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February 5, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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Prospect rankings primer
Last year's Pirates list

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Jameson Taillon
  2. CF Gregory Polanco
  3. RHP Tyler Glasnow
  4. C Reese McGuire
  5. RF Josh Bell
  6. RHP Nick Kingham
  7. OF Austin Meadows
  8. SS Alen Hanson
  9. RHP Luis Heredia
  10. LF Harold Ramirez

1. Jameson Taillon
Position: RHP
DOB: 11/18/1991
Height/Weight: 6’6” 235 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, The Woodlands HS (The Woodlands, TX)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #11 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: 3.89 ERA (37 IP, 31 H, 37 K, 16 BB) at Triple-A, 3.67 ERA (110.1 IP, 112 H, 106 K, 36 BB) at Double-A Altoona
The Tools: 7 FB; 6+ potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2013: Despite making 25 starts and logging close to 150 innings in the upper minors—missing close to a bat an inning as a 21-year-old—Taillon’s national prospect status took a bit of a step back and he lost some his shine. Go figure.

Strengths: Big, physical frame; built for workload; big arm strength; fastball is easy plus offering; shows plus-plus velocity; comfortable in the 94-97 range; heavy life to the arm side; bat breaker; curveball is plus; flashes well above-average potential; low 80s with sharp two-plane break; aggressive approach; frontline mentality.

Weaknesses: Questions about lengthy arm action; fastball command is below average; curveball plays down from paper grade because of command; changeup is below average at present; lacks impact projection; too firm and limited fading action at higher velocity.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 6; no. 3 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; 28 starts in upper minors

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The prospect fatigue in fantasy circles has certainly been in full swing, as Taillon has seen his perceived value drop over the past two seasons. Of course, we know better and the developmental process often leads to nice buy-low opportunities on players like this. Taillon should be a strong four-category contributor who will pitch in a great park for his raw stats. Just because he’s not an “ace” doesn’t mean he can’t be a top-20 fantasy starter.

The Year Ahead: Taillon was once considered a future frontline arm, a true number one in the making. Based on the scouting reports, the reality is a little less spectacular, but everything still points to a high quality major-league starter, one capable of logging 200 innings a year and making outs. With excellent size and strength, in combination with two well above-average offerings, Taillon should be considered one of the best arms in the minors. But his command profile is below average at present and limits the utility of the plus-plus pitches, and his changeup flashes only average potential, so the overall forecast has more clouds than once observed. However, Taillon’s command still has time to refine, and if he does step forward on that front, the Pirates might just have one of the most potent one-two rotation punches in baseball.

Major league ETA: 2014

2. Gregory Polanco
Position: CF
DOB: 09/14/1991
Height/Weight: 6’4” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #3 (Org), #44 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .222/.222/.222 at Triple-A Indianapolis (2 games), .263/.354/.407 at Double-A Altoona (68 games), .312/.364/.472 at High-A Bradenton (57 games)
The Tools: 6+ run; 6 potential hit; 6+ potential power; 5+ glove; 6 arm

What Happened in 2013: As a 21-year-old, the five-tool talent played his way to the upper minors before exploding in the Dominican Winter League, establishing himself as one of the most exciting position players in the minors.

Strengths: Well above-average athlete; long legs; more room to add strength; easy plus run; big, graceful strides; excellent range in the field; arm is plus; glove could play above average; good bat-to-ball skills; makes a lot of contact; hit tool likely to play plus; power potential is easy plus; makes quick adjustments; plus makeup.

Weaknesses: Still raw in the field; several sources prefer him in a corner spot; needs to improve his tracking skills/routes to the ball; swing can get long; could struggle with inside coverage against plus velo; game power is still more about projection than game utility.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division/all-star

Realistic Role: 6; first-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; 70 games in the upper minors; needs more tool refinement.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Usually three sixes are the sign of the devil, but when they come in the form of potential hit, power, and run tools, they are anything but. Polanco will impact fantasy rosters most with his speed first (think 25-30 steals), but he has the potential to hit 25 homers at the major-league level in due time. However, he’s unlikely to have the power and speed overlap all that much at once—meaning his upside is just substantial and not mind-bending.

The Year Ahead: Polanco is the total tool package, loud across the board with the potential to develop into an all-star-caliber player at the major-league level. He’s still raw in some aspects of the game, including his reads/routes in center and his ability to turn his impressive raw power into over-the-fence results. But developmentally speaking, and taking into account his plus physical gifts, his work ethic, and his ability to make adjustments on the field, you really can’t ask for a better model than Polanco. There are still some questions about the stick, and a dose of Triple-A pitching might present a good challenge for the 22-year-old, but the future is incredibly bright and he should reach the major-league level at some point in 2014.

Major league ETA: 2014

3. Tyler Glasnow
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/23/1993
Height/Weight: 6’7” 195 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2011 draft, Hart HS (Santa Clarita, CA)
Previous Ranking: #8 (Org)
2013 Stats: 2.18 ERA (111.1 IP, 54 H, 164 K, 61 BB) at Low-A West Virginia
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 potential CB; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2013: Glasnow erupted as a prospect, missing a ton of bats in his full-season debut, showing a well above-average fastball and a highly projectable profile.

Strengths: Impressive size; fast arm from ¾ slot; long arms and steep downward plane; fastball works in the 93-96 range with ease; touches higher; attacks with fastball; upper-70s curveball flashes plus; sharp vertical break; changeup projects to average.

Weaknesses: Delivery can get funky; struggles to control body and loses release; fastball can sit in the mid-90s but control gets too loose at upper registers; fastball command is below average at present; tendency to overthrow the curveball; changeup is below average at present; limited action; pitchability needs improvement.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no 3/4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; Low-A resume; pitchability needs work

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: We know it’s easier to rack up strikeouts in Low-A than in the upper minors or major-league level, but it’s not supposed to be THIS easy. Glasnow’s curveball could eventually help push him up to the 200-plus strikeout range at the major-league level, but he’ll need to limit the walks in order to be as strong of a ratio play (impact ERA will be more attainable than WHIP for him).

The Year Ahead: Glasnow blew up as a prospect in 2013, and despite a warranted rise in the national ranks, some of the hype surrounding the 20-year-old arm is quite overblown. You have to love the size and projection it offers, and the fastball is already a big-league quality weapon, but the command isn’t sharp and he can struggle with his length in the delivery. The fastball/curve combo is simply too good for lower-level hitters to deal with, so he will be able to hide the warts as he climbs the chain, but he could struggle once he reaches Double-A and sees more advanced sticks. I don’t see a frontline projection in Glasnow—despite the frontline size and fastball—but I do see a future mid-rotation starter, one capable of workload and whiffs but one unlikely to blossom into a top-of-the-rotation arm because of the questions surrounding his pitchability.

Major league ETA: Late 2015

4. Reese McGuire
Position: C
DOB: 03/02/1995
Height/Weight: 6’0” 181 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, Kentwood HS (Covington, WA)
Previous Ranking: NA
2013 Stats: .250/.294/.250 at short-season Jamestown (4 games), .330/.388/.392 at complex level GCL (46 games)
The Tools: 7+ arm; 6+ potential glove; 5+ run; 5+ potential hit; 5 potential power

What Happened in 2013: A rare five-tool talent behind the plate, McGuire has yet to receive the national love, but his time is coming as a top-tier prospect.

Strengths: Good athlete; good present strength/coordination; arm is big weapon; receiving projects to plus or better; intelligence for calling games; shows a good swing at the plate; generates good bat speed and can drive the ball; above-average potential hit; average potential power; solid run; huge makeup.

Weaknesses: Still refining as a receiver; working on footwork/positioning; can get too aggressive with the arm; sources are mixed on the stick; pessimists see a fringe hit tool; likely to struggle against better velocity/secondaries; game power could play below average.

Overall Future Potential: High 6; first-division/all-star

Realistic Role: 6; first division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; dual-threat development; limited professional experience.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: McGuire is not Austin Hedges, as far as the gap between real-life and fantasy value goes, but he’s certainly more valuable from a real-life standpoint. Right now, he offers enough fantasy upside to roster. He doesn’t project to be a huge help in any individual categories, but could forge a fantasy future as a early career Russell Martin type—a catcher who can hit a little, has some pop and runs a bit.

The Year Ahead: I love plus defensive catchers with near elite arms, especially when the profile is completed with makeup that scouts line up to champion. McGuire is incredibly underrated as a prospect, a legit five-tool backstop who is a better athlete than people realize and who could develop into a gold glove-caliber defender. If the bat is average, he could be a major-league regular for a very long time. He’s an all-star if the bat offers anything close to its projection. I wouldn’t be shocked if McGuire climbs the prospect lists in 2014 after a strong full-season campaign. I’m very high on this prospect.

Major league ETA: 2017

5. Josh Bell
Position: RF
DOB: 08/14/1992
Height/Weight: 6’3” 213 lbs
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2011 draft, Dallas Jesuit College Prep (Dallas, TX)
Previous Ranking: #6 (Org)
2013 Stats: .279/.353/.453 at Low-A West Virginia (119 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit; 6 potential power; 5+ arm; 5 glove; 5 run

What Happened in 2013: An injury marred his full-season debut in 2012, but a return to health saw Bell take a step forward in his return in 2013, ripping 52 extra-base hits as a 20-year-old.

Strengths: Good athlete with size; good present strength; natural feel for hitting; right hand stroke is easy and clean; quick to the ball and consistent hard contact; hit tool projects to plus; power is still developing, but projects to be plus; left-handed swing shows bat speed and lift; arm is above average; average run; can show all five tools.

Weaknesses: Power mechanics from the left side; tendency to drop his back shoulder and load up for the long ball; susceptible to quality secondary stuff; corner profile in the outfield; arm is strong but doesn’t always show above-average utility; lacks big recovery speed on bad read/routes.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; Low-A experience; knee injury on resume (2012); early makeup concerns.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The bottom really fell out of Bell’s value this season—to the point where I was called an idiot on Twitter for saying I would take him over Devon Travis in fantasy leagues. This is still a guy who could hit .280 and 25-plus bombs with a lot of RBIs. If his current owner doesn’t still believe, by all means step in and relieve him/her of Bell.

The Year Ahead: In 2013, Bell flashed the talent to justify his $5M price tag, and should continue to build on the success in 2014. It’s not an elite profile, but both the hit tool and the power could play to plus, and he has more than enough athleticism to handle a corner outfield spot. It will be interesting to see how he responds as a switch-hitter to better pitching, as he has a tendency to sell out from the left side and could open himself up to exploitation if continues to cheat on the fastball and load up the power. I think Bell could be ready to take another step forward, with the potential to blossom into a top 50 player in the minors.

Major league ETA: Late 2015

6. Nick Kingham
Position: RHP
DOB: 11/08/1991
Height/Weight: 6’5” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2010 draft, Sierra Vista HS (Las Vegas, NV)
Previous Ranking: #9 (Org)
2013 Stats: 2.70 ERA (73.1 IP, 70 H, 69 K, 30 BB) at Double-A Altoona, 3.09 ERA (70 IP, 55 H, 75 K, 14 BB) at High-A Bradenton
The Tools: 6 FB; 6 potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2013: The former fourth round pick’s 2012 season was solid, but his 2013 campaign was explosive, as he pitched his way to the Double-A level, missing a bat an inning and holding hitters to a .233 average.

Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; clean delivery and arm action; throws downhill and repeats; fastball is plus offering; routinely works 92-94; can spike in the 97 range; some late life to the arm side; curveball is a hard breaker that can show heavy depth; almost splitter-like at times because of the vertical action; feel for an average changeup that has more to offer; has pitchability and command projection.

Weaknesses: More control than command at present; can spot the fastball but struggles with secondary command; tendency to overthrow the curveball and lose the depth; changeup plays well because of deception but can lack big action.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; Double-A experience.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Kingham gets overlooked in the Pirates’ system because Taillon and Glasnow are both top-tier pitching prospects, but that’s not his fault. Glasnow doesn’t have that same upside, but he could be a very worthy shallow-league starter in relatively short order, with 170-175 strikeouts and an ERA which could hover below 3.50.

The Year Ahead: While the profile lacks the same sex appeal as that of Tyler Glasnow, several sources actually prefer Kingham as a prospect because of his overall feel for the mound and execution of his entire arsenal. The fastball is a true plus offering, with plus velocity and good life. He uses his size well on the mound and repeats his mechanics despite the length. The curveball will need to be tighter, but it can show plus because of its velocity and heavy vertical depth. A step forward in command could elevate the 22-year-old onto another prospect tier and set him up for a rotation spot in 2015. The ceiling isn’t as high as those of Taillon and Glasnow, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Kingham develops into a quality mid-rotation starter at the major-league level, one who lacks a frontline punch but makes up for it with consistency and dependability.

Major league ETA: Late 2014

7. Austin Meadows
Position: OF
DOB: 05/03/1995
Height/Weight: 6’3” 200 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, Grayson HS (Loganville, GA)

Previous Ranking: NA

2013 Stats: .529/.636/.882 at short-season Jamestown (5 games), .294/.399/.519 at complex level GCL (43 games)
The Tools: 6+ run; 5+ potential glove; 5+ potential hit; 5+ potential power

What Happened in 2013: A highly touted amateur player, Meadows was popped with the ninth overall pick in the draft and started ripping the ball at the complex-level right out of the gate.

Strengths: Looks the part; size/athleticism/strength; easy plus run; swing is aesthetically pleasing; can drive the ball and will use all fields; hit tool could play to above average; raw power to play above average; comes from highly competitive amateur background.

Weaknesses: Speed could dip as body continues to mature/bulk up; arm is below average; bat speed isn’t special; tendency to swing through average velocity; power will likely come from strength and leverage in the swing.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; short-season resume; questions about profile.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Meadows is essentially a compressed version of Polanco, but with that compression comes less fantasy ceiling. As of right now, he’s a prospect who hasn’t played full-season ball and doesn’t project to have impact potential in homers, steals or average—his value is likely to come in aggregation. He’s a pick in the back of the first round for me in dynasty league drafts this year.

The Year Ahead: As a player who spent his amateur years on the showcase circuit, Meadows is very familiar to most evaluators. Dating back to those showcase days, it was clear that Meadows looked the part of a future first-division major leaguer, a player who had the body of a young Josh Hamilton, complete with wheels and a pretty swing from the left-side. Despite the physical qualities, Meadows can struggle with the stick, showing a tendency to swing and miss on fringy stuff in the zone. His short-season performance was much better than expected and could represent a true developmental step forward for the 18-year-old, which if replicated could erase some of the early doubts about his bat. The arm issue and body projection (bulk) could force a move to left field, which will put more pressure on the bat to live up the lofty hype. I’m not sold that the bat can carry that burden, but will gladly change my mind after putting eyes back on Meadows in 2014 and beyond.

Major league ETA: 2017

8. Alen Hanson
Position: SS
DOB: 10/22/1992
Height/Weight: 5’11” 170 lbs
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2009, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org), #66 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: .255/.299/.380 at Double-A Altoona (35 games), .281/.339/.444 at High-A Bradenton (92 games)
The Tools: 6 run; 5+ potential hit; 5 potential power; 5+ potential glove

What Happened in 2013: After ripping it in High-A, Hanson struggled in his first taste of the Eastern League, and carried over some of the offensive struggles in his fall and winter ball campaigns.

Strengths: Plus athlete; great hands on both sides of the ball; good feel for contact; controls the bat well and has bat speed; hit tool could play above average; good pop for his size; can make loud contact and drive the ball out of the park; plus run; glove could play solid-average or above at second.

Weaknesses: Not likely a shortstop at highest level; arm plays fringe or below; great hands but can struggle with routine plays; more flash than fundamentals; bat can get aggressive; tendency to roll over off-speed; can get caught cheating on heat; get to front foot too early and make weak contact; power might play below average.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; above-average regular

Realistic Role: High 4; utility/below-average regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; limited Double-A experience; questions about profile

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Hanson still ranks fourth on this list for fantasy purposes, as his defensive profile pulls him down this list. If Hanson is a second baseman, we don’t really care as it’s not that much worse of a position than shortstop. He still can be a 15-homer, 20-steal middle infielder with a pretty good average.

The Year Ahead: If you think Hanson is a shortstop all the way up the chain, he belongs much higher on this list. The kid can hit, and will most likely develop into a solid-average offensive force, with good contact ability, some pop, and the legs to add pressure to the equation. A solid-average offensive profile for a shortstop points to a first-division player and possible all-star, but the value doesn’t’ play the same at second, where the bat needs to carry more of the weight. I don’t see big power coming from the stick, and I don’t see a .300 hitter, so the profile plays a little soft for me. A promising return to Double-A could push his stock up a bit in the short-term, but the long-term projection looks more like a major-league regular than a first-division type. That’s still a huge developmental win for the Pirates.

Major league ETA: 2015

9. Luis Heredia
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/10/1994
Height/Weight: 6’6” 205 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2010, Mexico
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org), #53 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: 3.05 ERA (65 IP, 52 H, 55 K, 37 BB) at Low-A West Virginia
The Tools: 6 FB; 6+ potential CH; 5 potential SL

What Happened in 2013: In his full-season debut, the full-bodied Heredia struggled with his control and secondary execution, watching his stock tumble as the system improved as a whole.

Strengths: Large frame; good strength; has pitchability; fastball was down in 2013, but can still work low 90s with occasional velocity spike; turns over a quality changeup; good arm speed and fading action; slider would flash average or better; could show sharp tilt; will show curveball; deep arsenal mix.

Weaknesses: High-maintenance body; lost fluidity in the delivery and mechanical consistency; fastball was very pedestrian at times; would dip into upper 80s; lacks a knockout breaking ball; can miss some bats; more about missing barrels; command and control were both below average; question the makeup/work ethic.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; Low-A resume; only 19 years old

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: What Heredia likely won’t give you in strikeouts, he will give you in innings. More of a target in points leagues, he doesn’t miss as many bats as you’d like (although Pirate pitching prospect strikeout numbers can be deceiving), and the breaking ball may not develop enough to get him more than 150-160 in a season. The ratios should be strong though.

The Year Ahead: Heredia is still very young and very promising, but showing up to camp out of shape raises a red flag, regardless of his age. The large and in charge righty has always been more about pitchability and making outs than filling up the stat sheet with whiffs, and there is some merit to the approach. But when the stuff ticks down and the command falls below average, the inability to hit spots and miss barrels limits the effectiveness of the arsenal. With his fastball/changeup, Heredia can force weak contact and escape at-bats, and the slider showed some bat-missing ability in 2014, so he has something to build on going forward. If he can control his body and his delivery, Heredia could once again climb the prospect ranks and regain his mid-rotation projection.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. Harold Ramirez
Position: LF
DOB: 09/06/1994
Height/Weight: 5’11” 175 lbs
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Colombia
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .285/.354/.409 at short-season Jamestown (71 games)
The Tools: 6+ run; 5 arm; 5 potential glove; 5+ potential hit; 5 potential power

What Happened in 2013: In his New York-Penn League debut, the seven-figure talent was electric at the plate, showing an advanced feel for contact and the ability to drive the ball.

Strengths: Plus athlete; good present strength; strong lower half; excellent hands at the plate; feel for the barrel; puts himself in good hitting conditions and drives the ball; power could play above average down the line; easy plus run; shows good range in the outfield; arm can show average; glove could play to average with refinement.

Weaknesses: Struggles against off-speed; looks to attack fastballs early and often; struggled against pitchers with a plan; body could pull speed down as he matures; lower half already showing some thickness; reads/routes in center need a lot of work; arm strength is average but utility doesn’t always play to grade; could end up a left-field profile.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 4; bench outfielder/below-average regular

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; short-season resume; sizeable gap between present/future.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you’re looking for a Pirates’ prospect who could take that Polanco/Hanson step forward in 2014, Ramirez is a good guy to gamble on. He doesn’t project to have that kind of power, but the hit and speed tools are certainly interesting from a fantasy perspective.

The Year Ahead: Ramirez received a lot of love early this summer, as his NYPL debut was highly successful; he hit for average with good pop and speed. But he struggled mightily in his final month, and some of the on-the-field reports weren’t as glowing. Because of his combination of speed, hit tool, and power potential, Ramirez gets lumped in with the top-tier prospects, and perhaps he has the overall feel and makeup to turn the physical gifts into that reality. But sources are mixed on his defensive prowess in center, with some suggesting left field is a more likely outcome, despite the plus speed and playable arm. Developmentally speaking, if he does have to shift to left, the bat will have to reach its projections (or beyond) for Ramirez to achieve a first-division status. Long way to go, but lots of tools to work with.

Major league ETA: 2017


Prospects on the Rise:
1. OF Michael De La Cruz:
Six-figure talent from the Dominican Republic, De La Cruz is a middle-of-the-diamond player who has good feel for hitting. It’s raw, but he has baseball instincts and a lot of physical gifts to mold into form, and he will jump onto the national scene next year in his stateside debut. I think the Pirates have one of the top international departments under director Rene Gayo, and a track record for hitting on up-the-middle position players. Keep the name on your follow list for 2014.

2. LHP Blake Taylor: Second round pick in the 2013 draft, Taylor has excellent size and present strength, and a fast arm that offers projection. As an amateur, the southpaw would work mostly in the upper 80s, touching the low 90s, with the ability to spin a quality curve, but he struggled with his delivery (high leg/struggled to get over and finish) and command in his small complex-league sample. As he starts to put the pieces together, he should climb the prospect ranks and jump into the top 10 within the next few seasons.

3. LHP Cody Dickson: Sam Houston State lefty drafted in the fourth round in 2013, Dickson has a lively solid-average fastball that has some remaining projection, a quality changeup that plays well off the fastball with good arm-side action and a good tumbling curveball. Command needs work, but this is a lefty with a good combination of now stuff, feel for craft, and remaining projection. I feel confident saying he will be among the top 10 prospects in this system next season.


Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
1. C Tony Sanchez: The former first round pick finally made it the majors, although the bat stayed in the minors. Sanchez is most likely a backup catcher at the highest level, but one who can offer defensive value in addition to some pop at the plate, but the outcome is obviously a disappointment from the fourth overall pick in 2009.

2. OF Andrew Lambo: A fourth round pick in the 2007 draft, Lambo has seen his ups and downs as a prospect, including being traded for the great Octavio Dotel. But he finally got to taste the highest level in 2013 after close to 2,500 minor-league at-bats, and even though the sample was small and the contact inconsistent, the power from the left side makes him an interesting major-league option in 2014.

3. RHP Stolmy Pimentel: Signed by the Red Sox back in 2006, Pimentel has made 147 career minor-league starts but finally reached the major-league level pitching out of the bullpen, a role that could keep him at the level in 2014. He’s always had the fastball, working in the plus velocity range as a starter and sitting mid-90s in bursts, and his cutter-like slider in the upper 80s with sharp glove-side slice can miss bats and barrels. But the once above-average changeup comes and goes, as does the command, so a max-effort arsenal out of the bullpen looks like the best chance for a sustainable future.


Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/88 or later)

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Starling Marte
  3. Jameson Taillon
  4. Gregory Polanco
  5. Tyler Glasnow
  6. Reese McGuire
  7. Josh Bell
  8. Nick Kingham
  9. Austin Meadows
  10. Jose Tabata

The Pirates have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young talent, especially in the outfield and in the rotation. The future is bright in Pittsburgh—Neal Huntington and Co. have done a masterful job in amateur scouting and player development. Every member of this U25 list for the Pirates is either currently a starter on the big-league club or a member of the Baseball Prospectus Top 100 Prospects list. All but Tabata were drafted or signed by the Pirates. That doesn’t include established starters Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jeff Locke, all of whom are 28 or under themselves.

While they arguably have the best young outfield in the majors now, they have perhaps just as much talent coming up through the minors with Polanco, Bell and Meadows. Bell and Meadows are still a couple years away but Polanco could very well push Tabata out of his starting job in 2014. Polanco reached Triple-A in 2013 after starting in High-A and has continued to hit in the Dominican Winter League, leading the league in hits, runs, total bases and OPS.

The Pirates got a huge boost in 2013 with the emergence of Cole and fellow starter Jeff Locke, who just graduated from this list. They signed Edison Volquez, with whom pitching coach Ray Searage will attempt another Francisco Liriano-type reclamation project with a former top-of-the-line starter. Along with Liriano, veterans Charlie Morton and Wandy Rodriguez will hold down the fort until the trio of Taillon, Glasnow and Kingham are ready. Brandon Cumpton, who pitched very well in 30 big-league innings in 2013, is also an internal option, as is Kyle McPherson, who spent most of last season injured. Taillon and Kingham are very close and should start this season in Triple-A Indianapolis with a solid chance of being called up sometime during the season. —Steffan Segui

A Parting Thought: This is the no. 3 farm system in baseball, complete with high-ceiling upside and depth for days, the kind that will keep it in the top tier long after the Taillons and Polancos of the world graduate to the majors.

***

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Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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26 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Dave from Pittsburgh

I woke up this morning with no expectations except for there to be more snow on the ground and a deep weariness in my heart. Browsing the internet while dreading leaving my cocoon of warmth. I made my way to BP and my heart leapt. Like I said, I had no expectations today, but now I dream the waking dream of the spring to come.

Feb 05, 2014 03:42 AM
rating: 15
 
shakyhands

Is Wyatt Mathisen not on the list this year due to a dropoff in projection/production or to the top 10 passing him? After a year watching him, does he stay behind the plate?

Feb 05, 2014 05:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Blackmax

Thanks, guys. Fascinating reading. You give us a sense not only of the player's natural abilities and character but also of where he stands as a work in progress. It makes it a lot more fun to watch these guys knowing a little about what scouts think and wondering what they will think next. I agree with Dave from Pitt that it's good to be a Pirates fan, this morning. Still, I think I'll go out today and buy the novel called "More Die of Heartbreak" just to keep things in perspective.

Feb 05, 2014 05:15 AM
rating: 5
 
Nojsztat

Great list, as always. Are there any other names to track for a deep dynasty, esp on the international front? I imagine Harold Ramirez will be taken in my upcoming dynasty draft, and I'll keep an eye on De La Cruz. Anyone else to watch?

Feb 05, 2014 05:24 AM
rating: 0
 
Dave from Pittsburgh

I think what I enjoy most about the Pirates system right now that it's relatively lower on the risk side now that a lot of them are in the upper minors. If you go back a few years the risk was extreme as a lot of these guys were still in short season ball.

Now playing: Sarah McLachlan - I Will Remember You

Stetson Allie, Wyatt Mathisen, Barrett Barnes, Colton Cain, Chase D'Arnaud, Rudy Owens

Honestly though, as far as top prospects transforming into major leaguers, the Pirates have done extremely well over the past 4-5 years.

Feb 05, 2014 06:33 AM
rating: 1
 
bzalaski

What are the prospects on Stetson Allie's new career choice?

Feb 05, 2014 06:44 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Highly unlikely to succeed.

Feb 05, 2014 07:16 AM
 
BP staff member Russell A. Carleton
BP staff

But... he went to my high school!

Feb 05, 2014 08:54 AM
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

First-division/all-star. Highly LIKELY to become great.

Feb 05, 2014 09:07 AM
 
shakyhands

Do you (BP) believe that the international spending cap will have much of an impact on the Pirates when so many of their signings (Marte, Polanco, Herrera, Hanson) have been for 100k or less? harold ramirez seems like the exception

Feb 05, 2014 06:54 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Gayo seems to take pride in the fact that he can find gems for less than other teams, so I don't think it will impact them much. International scouting is still about due diligence/effort, and the Pirates are one of the hardest working and most thorough orgs in that market.

Feb 05, 2014 07:16 AM
 
Behemoth

Any real hope for Barrett Barnes?

Feb 05, 2014 07:59 AM
rating: 0
 
JusitnG

Not sure how deep you go with who you get reports on, but is the Pirates' 11-20 better than some teams' 1-10?

Also, is Jaff Decker worth paying much attention to? I keep forgetting that they traded for him and that he was once relatively highly regarded.

Feb 05, 2014 08:22 AM
rating: 0
 
DeathSpeculum

Heredia v trevor bauer, who would you rather have?

Feb 05, 2014 09:25 AM
rating: 0
 
slamcactus

Would Jin-de Jhang compete for a spot on lists in less loaded systems? His numbers and scouting profile look pretty solid to me.

Feb 05, 2014 09:55 AM
rating: 0
 
newsense

Wish List for future articles:
1. Show the ranks for the players on this year's Top 101 list
2. PECOTA comps when available

Feb 05, 2014 10:02 AM
rating: 0
 
DeathSpeculum

the pecota thing is interesting, but pecota with prospects seems like kind of a crapshoot. is comp-ing josh fucking hart and manuel margot to Andrew McCutchen really helpful for anybody, on any level?

Feb 05, 2014 10:11 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

The applicable 101 rankings will appear in the 2014 Futures Guide, along with a more detailed statistical breakdown for each player.

Feb 05, 2014 10:27 AM
 
JusitnG

You don't happen to have one of those prospect debates like you did for Correa/Springer available for Polanco/Taillon, do you? That'd be a fun read.

Feb 05, 2014 10:36 AM
rating: 2
 
jfranco77

For all the emphasis the Pirates place on fastball command in their minor league development, is it strange that Taillon and Glasnow still struggle with it?

Feb 05, 2014 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

If fastball command were easy, we would all have it. Both Taillon and Glasnow have a lot of body to control, and with the body in a constant state of physical growth and maturity, you can often sacrifice athleticism and coordination, which can influence command and repeatability of mechanics.

Feb 05, 2014 11:56 AM
 
Scott44

Before he was traded, would Dilson Herrera been in consideration for the back end of the top 10?

Feb 05, 2014 12:28 PM
rating: 1
 
Kyle Matte

Re: Heredia

"The large and in charge righty" made me spit my dream on my desk.

Feb 05, 2014 14:16 PM
rating: 0
 
jda

Re: Luis Heredia, I still am a little surprised that the Pirates scrapped that curveball for a slider. The curve really seemed to flash plus at times and even a typical offering looked better than his current slider on most days.

Does anyone, either BP staff or reader, know what happened here?

Feb 05, 2014 14:29 PM
rating: 0
 
blainespellman

How would you rank the under 25 list within the NL Central (Reds, Cubs, Pirates, Brewers (haha), Cardinals)?

Feb 05, 2014 14:34 PM
rating: 1
 
tristramshandy

Jason,

"Strengths: Big, physical frame; built for workload". Is there in fact a documented correlation between size/build and injury for pitchers? It's axiomatic that small-framed guys are less likely to pitch a lot of innings for many years. Has that been demonstrated to be true? I don't recall ever seeing research on that.

Feb 06, 2014 09:16 AM
rating: 2
 
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