13. Gage Hinsz, SP
Age: 20 (DOB 04/20/1996)
Gage Hinsz has had some great outings, including last year’s extended Spring Training and again in the season. He’s got top of the rotation potential, and has improved his command over last season. Hinsz is definitely a breakout prospect in the waiting. Pick him up now.
14. Clay Holmes, RP
Age: 23 (DOB 03/27/1993)
In his first complete year back from the dreaded Tommy John, Holmes acquitted himself nicely. His command continually improved as the months bore on, and he held his velocity. All in all, he’s a good guy to keep an eye on.
15. Max Moroff, 2B
Age: 23 (DOB 05/13/1993)
I like the stats that Moroff was able to put up, and he’ll get an extended look at 2B. If Josh Harrison gets traded, then he’ll probably be in line for some PT, fighting with the guy right below him.
16. Alen Hanson, 2B
Age: 24 (DOB 10/22/1992)
Hanson has been bumped much further down on many people’s lists, due to a combination of prospect fatigue and his mental issues. He hasn’t been able to settle down over his career in the minors and has recently been pushing for a full promotion. Whether he gets it or not, he has more than enough tools to succeed either as a 2B or a super-utility man.
17. Francisco Acuna, SS
Age: 16 (DOB 01/12/2000)
Our first player from the aughts, Acuna has showcased well over the winter. Reports out of Colombia are inspiring, as the 1st overall pick in the Colombian draft has held his own against players much older than him. Keep a sharp eye on him as a high-ceiling guy.
18. Luis Escobar, SP
Age: 20 (DOB 05/30/1996)
Another hard-thrower in the Pirates system, Escobar has been hitting 95 consistently with his fastball. When you add in the plus curveball, he begins to look like a high-upside reliever or #4 starter. However, some serious command issues keep him from moving any higher up for the time being.
19. Taylor Hearn, RP
Age: 22 (DOB 08/30/1994)
The second half of the Bucs return from the Melancon trade, Hearn had a great second half. He’s one of the harder-throwing pitchers in the Pirates minor leagues, and they still have hope for him to develop into a starter. This ranking may well look foolish in the near future, if he continues to start and keeps up these stats in AA Altoona.
20. Kevin Kramer, 2B
Age: 23 (DOB 10/03/1993)
Yet another 2B with decent stats and some tools, Kramer drops to #20 because of his somewhat sub-par contact skills. He only OPSed .730 last year and needs to develop some power before he becomes of much interest to fantasy owners.
21. Brandon Waddell, SP
Age: 22 (DOB 06/03/1994)
Waddell is just another piece in the Pirates incredible AAA pitching depth. He’s a back of the rotation guy, but he’ll probably make it as a finesse lefty out of the bullpen in the end. He can hit 93 reliably, but relies a bit too much on his control.
22. Tyler Eppler, RP
Age: 23 (DOB 01/05/1993)
Much like Waddell above, Eppler is yet another depth piece for the Pirates at this point in time. He can touch up to 96 with the fastball, but the difference between him and Waddell is the absolute lack of a quality breaking pitch. If he ever develops that, he’s set. For now, he might make a quality reliever.
23. Tyler Webb, RP
Age: 26 (DOB 07/20/1990)
The Pirates drafted Tyler Webb in this year’s Rule V draft, so he’s probably going to rack up some stats this year. He’s definitely just a reliever, but he could put some K’s on the board for your fantasy team if you pick him up when he’s hot. He had 10.16 K/9 in AA last year, and again, he must stay on the active 25 man roster or be given back. I can’t see the Pirates just giving away assets that they already paid for, though.
24. Braeden Ogle, SP
Age: 19 (DOB 07/30/1997)
Ogle has decent stuff at his age, and showcased reasonably well after being the Pirates draft pick in 2016. He’s also a lefty, so Ogle should be a guy to watch out for as he rises through the ranks.
25. Travis Macgregor, RP
Age: 19 (DOB 10/15/1997)
Macgregor was another Pirates early draft pick, and is the sort of projectable, tall frame that the Pirates have had success with recently (See Glasnow, Tyler). Travis is definitely a high-upside play for fantasy owners, but he doesn’t need to be owned until he gets hot this year, at the absolute earliest. He should be several years off at this point.
26. Frank Duncan, SP
Age: 24 (DOB 01/30/1992)
Duncan is scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as useful AAA pitchers go, as he may be the Pirates #9 or #10 starting pitcher at best. However, it’s good to know who the backup to the backup to the backup is, in case of injury. He’s got some upside here if he gets traded to a more open situation, or if guys in front of him get injured.
27. Max Kranick, RP
Age: 19 (DOB 07/21/1997)
The third of the recently drafted prep pitchers, Kranick is the lowest among the Macgregor/Ogle/Kranick trio due to his lower projection and slightly worse stuff. Nonetheless, anything can happen with guys these young. Keep an eye on him if the K’s start to rise at the beginning of the year.
28. Dovydas Neverauskas, RP
Age: 23 (DOB 01/14/1993)
Dovydas Neverauskas is not ranked here solely because of his 80-grade name, as fun as it may be to say. Rather, he’s here much more because of his 99 mph fastball. He’s serving as a high-lev guy in AAA Indianapolis for now, but expect him to get the call at some point during the first half.
29. Connor Joe, 3B
Age: 24 (DOB 08/16/1992)
I’m quite a bit lower on Joe than the common joe, but I can’t deny that he’s got good raw power for a MI spot. He looks a lot better than his numbers, but take that with a grain of salt.
30. Stephen Alemais, SS
Age: 21 (DOB 04/12/1995)
Rounding out our fourth tier is Alemais, who is probably best known for this defensive play. His quick hands and good range should ensure that he goes far as a MI candidate, which is better than I can say for any of the Tier 5 players.
31. Edgar Santana, SP
Age: 25 (DOB 10/16/1991)
Santana comes equipped with a potential plus slider and plus fastball, but isn’t quite on a level with Neverauskas et al., owing to his significant issues with command.
32. JT Brubaker, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 11/17/1993)
Similar to Santana, Brubaker also has command issues and only an average secondary pitch. However, he’s much more likely to make it to the upper levels in 2017.
33. Erich Weiss, 2B/3B
Age: 25 (DOB 09/11/1991)
A solid bench player, Weiss could well wind up as a bench player in the majors. However, his iffy defense could severely limit his ability to go any further, as he can only play 2B or 3B.
34. Austin Shields, RP
Age: 19 (DOB 11/23/1997)
A 2016 preppie, Shields grades out in Tier 5 mostly because of significant command issues. If he can resolve those, then he should move quickly up the list. Only time can tell, however.
35. Edison Lantigua, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 01/09/1997)
Lantigua probably has more upside than nearly everyone in this tier, but he’s only been to the GCL and had some injury issues in 2015. He does have a good eye for the plate, so let’s see how he does in A ball.
36. Michael De La Cruz, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 07/10/1996)
De La Cruz has all the tools, and no idea how to put it all together. If he breaks out, he could rise very quickly. He had some pretty good numbers in 2016 anyways, but it wasn’t quite the full on coming-out party that some were hoping for.
37. Jacob Taylor, SP
Age: 21 (DOB 07/05/1995)
YALLPP (Yet Another Low Level Pirates Pitcher) strikes again. Taylor is from the same high-upside-extreme risk family as many of the other pitchers in the region of the rankings. He came back from a Tommy John surgery, so that only adds to the complications here. Check in on him around June to see if he’s worth paying attention to.
38. Jose Osuna, 1B
Age: 24 (DOB 12/12/1992)
Osuna has been having a fine winter, and he also did well in his most recent season. The thing keeping him this far down on the list is his relatively strict positional requirements (he did play some corner outfield, but not well), but he has some power potential. The way to Pittsburgh is heavily blocked, with Bell at first and too many players in the OF.
39. Eric Wood, 3B
Age: 24 (DOB 11/22/1992)
Somewhat surprisingly, the Pirates did not protect Eric Wood in this year’s Rule V draft, although that proved to be a wise decision in retrospect. Wood had a breakout season in AA, and he should be able to stick at 3B to provide some upper-level depth. If he gets the call, Wood should be able to contribute in some manner to deep leagues.
40. Jordan Luplow, 3B
Age: 23 (DOB 09/26/1993)
Luplow has had quite the adventure through the minor leagues, requiring labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder a few years ago, and then having a very slow start in 2016. He turned it around in June of last year, but has no definite position and could move to the outfield. His bat provides more value there, but he would be one of the most blocked prospects in the league.
41. Barrett Barnes, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 07/29/1991)
Barrett Barnes is quite similar to Hanson, in that he has all the tools you’d think he needs to be successful. For now, it’s just a waiting game to see if he’ll ever make anything of them. Remember when we used to speak of him in the same breath as Josh Bell?
42. Luis Heredia, SP
Age: 22 (DOB 08/10/1994)
Another player on that 2013 A ball team that was highly touted, Heredia was long-expected to breakout. We’re still waiting on that breakout, though.
43. Jin-De Jhang, C
Age: 23 (DOB 05/17/1993)
Jin-De Jhang can hit, but can he catch? The way to Pittsburgh is very blocked, with 3 quality receivers in front of him and 1B completely taken over by David Freese and Josh Bell.
44. Casey Sadler, RP
Age: 26 (DOB 07/13/1990)
Recently resigned with the Bucs on a minor league contract, Sadler has not had the best of experiences in the Pirates organization. Generally a low-strikeouts pitcher, he did well in his one start in the big leagues last year. There just isn’t a spot for him among all of the other young men, both in Indy and Pittsburgh. He recently had TJ surgery, so beware.
45. Angel Sanchez, RP
Age: 27 (DOB 11/28/1989)
Sanchez missed all of last year with TJ surgery, much like Sadler before him. He did well enough in 2015 before the dreaded surgery and rehab sapped him of his entire 2016 season. Another wait-and-see guy, although he probably won’t amount to much at this point.
46. James Marvel, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 09/17/1993)
Do I really need any other reason to place this 75-grade player on the back-end of the list? (Editor’s note: Yes, you do.) Well, the good news is that Marvel is quite a good ballplayer. He did well for himself in 2016 after being shut down following his drafting in the 2015 draft. He’ll need for his Ks to go up to be an effective pitcher at the higher levels.
47. Dario Agrazal, SP
Age: 22 (DOB 12/28/1994)
Agrazal is nothing if not efficient. He avoided walking batters like it was the plague in A ball, averaging just one walk per 9 innings. The rest of his stat line was merely decent, but it was probably enough to earn a promotion coming into this year. Let’s see how the stuff plays with the bigger boys, as he is getting somewhat old.
48. Ike Schlabach, SP
Age: 20 (DOB 12/27/1996)
A 2015 late-round draftee, Schlabach is on this list solely as a result of his potential. He only had 31 Ks in 60 innings last year, and that number will obviously need to rise if he makes anything of his arm.
49. Blake Cederlind, RP
Age: 20 (DOB 01/14/1996)
The Pirates 5th round selection in the 2016 draft, Cederlind has looked impressive on the field. He could rise 20 spots if he maintains his K-BB into A/A+ ball.
50. Mitchell Tolman, 2B
Age: 22 (DOB 06/08/1994)
To round off the list, I’m going nuts with my favorite stats, BB%. Tolman walked 13.5% of the time, and struck out 13% of the time. An astute reader will note this and observe that Tolman is one of those rare specimens that manages to walk considerably more than average, and strike out considerably less than average. This tends to be a promising combination. He only had a .106 ISO, but so long as he can keep up his great OBP, that shouldn’t be a major issue on down the line.
What did you think of the list? Which of my rankings were absolutely crazy? Let me know down below and hit me up on Twitter at @gregorvdm!