Who Will Be the Top Pirates Prospect in 2015?

Today we wrapped up our top 20 prospect countdown, finishing off with Gregory Polanco ranked as the top prospect in the system this year. If you enjoyed the countdown, and the reports that went with each prospect, I recommend buying the 2014 Prospect Guide. It includes the full top 50 prospects, along with a report on each player. What the countdown didn’t include were the stats, height, weight, bio information, and our grade and risk factors for each player. The book includes all of that for every player in the system, along with write-ups for any prospect outside of the top 50 that projects to reach the majors. Not only is the book a great resource, but it also helps the site grow, allowing us to provide all of the great coverage on the site for free.

The 2014 season will see the top two prospects in the system graduate. Gregory Polanco is expected to arrive in the second half, and Jameson Taillon could be up by mid-June, just like Gerrit Cole. Beyond those two, there are a lot of candidates for the top spot in 2015, with no clear front runner. The good part about this is that the “no clear front runner” aspect isn’t because no one has stepped up as a top prospect. It’s because so many have stepped up as top prospects.

Who will be the top prospect heading into the 2015 season?
Who will be the top prospect heading into the 2015 season?

Leading the way are Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. I think both players could be top prospects in other organizations. In fact, Keith Law had Glasnow rated 20th overall in his top 100 prospects. There were 13 teams with prospects ahead of Glasnow. That means, according to Law, Glasnow would currently be the top prospect for 17 teams in the league. Law had Austin Meadows rated 35th. Using the same criteria, Law would have Meadows as the top prospect for nine Major League teams. That’s just Law’s ranking. You could do the same with other top 100 lists and find where Glasnow or Meadows would rank in other systems.

Behind those two are several guys who have the potential to jump to the top spot with a big breakout season. There are questions about Alen Hanson’s defensive skills, but not many questions about his hitting. He’s been getting more recognition as a guy who can stick at shortstop. If he starts hitting in the upper levels, and shows he can handle shortstop, then you’re talking about a good candidate for number one overall.

Nick Kingham has some excellent stuff, and seems to get better each year. Right now it’s safe to project him as a strong middle of the rotation workhorse, or possibly a weaker number two starter. That assumes he won’t continue to get stronger and add velocity or improve his off-speed stuff. He’s done that each year, and if he continues once again in 2014, he could see that upside improve, with his already high floor serving as a benefit to his status.

Reese McGuire is an outstanding defensive catcher, with a very strong chance that he will stick at the position over the long-term. That’s rare for a prep catcher. His hitting skills have been put in question, but he did show some promise in his debut in the GCL. If he goes to West Virginia this year and displays strong offense to go with the defense, he could be a contender for the top spot. Maybe not in 2015, but definitely in a future year.

Josh Bell has a lot of upside with his bat. His defense will limit him to a corner, and I think he best fits at first base over the long-run with the Pirates. We saw a glimpse of his power potential, but we haven’t seen the bat fully break out. If that happens in 2014, then he could spend the season in high-A/Double-A, with Triple-A/MLB on the horizon in 2015. That would also put him in position to be one of the system’s top prospects.

Luis Heredia is another wild card. He’s got a ton of potential, and he recently got in much better shape compared to last year. It would take a massive breakout season for him to take the top spot in 2015, but I think he could climb the ranks and be the top guy in a future year. You could also say the same about Harold Ramirez, who has a lot of upside, and could be a breakout candidate in West Virginia.

Right now it’s impossible to say who could be the top prospect next year. If I’m just going with the site rankings, and removing Taillon and Polanco, then Tyler Glasnow would be my pick. But that same approach last year had Taillon over Polanco, and the 2013 season saw Polanco take a step forward in the rankings. It’s possible that someone could step forward ahead of everyone else and take the top spot in 2015. Who would your choice be? Vote in the poll below, and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below.

[polldaddy poll=7762399]

  • I’ve averaged three top 100 lists so far (MLB, ESPN, and BP). I gave anybody on one of the lists a ranking of 115 on lists they missed, and arbitrarily slotted Tanaka in at #41. Pirates’ rankings are:

    Polanco 15th
    Taillon 17th
    Glasnow 29th
    Meadows 54th
    Bell 76th
    Hanson 77th
    Kingham 87th
    McGuire 101st

    Not a bad way to look at prospect lists, overall.

  • Living in the same town Austin Meadows is from, I felt an obligation to vote for him. In reality it doesn’t matter who is considered #1. What matters is these blue chip prospects conduct themselves in a manner both on and off the field to meet the objectives set out for them by the Pirates brass.

    Being part of an organization with a contending major league team and a system ripe with top talent should help these young men understand they better be prepared to work extremely hard or they will not get to play in PNC Park.

    • Whats in the water there sk ???? Or is it something you folks are feeding the kids ?

      • No kidding Buster! Last year Grayson HS graduating class had Meadows and #1 football player in nation, Robert Nkemdiche. Pretty incredible!

        Meadows comes from a good family, which leads me to believe he will stay grounded and not let the fame and fortune go to his head.

  • I went with Glasnow. His production last season rivaled Dylan Bundy’s Sally League output save, of course, for the control Bundy had of the strike zone. Glasnow’s 2013 season was so much better than Archie Bradley’s 2012 season that one would easily put Glasnow as the better of the two. If Glasnow continues to add muscle, improve his mechanics and put the ball into the strike zone, he could become a top-5 prospect next year.

    Putting aside the injury fears one has for pitchers, the other top-prospect candidates would need to have a 2014 season like Glasnow’s 2013 season in order to surpass him.

    • I hope you’re right about Glasnow. I went with Meadows because I feel that he has more potential to realize. Glasnow is amazing but how much higher can he go? If he improves his control, he’ll probably lose some of the strikeouts that come with being effectively wild in the minors. Plus, if he is still growing it will be that much more difficult for him to repeat his delivery. Either way, it will probably be difficult to detect his progression in the upcoming season.
      Meanwhile, if Meadows continues to hit like he can as he progresses through the levels, he’ll have the advantage of progression+production+youth+endless potential.

      • I’d say that Glasnow only has to keep his ERA low (2.59/9IP) and reduce his BB-rate to something like 3.5/9IP. Striking out nearly 14 batters per 9 innings pitched is virtually unreal. A rate less than that but still strong would not count as a step backwards.

        And, of course, Glasnow can improve. Not only may he develop his control and command, his curveball and changeup have room for improvement. Plus, one can’t teach height. That gives him a great advantage over shorter pitchers. His pitches fly to the plate as if they came from the sky above.

        A good time to be a Pirates fan.

        • I agree with what you are saying. Glasnow can definitely show improvement and he can definitely earn the top spot. I’m speaking more about perception. Glasnow is in finishing school. His improvements are not likely to spark the same hype as Meadows will if he continues to mash.

  • Sure wouldda been nice to put Miguel Angel Sano on the list as a #1 prospect and a future 3rd base stud. Shudda… couldda

    • I’m not really a hindsight guy. But if we combine your pining for Sano with other peoples wish to have taken Machado…

      That’d be a lineup of:
      RF Polanco
      LF Marte
      CF Cutch
      3B Sano
      1B Pedro
      SS Machado
      2B Walker/ Mercer (later Hansen)
      C Martin/Sanchez

      +take your pick.

      All with Bell, Meadows, McGuire, Ramirez on the way

      That lineup would be amazing.

    • meatygettingsaucy
      February 1, 2014 12:25 am

      Dear gods of baseball, please let there be a day when people stop mentioning the Sano deal so people can also stop explaining how Sano’s agent never gave the Pirates a chance to pose a counter offer. Thank you

      • Agreed. Was just thinking of that lineup, not wishing for it. I

        think JT will take off kinda like Cole did, once the reins are off. Hoping to see someone emerge from the Blake Taylor, Clay Holmes, Cody Dickson and surprise us all a bit. Would also be sweet to see a Di-Jang, Mathisen, or Osuna jump in as well.

    • agree it would be great to also have Sano in the fold but I disagree with him being higher than Polanco. Mark it down, Polanco will be a better MLBer than Sano

      • Sano was a Pirate-want as the All World power hitting Shortstop he was going to be in the future. He has either eaten or worked his way out of the middle infield to one of the corner positions at best. Evidently he has not impressed many with his defense at 3B, and playing D is a necessity in the NL. Baseball America mentioned his poor footwork at 3B – when you move from SS and then have poor footwork at 3B, you start to look a whole lot like a DH. That said, ARAM was an error machine when traded to the Cubs, but developed his defensive skills later in his career. Cannot be any doubt about his power, 30+ HR’s between Hi A and AA last year, and he has already predicted he will hit 45 this year? Many in the game think he will only turn 21 in 2014.

        • He hasn’t “eaten” his way out of the other positions. He’s grown a lot since he was signed…if anything, that’s almost more proof his age is what he says it is. If he grew that much and moved to 3B, he still has value. I wonder if they might move him to RF to take advantage of that howitzer attached to his shoulder.
          He’s a great prospect, even though he’s not flawless…no need to downgrade him just because he’s not a Pirate.

          • NN82: I thought I was being objective, and I think that he will definitely end up in the OF with the possibility of playing 3B on a part-time basis as he matures. He is a fantastic prospect for an AL team, but a lesser prospect for an NL team because of the defensive issues, and the option of the DH in the AL. The Pirates (NH and Rene Gayo) offered $2.6 mil for him with the bonus split into 3 separate payments just in case it was found later that he was older than he was claiming. The Twins offered $3.15 mil with all of the money up front – big bucks difference. If you recall, at that time some negative insinuations about the Pirates negotiators (especially Rene Gayo) were made by the Agent for Sano, and that could have been a terrible detriment to the Pirates who were just trying to establish themselves in the DR. Gayo is no angel, but he has delivered big time for the Bucs. We are just going to have to live with our other 2009 signee’s – CF Gregory Polanco, SS/2B Alen Rery Hanson, and LHSP Joely Rodriguez. Terry Ryan will make it work in the Twin Cities for Sano. He was listed by BA in late 2009 at 6’3″ 195 and in Dec 2010 was listed by BA at 6’3″ 230, and he was already being referenced as a power-hitting 3B.

    • Cya : ” shudder cudda ” what ? Sano @ 3d base ? This is a kid who makes Pedro look like Brooks Robinson. I would bet he never sees that position in MLB.

      • Sorry,that was meant for CTA,not cya.

      • Cato the Elder
        February 1, 2014 10:24 am

        I’ll take that bet.

        • Mark it down Cato. A reserved seat ticket ticket from me in Altoona and a few drafts ? For ? They are already considering either a corner OF spot or 1st base. I saw him have 4 errors in a 3 game series and none were more difficult than hard bouncers or rollers. He looked like he had no clue. Glove ? Who needs a stinking glove ?!?

          • If we’re going to use errors as to whether a player can play a position and booting easy plays…what about Hanson then?

            • Hanson isn’t clumsy on his feet,Sano is. Huge difference. But what does one have to do with the other Nate ?

              • Then the clumsy actions should be a reason for him being moved off 3rd, rather than the errors. Tim has pointed out numerous times that Hanson’s defensive shortcomings were due to lack of focus. Couldn’t it be possible that Sano has the same issue?

  • I’m going with none of the above.

    I was not a big fan of his in the past,
    but I will go with the KEY new
    addition to the 2015 roster
    in Tony Sanchez.

    • Sanchez won’t be a rookie after 2014. If he still is it will likely mean he is a bust. I hope Sanchez plays well enough to collect 150 or so AB in 2014.

      • I think the Pirates plan is to send Sanchez back to AAA for the season and he will be back in Pittsburgh in September unless there is an injury. So I would say he gets less than 50 AB’s this season.

  • Barring a mechanics meltdown I really think it will be Glasnow. If Glasnow jumps forward again in 2014 he could be a top 5 prospect in all of baseball in 2015. By the way I found someone with K:H ratios better than Glasnow but not with 100 ip. Lincecum threw 62.2 ip and had a ratio of 104:26 for a 4:1 ratio which destroys even Glasnow…but The Freak was a college pitcher with advanced skills and a gimmick delivery. Lincecum won 2 Cy Youngs before anyone began to adjust to him. Also, Glasnow can carry Lincecum around in his back pocket.

  • New to commenting here, but been trolling for a few years now.

    Is it possible that the first round draft pick from this upcoming draft becomes the top pirate prospect? Imagine someone who hits or pitches well soon after he is drafted. Draftees are now signed much earlier than in previous years.

    I know that our pick comes much lower in the first round, but I can imagine that if both Meadows and Glasnow struggle some a new (first-round) pick might have a chance.

    • In some systems possibly…this one, there’s just no chance. (barring some sort of catastrophic event)

    • Welcome to it, pitchersrule. I’ve recently started posting after years of reading as well. I can assure you that nobody actually bites (there just isn’t an app for that yet). I have to agree with Mr Young on this. When PIT was drafting Taillon and Cole, the farm was bad enough that a player could earn the number one ranking based on potential alone. Now they have players in the system that have realized much of their top tier potential, making a promising draftee, just that. Meadows and McGuire are proof of this. Both had very good inaugural seasons, earning them top 10 rankings, but neither was really considered for the top spot.

      • The system was bad enough, as you say, AND those guys were good enough to be #1. If Cole or Taillon went into another team’s system, even a good one, there’s a good chance they’d be in the top #3 of that organization’s rankings. Quibbling, yes. And you’re right in regards to Meadows and McGuire. I could see, say, if some top #10 talent drops to them and the Bucs taking him, that guy maybe making the top 5. I wonder about the guys among the top 10 who might drop…got my hopes up for Gatewood.

        • So a good exercise might be to ask, “Where would Cole or Taillon rank in the system if they were drafted today?” As far as the 2014 draft, if a HS prospect fell with “signablility issues”, I could seed NH going for him. I couldn’t tell you who that might be.

          • Good question. If they drafted, say, a Taillon 2.0 (given that they already have Taillon), he’d probably be 5th in the system, provided Polanco aren’t called up by then. If they drafted a Cole (say…Rodon or Hoffman), I think he’d be a few spots higher.
            As far as HS prospects who drop due to signability…Gatewood, maybe Touissant (I think he’s a Vandy commit). He also might be too short for NH’s taste. I’d like Brady Aiken too.

        • My wish Is Sean Newcomb. He isn’t top 10 (ranks 17 I believe on MLB.com) but he’s a big left hander with velocity and a good mix of pitches. He can it 97 with his FB and also has a good slider. He adds a curve and changeup to his arsenal as well. Apparently his biggest hangup is repeating delivery which is very fixable. I got all this from MLB.com under the the Top 50 Draft prospects.

          • He seems pretty intriguing as well. Its kind of hard to NOT look at areas the Pirates’ system lacks (LHP, 3B) and kind of eyeball what is available. Thankfully, neither of those guys seem to be a reach at that stage of the draft.

  • It went with Austin. With that last name he has to be outstanding in his field.

  • CalipariFan506
    January 31, 2014 4:03 pm

    I went outside the box and said McGuire. With his tremendous defense, a solid offensive season should get his stock skyrocketing. It seems like the SAL is a decent hitters league too as a lot of guys come through West Virginia and put up good power numbers compared to other leagues in our system.

  • From my perspective, Glasnow and Meadows are in a separate tier from all the other players, so in order for one of the other players to pass them, both would have to have bad seasons or someone would have to explode. It’s an interesting problem to think about: let’s say Glasnow and Meadows have seasons about in line with expectations, maybe a bit disappointing. Who has the best shot at passing them and what would their season have to look like?

    With respect to Heredia and Hanson, my money would be on Josh Bell. To my eyes, he looks like he’s ready to have a consolidation year and really start to move quickly through the system. He has at times shown very good power, on base and contact abilities, and I could imagine a scenario in which he spends the first half of the year destroying A+ pitching, holds onto his gains in Altoona, and maybe gets a short trial in Indy. If he makes it to the upper minors looking like a switch hitting power hitter with good plate discipline, the defense/position won’t matter a great deal, particularly when comparing him to Meadows.

    Anyone else have a chance?

    • All those promotions in one season? I call that a doubtful scenario even if he does bat .300 with 30 HRs. Still, I do agree that Bell has the 3rd best chance at this title

    • Bell is an interesting pick, but even with his talent, it might be hard for him to put up big numbers. Isn’t the FSL a big pitcher’s league?

  • I was torn between Bell and Meadows. But had to go with the safer pick in A M. Really hope they can fix the holes in J B’s swing and he can start to really drive the ball consistently from both sides of the plate.
    But I will be most curious to see if Stetson can adjust to high A and start crushing the ball at that level as well. We keep saying we have no one in our system for 3rd base when Boras takes Pedro to the Yankees. He could very well be our next thumper if he can somehow find some plate patience and strike zone recognition. And didn’t he play 3rd in high school. We all know he has the arm for that position. Then slot Bell in at 1st and we are good to go in a perfect world looking at it through my rose colored glasses.

    • I was in the same boat. Meadows and Glasnow have to be the clear favorites. I went with Meadows because I expect him to have another very good season. I also think Glasnow’s numbers to dip some. Partly, it’s just unlikely he will repeat last year’s historic stats. Partly, I expect the better hitters as he moves up and is still focusing on FB command to catch up to him some.

  • Wow Glasnow was that high last year huh. I look forward to the “Breakout Prospects” in the next couple months.

  • Tim do you have a sleeper prospect that could shoot up into the top 5 from outside the top 20? I forget where Glasnow was last year. Or is this another article altogether?

    • Off the top of my head (because I’m currently writing from the couch instead of my office), Glasnow was number 7 last year.

      I never really have sleeper prospects until Spring Training. That’s when I really picked Gregory Polanco to break out in 2012, and when I started calling Glasnow a future ace in 2013.

      • I remember the Glasnow article. I was very excited about it afterwards. I have to admit, there was definitely a part of me that was thinking Ok let’s pump the breaks on the “possibility of being better than Cole one day” talk. Whether he is or not he can clearly be mentioned in the same sentence. Love the part about baseballs falling from the re – the downward plane of a 6’7″ pitcher.

        • I don’t think Glasnow will be better than Cole but he will be better than Taillon. Cole pitched like a true ace the last six weeks or so.

          Glasnow will become a top 5-10 prospect by the nd of the season. Iblove this kids upside. The thought of him being traded in any deal makes me sick. Pirate fans on another dite thought I was nuts when I said this last season.

  • Not to quibble, (ok, I’m gonna quibble) but I disagree with this sentence:

    “The 2014 season will see the top two prospects in the system graduate. ”

    ‘Will’ should be changed to ‘should’.

    All kinds of Chit can happen to a player at any time.


    • Nonetheless, I still voted

      :). 🙂

    • Yeah, they could get injured or suddenly be horrible. But if that happens, then the pick would be pretty easy. The whole article is about who will step up as the top prospect next year with those two graduating, which I think will happen.

      Actually, when I was writing that, I thought “someone is going to say I need to put ‘should’ instead of ‘will’. Screw it. I think they will, so I’m putting will.”

    • i wanna pick Glasnow…. but dat Josh Bell breakout dooeeee

      • Im with you jaygray.. I went Bell.. Also, the other thing that could happen to keep Taillon or (more likely) Polanco down is a big season from Tabata or Snyder. Don’t laugh. I am serious here.

        • i definitely agree in that we have not seen Tabata’s and Snider’s best yet. My goodness that’d be a nice problem to have 🙂

      • No jaygray, you are spot on with Glasnow. I might be in the minority but I truly believe that Glasnow is our best propect and will be the best major leaguer when ultimately compared to Polanco and Taillon.