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.