Baseball America released their list of the top 20 prospects in the Eastern League on Thursday morning and the Pittsburgh Pirates came up empty. That comes two days after the International League list snubbed Austin Meadows, although it did have Tyler Glasnow #12, even though he used up his prospect status before being sent to the minors this year.
The Eastern League top 20 not having any Pirates wouldn’t be as big of a snub as the IL, but it’s still not good to see. Kevin Newman was the highest rated player from the Curve this season. Baseball America had him as their 88th best prospect in the mid-season update in July. That was down from #50 in their preseason list. If you look at that mid-season list and compare it to the top 20 released today, just ten of those players were ranked ahead of Newman in July and eight of the other ten weren’t even in the top 100.
Newman was hitting .260/.315/.365 through 75 games when the mid-season update came out. His stay in Altoona was short after that. He put up a .555 OPS in his final seven games before being promoted to Indianapolis. In Triple-A, he hit .283/.314/.373 in 40 games, showing slight improvements in OBP and slugging while putting up a higher average.
His biggest improvement this season came on the defensive side, where he went from someone who began last year as still questionable as to whether he could stick at shortstop full-time. While he isn’t flashy defensively, and is far from the best in the system, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt now that he can handle shortstop. That doesn’t mean he will stick there, just because the Pirates have plenty of above average defenders behind him in the system.
We had Cole Tucker rated ahead of Newman in our own mid-season update, and that clearly didn’t change with the way each of them performed after the update. So in my mind Tucker would be the bigger snub from the EL list, although I didn’t think he would be ahead of Newman on this list. Meaning, since Newman didn’t make the list, I’m not surprised that Tucker didn’t either. While with Altoona, Tucker had just over 30 more plate appearances than the minimum required by BA, so he qualified for this list.
In comparison to Newman at Altoona, Tucker put up a .726 OPS in 42 games, while stealing bases and putting on a show defensively. Add in the fact that he is three years younger than Newman and the gap between the two is probably bigger than what it was back in July.
As for any other Curve players, Mitch Keller would be the best player they had all season, but he wasn’t there long enough to qualify for this list. Kevin Kramer was headed for a season that would have put him in the EL top 20, but missing three months with a broken hand took away any chances of that happening.
Our Player of the Year Jordan Luplow, put up strong stats in the EL, but due to his upside, I don’t think you’ll see him in any top 100 prospect lists this off-season. Maybe if he finishes strong in the majors, he will get more attention, but after last night, he has a .601 OPS and Baseball-Reference has him as a -0.6 WAR.
It’s really not fair to judge him on just his Major League stats, since it took injuries to Austin Meadows and Gregory Polanco for him to get rushed to the majors. In a typical year, he would have stayed in Indianapolis, where he was putting up big stats, and you wouldn’t have MLB stats to look at. I still think people will look at those stats though, so he would need a strong finish to possibly get some top 100 consideration. Luplow finished with a .907 OPS in 117 games split over two levels this season, showing a slight improvement in offense after his promotion to Indianapolis.
So the EL list is disappointing because it shows that Newman’s stock has dropped. I think anyone who followed him closely knew he wasn’t having a strong season. Even when he put together a couple of hitting streaks during the year, they usually came with an asterisk because he doesn’t hit for power and doesn’t draw many walks (29 in 552 plate appearances). Tucker still doesn’t get the attention that Newman does, but I expect that to change this off-season, especially if he’s able to play in the Arizona Fall League and scouts get a chance to see the tools in action. Luplow being a corner outfielder without speed or strong defense, will need to do more to get on the prospect map.
The Florida State League rankings should drop early next week and Bradenton should do much better than these first two lists.