John Sickels over at Minor League Ball, posted his list of the top 20 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His list includes grades for each player and a description at the top for each grade. Tyler Glasnow is ranked as the #1 prospect and he grades as an A/A-, which ranks him as an elite prospect for Sickels (when two grades are listed, it basically means the player could go either grade). Glasnow was rated as an A last year, so in that sense, he dropped just slightly.

Sickels rounds out his top four with the same players as almost everyone else, though the order tends to differ. Austin Meadows ranks second, Mitch Keller third and Josh Bell is fourth. Kevin Newman ranks fifth, which seems to be a near consensus for everyone. After that, the lists tend to go in different directions.

Sickels rounds out his top ten with (in order) Ke’Bryan Hayes, Taylor Hearn, Nick Kingham, Steven Brault and Cole Tucker. Will Craig ranks 11th, then you have Yeudy Garcia and Travis MacGregor rounding out the top 13 spots.

I stopped at 13, because Sickels lists an extra nine players who could slot in 14-20 in his opinion due to having the same C+ grade as his 14-20 ranked prospects. That’s sort of the same tier system we use, where you’re rating players the same, then just sorting them out based on current preference. Basically, there isn’t a big difference in his mind between #14 (Alen Hanson) and the 29th ranked prospect in the system.

He also includes another 18 prospects in no particular order, who all received a C grade, so you have an idea of what his top 50 (technically 48) would look like if he went that far. The link at the top has all of the details, as well as brief descriptions on each of the top 20 prospects.

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    • Not sure that statement is accurate. Hearn was number 27 in Washington’s list, Ramirez and Mcguire were top ten on our list and can’t crack Toronto’s top ten. Looks to me like its solid at the top but drops off considerably after number 5. I hope I am wrong but I rally don’t see the depth we all love to talk about.

      • I was referring to the end when he mentioned 9 additional prospects that he graded at C+ in addition to 14-20. You would be hard pressed to find that depth in many organizations.

        I agree that Ramirez, McGuire, Polo, and Tarpley being moved weakened the overall depth but there were also more emergent prospects.

        He mentioned he was much higher on Hearn than other lists, but there is also good reason to be high on him.

        • “You would be hard pressed to find that depth in many organizations.”

          Sickels himself has the Yankees, Indians, Astros, Rangers, Braves, Phillies, Cardinals, and Cubs with more C+ prospects than the Pirates. That’s eight of the fifteen non-Pirate organizations he’s ranked.

          • Agreed, though I’m not sure the Rangers truly belong on that list, since a lot more of their C+ prospects are of the C+/C variety. The Pirates’ system is better than all of those systems, though, not because of their depth, but because their top three prospects are better, I would argue.

            Unfortunately, the Cubs’ system is only worse because they’ve already graduated so much elite young talent the past couple years…

            And I also think Newman belongs in the same tier as Bell, and that this list undersells him a bit, but you know full well how I feel about Newman.

            • I have a feeling you’ll be in the vast minority of opinions if you think the Pirates have a better system than the Yankees, Braves, and Phillies. Understandably so; those teams are rebuilding, the Pirates are not.

              I also feel Bell and Newman should be in the same tier, although for me it’s a matter of dropping Bell down to Newman’s level. I see KN as the Neil Walker of shortstop value; steady 2-3 WAR performances with a 4 WAR peak in there when everything clicks. As much as I love Bell’s patience/contact, it’s gonna take a hell of a lot more power production to push him into the 130-140 wRC+ range he’ll need to hit in order to produce 2-3 WAR with below average defense at 1B.

              • Newman is a much better baserunner than Walker is, and is likely to produce roughly the same wRC+ overall using higher average and OBP versus Walker’s power at a more premium defensive position, so I see him as a perennial 3-4 WAR player from those boosts, with an occasional 5 WAR season when he runs a high BABIP since he just always puts the ball in play.

                • That’s a strong offensive projection for me. Really tough to draw walks in the 10% range at the Big League level, meaning he’ll have to run ridiculous BABIP’s to get to Walker’s range of 110-120 wRC+. Just aren’t many guys who can produce in that range with an ISO around .100…Newman might be one of them, but I’ll hedge my bets in the 100-110 wRC+ range.

                  • I do think he has that skillset, though. Starling Marte has shown that high BABIP can be a sustainable skill given the correct profile, and Newman’s profile is not dissimilar from Marte’s as a contact hitter. Speed, bunting, bat control, low flyball rates, those all track with higher BABIPs. Marte is consistently in the .330-.360 range, and usually at the higher end of it. Newman’s a little slower, but .320-.350 consistently isn’t just out of the question, it might be a likelihood.

          • Okay fair point. If that is true (factoring in the higher grades as well), then I stand corrected. It does feel that the Pirates are in the midst of a 40-man crunch this year and heading into the next few. Some of the recent trades were prospects that would have needed to be added to the 40-man but weren’t going to see the majors at least in 2017.

      • You’re comparing different lists over different years. Look at Sickles 2017, that’s where we’re at. Hearn has the same grade as the 4 through 7 prospects on the Nationals list. So he would be 4-8, not even close to 27. Huge difference. Pirates have 29 prospects C+ or better. Nationals have 19. Pirates have 48 C or better prospects, Nationals have 40. Your Nationals example actually proves the Pirates have a lot more depth.

        • I really do not consider C prospects real prospects. I think we have a lot of prospects but I think our depth is not what it use to be. A lot of the players have graduated to the majors, some have been traded and others have taken steps backwards. I really do not think we should count Bell on the list since he will likely not see the minors this year. I hope I am wrong about this but sometimes the closer you get to the situation the harder it is to see the problems.

      • Hearn was number 27, then had a really nice season and improved his prospect status. Likewise, Ramirez and McGuire demonstrated some of their flaws/limitations and embedded more uncertainty in their projections, which drops their prospect status.

        • Prospect ranking is funny.

          Taylor Hearn *just* reached full season ball this year and is six months *older* than Reese McGuire, but shoots up the boards for dominating kids who can’t catch up to high-90s heat.

          I love Hearn, btw.

          • I wonder if he would have made it to A+ this year with a fully healthy season. I’m sure the ranking has as much to do with scouts seeing his stuff actually translate into game play to catch up to the raw talent a bit as it does the results, though. Scouts possibly saw secondary pitches not being that far away, or decent ability to throw that fastball where he wanted to to inform their rankings, for example. In his first season, those qualities may have been absent.

  1. Glad to see love for Glasnow and Brault. We tend to discount any prospect who earns a turn in the MLB but fails to be perfect.

  2. Glasnow gets more respect by Sickels than this site and some posters…..imagine that. Glasnow is going to make a lot of posters look very foolish.

    • Personally, I dont doubt glasnow will be a good if not great pitcher, I just feel that with the amount of work he needs to reach his upside in terms of establishing a consistently effective third pitch let alone a fourth which would be great and limiting baserunners from running at will on him, I’d rather use him as a trade chip to get quintana. He played pitch and catch with his catchers for almost all his minor league career which is outstanding but thats highly unlikely to be the case in the majors with just two pitches, especially if his fastball command is off on any given night. Id take four years of quintana right now over three or four of glasnow at peak potential before leaving in free agency or trade to restock the farm prior to free agency anyday.

      • Tyler Glasnow pitched most of 2016 as a 22 year old, and was highly successful in AAA – 8-3, 1.87 ERA. He may need a 3rd pitch, or better Command of the 2 pitches he does throw. Either way, he can be successful as a MLB pitcher.

        The Pirates have been very patient by not forcing him to throw pitches he is not comfortable throwing. Therefore, I would prescribe multiple viewings of the movie Bull Durham, and finding the interview of Michael Fulmer talking about how he started to develop and throw a change-up last year at 23, and in his first year in MLB.

  3. craig is projected as a future dh not an ideal 1st rounder.
    seattle pilot owner danny kaye once said his team had 9 designated
    hitters .they were in the field at the time.

      • The Pirates have made some questionable selections the past 3 years beginning with Connor Joe in 2014 with the 38th overall pick, Casey Hughston in 2015 with the 96th overall pick, and then Will Craig in 2016 with the 22nd pick.

        Joe was a possibility with the bat, but had no defensive position; Hughston has some defensive tools, but somebody overlooked his barely .200 batting average in SEC Conference Games in 2015; and Craig is, as referenced, a projected DH. All 3 were college players which means 3 more years of bad habits to overcome, and a lot less time to possibly fix their problems. And none of them came cheap.

  4. I’ll be honest, I disagree with him on a number of prospects but I think gage hinsz not being one of the top 14 is my biggest. I think he will be a good starter in the majors and see him developing rather nicely. Also Glasnows assessment is rather humorous. He has a “steadily improving changeup”? I don’t know where that came since he throws it twice a game. Combine that with Keller deserving to be number one, and I call his list crap.

    • He didn’t mention Glasnow’s nerves once, even! 🙂

      But, besides that, I enjoy John’s lists. It is hard to come up with viable lists for all MLB teams and he does it as well or better than anyone.

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