Yesterday was a busy news day. That’s typically the case for Monday, but yesterday felt like an overload. There wasn’t anything major, like a trade or a Major League transaction to report. Just a lot of small bits of information and transactions, plus a few prospect rankings.
None of the news items are really worth a column from me on their own. However, I have a few thoughts to share on each news item, and figured I’d post a notes type column with those thoughts. So here we go:
**First of all, the prospect rankings came out yesterday and today, with Keith Law ranking four players in his top 100, and Baseball America ranking two players in their list. Law had Mitch Keller, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Shane Baz, and Austin Meadows as his top four prospects, in that order. Keller was the only one who made the top 50. Baseball America had Keller and Meadows on their list, with both making the top 50.
I thought it was interesting to see Hayes in the top 100 for Law. It’s a move that is deserved if you’re bullish on him due to the defense at third base, plus the ability to hit for average, get on base, and provide value on the bases. Law seems to be all of those things.
On that same note, I’m surprised that no one has Cole Tucker in their top 100 yet, for similar reasons. I could see him moving up to the top 100 in some mid-season lists, assuming good results in Altoona in the first half.
I’m not surprised by any of the other decisions, including Austin Meadows dropping on each list, and Kevin Newman being left off the list. It’s hard to say that Meadows is one of the absolute best prospects in the game right now with his injury history, and Newman could be an average starter in the majors, but that might not be enough to make him a top 100 guy.
Overall, the Pirates did well in Law’s list, and not as well on the BA list. That’s not a big surprise in either direction. The Pirates have a rebuilding farm system, with a lot of guys in the lower levels who could make this list one day, along with a few guys in Altoona who could make the list by mid-season. If you’re more conservative, you’ll only have Keller and Meadows on the list. But you can be a bit more bullish on guys like Hayes, Baz, and Tucker to put them on your list as well. The Pirates will hope that some of the guys behind Keller and Meadows become obvious choices by mid-season.
**The Pirates officially announced their non-roster invitees for Spring Training. There weren’t many surprises, as we had already reported on most of them. The biggest thing that stuck out was the addition of catcher Ryan Lavarnway. The Pirates are thin on catching depth in the upper levels, with Jacob Stallings currently as the number three option, and the next option being Jin-De Jhang, who might not even be ready for the big leagues if he’s needed this year. It makes sense to bring in a guy like Lavarnway, as the injury history for Francisco Cervelli means there’s a good chance Elias Diaz will be the starter at some point this year, and will need a backup in the form of Stallings or Lavarnway.
Lavarnway hasn’t been much of an offensive threat, but has gotten good reviews for his defense, which is the typical profile for a Pirates catcher. I could see him playing in Indianapolis along with Stallings and Jhang, with Christian Kelley and Jackson Williams in Altoona.
**John Dreker had international news, reporting on a catcher the Pirates signed out of the Dominican, along with an outfielder they are scouting in Mexico. I don’t really have anything to add to this, except that John is the best when it comes to covering the Pirates on the international side.
**MLB Pipeline named Kevin Kramer their tenth best second base prospect. If you’ve been following my writing about Kramer, you’d know I’m high on him. I had him as a breakout pick in each of the last two years, and think he could be a starter in the majors, possibly arriving by the middle of 2018. It’s nice to see another outlet is also high on him.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.