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The 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP                                            
Born: 08/23/93 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Trevor Bauer, Casey Mulligan,

Yovani Gallardo, Bruce Rondon, Luis Severino

Height: 6-8 Weight: 225 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 A 111.3 9 3 2.18 3.47 13.26 4.93 36.3% 13.5% 0.73 79.9%
2014 20 A+ 124.3 12 5 1.74 2.63 11.36 4.13 31.9% 11.6% 0.22 80.9%
2015 21 A- 5.3 0 1 3.38 2.95 10.13 3.38 26.1% 8.7% 0.00 33.3%
2015 21 AA 63.0 5 3 2.43 1.98 11.71 2.71 33.1% 7.7% 0.29 66.4%
2015 21 AAA 41.0 2 1 2.20 2.82 10.54 4.83 27.6% 12.6% 0.22 73.3%

Background: At one point you just have to stop and ask: How in the hell did a prep arm like Glasnow last until the fifth round in 2011? And it’s not like he’s been a revelation over the past year or two either. He’s been a dominant force – and one of the minors’ top arms – since making his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League. But that’s exactly what happened to the monstrous right-hander out of Santa Clarita, California. A big 6-foot-8, 225-pounder with projectability and a plus-plus-ability to miss bats, Glasnow’s dominance was on full display with Altoona in the Eastern League last season. As one of just five hurlers in under the age of 22 with 60+ innings in the EL, Glasnow fanned a mind-boggling 33.1% of the total hitters he faced – the highest mark in the entire league.

And just to take a quick sidestep for a moment, consider this: no one player under the age of 22 has topped that mark in any Class AA level since 2006, the first year of MiLB data is available at FanGraphs.

Pittsburgh promoted the budding ace up to Indianapolis in the International League at the beginning of August for another eight starts, most of which were of the dominant fashion. Glasnow finished his abbreviated campaign with 109.1 innings, 136 punch outs, 43 walks, and a miniscule 2.39. And for his career he’s whiffed an inexplicable 32.4% of the hitters he faced to go along with a video game-esque 2.07 ERA.

Projection: I’ve long hitched my analytical wagon on Glasnow’s potential as a dominant big leaguer starter. Three years ago in my first book I ranked him as the 13th best prospect in all of baseball, writing at that time:

“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. [He has legitimate] ace material.”

Well, I followed that up by moving Glasnow up three spots to the tenth best minor leaguer heading into last season. Here’s what I wrote then:

“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 he’s lean frame fills out. Glasnow could be – and has the makings of – a special right arm.”

And after another breathtaking performance in 2015 – one that was briefly interrupted by a sprained ankle – there’s absolutely nothing else to say that could possibly capture something that I haven’t written before. Actually there is: Glasnow’s control took the expected step forward last season as he walked a career low 7.7% of batters he faced with Altoona, and if you ignore two disastrous starts in Class AAA, he walked just 10 batters in 36 innings (2.50 BB/9).

Ceiling: 5.0- to 5.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

2. Austin Meadows, CF                                                  
Born: 05/03/95 Age: 21 Bats: L Top CALs: Brett Phillips, Justin Upton,

Harold Ramirez, Estarlin Martinez, Jesse Winker

Height: 6-3 Weight: 200 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 189 11 5 5 0.294 0.399 0.519 0.225 12.7% 22.2% 169
2014 19 A 165 13 1 3 0.322 0.388 0.486 0.164 8.5% 18.2% 144
2015 20 A+ 556 22 4 7 0.307 0.357 0.407 0.100 7.4% 14.2% 134
2015 20 AA 28 2 3 0 0.360 0.429 0.680 0.320 7.1% 17.9% 213

Background: It’s taken longer than the organization would have liked, but Meadows, the ninth overall pick in 2013, finally put together a full, healthy season. And, boy, it was totally worth the wait. Hailing from Grayson High School, the toolsy outfielder that hadn’t topped 48 games in either of two previous professional seasons breezed through the Florida State League last year, hitting an impressive .307/.357/.407 with 22 doubles, four triples, seven homeruns, and swiping 20 bags in 27 attempts. His overall production, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 34% – narrowly besting the Mets’ Dominic Smith for top showing among all players under the age of 21 in the FSL last season. For his career, Meadows is sporting a .312/.380/.460 triple-slash line with 50 doubles, 14 triples, 17 homeruns, and 26 stolen bases.

Projection: A high school rival to the Indians’ Clint Frazier, who went a couple picks before Pittsburgh grabbed the toolsy outfielder, Meadows hasn’t stalled for any extended length during his 220 minor leagues games – outside of his momentary blip against fellow southpaws two years ago. After struggling against LHP in a limited sample size to the tune of .176/.250/.216, the 6-foot-3 center fielder rebounded in a big way last year, hitting .309/.351/.388. Above-average speed, hit tool, power, and a solid enough eye at the plate. And let’s just say CAL is a big fan too, linking him to Brett Phillips, Justin Upton, and Jesse Winker among others. Meadows has the makings of an All-Star caliber big leaguer – perhaps as soon as 2017.

Ceiling: 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

3. Josh Bell, 1B/RF                                              
Born: 08/14/92 Age: 23 Bats: B Top CALs: Rangel Ravelo, Logan Morrison,

Gregory Polanco, Desmond Jennings, Adam Eaton

Height: 6-2 Weight: 235 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 519 37 2 13 0.279 0.353 0.453 0.174 10.0% 17.3% 131
2014 21 A+ 363 20 4 9 0.335 0.384 0.502 0.166 6.9% 11.8% 153
2014 21 AA 102 2 0 0 0.287 0.343 0.309 0.021 7.8% 11.8% 86
2015 22 AA 426 17 6 5 0.307 0.376 0.427 0.120 10.3% 11.7% 130
2015 22 AAA 145 7 3 2 0.347 0.441 0.504 0.157 14.5% 10.3% 174

Background: One of the most lethal bats in all of baseball down the stretch last season, Bell smoked the International League pitching to the tune of .347/.441/.504 with seven doubles, three triples, and a pair of dingers in his final 31 games of the year. The former second round Bonus Baby who signed a massive $5 million deal, a record for a second round pick, began the year back in the Eastern League following his 24-game stint in the level to cap off his 2014 season. And despite holding his own in the level two years ago – he batted .287/.343/.309 – Bell fared much, much better in his repeat: he slugged .317/.376/.427 with 17 doubles, six triples, and five homeruns. Overall, Bell hit a combined .317/.393/.446 with 24 doubles, nine triples, and seven homeruns between his time with Altoona and Indianapolis.

Projection: A plus hit tool with so much power potential, but he quite hasn’t figured out how to tap into to it during games. All the doubles – he’s averaged nearly 40 every 162 games throughout his career – will eventually start developing into four-baggers at some point. Above-average eye at the plate and a track record of dominant success against older competition, the Pirates have been prepping the former third baseman-turned-corner-outfielder-turned-first-baseman to take over for the recently departed Pedro Alvarez and he’s ready to do so – with an even better offensive profile. In terms of his 2016 production, think .280/.350/.420.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

4. Jameson Taillon, RHP                                             
Born: 11/18/91 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Eduardo Rodriguez, Jacob Turner,

Randall Delgado, Zach Davis, Sean Gallagher

Height: 6-5 Weight: 240 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 AA 110.3 4 7 3.67 3.46 8.65 2.94 22.2% 7.5% 0.65 69.8%
2013 21 AAA 37.0 1 3 3.89 3.18 9.00 3.89 22.8% 9.9% 0.24 70.6%

Background: Just to kind of add some perspective – as well as some unwanted, unintended insult to injury – Taillon, the once crown jewel of the Pittsburgh system, was in the same draft class that produced the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey, Chris Sale, and Noah Syndergaard, all of whom have established themselves as legitimate impact big leaguers.  And at one point it was assumed that Taillon’s name would be squarely among his peers, but a Tommy John surgery and a subsequent inguinal hernia, which also required going under the knife, forced him to the miss the entirety of the past two seasons. Before the injuries, Taillon had fanned 22.0% and walked 6.9% of the total hitters he faced between 2011 and 2013.

Projection: Star-crossed and snake bitter, what else can you really say? Taillon looked like a potential top-of-the-rotation caliber arm, but his last meaningful game was a 2.0-inning appearance for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League on October 8th, 2013. So who the hell knows what he’ll resemble when he finally toes the rubber again?

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2016/2017

 

5. Harold Ramirez, LF/RF                                         
Born: 09/06/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Dustin Fowler, Manuel Margot,

Mason Williams, Danry Vasquez, Joe Dickerson

Height: 5-10 Weight: 210 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 A- 310 11 4 5 0.285 0.354 0.409 0.124 7.4% 16.8% 133
2014 19 A 226 14 1 1 0.309 0.364 0.402 0.093 4.9% 15.5% 117
2015 20 A+ 344 13 6 4 0.337 0.399 0.458 0.121 7.3% 14.0% 163

Background: The short, stocky corner outfielder out of Columbia had one of biggest breakout last seasons of any prospect in the Pirates’ player development engine. Ramirez, who stands a less-than-imposing 5-foot-10 and a round 210 pounds, missed the first seven weeks of the year, but hit a scorching .337/.399/.458 with a 163 wRC+ in 80 games.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Ramirez missed a good portion of the year thanks to a stress reaction in his shin. Ouch. Prior to that injury he missed some time with a hamstring issue. When he’s healthy he looks like a solid fourth outfielder-type – something that CAL would agree upon. He doesn’t walk often; the power’s been unnoticeable,  but the hit tool and speed could garner some looks.”

  1. Even after his breakout season a lot of the same information could still be said about the plump outfielder: the hit tool and speed are definite, repeatable skills; the power, even though it did take a step forward, is still a below-average skill, and CAL still remains a bit suspicious, linking him to Dustin Fowler, Mason Williams, Danry Vazquez, and Joe Dickerson – though the Manuel Margot comp is incredibly interesting, Curiously enough, Ramirez seems to be able to repeat ridiculously high BABIPs: his last three seasons were .385/.365/.332.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017/2018

 

6. Willy Garcia, OF                                                             
Born: 09/04/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Yorman Rodriguez, Fernando Martinez,

Quincy Latimore, Joel Guzman, Randal Grichuk

Height: 6-2 Weight: 215 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A+ 480 21 6 16 0.256 0.294 0.437 0.180 4.8% 32.1% 105
2014 21 AA 474 27 5 18 0.271 0.311 0.478 0.207 5.1% 30.6% 114
2015 22 AA 224 7 2 5 0.314 0.353 0.441 0.127 4.9% 21.0% 127
2015 22 AAA 291 11 4 10 0.246 0.285 0.424 0.178 4.1% 26.1% 103

Background: A toolsy, stat-stuffing free-swinger from the Dominican Republic, Garcia’s first half of 2015 just offered up a glimpse of what type of production he’s capable of: appearing back in Class AA after a solid showing two years ago, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound outfielder hit .314/.353/.441 with seven doubles, a pair of triples, five homeruns, and three stolen bases to go along with a career best 127 wRC+. The organization’s brain-trust bumped Garcia up to the International League in mid-June, and after a bit of an adjustment period – he batted .167/.191/.212 in his first 18 games – he slugged .271/.314/.490 the rest of the way. Overall, Garcia finished the year with an aggregate .275/.314/.431triple-slash line, hitting 18 doubles, half a dozen triples, 15 homeruns, and four stolen bases in 10 attempts.

Projection: There’s an awful lot to like about Garcia as a prospect – a package built around speed and power – but his abhorrence to the walk rate will ultimately limit his overall ceiling. He was able to trim off a noticeable amount off of his strikeout rate the second time through the Eastern League, but it spiked back up to just over 26% in Class AAA. The best case scenario, according to CAL, would be St. Louis’ Randal Chichuk, another outfielder with questionable strikeout rates, above-average power, and low walk totals.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

7. Kevin Newman, SS                                               
Born: 08/04/93 Age: 22 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 21 A- 173 10 1 2 0.226 0.281 0.340 0.113 5.8% 12.7% 85
2015 21 A 110 4 1 0 0.306 0.376 0.367 0.061 8.2% 7.3% 118

Background: For the second consecutive season the Pirates tabbed a shortstop with their first pick in the draft, this time, though, dipping into the collegiate ranks and selecting University of Arizona’s Kevin Newman. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder hit .337/.396/.421 in his storied three-year career.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote prior to last year’s draft:

“ It’s quite simple, really. Will Neman’s hit tool, something that’s been on display at every point during his collegiate career, be enough to compensate for bupkis power? And even dropping the term “power” is a bit misleading. Through his first 142 collegiate games and another 71 Cape Cod contests, the 6-foot-1 shortstop has “slugged” one homerun. That would be fine if he was a doubles machine a la Craig Biggio, but he has just 38 two-baggers to his resume. And not to harp on it – though it’s a glaring red flag – but his career ISO at Arizona stands at .072.

Only lessening his potential professional offensive impact is his lack of patience at the plate: he’s walk just 48 times in his first 666 plate appearances, or just a little over 7%.

Newman’s a fantastic collegiate player, but unless his defense grades out at a Brendan Ryan or Brandon Crawford level there’s just not a whole lot of big league impact in his future. Newman’s the type that will dominate in the lowest levels and struggle in Class AA/Class AAA.

Solid backup, fringy everyday guy ceiling.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

8. Alen Hanson, 2B/SS                                    
Born: 10/22/92 Age: 23 Bats: B Top CALs: Logan Watkins, German Duran,

Chris Bostick, Trevor Plouffe, Arismendy Alcantara

Height: 5-11 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A+ 409 23 8 7 0.281 0.339 0.444 0.163 8.1% 17.1% 121
2013 20 AA 150 4 5 1 0.255 0.299 0.380 0.124 5.3% 17.3% 86
2014 21 AA 527 21 12 11 0.280 0.326 0.442 0.162 5.9% 16.7% 111
2015 22 AAA 529 17 12 6 0.263 0.313 0.387 0.124 7.0% 17.2% 101

Background: It’s been four years since Hanson looked like one of the top young minor league shortstops – he batted .309/.381/.528 with 33 doubles, 13 triples, 16 homeruns, and stolen 35 bags with the West Virginia Power at 19-years-old – but since that time, however, his production has slowly dropped from eye-catching to good to slightly better than average to average. Since 2012 through the end of last season, his overall Weighted Runs Created Plus totals have dropped from 147 (Low Class A) to 121 (A+) to 111 (AA) to 101 (AAA). A 5-foot-11, 180-pound switch-hitting middle infielder out of the Dominican Republic, Hanson spent the entire 2015 season with Indianapolis in the International League, hitting .263/.313/.383 with 17 doubles, 12 triples, six homeruns, and 35 stolen bases (in 47 attempts). And for his career he’s sporting a .284/.343/.444 triple-slash line.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Hanson’s CALs leave a lot to be desired – [Arismendy] Alcantara’s career got off to an awful start, a level that the overwhelming majority of prospects haven’t been able to overcome; [Ronny] Rodriguez’s career has sputtered out; [Reid] Brignac was MLB depth at his best, and [German] Duran never made the big leagues. The lone hope is [Nick] 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 game depending upon his defense, which, unfortunately, is pretty porous.”

And after another humdrum offensive showing in 2015 the exact same thing could be said for Hanson again: His CALs remains similarly underwhelming (Logan Watkins, German Duran, Chris Bostick, Trevor Plouffe, and Arismendy Alcantara); the power is strictly gap-to-gap and not the over-the-fence variety, the speed is above-average, and everything is blah.

His defense did improve as he moved across the keystone to second base, and with Neil Walker dealt to New York for Jon Niese, Hanson might be ready to step in for the big league club as decent, cheap option.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

9. Nick Kingham, RHP                                                
Born: 11/08/91 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Vance Worley, Josh Lindblom,

Aaron Blair, Adrian Sampson, Wade Davis

Height: 6-6 Weight: 230 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A+ 70.0 6 3 3.09 3.20 9.64 1.80 26.5% 5.0% 0.77 76.2%
2013 21 AA 73.3 3 3 2.70 2.97 8.47 3.68 22.0% 9.6% 0.12 77.8%
2014 22 AA 71.0 1 7 3.04 3.52 6.85 3.17 17.6% 8.1% 0.38 67.2%
2014 22 AAA 88.0 5 4 3.58 3.72 6.65 2.76 18.0% 7.5% 0.61 64.7%
2015 23 AAA 31.3 1 2 4.31 3.22 9.19 2.01 23.5% 5.2% 0.86 69.6%

Background: Already knocking on the club’s big league door before 2014, Kingham was on a mission to force his way into the Pirates’ plans through his first six starts last season: he tossed 31.1 innings with Indianapolis, averaging 9.2 punch outs and just 2.0 walks per nine innings. And, unfortunately for Kingham, the young right-hander succumbed to Tommy John surgery.

Projection: Prior to the injury – and assuming he can make a full recovery – the former fourth round pick in 2010 looked like a valuable contributor in any big league rotation. He showed a strong feel for the strike zone, though he’s never going to miss more than a league average amount of bats, and poise beyond his years. Hopefully, he makes a full recovery.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

10. Max Moroff, 2B/SS                                                 
Born: 05/13/93 Age: 23 Bats: B Top CALs: Logan Watkins, Levi Michael,

Karexon Sanchez, Nick Romero, Joey Demichele

Height: 6-0 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 506 18 3 8 0.233 0.335 0.345 0.112 12.8% 20.2% 101
2014 21 A+ 534 30 6 1 0.244 0.324 0.340 0.096 10.1% 24.2% 93
2015 22 AA 612 28 6 7 0.293 0.374 0.409 0.117 11.4% 18.1% 128

Background: A late-round pick out of Trinity Prep High School in Winter Park, Florida, Moroff quietly had a breakout season in the Eastern League last year, hitting .293/.374/.409 with 28 doubles, six triples, seven homeruns, and 17 stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 28%.

Projection: Here’s where it gets interesting – Moroff’s breakout campaign, one in which only two other qualified Eastern League players under the age of 23 topped – could be a sustainable level moving forward. His walk rate last season, 11.4%, is nearly identical to his career total (11.8%); his power, .117 ISO, is also close to his previous totals. He did manage to cut down on his punch outs from the previous year, but it was within reason from his 2013 total (18.1% vs. 20.2%). The only red flag was his .356 BABIP, but, again, he’s posted something near that in 2014 (.332). And don’t forget he’s been incredibly young for his levels of competition too. Add it all up and Moroff has the makings of an above-average backup or potential fringy everyday player.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



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.


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