As I like to do around here, when a player is no longer eligible for our prospect rankings and prospect guide, I give him a send-off in article form. Usually that’s in one of our Morning Reports, but I already had stuff planned for today and tomorrow, so we get a quick separate article.
When Dario Agrazal recorded his fourth out last night, he crossed over from a prospect to whatever you want to call someone who has more than 50+ innings but is still a rookie. Basically, he won’t be in our 2020 Prospect Guide. Agrazal has been in the guide since he first season, but it took him a little time to be part of our top 50 prospects. That’s because he was a low-90s pitch-to-contact guy with no strikeout pitch until things began to change in 2016.
Agrazal almost made our top 50 in the 2017 guide when he showed an increase in velocity while at West Virginia. He still wasn’t missing any bats though and we wanted to see that first, especially from someone at the lower levels of the system. That didn’t happen until he improved his breaking ball at Bradenton during the 2017 season. Along with the increased velocity, without sacrificing any command, that led to him being promoted to Altoona mid-season. That’s where he got sidetracked on his journey to the majors.
We rated Agrazal as the 24th best prospect going into 2018. That was despite missing almost half of the 2017 season with a pectoral injury that occurred during his first start in Altoona. Agrazal dropped to 43rd in our 2019 Prospect Guide because he had two new injuries, dealing with a forearm strain during the 2018 season and a back injury late in the year, which cost him time in the Arizona Fall League and part of his off-season. The combination of becoming injury-prone, with no freak injuries, plus losing some of his velocity, made us cautious to rate him any higher.
This wasn’t a player who we expected to graduate from his prospect status this year. He parlayed a nice run at Triple-A (3.10 ERA in his first eight starts), into some early success in the majors. He’s getting a chance to stay now because injuries have opened up multiple rotation spots.
Truth be told, he has pitched poorly for quite a while now. Agrazal has a 6.92 ERA in the majors since his July 21st start and he has an 8.00 ERA in Indianapolis during that time (10.43 ERA at Indy if you go back to before he was recalled the second time). He’s no longer a prospect now, but it’s still possible that we see him regain some of his lost velocity (he’s down 3-4 MPH), which helped all of his pitches and led to more strikeouts. A good start would be his first full healthy off-season since 2017, which is when he made his most progress.
The Pirates have graduated a lot of players this year already and we could see more in September, including two of their top prospects in Mitch Keller and Cole Tucker. You still have young talent with all of the graduates, they didn’t actually go anywhere, but it certainly does a number to the farm system rankings to lose top players. Prior to Agrazal, Kevin Newman, Bryan Reynolds, Clay Holmes, Jacob Stallings and Pablo Reyes all went from prospects to plain old rookies this year. I assume Keller (needs 19 innings) and Tucker (needs 18 at-bats) will both fall off the list this year as well.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.