Top 10 Prospects (2016): Pittsburgh Pirates: Questions Run Rampant Throughout The Rankings

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Pirates have developed some talent in recent years, most notably in the outfield and on the mound.  While it’s easy to argue those are already the strengths of the organization, the scary thing is that the pipeline is flush with even more talent on the horizon.  They are armed with one of the elite prospects in the game and while there are distinct questions hovering over many of the prospects (specifically from #3 down), they are an organization that has ample talent.  Who is the best of the bunch?  Who can we trust?  Let’s take a look:

1) Tyler Glasnow – RHP
ETA – 2016
Grade – A

One of the premier prospects in the game, Glasnow accumulated a 2.39 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 22 starts across three levels (including 8 at Triple-A) in ’15. At 6’8” he’s an imposing figure on the mound so the concern would be that he’d struggle with his control, something that’s common for young, taller pitchers. To an extent, he’s not immune to the issue (BB/9):

  • Single-A (5.1 IP) – 3.4
  • Double-A (63.0 IP) – 2.7
  • Triple-A (41.0 IP) – 4.8

Overall he owns a 4.2 BB/9 in the minors, so it will be something that we’ll have to monitor. If he can find consistency in his delivery, even if it’s just at his overall 3.5 BB/9 from ’15, his stuff will play up as an ace. He’s posted an eye-popping 11.8 K/9 in the minors, including a 10.5 mark at Triple-A last season.

At 22-years old and with experience at Triple-A he’s a near lock to arrive in ’16 and could hit the ground running. It’s all about harnessing his stuff, something that should come before long.

2) Austin Meadows – OF
ETA – 2017
Grade – B+

The Pirates have a highly skilled young outfield already, so figuring out Meadows arrival date is going to be a bit inexact. There’s every chance that he’s ready to produce at some point in ’17, but will the team have an opening for him to fill? There also is a bit of projection in his upside, as his 7 HR/20 SB over 508 AB at High-A last season doesn’t jump out and scream “can’t miss prospect”.

He does have speed, he just needs to develop an ability to consistently steal bases, and the potential is there to ultimately develop a bit of pop (15-20 HR, not likely 30+). It’s his contact ability that is currently playing up, with a 14.2% strikeout rate last season (helping to his .307 average), that is the most “exciting” tool at this point. Don’t be mistaken however, as the upside and ability is there to produce across the board.

3) Jameson Taillon – RHP
ETA – 2016/2017
Grade – B

There are obviously significant questions, as he’s lost two years of development due to Tommy John surgery followed by hernia surgery. It wasn’t long ago that he was viewed as one of the elite prospects in the game, however, including an 8.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 382.0 minor league innings. The Pirates will likely be conservative with him, so it’s possible there simply aren’t enough innings for him to make an impact in ’16 (it all depends on what he shows after two years on the sidelines). If not for the missed time, though, he’d be locked in as the #2 prospect (though he’d already likely be thriving in the Majors, having graduated from this list).

4) Harold Ramirez – OF
ETA – 2017
Grade – B

Yes, the Pirates have another outfielder who could make a significant impact. In 306 AB last season he hit .337 with 4 HR (adding 13 doubles and 6 triples) and 22 SB. Even better has been his improving strikeout rate:

  • Low-A – 16.8%
  • Single-A – 15.5%
  • High-A – 14.0%

That, along with his speed, gives him the profile of a top of the order bat who may be able to regularly chip in 5-10 HR (at 5’10” he doesn’t profile for much power) to go along with 30ish SB. He’s going to be given ample time to develop, given the team’s depth, and could be best served to be utilized as a trading chip at some point.

5) Josh Bell – 1B
ETA – 2016
Grade – B-

He was moved from the outfield to 1B, where his bat doesn’t really translate as well unless he figures out how to tap into his power. Sure his 65 K in 489 AB last season was impressive (he also added 65 BB), which should allow him to hit for a strong average, but he mustered just 7 HR (along with 24 doubles and 9 triples). That sounds an awful lot like James Loney, doesn’t it?

The Rest:

6) Alen Hanson – 2B/SS
7) Kevin Newman – SS
8) Ke’Bryan Hayes – 3B
9) Reese McGuire – C
10) Nick Kingham – RHP

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs

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Grading System (still in development):
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 Top 10 Prospect Lists:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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