2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

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Updated: February 4, 2014
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Update: The 2014 Prospect Digest Annual finally hit ebook shelves. Check it out!!!

After a long delay – something measured in the months, not days -  I have a bit of an announcement to make: I will be publishing the first ever Prospect Digest Annual sometime late January/early February.

The Prospect Digest Annual will feature each organization’s Top 30 Prospects, ranking the farm systems, and several additional articles.

Until the big day happens, I will be posting each organization’s Top 10 Prospects, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks and working through alphabetically. Enjoy!

For more Top Prospects click HERE

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1. Tyler Glasnow, Position: RHP, Age: 20

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

111.1

2.10

2.56

13.26

4.93

36.3%

13.5%

0.73

44.5%

Profile: One statistic to sum up the 6-foot-7 right-hander’s breakout 2013: Glasnow struck out 164 of the 452 hitters he faced last season, or 36.3%. Just for comparison’s sake, only six players in the big leagues – Aroldis Chapman, Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel and Jason Grilli – topped that mark. All, of course, are full-time relievers.

Until recently, the Pirates have opened themselves up to a rather large amount of criticism due to their, umm.., poor track record when it comes to drafting amateur talent.  But unearthing Glasnow in the fifth round in 2011 could be one of the organization’s best picks in recent memory.

Wait! One more comp:

Player

Age

Level

IP

K%

BB%

SIERA

Tyler Glasnow

19

A

111.1

36.30%

11.40%

2.56

Jameson Taillon

19

A

92.2

24.60%

5.60%

3.07

Analysis: Dominant. That’s it. Just filthy dominance. Although Glasnow stands a towering 6-foot-7, his weight is listed at just 195 pounds, meaning there could still be another gear on his fastball once he begins to fill out. The control/command isn’t quite there yet, but there’s no reason to suspect that it won’t improve. Legit ace material.

Ceiling: 7.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

2. Jameson Taillon, Position: RHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

AA

110.1

4.00

3.55

8.65

2.94

22.2%

7.5%

0.65

48.9%

AAA

37.0

3.89

3.85

9.00

3.89

22.8%

9.9%

0.24

32.4%

Profile: The trepidation I expressed about a slagging K-rate in 2012 proved to be completely unfounded. Taillon, who averaged just 7.1 K/9 during his foray into high Class A, bounced back in big way last season, averaging nearly one punch per inning while displaying some solid-average control.  

Analysis: Sort of a Shelby Miller-lite version, maybe something like 90% of the potential Miller has which, frankly, is still perennial All-Star territory. Taillon’s just lacking the truly dominant K-rates. Needless to say, however, Taillon should help anchor a potentially lethal front half of a Pittsburgh rotation for many, many years. Less than half of a season away from big league ready.

Ceiling: 5.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

 

3. Gregory Polanco, Position: CF, Age: 22

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

241

139

.312

.364

.472

6.6%

15.4%

.160

17

0

6

24/28

AA

286

112

.263

.354

.407

12.6%

12.6%

.144

13

2

6

13/20

Profile: Polanco backed up a breakout 2012 season by hitting .285/.356/.434 with 30 doubles, a pair of triples, 12 homeruns, and 38 stolen bases while spending the majority of his time in high Class A and Class AA.

Analysis: Note sure if Polanco tops 20 homeruns at the big league level, but the speed, hit tool and average eye at the plate should mean he settles in as a borderline All-Star center fielder. His ceiling should reside around a .300/.355/.445-line. Think Shane Victorino circa 2008. The glove definitely plays up in either corner outfield spot. Center field, or so I’ve heard, belongs to a certain MVP.

Ceiling: 4.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

4. Austin Meadows, Position: CF, Age: 19

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

RK

189

170

.294

.399

.519

12.7%

22.2%

.225

11

5

5

3/5

Profile: Forever tied to his friend Clint Frazier, Meadows, the ninth pick last season, hit a combined .316/.424/.554 during his debut while topping the league average offensive production by more than 70%. So, what have you done lately?

Analysis: It might be easier to list the tools – or tool – that Meadows didn’t flash during his 48-game debut: speed. That’s it. Otherwise, the power potential looked legit, so did the plate discipline, contact skills, and hit tool. Again, it’s a rather small sample size. But Meadows looks like the real deal.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

5. Josh Bell, Position: RF, Age: 21

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A

519

131

.279

.353

.453

10.0%

17.3%

.174

37

2

13

1/3

Profile: Strangely forgotten for some reason. Bell, who signed for a hefty $5M bonus as a second round pick in 2011, didn’t play following his selection in the 2011 draft and lost the majority of 2012 due to a knee injury. So, after spending basically a year-and-a-half away from the game, Bell topped the Sally League average offensive production by 31%.

Analysis: Probably one of my personal favorites for Breakout Player of the Year in 2014, Bell is just scratching the surface – literally. The power is going to come, just look at the pure number of extra-base hits he slugged last season: 37 doubles, two triples, 13 homeruns. Big, big believer.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

6. Nick Kingham, Position: RHP, Age: 22

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A+

70.0

3.09

2.76

9.64

1.80

26.5%

4.9%

0.77

43.2%

AA

73.1

2.71

3.86

8.47

3.68

22.0%

9.6%

0.12

41.0%

Profile: An underrated 2012 placed Kingham squarely among the middle-tier pitching prospects in the minors, but the big 6-foot-5 right-hander broke out in serious fashion last season. In 143.1 innings almost split evenly between Bradenton and Altoona, Kingham fanned 144 and walked just 44. He finished the year with a tidy 3.34 SIERA.

Analysis: Not quite on the Glasnow/Taillon level. Kingham, nonetheless, is still a solid mid-rotation starting pitcher, perhaps peaking as a fringy #2. How’s a rotation consisting of Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon and Kingham look, Pirates fans? Damn. Just. Damn.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

 

7. Alen Hanson, Position: SS, Age: 21

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

A+

409

121

.281

.339

.444

8.1%

17.1%

.163

23

8

7

24/38

AA

150

86

.255

.299

.380

5.3%

17.3%

.125

4

5

1

6/8

Profile: According to my favorite stat, Weighted Runs Created Plus, Hanson tied Boston’s Xander Bogaerts as the most productive shortstop in the minor leagues in 2012. Last season, however, was a different story for Pittsburgh’s potential shortstop of the future.

Split between high Class A (a bandbox) and Class AA, Hanson topped the league average production by just 6%. He finished the year with a combined .274/.329/.427 triple-slash line.

Analysis: It was a rather large step backward for the switch-hitting Hanson, who looked like a potential superstar following his impressive 2012. He didn’t show the same type of power, despite playing a lot of games in Bradenton’s homer-inducing ballpark. Average-ish eye at the plate, good speed, but not really sold on the hit tool. His work against LHs (.253/.321/.382) is simply average, maybe subpar. Oh, and he apparently brings a sieve to play defense too.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate

 

8. Reese McGuire, Position: C, Age: 19

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

RK

198

133

.330

.388

.392

7.6%

9.1%

.062

11

0

0

5/6

Profile: The first catcher selected last June, McGuire, the 14th overall pick, batted .330/.388/.392 with 11 doubles in his debut in the Gulf Coast League. The lefty-swinging backstop topped the league’s offensive production by 33%.

Analysis: A nice debut for McGuire, who also nabbed 44% of the would-be base stealers against him. He didn’t show much power (.062 ISO) and his groundball rate, 50.6%, was also on the high side. 

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

9. Luis Heredia, Position: RHP, Age: 19

Level

IP

ERA

SIERA

K/9

BB/9

K%

BB%

HR/9

GB%

A

58.1

3.05

4.53

7.62

5.12

19.9%

13.4%

0.69

38.9%

Profile: The only 18-year-old pitcher to top 50 innings in the Sally last year, the man-child that is Luis Heredia struck out 55 and walked 37 in 65.0 innings. For his career, Heredia has averaged just 6.6 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.

Analysis: Heredia, a 6-foot-6 right-hander who’s generously listed as 205 pounds, has been aggressively pushed through the lower levels of the minor leagues, making his pro debut in the in Gulf at the age of 16 and then throwing 66.1 innings as a 17-year-old in the NYPL a year later. The numbers, however, have really failed to impress. It might be time for the young right-hander to repeat low Class A.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low

 

10. Michael De La Cruz, Position: OF, Age: 17

Level

PA

wRC+

AVG

OBP

SLG

BB%

K%

ISO

2B

3B

HR

SB/AT

RK

293

147

.292

.436

.367

19.8%

17.1%

.075

11

3

0

14/25

Profile: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, De La Cruz, thanks to a later birthday, made his professional debut as a 16-year-old. He hit .292/.436/.367 while topping the DSL offensive production by 47%.

Analysis: A nice hit tool and an elite walk rate last season, De La Cruz hit for very little power, slugging just 14 extra-base hits in 293 plate appearances. It’s still incredibly early, but he’s definitely one to watch moving forward.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A

 

2 Comments

  1. Luke

    February 6, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    In regards to De La Cruz there is a standard saying that its hard to walk out of the DR meaning that players have to slug their way to the states. I know 16 is really young and he is still just starting to develop his muscle mass, but does he project to be a player who has a chance to develop even average power down the road ?? Seems like you have to have an extreme speed tool if your ceiling is only that of a 4 tool player to be a regular in the OF. What are your thoughts Joe??

    • JMWerner

      February 7, 2014 at 1:06 AM

      I think he has a pretty good chance to develop at least solid average power down the line — he posted a strong FB-rate (28.1%) and a solid line-drive rate (17.4%) last season. And, plus, he was only 16-years-old playing against older competition. I like him — a lot.

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