Pirates Top Ten Prospects From Baseball Prospectus

Baseball Prospectus posted their list of the top ten Pirates prospects on Wednesday morning and you’ll notice some differences from most of the other lists. There are a lot of details in the long article, so it’s worth giving a read for a different perspective of the system.

I’ll point out some of the interesting things from the article.

They rank Jameson Taillon third, but also give him an ETA in the major for 2017, and say that he hasn’t thrown a pitch in two years. We know that the last part is wrong because of how many starts he made in Extended Spring Training and the Fall Instructional League. He threw regularly from the beginning of Spring Training until late June, when he had the hernia surgery. Even if it was limited work, he was still throwing consistently off the mound for 3 1/2 months straight and in game situations for six weeks. Then he was back for another month during instructs. I disagree with the 2017 arrival, though it’s obviously possible, just not likely.

Next up on the list is Kevin Newman. He has been getting some love lately, which makes you wonder how people would feel about him if Keith Law, ZiPS and this BP article came out before all the others. The interesting part is that we agree on his value with BP, but he is our 11th ranked prospect. So while there isn’t a big difference of opinion in his possible value, we disagree on how much that is worth and where it falls in the Pirates’ system.

There is a big difference between Reese McGuire and Elias Diaz on defense according to BP, which is hard to see and goes against everything we have heard and seen. Both are outstanding defensive players, with some people giving McGuire a slight edge and some giving it to Diaz. So keep that in mind when reading the write-up for Diaz’s defense.

They also say that McGuire doesn’t mind taking walks, and you just have to look at his stat sheet during his career for proof that he doesn’t walk much. McGuire is good at putting the ball in play, and it would probably help his offense if he was more selective. One of the things we heard this winter about Jose Osuna, was that he was swinging at better pitches, which led to more production and an incredible season in Venezuela. Osuna also makes consistent contact, but in the past, he would swing early in the count at the first close pitch and not wait for his pitch. That leads to low walk rates and low strikeout rates, but also too much soft contact. The same could be said about McGuire. He can put a first pitch fastball just off the outer edge into play, but he should be looking for pitches to drive instead. He actually showed some improvements in that regard during the Arizona Fall League, so we will see if it carries over into 2016.

Two outfield notes on players they list. Harold Ramirez played one game in center field in 2015, so calling him a center fielder now, who has to move to a corner, is obviously based on an old report. He’s actually only played 57 games in center field during his four-year career. Ramirez and Austin Meadows will be at Altoona this year and Meadows will be playing center field regularly. If anything with Ramirez, he might be more suited to play center field now because he’s in better shape than he was in the past and he’s not coming off any leg injury for once. There is an interesting note about Ramirez, with BP hearing from one front office member, who said that Ramirez could be the best offensive player in the system.

As for the other outfield note, I wouldn’t count on Josh Bell moving back to the outfield at this point. There is a clear spot for him for years to come at first base and he hasn’t even taken a fly ball in 19 months. He also bulked up a little to possibly tap into some of that power potential. He didn’t have good range beforehand either, and his arm was average at best. Bell had much better scouting reports in high school for his defense than he did while in the minors. He quickly lost range as he began to fill out, and the knee injury in 2012 didn’t help. His arm was described as above-average prior to the draft, but he never showed that in the minors.

Mitch Keller is ranked tenth, which is higher than every other list. This is like the case with Newman, where the reports are consistent, but we(and others) disagree where that type of player should fall in the system. Basically, BP didn’t knock Keller for showing no progress with his command during the 2015 season, or for the time missed due to injury. Keller definitely has the upside to be a top ten prospect in this system. If he goes to West Virginia this year and shows improved command, you could see him in the 6-10 range at this time next year. That’s especially true with all of the players at the top, who could lose prospect eligibility.

There also isn’t a strong chance Cole Tucker will miss the entire year, as we saw with the article Tim Williams posted on Monday. He will likely be back earlier than expected, which was originally thought to be July/August.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m picking apart their list, but there are things which are slightly inaccurate, which I am pointing out just for accuracy sake because they could make a difference on how you view players. A few things among a large article, isn’t a big deal and could be based on older reports, which would make sense for the Ramirez and Bell notes. They also cover all 30 systems, so some details can escape them.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 18, 2016 9:25 am

    Newman #4? Given I doubt he stays at SS long term, I think this is way too high for a singles hitter.

  • As for McGuire’s hitting, I stood up and took note of KLaw’s critique (bold mine)

    Reese McGuire is a strong defensive catcher with arm strength and soft hands, although he had a weird drop in his caught-stealing percentage last year (I’m assuming it’s a fluke). I’m just not at all sold that he’s going to hit enough to be more than a backup. He does make a lot of contact, but it’s soft, and his swing isn’t geared for much more.

    That, in a nutshell is why I am not high on him. He sounds like a Chris Stewart with better all around skills?

    Btw, have I mentioned that I wanted JP Crawford before? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  • This is pretty high on Newman too so Keith Law’s mancrush isn’t entirely isolated. I like the part that mentioned he could be a .400 OBP guy. We can’t get enough of those. I feel like a 2019 lineup that includes Hayes, Newman, Bell, and Meadows is going to be an elite OBP team.

    • If Newman finishes this season in Altoona with a .400 OBP and he looks like a shortstop, then I could see him being #4 in the system at this time next year. If he was that type of player right now, I’d have him as high as #5 in the current group, but no lower than #7.

      • I find it interesting that they have Taillon as a 3SP/High Leverage Reliever. I know there’s risk but I still think he has an ace ceiling. I definitely think there’s a lot of potential for the Bucs to have a 3-headed monster fronting that rotation in a few years.

        • I think his ceiling is a #2, myself.

          • I’m wondering what would be a good comp for him. Is he a Lance Lynn or like a Tyson Ross/Cole Hamels/Jon Lester type who occasionally pitch like an ace but the annuals stats show more a number 2?

            • I think Lynn is a #3 myself, so I hope he is better than Lynn.

              I am hoping for a Frankie type (but with better control)? Mid 3.00 ERAs maybe. That is his ceiling.

      • Wow —- That is an aggressive bump up. Would be nice to see him perform to his ranking.

        • I have to see more with Newman. Part of the thing that holds back his rating for me is his age. He was old for a college junior and we see a lot of college players breakout during their junior year. Newman is two months older than Jordan Luplow, who was drafted the year before him as a junior. He’s ten months older than Casey Hughston and Mitchell Tolman, so he could have been in a different class, giving them more time to develop(Hughston was a soph anyway).

          But saying that, if he’s at Altoona for the second half of 2016 and reaching his ceiling with the OBP, speed and defense, then I see no reason why he shouldn’t be rated high in the system(especially if Bell, Glasnow, Taillon, Hanson and Diaz all aren’t prospect eligible). He isn’t there yet though, we don’t even know what he will do in the FSL or how his defense will look as the game speeds up.

          Basically what I was saying was: Here is how Newman could be ranked #4 for me, matching his spot here by BP. It’s not that I think he will or won’t be at that point, just showing what it would take for him to get there.

  • Off-topic, but just throwing it out there for those who have asked. The draft preview will go up on Saturday. I’m still holding out hope that Gallardo, Fowler and Desmond sign, so I know where the Pirates actually pick in the first round and compensation round.

  • *Excellent critique of McGuire, John.

    *Major credit goes to BP for correcting – ok, “adjusting” – their previous impressions of Meadows. He’d been a miss most Pirate fans have pointed out in the past.

    *I wonder how much, if at all, Austin Hedges has impacted McGuire’s fall in the rankings. Very similar prospects, in plus defense that belies overall value drug down by a poor bat, although they get to that offensive work in different ways. BP had Hedges as a Top 25 prospect long after most had knocked him down for lack of offensive production, and it appears the same is beginning to happen with McGuire.

    *Love Keller’s spot here, even if it is a bit aggressive. He’s got the Glasnow-lite package; plus fastball with plane and life, plus breaker with natural depth, and an inability to know where anything will end up after it leaves his hand. Hopefully a full year of healthy development will kickstart the control.

    • We moved Keller from #8 to #18 this year, and possibly last year was aggressive, but I think it’s more based on him now being a year older and in the same spot as last year. He still has the same exact things to work on. He also dropped because Hayes, Newman, Brault and Tarpley were added to the system and Yeudy Garcia, Moroff and Kuhl made great strides, so he got passed up by some players who are less risky.

      • Completely understandable. For all intents and purposes, Keller deserved to drop particularly due to lack of development over the past year which I consider a considerable problem.

        I’m also a believer in what you *can’t* teach, though, and Keller’s got two pitches that fall in that category. I’m essentially convincing myself that his stalled development can be blamed on injury and not a failure of talent or coaching, at least not for now.

        • Being physically gifted allows him more time to develop, but if he shows an inability to stay healthy and/or aptitude to harness those plus pitches, his talent will become an afterthought.

          As Sam Snead once said, “the woods are full of long hitters.” Different sport, but certainly applies to baseball prospects, too.

  • Along with the Pecota ratings, you have to wonder how much value is in these people’s evaluations.

    • Enough for Major League teams to snipe their analysts one after another…

    • Well their two biggest differences from most people, aren’t scouting report differences. They are value differences, and where players like that should fall in this system. Some people tend to over/under value certain positions. They will love a glove first catcher who can’t hit, but not like a corner outfielder with strong defense and average offense, even if they end up having the same value. I try to look at overall value to the team. I might think some relief pitcher could be great in that role, but I’d rate a #3 workhorse starter much higher because he’s out there for 120 more innings.

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