Baseball America released the International League top 20 prospect list today and it includes three Pittsburgh Pirates players. Scouting reports are now up and can be viewed here. Just like yesterday, this list offers a surprise, though it was nothing like what we saw yesterday with the Eastern League. With the top 20 lists out for all seven affiliates in the U.S.(BA will put out a top 20 DSL/VSL combined list as well), the Pirates had a total of 12 players make the list, with Nick Kingham placing on both the EL and IL lists. Jamestown and Bristol were the only lists without any Pirates player on them, while all of the others had at least two Pirates. You can see links to the earlier lists at the bottom.
The International League list begins with Gregory Polanco in the #1 spot. That isn’t surprising because he tore up the league and spent half the season with the Pirates, doing most of it at age twenty-two. His numbers with the Pirates were disappointing, but that was mostly due to the hype, not because of the performance of someone his age in the majors. Polanco should be the Pirates Opening Day right fielder next season and hold the job down for years to come.
Here is the surprise for this list and it also involves the other Pirates player. BA has Casey Sadler ranked 11th overall. He is a good pitcher, efficient with his pitch counts and gets a lot of ground balls, but this seems very high for him, especially when he is ranked nine spots ahead of Nick Kingham. The odd part is that Kingham was called a likely number three starter in the majors, which seems like a safe estimate and Sadler profiles as a fifth starter, possibly a middle reliever if that doesn’t work out. The Pirates wouldn’t have used Sadler the way they did this year if he had the same upside as Kingham.
The difference between the two is overall stuff and projection. Kingham has the ability to strike out batters at a higher rate and at 16 months younger than Sadler, he has more room to grow. They both have above average control, but Sadler is more of a finesse pitcher(pitch to contact), while Kingham is more of a power pitcher. Both pitchers should be in the Indianapolis rotation to begin next season and early in the year, Sadler will probably be the first option if the need for a replacement starter should arise before the All-Star break. Prospect lists are about future projection though and Kingham definitely has the higher upside.
BA added the scouting reports and they call Sadler a possible closer down the road because he doesn’t get rattled on the mound. They also said possible back of the rotation starter. It’s interesting to note that both the EL and IL scouting reports for Nick Kingham mention that he lost seven straight decisions in AA, without mentioning that he had a 3.51 ERA during that stretch. Among Eastern League pitchers that qualified for the ERA title, only seven of the 28 pitchers had a better season ERA than Kingham had during that losing stretch, showing it was more a lack of run support than a poor streak of pitching.
Overall with the prospect lists, Polanco and Glasnow gave the Pirates two #1 overall players. Reese McGuire, Austin Meadows, Josh Bell and Elias Diaz gave them another group of players in the top ten. Jameson Taillon wasn’t eligible for the list because he didn’t play, but he surely would have ranked right up there if eligible. Baseball America seems really down on Alen Hanson and Nick Kingham, though both still project to be big parts of the Pirates’ future.
Other Top Prospect Lists
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.
Casey Sadler? I guess these guys who follow the International League never actually watch any MLB games. I’d trust the 2010 version of Charlie Morton before Sadler. Heck, maybe even Wandy.
So where do the Pirates rank among other teams? Do these lists support the idea that they have an elite farm system?
Well the idea of them having an elite farm club in part comes from Baseball America. Since we only cover the Pirates, it’s hard to truly compare an entire farm system against all 29 others. I’m not sure if the Pirates will be in the top spot again, but they should do pretty good considering Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire are all guaranteed to be in the top 100. Nick Kingham should be a top 100 pitcher, but it seems like BA doesn’t have a ton of love for him, which goes against the scouting reports we got all this year. Alen Hanson had a strong season at a great age for his level, so he SHOULD be back end of the top 100, but I’m doubting he will. So you figure 5-7 Pirates will make the various top 100 lists and they have great depth in the farm system, so that should get them ranked near the top
I would bet that BA’s take on Kingham’s performance in AA was influenced by the reports that said he didn’t show much command in the first couple of months of the season. Which was true I might add.
When you’ve got the top guy in two leagues, at a time when your ostensible #1 guy is out all year for TJ surgery, that’s pretty good.
Doesn’t get rattled? W/L records?
Is Harold Reynolds now evaluating prospects for Baseball America?
It wouldn’t surprise me if Sadler ends up being the top starter for the Pirates.
BTW those were quotes from his manager.
Lol.. Thanks for the laugh. Needed it today
Twelve is pretty good, right?
Rangers had 17, Cubs 16, etc. Pirates and Cards tied for 10th/11th with 11. (I only counted one for guys who made more than one list, and so for the 16 US Minor leagues there were a total of 291 relevant guys.) So the Bucs have more top prospects than average, with Taillon ineligible for consideration and Hanson ignored (rather oddly, I think, but the attitude adjustment benching would be a big deal in the BA evaluators’ eyes).
I would say so. I think Harold Ramirez and Alen Hanson should have made the list, but I’m surprised Willy Garcia and Casey Sadler did make the list, so I’d say they had the right amount of people. I guessed that either Adrian Sampson or Elias Diaz would make the list, but didn’t think both would.