Morning Report: The Top Prospects That Didn’t Make the Cut

Yesterday, we posted the GCL season recap and top ten list. That was the last of eight season recaps and top ten prospect lists, one for each affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. While all the players in the top ten aren’t prospects at each level, the lists give you almost 80 players to watch for next year. Nick Kingham, Shane Carle and Mel Rojas Jr. each made the lists for two teams, so that’s why it’s less than eighty. You can find links to the other seven teams down in the schedule section.

The thing to remember is that certain players got left off these lists because they didn’t play enough to qualify for the top ten. With that in mind, here is a compilation of the best of the rest.

We start with the best prospect that didn’t make any list and that is of course, Jameson Taillon. It hasn’t been 100% decided yet, but there is a strong chance he will lose his top spot in the system, which he only had because Gregory Polanco used up his prospect status and we only update the list after the draft and then again for the Prospect Guide. Taillon is still an elite prospect in baseball even with the missed season. If all goes well(which it is so far), he should be in Pittsburgh at some point next year.

Clay Holmes missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery
Clay Holmes missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery

The next highest prospect would probably be Clay Holmes and he too missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery.  He will probably rank close to where he was last year(#12) because he was going to be young for a pitcher in Bradenton and he has huge potential. I saw him three different times last year and he looked better each time. He is still a great age for the level and his rehab is progressing well.

Next up is someone who did pitch, just not enough. Gage Hinsz was an 11th round draft pick this year, who was almost taken in the second round, then fell outside the top ten due to bonus demands. It actually worked out well for the Pirates because they got three big upside high school pitchers in the draft with Hinsz, Trey Supak and Mitch Keller. There is a chance Hinsz could be the best draft pick this year by the Pirates because he has so much working in his favor. He’s big, throws hard and has excellent control already. This is coming from a pitcher that had no high school team, so he is even considered raw for a high school pitcher. You can watch every pitch(plus some bonus footage) of his first start as a pro, in this article.

Another draft pick didn’t play enough to make the list. In fact, he didn’t play at all. Connor Joe was taken 39th overall by the Pirates, which seemed like a huge overdraft at the time. He didn’t do anything to help his case, hurting his back right after he joined Jamestown and he still hasn’t been seen a week into the Fall Instructional League, though he is on the roster. The problem with Joe is that the scouting reports don’t give you much confidence that he will be an impact player, though he would have been a nice pick in the third round. His value is higher if he can catch, which he was supposed to do in the FIL, though his back injury may have derailed that plan. Joe turned 22 last month, which made him old for his draft class. For comparison, third round draft pick Jordan Luplow, who was also a junior this year, is 13 months younger. Joe is still a top 30 prospect though, just not sure yet where he falls between the 20 and 30 range.

Unlike Holmes and Taillon, there’s an injured player that will drop in the rankings, though he could still be ahead of Connor Joe. Barrett Barnes played 17 games this year due to multiple injuries. He has missed a lot of time with injuries since signing in 2012. He is a very toolsy player when healthy, but the missed time could finally be catching up with him. It’s hard to work your way up the system when you’re never on the field. The tools are very good and he is still young enough to be considered a strong prospect. With a full season on the field, Barnes could shoot back up the prospect chart.

Erich Weiss and Yhonathan Barrios didn’t make the West Virginia top ten list, but that is because the list was so deep. They will both rank somewhere in the top 50 because Weiss has a solid chance at being a role player in the majors and Barrios has hit 100 MPH with his fastball. Both have flaws to work on to make them better players, but they both have big league potential.

Ryan Hafner and Orlando Castro didn’t make the Bradenton prospect list, but Castro had the best WHIP in the system among pitchers with more than 70 innings pitched, while Hafner is a big kid that throws hard. He had a strong year in West Virginia last year, then couldn’t repeat that success this year. Castro relies on excellent control and Hafner is hurt by his control. One is a pitcher and one is a thrower, but both do have potential to make the majors in minor roles.

Finally, a couple Sams that didn’t make either list, but they did make my own personal top ten submissions and they deserve a mention. Infielder Sam Kennelly played well in the GCL this year and relief pitcher Sam Street was a draft pick that Baseball America said could make the majors as a middle reliever. Kennelly signed a six-figure bonus back in 2012 and has played all four infield positions. He put up a higher OPS than first round pick Cole Tucker and Kennelly is 18 years old. Street pitched well in Jamestown’s bullpen and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go right to Bradenton’s bullpen next year.

Among the players left off, you have some top prospects, sleeper prospects and guys with potential to player minor roles in the majors. Injuries played a big part with the best players being left off, but due to their age and upside, the problems are just considered to be a setback. Barrett Barnes will be considered an interesting prospect for at least one more year, though the amount of injuries and missed time will be reflected in his top 50 ranking. For Taillon, Holmes and Joe, you hope that the injury was a one time deal and they get back on track. Holmes and Taillon can’t move up too much next year(Taillon could use up his prospect status), but Joe could show something that proves why the Pirates thought he was worthy of a first round pick when no one else did. The list of players that didn’t make the cut just reminds you that some guys are still around and gives you some more prospects to follow.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

Pittsburgh: The Pirates take on the Giants on Wednesday night in an all-or-nothing Wild Card game. Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch for the Giants.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 4-1 to the Reds on Sunday, ending their regular season. They will take on the Giants on Wednesday night with Edinson Volquez listed as the probable starter. You can read the DSL season recap here complete with scouting reports for each player and the top ten players to watch list can be found here. The Indianapolis season recap and top ten. The Altoona season recap and top ten. Bradenton recap and top ten . West Virginia recap and top ten. Jamestown recap and top ten and the Bristol recap and top ten.

MLB: Pittsburgh (88-74)  vs Giants (88-74) 8:05 PM
Probable starter: Edinson Volquez (3.04 ERA, 140:71 K/BB, 192.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-71)

AA: Altoona (61-81)

High-A: Bradenton (78-61)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-81)

Short-Season A: Jamestown (35-40)

RK: Bristol (22-46)

GCL: Pirates (20-40)

DSL: Pirates (34-36)


From the Fall Instructional League on Friday, a first look at Nick Buckner in the highlight section. He spent this season with Bristol, where he had a strong season for his age, hitting .276 with a .712 OPS. It was an improvement on the .637 OPS he had last year in the GCL. Buckner has a lot of upside, but needs to cut down on his strikeouts. He just turned 19 last month, so he has plenty of time to improve his plate patience. On Saturday, we posted highlights of Friday’s game, including videos of Alen Hanson, Josh Bell, Austin Meadows and more.

Recent Transactions

9/24: Pirates claim Chaz Roe from New York Yankees. Place Charlie Morton on 60-day disabled list.

9/16: Pirates activate Charlie Morton from disabled list.

9/8: Pirates release Ernesto Frieri.

9/7: Michael Martinez and Chris McGuiness clear waivers and were outrighted to Indianapolis.

9/2: Pirates recall Gregory Polanco, Jeff Locke, John Holdzkom, Casey Sadler and Bobby LaFromboise.

9/2: Chase d’Arnaud added to 40-man roster and promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Martinez designated for assignment.

9/1: Pirates recall Gerrit Cole and Tony Sanchez. Stolmy Pimentel activated from the disabled list

9/1: Pirates designate Chris McGuiness for assignment. John Holdzkom added to 40-man roster.

This Date in Pirates History

Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players have been born on this date, including a pitcher who is the single-season leader in many pitching categories.

Ed “Cannonball” Morris pitched for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1885 until 1889. During that time, he set a franchise record that will most likely never be equaled with 326 strikeouts in 1886. Morris also set records the will never be broken due to a change in the times. His 41 wins, 581 innings, 12 shutouts, 63 starts and complete games (twice he completed all 63 starts!) will never be equaled. He won 171 games in his seven year career.

Also born on this date was a pitcher who had one of the highest win totals for someone that played for the Pirates, but just one came while with Pittsburgh. Gus Weyhing won 262 games between 1887 and 1901. He pitched one game for the Pirates on May 21,1895 and won 10-7, then was immediately released by manager Connie Mack.

You can find bios for both Morris and Weyhing here in the additional bio section.

Other players born on this date include Hunky Shaw, who struck out as a pinch hitter for the Pirates on May 16,1908. That was his only big league appearance. He played 12 years in the minors. His real first name was Royal.

Paul Giel, pitcher for the 1960 World Series champs. Giel played two years for the Pirates (1959-60) and threw 40.2 innings over 20 relief appearances. He had a 7.30 ERA. He played parts of six seasons in the majors, while taking two years off in the middle of his career to serve in the military.

Ken Macha, played for the 1974 and 1977-78 Pirates. He played five different positions over his 69 games with the Pirates, hitting .263 in 152 at-bats. Macha was a sixth round pick of the Pirates out of the University of Pitt in 1972. He played a total of six seasons in the majors, also seeing time with the Expos and Blue Jays. After his playing days, he managed for six seasons in the majors.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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Kevin Anstrom

hitter – Gamache
pitcher – Barrios

Lee Young

The Bryan Morris for Connor Joe trade has so far been a disaster. Who knew, tho, that Morris would be lights our for the Marlins.

R Edwards

The trade was a bad one from the start, only made worse when the Pirates chose to use the acquired pick on Connor Joe. AJ Reed, naming just one possibility, would have made sense – since he is a power hitting first baseman and our system seems a little light at that position. A third baseman or shortstop would have also been better position choices, then a guy that either plays OF or C – and we are seemingly loaded in both areas.


Says the guy drafting for need.

R Edwards

Wow, that was an insightful comment.

And you feel that Joe was a good enough OF and/or C prospect to justify drafting him where he was drafted, given the depth of those positions in our system??

IMHO, it was throwing away the pick. Given his age and the fact that he missed this past season (professionally), he is not likely to make it to Pittsburgh until he’s 25-27 years old – if at all. There are probably 10-12 better OF prospects and 3-4 better catching prospects ahead of him – not counting the guys already in Pittsburgh.

Anything is possible, there is nothing in his college resume that would suggest he is going to rocket through the system in 1-2 years. So, he will be 25-27 if he makes it Pittsburgh at all – and the odds are not good.

Conversely, if we took a first baseman, third baseman, or shortstop, a good prospect at those positions could move through the system quickly and address real needs.


Also, your math is horrible.

R Edwards

at what position – OF? Do you know who plays OF in Pittsburgh now? Three pretty good, young OFers. Add in Rojas, Broxton, Garcia, Meadows, Barnes, Bell, Ramirez, Lambo – just to name a few off the top of my head? Catcher? There’s Sanchez, Diaz, the Taiwanese kid, and Mcguire just to name a few.


Little tip: if “the Taiwanese kid” is all you remember about a prospect, he probably isn’t much of one.

By the way, Joe played 1B during his freshman and sophomore years in college.

R Edwards

Wrong – I am quite confident that my ability to remember a kid’s name has no bearing on a prospect’s status.

First, they insisted he was a RFer – than a catcher….now a first baseman?? By the time Joe actually plays an inning of pro ball, maybe the Pirates will say he’s a third baseman – because he played a couple of games at third base in high school??


So then it was the .564 OPS in high-A that cemented Jin-De Jhang’s prospect value in your mind?

Got it. Can’t miss.

How far up a tree do you want to keep talking yourself? That entire paragraph on positioning was great.

R Edwards

I doubt if the Pirates agree with you on Jin-De Jhang. yes, he had a tough season – but he was aggressively promoted to High A to avoid having him and McGuire on the same team. He’s very young, I wouldn’t right him off just yet.

I seem to remember guys like Neil Walker, Jordy Mercer, etc. having some rough years in the minors.


You’re asking me to judge whether or not a draft pick is justified before said player takes a single professional swing.

Think about this.

R Edwards

you are correct, but I will not hold my breath that Joe ever plays a meaningful inning in Pittsburgh. My point is/was that I would have had much higher confidence in a first baseman, third baseman, or shortstop for reasons that should be quite obvious.



Get over it – Brian Morris had tons of opportunities with the Bucs and pitched his way out of town – he earned being sent elsewhere.

I still mourn over the Jose Bautista trade – but I have moved on until I see this sort of thing. Sometimes players need to have a change of scenery to turn the corner – good for Morris he did so. But I don’t think you can assume he would have improved on his awful performance as a Buc magically


DFAing Hunter Strickland to add Johnathan Sanchez to the 40 man roster.



Good lord…


But if he was an 18 yo old that played SS in high school with huge BP power and zero hit tool I’m sure this pick would be seen as awesome.

Sure, makes sense.

Pie Rat

I would think that with the “best” prospects in MLB that the Pirate minor league system would have a winning record. I know AAA is hard to predict, because if they do well they get moved to the MLB. At the other levels they play the whole season at that level. Why don’t the minor league teams have a better records.


Because if the players are working on things (like fastball command, or hitting the ball the other direction), then it can lead to less-than-optimum performance in the games. Think about it: if I’m a minor league pitcher and I’m told I need to work on spotting my high fastball, that’s probably what I’m gonna throw in a game situation; so instead of getting a strikeout with my good curveball, I throw high fastballs and end up giving up HR’s until I get good at it.

Pie Rat

Thanks for that.

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