Top 14 in ’14: Pittsburgh Pirates

Gregory Polanco

The Draftbook is out! $1.99 for 150 scouting reports. Order now!

I’m not sure there’s a better system in the National League than the Pirates; as they have an absolutely absurd amount of quality and quantity in the outfield and the same can be said — to a lesser extent — about their right-handed pitching. They’ve done fantastically in their last few drafts and continue to do well with international free-agents, as well. If there’s a weakness here it’s that there isn’t much in terms of corner infield prospects, and there quantity of left-handed pitching prospects is somewhat lacking. Still, that’s nitpicking, and what Neal Huntington and company have done with this system deserves all of the credit that comes its way.

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
1 Gregory Polanco OF L/L 6-4 / 204
Polanco burst on the scene after a monster of a 2012 season, and while the overall numbers weren’t as impressive this past season, he showed more than enough upside to be considered the best prospect in the Pirates system.

Though Polanco’s swing is considered on the long side, he has extremely quick hands that lead to plus bat speed and gets the barrel through the zone quickly, and the ball explodes off of his bat to all parts of the field. He’s still filling out a frame that would best be described as lanky (and that’s probably an understatement), but as he puts on weight with his bat speed and hand-eye coordination he should be able to hit for above-average power from the left side. He still struggles with off-speed stuff below the knees, but he’s shown improvement there and has also shown more  plate discipline as he progresses.

Polanco is an excellent outfielder, with plus-plus speed and good instincts in the outfield and with enough arm strength to handle right field if that’s where Pittsburgh chooses to deploy him. With the reigning MVP likely to patrol centerfield for the next several years, I would expect Polanco to be the everyday rightfielder in Pittsburgh very soon, possibly the middle of 2014.

HIT 45-60

POWER 45-60

SPEED 65-65

GLOVE 55-60

ARM 60-60

ETA: 2014

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
2 Jameson Taillon RHP R/R 6-6 / 225
Taillon may not be the potential ace that many believed he was coming out of high-school in 2010, but there’s still an awful lot to like from a right-handed power arm with four pitches.

Taillon’s fastball generally sits 92-95 with downhill plane and sink, and occasionally the pitch will get into the high 90′s (with the occasional triple digits). At times his curveball is a plus-plus pitch as a power curve with late break and loads of spin, but at times he struggles to stay on top of the pitch and will leave it up in the zone. Taillon also throws a change that will flash above-average at times and a fringe-average slider without big break but will keep hitters off-balance. He has a simple, clean delivery and has improved his fastball command considerably, though he’ll occasionally put guys on base via walk.

His stuff is closer to a No. 3 than a No. 1, but Tallion has a chance to be a top of the rotation starter who can miss bats with two plus pitches and an improving feel for pitching.

FASTBALL 65-70

CURVE 50-60

SLIDER 45-45

CHANGE 50-50

COMMAND 50-55

ETA: 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
3 Austin Meadows OF L/L 6-3 / 200
Those who followed the website this summer knew that I was a big fan of Meadows all year, and he showed more than glimpses of his exceptional talent during his professional début this summer.

Meadows has an advanced feel for hitting, with above-average bat speed and strong hands that allow him to hit the ball with authority to all parts of the field. It’s a linear swing without much uppercut, but because he’s strong and uses the bottom half of his body well he’s capable of hitting for average and power at the next level. He rarely swings at pitches outside of the zone, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if big walk totals are in Meadows future.

Right now, Meadows has the speed and athleticism to play centerfield, and he takes good routes to the baseball and puts himself into position to get rid of the ball quickly. His arm strength is only average, however, so if he was forced to switch from center to a corner his likely landing spot is left field. The bat should play there just fine, however, and Meadows is a future top of the order hitter with all-star upside.

HIT 45-60+

POWER 45-60

SPEED 60-55

GLOVE 55-55

ARM 50-50

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
4 Tyler Glasnow RHP L/R 6-7 / 200
The Pirates have been very careful with Glasnow — holding off his professional début a year after he was drafted and limiting him to 111 innings pitched last year — but you can see why they’re so high on his right arm.

Glasnow can flat out bring it with his fastball, consistently touching the high 90′s and sitting 93-95, with projection to sit in the high 90′s as his frame builds. His curveball is extremely inconsistent and rarely thrown for a strike, but at times it’s a swing and miss pitch with big break and depth. Glasnow’s change is a work in progress, but has seen improvement and should at least be an average offering with time.

While Glasnow has big stuff, his command is only average, and at times he struggles to repeat his delivery and find a consistent arm slot, and he’s still learning how to pitch inside to professional hitters. If the command comes Glasnow has the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, but there’s a non-zero chance he ends up in the bullpen without an uptick in his ability to throw strikes.

FASTBALL 60-70

CURVEBALL 45-60

CHANGE 40-50

COMMAND 40-50

ETA: LATE 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
5 Alen Hanson SS/2B S/R 5-11 / 170
Like Polanco, Hanson didn’t quite match the insane numbers he put up in 2012, but did do enough to earn a promotion to AA and still looks a future everyday player in the middle infield. He’s a legit switch-hitter with a more fluid swing from the left side, but with more power from the right and without much glide that you see so often from young hitters who hit from both sides. There’s some swing and miss in his game, and you’d like to see him make more contact and to be able to put his plus speed to use on the bases.

Hanson has made a substantial amount of errors the last two seasons (72 to be exact) but error totals are substantially overrated, particularly at the lower levels where field conditions are often less than spectacular. He has decent hands and plenty of athleticism to his left and right, and enough arm strength to stick at the position at least in the short term. Even if he’s forced to move to the other side of the bag, Hanson’s bat should play there, as a potential leadoff hitter who can get on base and steal bases, and provide a surprising amount of pop, too.

HIT 45-55

POWER 40-50

SPEED 60-60

GLOVE 45-55

ARM 50-50

ETA: 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
6 Josh Bell OF S/R 6-4 / 200
The Pirates had to give Bell well-above slot money to buy out his scholarship to Texas in 2011, and while it’s been slow going, last year he showed more than flashes of being an élite offensive player.

Bell is a reverse of Bell’s switch-hitting ability, showing far more power from the left side — but far less contact ability — and a more contact based, linear swing from the right. He’s still very pull happy — especially as a left-handed hitter — but he’s started to show more feel for hitting and with time, I think he will be plus with both the hit and power tool. He’s a a corner outfielder because of his average speed, but he has a strong throwing arm that should be able to handle right-field.There’s a long way to go, but outside of Polanco and Meadows Bell has the most offensive upside of any prospect in the system, and if he can show more contact ability as a left-handed hitter and more pop from the right side, he could put up big numbers when the Pirates can use him in 2-3 years.

HIT 45-55

POWER 50-60

SPEED 50-50

GLOVE 45-50

ARM 60-60

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
7 Nick Kingham RHP R/R 6-5/ 220
Kingham doesn’t have the same big-time stuff as some of the other arms in the Pirates’ system, but he may have the best command and feel for pitching, along with above-average stuff. He locates a 91-93 fastball to all parts of the plate, and will occasionally touch 95 with some run and sink as well. His curveball is a power breaking-ball that doesn’t offer huge break, but does offer late bite and he can throw the pitch for a strike at the knees or out of the zone to get swing and misses. There isn’t much to his change, but he knows when to use it and keeps the pitch below the knees with excellent arm speed.

In addition to quality stuff, Kingham gets rave reviews for his mental makeup and his ability to throw any of his pitches in any count. He repeats his delivery very well, and rarely puts runners on base via walk. It isn’t élite command, but it’s well above-average and his feel for pitching is near that level as well. He’s not an ace, but Kingham should be a solid mid-rotation starter who can put up big numbers if you put a quality defense behind him.

FASTBALL 55-60

CURVE 50-55

CHANGE 45-55

COMMAND 55-60

ETA: 2015

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
8 Reese McGuire C L/R 6-1 / 180
I had a chance to see McGuire several times as he was only a 20 minute drive from my house, and each time I saw him I came away more impressed than the last, and he continued that improvement as a professional. McGuire doesn’t have a huge hit tool, but he’s got above-average bat speed and is willing to go the other way with pitches, and as he gets stronger he should hit for at least average power totals for a backstop.Behind the plate, however, McGuire is special. He has as strong an arm as I’ve seen from a prep backstop, routinely showing pop times in the 1.8 range with a quick release and plenty of accuracy. He isn’t perfect as a receiver, but he’s improved his mechanics and hands, and does a good job of blocking pitches in the dirt.

There are still questions about his bat, but McGuire has a great chance of being an everyday backstop who can make a difference shutting down a teams running game and working with pitchers.

HIT 40-50

POWER  45-50

SPEED 55-50

GLOVE 50-60

ARM 80-80

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
9 Barrett Barnes OF R/R 6-1 / 195
Barnes has had a very tough time staying healthy over his first two years in the Pirates system, but has looked like a future regular outfielder when he’s been on the field. He has plus bat speed and gets through the zone very quickly despite a slight amount of bat wrap, and though his swing doesn’t have much loft he has shown an ability to put the ball into gaps and let his plus speed go to work, and occasionally will put the ball over the left-field fence. He’s got enough athleticism to play any of the three outfield positions, but with the amount of quality outfield prospects Pittsburgh has, left field is his most likely landing spot as he only has an average arm that wouldn’t play well in right.He may need to find a different organization to do it, but Barnes has the ability to be an everyday center fielder with average offensive production, though his trade value may be diminished until he shows he can stay on the field more than 35-45 games a year.HIT 45-55POWER 45-50

SPEED 60-60

GLOVE 50-55

ARM 50-50

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
10 Blake Taylor LHP L/L 6-3 / 195
The Pirates may not have a ton of quantity in terms of left-handed pitching prospect, but they acquired a quality one last year in Taylor, a southpaw with projection and a chance for two plus pitches. His fastball sits 89-91 right now but will touch the mid 90′s, and he has a chance to sit in the mid 90′s as his frame fills out. His breaking-ball is already a near average offering with big — albeit slow — spin, and if he adds a few upticks to it it has a chance to be a big swing and miss pitch.What Taylor does not have yet, however, is a great feel for pitching or a third pitch. His change is nothing more than a show-me offering at this point, and he at times struggles to throw strikes and repeat his delivery, though there are no major flags in his arm action. If that third pitch comes and he can throw strikes, Taylor has a chance to move up this list significantly, and the Pirates will have plenty of time to see him develop because of their depth.

FASTBALL 50-60

CURVE 45-60

CHANGE: 40-50

COMMAND 35-50

ETA: 2017

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
11 Wyatt Mathisen C R/R 6-1 / 195
Mathisen was a late riser as a backstop in the 2012 draft as he didn’t have a ton of experience behind the plate, but the Pirates thought enough of him to make him the 69th pick that year. Mathisen has average raw power from the right side that hasn’t shown in up in games yet, but has shown an ability to work counts into his favor and take walks, and has shown a willingness to go the other way with pitches.Behind the plate Mathisen is still a work in progress, but he’s shown considerable improvement in his year and a half in the Pirate system. He has plenty of athleticism to keep pitches in the dirt from getting behind him. He has above-average arm strength, but his release is still too slow at this point, and his overall receiving skills are still a work in progress. With time though, Mathisen should be good enough defensively to play everyday, with some offensive upside.

HIT 45-55

POWER 40-50

SPEED 50-45

GLOVE 40-50

ARM 55-55

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
12 Luis Heredia RHP R/R 6-6 / 205
Heredia didn’t take the step forward that so many expected him to take in 2013, showing up to spring training overweight and his stuff didn’t make big jumps, either. His fastball lost a tick or two of velocity, sitting 89-91 with the occasional 93, as compared to the mid 90′s fastball he showed in 2012. His curveball has a chance to be an out pitch with 11-6 break and loads of spin, but he didn’t show the arm speed necessary to make it a potential out pitch, and the same can be said about his slider. The one positive development for Heredia was his change, which looks like a future solid 4th offering with some fade and decent arm speed.

He won’t be 20 until August, so there’s plenty of time for Heredia to reestablish himself as one of the better arms in the system, but last year was a disappointment that hopefully was a learning experience for the right-hander, rather than a sign of things to come.

FASTBALL 50-60

CURVE 40-55

SLIDER 40-45

CHANGE 45-55

COMMAND 45-55

ETA: 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
13 Harold Ramirez OF  R/R 5-11 / 175
Ramirez is another in a long line of quality Pirates outfield prospects, showing an advanced feel for hitting and a chance to hit for high average thanks to plus bat speed and very strong wrists that are able to stay inside and help him hit the ball with authority to all parts of the field. He’s not likely to hit for big power numbers because of his build, but he’s getting stronger and 18-20 homer seasons are not out of the questions as his frame fills out. He’s an aggressive hitter with some swing and miss in his game, but he’s also shown improved plate discipline and doesn’t give up on at bats.Ramirez is also a quality defensive prospect who has the speed to handle center field with good instincts, but would have to play left field as his arm is only average if he was moved off the position. If he can stick in center, Ramirez has a chance to shoot up the board with four tools and a chance to be above-average offensively, maybe plus.

HIT 45-55

POWER 40-50

SPEED 55-55

GLOVE 50-55

ARM 50-50

ETA 2016

 

Rank Name Position Bats/Throws Height/Weight
14 JaCoby Jones 2B/OF R/R 6-3 / 195
Jones is a name that’s been familiar with scouts for several years after looking like a potential first-round pick as a freshman at LSU, but a poor sophomore campaign and mediocre junior year saw his stock drop. In his first professional year with the Pirates though, he showed more signs of the former than the latter before a knee injury ended his year. Jones has plus-plus bat speed and gets his right-handed bat through the zone as quick as you’ll see, but that bat speed got negated by way too high of a leg kick that hurt his timing and drains some of his natural power. Scouts tell me that in his time in the New York-Penn League that that leg kick was much more subtle, which is a positive sign for things to come. He has the athleticism to play anywhere in the field, but I would give him a chance to play second base as it’s a position that the Pirates don’t have as much depth at and he should have the tools to play there everyday. He may not be anything more than a utility player, but there’s above-average regular potential in his bat and his body.

HIT 40-50

POWER 40-50

SPEED 60-60

GLOVE 45-50

ARM 50-50

ETA: 2016

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Top 14 in ’14: Pittsburgh Pirates”

  1. scott s says:

    Good read

  2. mwash1983 says:

    Saw Harold Ramirez 3 times last year and I think his speed is a 65 and not a 55. He can be a good one.

Leave a Reply

*