by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Pirates are best known for their ability to take veteran castoff starters and help them enjoy a renaissance. We’ve seen it time and time again, though they also have the ability to develop starters from within (i.e. Gerrit Cole). There are a few new names on the precipice of joining the Pittsburgh rotation, while they also have several intriguing hitters, led by Josh Bell. It”s an impressive system and one that could pay dividends in 2017:
1) Tyler Glasnow – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – A
ETA – Already Arrived
Glasnow got his first taste of the Majors in 2016 (23.1 IP), after appearing in Double and Triple-A, struggling with his control at every stop:
- Double-A (6.0 IP) – 9.00 BB/9
- Triple-A (110.2 IP) – 5.04 BB/9
- Majors (23.1 IP) – 5.01 BB/9
With a 4.4 BB/9 over his minor league career, the struggles shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Then again, listed at 6’8” control will likely be the last thing that the 23-year old discovers. There’s no questioning his stuff, as it is elite and can be seen in his minor league career 11.6 K/9. He also brings more than enough groundballs (0.91 GO/AO), so when the control develops he has the potential to be one of the best in the game.
Will that development come in 2017? Will it come in 2018? Will it ever come? That’s the million dollar question, but the arm is one that simply can’t be ignored.
2) Austin Meadows – Outfielder
Grade – B+
ETA – 2017
Injuries are an issue (he missed time due to hamstring problems in 2016), and he also saw his strikeout rate rise as he moved up the system:
- Double-A (190 PA) – 16.8%
- Triple-A (145 PA) – 23.4%
Still, he combined to hit 23 doubles, 11 triples and 12 HR, while also going 17-for-22 on stolen base attempts. That total package shows tremendous potential, despite there not being the upside of 30 HR or 50 SB or a .320 average. Overall he shows the potential to hit .290 (given his track record the Triple-A strikeout rate seems inflated) to go along with 20/20 potential. What exactly is there not to like?
3) Josh Bell – First Baseman
Grade – B+
ETA – Already Arrived
After there being significant questions regarding his power and if it would ever develop, Bell finally showed signs in 2016 as he hit 14 HR (along with 23 doubles and 4 triples) over 421 AB at Triple-A. He followed that up with 8 doubles and 3 HR over 128 AB in the Majors, though it doesn’t eliminate the concerns. Just look at his GO/AO in ’16:
- Triple-A – 1.30
- Majors – 1.53
With that many groundballs he may never be an elite slugger, but with a little more growth 18-23 HR is possible. When coupled with his strong approach at the plate (15.3% strikeout rate, 11.8% walk rate at Triple-A; 7.6% SwStr%, 24.8% O-Swing% in the Majors), that should be more than enough.
4) Mitch Keller – Right-Handed Pitcher
Grade – B+
ETA – 2019
A 2014 second round pick, Keller spent the bulk of 2016 at Single-A and impressed with a 9.48 K/9, 1.30 BB/9 and 1.50 GO/AO. Standing at 6’3” and 195 lbs., there’s the potential that he continues to develop physically and sees his stuff improve a little bit more (aka adding more velocity).
For a 20-year old to show this type of control, while also showing the ability to generate a significant number of groundballs, the upside is clearly there. With the potential for the stuff to improve, given his age and projectability, there’s the potential for him to fully breakout in 2017.
5) Kevin Newman – Shortstop
Grade – B
ETA – 2018
The team’s 2015 first round pick (19th overall), Newman’s approach at the plate is his best asset with 36 K vs. 43 BB over 397 AB between High-A and Double-A. However there isn’t significant power potential (5 HR) or tremendous speed (10 SB), and while there’s room for growth in both categories he is 23-years old so projecting a tremendous jump would be a mistake. There’s value and a lot to like, but he certainly is overshadowed by the top end prospects in the system.
6) KeBryan Hayes – Third Baseman (Grade – B)
7) Nick Kingham – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B)
8) Will Craig – Third Baseman (Grade – B-)
9) Yeudy Garcia – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
10) Alen Hanson – Second Baseman (Grade – C+)
Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: