MLB.com has released their top 25 list for prospects in the Arizona Fall League. They pointed out that this year was a particularly strong year for prospects in the league and they expanded the list from their normal twenty spots. Two Pittsburgh Pirates prospects made the list, with Tyler Glasnow leading the way in fifth place and Josh Bell ranked 16th overall.
There seems to be some agreement among scouts and those prospect experts watching the game, because Glasnow was also fifth on Baseball America’s AFL prospect list and for both lists, he is the top ranked pitching prospect. While they do agree on his prospect ranking, they don’t all agree on where he is right now in his progress towards the majors. Glasnow ran up high pitch counts per inning in the AFL, which led to him throwing just 19.1 innings in seven starts. Part of Glasnow’s inconsistencies can be seen in the scouting reports we have heard about his curve during the fall.
MLB.com points out that he was focusing on upgrading his curve, so his numbers may have suffered from throwing it more often. Following him all season, he seemed to be using it about the same as usual and when the pitch is on, it’s unhittable. When he isn’t throwing it for strikes, then batters can sit on his fastball. The reports we have got just from this fall have called his curve a plus pitch, a plus-plus pitch and a pitch that has the makings of a plus pitch. So basically, depending on what day you saw him pitch, your opinion of him could vary widely.
The most common report is that he has a plus curve/fastball combo that allows him to dominate in the lower levels, even with spotty command at times. His change-up is a seldom-used third pitch that needs work and is important for his progress. Without better command and a third offering, he is going to have more trouble the further he advances. Saying all that, he has shown steady improvements and he turned 21 in August, so he has time. His ETA for Pittsburgh is probably mid-2016 at this point.
Bell wasn’t listed in BA’s top ten list and he didn’t even get a mention among 12 other players that were considered for their list. MLB.com has him ranked 16th overall due to approach at the plate, which led to a 12:13 BB/SO ratio in 84 at-bats. They also believe that he should be able to handle first base and just needs to reps there. Between the Fall Instructional League and the AFL, Bell got a nice jump start on learning the new position. Spring Training will give him more time to learn the spot before he starts playing it in games that count.
Like Glasnow, Bell will probably spend most(or all) of 2015 at Altoona. That could change depending on how quickly he learns the new position and if he starts hitting for more power. Both players are top prospects, but neither is a polished player at this time, so the 2015 season in another big step towards their future potential. If they continue to progress, you will have an ace for your pitching staff and a middle of the order bat at a position the Pirates have had a tough time filling.