The 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

 

1.  Tyler Glasnow, RHP

Born: 08/23/93  Age: 21   Height: 6-7   Weight: 195   B/T: L/R                                                        
Top CALs: Henry Owens, Jake McGee, Omar Poveda, Alexander Reyes, Jeremy Jeffress
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 18 R 34.3 2.10 3.81 10.5 28.6% 4.2 11.4% 0.79 67.1%
2013 19 A 111.3 2.18 3.47 13.3 36.3% 4.9 13.5% 0.73 79.9%
2014 20 A+ 124.3 1.74 2.63 11.4 31.9% 4.1 11.6% 0.22 80.9%

Background: Arguably the most dominant showing for a pitcher in the minor leagues last season, Glasnow, whom I ranked as the #13 prospect heading into the season, fanned an incredible 30.6% of the total batters he faced – tied for the third best mark among hurlers with 100+ innings. And over the last two years the 6-foot-7 former fifth round pick has punched out a staggering 321 of the 945 batters he’s faced, or nearly 34%. For his career, Glasnow has posted a 1.94 ERA and averaged 12 strikeouts and 4.4 free passes per nine innings.

Projection: The control is still lagging a bit – he’s walked 12.3% of the batters he’s faced in his career – but it’s definitely trending in the right direction; two years ago his walk percentage was 14.0% and last year he cut that down to 11.6%. Big, big time swing-and-miss ability, he could theoretically see a few upticks in his arsenal as his lean frame fills out. Glasnow could be – and has the makings of – a special right arm.

Ceiling:  5.0- to 5.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Mid-2016

 

 

2.  Austin Meadows, CF

Born: 05/03/95  Age: 20   Height: 6-3   Weight: 200   B/T: L/L                                                        
Top CALs: Dylan Cozens, Zach Larson, Matthew Duran, Austin Dean, Exicardo Cayones
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 189 .294 .399 .519 .918 .225 12.7% 22.2% 169
2014 19 A 165 .322 .388 .486 .874 .164 8.5% 18.2% 144

Background: A hamstring injury limited the former ninth overall pick to just 45 games last season – albeit 45 very productive games. Meadows, a lefty-swinging center fielder from the same part of Georgia as fellow first rounder Clint Frazier, hit .317/.394/.488 with 15 doubles, a pair of triples, three homeruns, and two stolen bases. For his career, which spans just 93 games and 399 plate appearances, Meadows owns a .317/.410/.522 triple-slash line, with 26 doubles, seven triples, 10 homeruns, and five stolen bases.

Projection:  On the onset of the Meadows-versus-Frazier conversation, it looks as if the former gets the nod for the better prospect a year and a half later. And if you were to judge it by their respective triple-slash lines (.317/.410/.522 vs. .274/.353/.437) you’d be right. Except that, well, Meadows has flailed at southpaw pitching to the tune of .227/.286/.351, though that does come with the caveat of a smallish sample size (105 PA) and he also performed better against them during his debut. Solid-average or better tools across the board, Meadows has the makings of a potential All Star center field – if he can figure out left-handers.

Ceiling:  3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2018/Early 2019

 

 

3.  Josh Bell, RF

Born: 09/14/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-2   Weight: 235   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Gregory Polanco, Aaron Cunningham, Brandon Drury, Jake Marisnick, Mitch Einertson
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 A 66 .274 .288 .403 .691 .129 3.0% 31.8% 84
2013 20 A 519 .279 .353 .453 .806 .174 10.0% 17.3% 131
2014 21 A+ 363 .335 .384 .502 .886 .166 6.9% 11.8% 153
2014 21 AA 102 .287 .343 .309 .652 .021 7.8% 11.8% 86

Background: Part of the Pirates’ record $17 million draft class of 2011, Bell, a former Gatorade/ESPN Rise Texas Player of the Year, signed for a staggering $5 million – a record bonus for a second round pick. Fast forward a couple years – and a severe knee injury – the switch-hitting outfielder has finally started cashing in on his vast potential. Bell hit .335/.384/.502 for Bradenton last season, with 20 doubles, four triples, nine homeruns, and five stolen bases in 84 games en route to topping the league average mark by a whopping 53%. The club bumped him up to Altoona, where he hit .287/.343/.309 during a 24-game stint.

Projection: Because of the torn meniscus and subsequent lingering issues (including some severe swelling), Bell’s more or less played against age appropriate competition. And the problem with that, of course, is that he’s posted a career .153 ISO – a nice enough mark but far from what’s expected from a potential superstar. The plate discipline’s been average or slightly worse; the contact skill’s strong and he shows a bit of speed. CAL also remains a bit skeptical as well, comparing him to a pair of prospect busts (Cunningham and Einertson), a pair of potential league average prospects (Drury and Marisnick), and one potential above-average outfielder (Polanco).

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

4.  Jameson Taillon, RHP

Born: 11/18/91  Age: 23   Height: 6-5   Weight: 245   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Eduardo Rodriguez, Jonathan Niese, Randall Delgado, Carlos Martinez, Shairon Martis
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2011 19 A 92.7 3.98 3.70 9.4 24.6% 2.1 5.6% 0.87 70.1%
2012 20 A+ 125.0 3.82 3.90 7.1 18.8% 2.7 7.1% 0.72 68.8%
2013 21 AA 110.3 3.67 3.46 8.7 22.2% 2.9 7.5% 0.65 69.8%
2013 21 AAA 37.0 3.89 3.18 9.0 22.8% 3.9 9.9% 0.24 70.6%

Background: Seemingly forever on top prospect lists, Taillon, who was sandwiched between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as the second overall pick, succumbed to the inevitable injury that plagues so many young hurlers – Tommy John surgery. The right-hander – who’s on the pace to be back at the start of 2014 – showed a promising mix of strikeouts and low walk rates prior to the injury and finished the 2013 season with a successful six-game stint in the International League.

Projection: The production has never really lived up to the hype, per se, some of that the result of getting sandwiched in between two budding superstars in the draft and the other the direct consequence of facing much older competition at each stop along the way. CAL lumps him in with a bunch a mid rotation arms like Rodriguez, Niese, and Delgado. Assuming he rebounds fully from TJ, Taillon has a chance to be a very good #3.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

5.  Nick Kingham, RHP

Born: 11/08/91  Age: 23   Height: 6-5   Weight: 220   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: James Parr, Matt Harrison, Zach Britton, David Cales, Aaron Laffey
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 70.0 3.09 3.20 9.6 26.5% 1.8 5.0% 0.77 76.2%
2013 21 AA 73.3 2.70 2.97 8.5 22.0% 3.7 9.6% 0.12 77.8%
2014 22 AA 71.0 3.04 3.52 6.9 17.6% 3.2 8.1% 0.38 67.2%
2014 22 AAA 88.0 3.58 3.72 6.7 18.0% 2.8 7.5% 0.61 64.7%

Background: Another season split between two levels, Kingham, pitching between the Eastern and International Leagues, saw a noticeable drop in his career high strikeout percentage in 2013 (24.12%) to a more run-of-the-mill 17.81% last year. The former fourth round pick made 12 starts with Altoona, averaging 6.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9, and another 14 starts with Indianapolis, fanning 65 and walking 27 in 88.0 innings. He finished the year with 159 innings, 119 punch outs, and 52 walks to go along with a 3.34 ERA.

Projection: A nice little #4-type arm. Kingham’s game has always been about poise and finesse rather than power. And outside of his strikeout spike two years ago the production and numbers reflect that. He won’t generate a whole lot of action on the ground – just 42.3% in his minor league career – but playing in front of Pittsburgh ultra-athletic outfield should help.

Ceiling:  2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Mid-2015

 

 

6.  Reese McGuire, C

Born: 03/02/95  Age: 20   Height: 6-0   Weight: 181   B/T: L/R                                                        
Top CALs: Christian Bethancourt, Chace Numata, Rene Garcia, Mario Mercedes, Carlos Martinez
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 198 .330 .388 .392 .780 .063 7.6% 9.1% 132
2014 19 A 427 .262 .307 .334 .642 .072 5.6% 10.3% 80

Background: McGuire, the first backstop taken in the 2013 draft, passed the initial pro ball tests with flying colors two years ago, hitting a more than respectable .323/.380/.380 split between the Gulf Coast and New York-Penn Leagues. Last season, however, was a completely different story – he hit .262/.307/.334 with just 18 extra-base knocks (11 doubles, four triples, and three homeruns) while playing half of his games in the hitter-friendly West Virginia home ballpark.

Projection:  McGuire has slugged just 29 extra-base hits in roughly a full year of games. The plate discipline is so-so, the contact skills are strong, but the lack of power – even just 148 games into his pro career – is quite alarming. His glove, however, seems to be far more advanced. The performance suggests solid backup/fringy starter, though there’s plenty of time for McGuire, who is just entering his age-20 season, to figure it out.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2019

 

 

7.  Alen Hanson, SS

Born: 10/22/92  Age: 22   Height: 5-11   Weight: 170   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Arismendy Alcantara, Ronny Rodriguez, Reid Brignac, Nick Franklin, German Duran
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 A 558 .309 .381 .528 .909 .219 9.9% 18.8% 147
2013 20 A+ 409 .281 .339 .444 .783 .163 8.1% 17.1% 121
2013 20 AA 150 .255 .299 .380 .679 .124 5.3% 17.3% 86
2014 21 AA 527 .280 .326 .442 .768 .162 5.9% 16.7% 111

Background: Just two seasons removed from his breakout year with West Virginia – one in which he slugged .309/.381/.528 as a 19-year-old en route to topping the league average mark by 47% – Hanson looked poised to become one of the next great young shortstop prospects. And then reality hit. Once the Dominican-born middle infielder left the friendly confines of West Virginia his production has been in slow decline, posting a wRC+ total of 121 in High Class A and a more pedestrian 111 with Altoona last year.

Projection: Hanson’s CALs leave a lot to be desired – Alcantara’s career got off to an awful start, a level that the overwhelming majority of prospects haven’t been able to overcome; Rodriguez’s career has sputtered out; Brignac was MLB depth at his best, and Duran never made the big leagues. The lone hope is Franklin, who hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first 502 big league plate appearances.

As far as Hanson is concerned, the power’s average, the speed is a standout tool, but everything else hovers at slightly below-average. He’s a fringy everyday gamer depending upon his defense, which, unfortunately, is pretty porous.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

8.  Cole Tucker, SS

Born: 07/03/96  Age: 18   Height: 6-3   Weight: 185   B/T: B/R                                                        
Top CALs: Gleyber Torres, Riley Unroe, Eliezer AlvarezBrandon Martin, Tommy Pham
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 17 R 217 .267 .368 .356 .724 .089 12.0% 17.5% 117

Background: After shunning the questionable draft strategy that plagued the organization over the previous years, the Pirates once again dusted off the not-so-successful blue prints and grabbed the glove-first, high floor/low ceiling prep middle infielder with the 24th overall pick last June. And Tucker, a switch-hitting 6-foot-3 shortstop, hit an uninspiring .267/.368/.356 during his debut in the Gulf Coast League during his debut.

Projection: Solid walk rate and strong contact skills, Tucker, shockingly enough, didn’t flash a whole lot of pop during his 48-game stint in rookie ball last season, slugging just 10 extra-base hits in 217 plate appearances. If the glove proves to be a plus-tool then he could develop into an everyday guy; otherwise, it’s strictly a utility role.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

9.  Connor Joe, C/IF/OF

Born: 08/16/92  Age: 22   Height: 6-0   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: N/A

Background: Signed to an under-slot bonus that saved the club nearly $250,000, Joe failed to appear in a professional game courtesy of a back strain. The former University of San Diego star walloped collegiate pitching to the tune of .325/.423/.500 with 40 doubles, a pair of triples, and 19 homeruns during his three-year career, including hitting .367/.462/.606 during his final season.

Projection: Prior to the draft I wrote,

“Joe offers a nice combination of average to slightly better tools across the board – gap power with the potential to top out with double-digit dingers down the line, an improving eye at the plate, and the potential to hit for a decent average, something along the lines of .280 or so.”

I continued,

“And while he hasn’t played against the level of competition that [Trea] Turner has – meaning Team USA – Joe performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .308/.383/.445 with nine doubles, one triple, and three homeruns.”

Joe’s a big time sleeper prospect. Remember the name.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Late 2017/Early 2018

 

 

10.  Mitch Keller, RHP

Born: 04/04/96  Age: 19   Height: 6-3   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                        
Top CALs: Francis Martis, Josh Ravin, Lucas Giolito, Paul Demny, Michael Kopech
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 27.3 1.98 3.14 9.6 25.7% 4.3 11.5% 0.00 77.1%

Background: The club’s third selection last June, the 64th overall, Keller had a pretty solid debut in the Gulf Coast League, striking out 29 and walking 13 in 27.1 innings of work.

Projection: Signed for an even million dollars, the right-hander, who is the younger brother of Orioles minor league reliever Jon Keller, had a largely successful debut – but it’s important to remember that his average appearance last just a smidge over 3.0 innings. Meaning: he barely turned the lineup over.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

 

**All Stats Courtesy of FanGraphs**



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.