First Pitch

First Pitch: Pirates Could Soon be the Best Team in Baseball

First Pitch: Pirates Could Soon be the Best Team in Baseball

Keith Law’s top 100 prospects came out today, which is the third top 100 list that came out in the last week. released their top 100 last week, and Baseball Prospectus released their top 101 on Monday. Each set of rankings led to different results for each player, which happens with any group of rankings. Wanting to get some sort of a consensus on each player, I decided to average the rankings, then take the median of the three lists.

Note that I didn’t average the rankings for every single player, then figure out where they would rank. I just took the Pirates and their rankings. That means that Gregory Polanco averages to a 17 (or 16.67, rounded up). That 17 average might not mean he’s the 17th best player on average if you combine the entire lists. He could end up higher or he could end up lower. I don’t think I’ll combine the entire lists until the Baseball America rankings come out, at which point I’ll have to update these combined rankings. Until then, here is the simple average and median rankings, along with some more notes below.

Average Rankings

17. Gregory Polanco

21. Jameson Taillon

30. Tyler Glasnow

56. Austin Meadows

81. Alen Hanson

83. Josh Bell

85. Nick Kingham

87. Reese McGuire

Median Rankings

13. Gregory Polanco

19. Jameson Taillon

27. Tyler Glasnow

45. Austin Meadows

74. Alen Hanson

77. Josh Bell

80. Nick Kingham

NR. Reese McGuire

There’s not much of a difference between the two lists. I don’t know if the median really tells much, since it basically only leaves one of the three rankings remaining. That one ranking shouldn’t get a ton of weight, even if it is in the middle. I think the median does give an indication of how widespread the opinions can be on some players. For example, Austin Meadows jumps up 11 spots from his average to the median, mostly due to the low ranking from BP.  Alen Hanson and Nick Kingham both jump 6-7 spots. But Jameson Taillon, who was pretty consistently ranked in the same area, only jumped two spots. It will be even more interesting when the Baseball America rankings are added to the mix.

Scouting Reports

Rankings are fun, but I personally prefer the scouting reports, and talent tiers. The latter is something that most outlets don’t do on a widespread scale. You can create your own tiers using BA’s Prospect Handbook and their individual player rankings. That makes it easy to compare players in different systems. As for the scouting reports, everyone puts those out, and those tell the true story of what a player could become. The reports can be mixed, but for the Pirates in the top 100, the reports have been very favorable. As an example of the reports, let’s take a look at some of the upsides that Keith Law threw out today. You could probably take positive things about these players from any of the sources. Some might be higher on players than Law, and some might be lower on players than Law. I’m just using his examples because I respect his work, and his rankings are the latest to come out.

Gregory Polanco – “He’s going to impact the game on offense, on defense and on the bases, a 25-homer guy with high OBPs and outstanding glovework in the outfield.”

Basically there’s every reason to be excited by Gregory Polanco.

Tyler Glasnow – “The scariest part about Glasnow is that he could still get stronger, and it’s not hard to imagine him with three plus pitches, bumping 98 with plane and cleaning up the mess at the plate with either of his breaking balls.”

Law was the highest on Glasnow. He doesn’t give a true projection, but three plus pitches is pretty much an ace. It seems Law is high on Glasnow for all of the same reasons I am (chance for increased velocity, chance for three plus pitches, and I think he has been showing good signs of improving his control).

Jameson Taillon – “could probably be a league-average starter for the Pirates by Opening Day of 2015, with a good probability of becoming a top 30-40 starter in the league at his peak”

Law was lower on Taillon, but a top 30-40 starter is nothing to sneeze at. Look at the pitchers ranked 21-40. Those are some good pitchers, and the Pirates would take that from Taillon, slotting in behind Gerrit Cole.

Austin Meadows – “He might have the best shot of anyone in the 2013 draft class to explode into an 8-WAR player, the way Mike Trout — another huge, athletic center fielder who proved more polished than forecasted — did after 2009.”

This is crazy. I don’t read this as a Mike Trout comparison. I think the name was just thrown out there to show how quickly Meadows could arrive, and how big of an impact he could make. The crazy part? The Pirates aren’t even counting on Meadows. They’ve got Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and soon Gregory Polanco. That trio will be under control through the 2018 season. I always talk about “What Would the Rays Do?” If Law is right on Meadows, then this would be a situation where the Rays trade a top outfielder who is a year or two away from free agency, and replace him with the next star — in this case that would be Meadows.

Nick Kingham – “all of the other elements are in place for a league-average, 200-inning starter once he gets a few reps in the majors.”

I take that as a solid number three starter, which is the popular projection for Kingham. I think he has a chance to be better, as he’s constantly showing improvements to his game. But keep in mind that you’re talking about a guy who ideally slots in as the 4th or 5th starter by the end of 2015.

Alen Hanson – “His ceiling is an average defender at short who hits .300 with 50-60 walks per season and doubles power, which would be an above-average or better regular”

Above average or better at shortstop? Any team would take that. As I’ve said, I’m not a scout. Technically what I do is scout players, but I don’t call myself a scout. In Hanson’s case, I felt all year that he had good enough defensive skills to stick at shortstop in the long-term, and that the errors weren’t a reflection of a lack of skill. In those cases I always like seeing someone who is a scout or a baseball insider have the same opinion. Law had the same opinion of Hanson in the AFL, and obviously thinks he has a chance to stick at the position.

Josh Bell – “If the bat comes along now that the lost season is behind him, though, he’ll still profile as an average to above-average regular in left, getting on base at a .350-plus clip with 20-25 homers per season.”

Once again, the Pirates don’t need an outfielder. That said, they do need a first baseman, and Bell would be a great candidate. That has to come after his hitting comes along, though. If you’re only using Law’s projections for OBP and HRs to determine value (and that’s a horrible idea, but let’s just go with it for a second), then you’d see that in 2013 there were only eight first basemen out of 25 qualified players who had a .350+ OBP and 20+ homers. It would be safe to say that Bell would be average to above average at first base too, if the bat comes along.

The Future Looks Bright

Not every prospect will work out. We don’t even know which guys will work out and which will bust. So when giving a future roster, it always has to come with the disclaimer that a lot of things will change. With that disclaimer out of the way, here is what the future looks like with the above players.

C – Reese McGuire – Wasn’t ranked by Law, but BP was high on him, saying he could be a solid two-way catcher. The defense is there. The hitting will be the big question.

1B – Josh Bell – Average to above average.

2B – Jordy Mercer – I’d move him here when Hanson arrives. You could also move him to third base if another second baseman emerges. I think he could be above average as a middle infielder.

SS – Alen Hanson – Above average or better.

3B – ??? – This is going to be a question mark once Alvarez leaves. Fortunately, the Pirates have a few years to answer that question, and not many needs to fill.

LF – Starling Marte – He had a 4+ WAR in his first full season. He’s got the tools to maintain that.

CF – Andrew McCutchen – MVP

RF – Gregory Polanco – Impact player. He’s not the same type of player as McCutchen, but from an impact standpoint, I think he can be the same.

OF – Austin Meadows – If Law is right on Meadows, and if Polanco does indeed become an impact player, then you’ve got three outfielders with the potential for an 8.0 WAR. Think about that. With a 48 win replacement team, and those three outfielders, you’re at 72 wins. That’s before all of the above players, and all of the pitching to follow. Meadows could create some interesting decisions down the line. Let McCutchen walk rather than extending him for his age 31-36 years? Trade Marte for a massive return? If Meadows does break out, then the Pirates can’t trade him away.

SP – Gerrit Cole – Already showing signs of being an ace.

SP – Tyler Glasnow – Potential for the pitches and command needed to be an ace.

SP – Jameson Taillon – Top 30-40 starter at his peak.

SP – Nick Kingham – League average numbers at 200 innings per year. Solid number three.

SP – Charlie Morton – He’s under control through the 2017 season, and could be another solid number three starter in the back of the rotation. Or they could have another young guy in this spot in the long-run, like Clay Holmes. They’ve got a lot of guys in the system with the upside of solid number three starters, and it’s not common for teams to have so many of those types.

With the exception of third base, the Pirates have average or better production forecasted for every position. They’ve got impact talent at several positions. This is a team that could be one of the best teams in baseball in a few years, if not the best team in baseball, and they don’t even need all of the above to go right. Also, when I say “a few years”, I mean “maybe starting as soon as the second half of the 2015 season”. Just like they don’t need all of the above to go right, they also don’t need to wait on everyone above to arrive. That’s the benefit of having a young, contending team with a top farm system that is lined up to deliver a few impact prospects each year for the next several years.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is now available. You can purchase your copy here, and read about every prospect in the Pirates’ system. The book includes our top 50 prospects, as well as future potential ratings for every player.

**We have been releasing our top 20 prospects for the 2014 season, and this week we conclude the countdown with the top five. Today the countdown resumed with #3 – Tyler Glasnow.

**Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

**Pirates Have Seven in Keith Law’s Top 100 Prospects

**Winter Leagues: Season Ends For Gregory Polanco

  • why does Klaw hate my team?!? haha

    but seriously, Exciting stuff!
    Although still many many “IF”s, still exciting to imagine what the future team will be like.
    It’s been a long road from the Littlefield era to having the 1st-3rd best farm system, and my god how giddy one feels lol.

    The one caveat I have is the talk of moving Josh Bell to 1st. Let’s say Bell has an arbitrary value of 75/100, moving him to 1st diminishes his value to 60/100 or so imo. From all I’ve read, defensively Bell’s at least an avg corner OFer.

    It would be great if we could trade him or Marte for an equal value/age 1B/3B prospect, but sadly prospect for prospect trades rarely happen in the MLB.

    IF we do have to move Bell out of the OF, why not 3B?
    I hear talks of moving him to 1B, but not 3B. 3B will be just as empty once Pedro leaves.
    Though he’s not the fastest OFer, wouldn’t his athleticism help him at 3B, and at least retain some more value? Or am I over-rating his athleticism/defensive ability?

    • Mike C….I LOVED your opening statement.

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Thank you for the legwork and the future certainly is bright for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Just listened to Greg Smith on MLB TV answer the question about how soon the Pirates get Gregory Polanco to the majors. He danced around that magnificently – he is going to be a great GM someday. He did not downgrade the existing RF’s and said it was going to be in the hands of Polanco and Clint Hurdle . . . dada . . dada! Mets series in June beginning a 10 game home stand – Taillon on the mound, and Polanco in RF. Kingham and Hanson queing up at AAA. I think we can say that Polanco surprised even his own countrymen with his play as a Rookie in the Dominican Winter League – Rookie of the Year and MVP. The Dominican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues are the most competent with regards to comparative level with the MLB System. They would be AA/AAA comparatively. Mexico next down, then Puerto Rico which may be A Level at best.

    I do read the comment about Meadows as a direct comparison with Trout by his use of a reference like “another” big, powerful centerfielder who proved to be more polished than forecasted. An 8 WAR? Might be great to hear, but I doubt that Austin Meadows will reach that plateau, but if his initial year in the GCL/Short Season as an 18 year old is any indication, he may be just that good. Things had to fall perfectly in the draft for him to still be on the board at No. 9 and that was great for the Pirates.

    • jaygray007


      • Jay Gray….who would you want?

        Headley….better fielder (only had that one monster year).
        Sandoval….better hitter, okay fielder.

        • jaygray007

          I think they could be similar over the next 5 years. Headley is older, but in better shape. Perhaps it’d take the more outstanding fielder (headley) to justify to Pedro that he should move to 1b. They should both be ~2.5 win players over the next 5 years.

          I’ve always had a soft spot for both of them. Instead of picking one now, i more just wanted to float the idea out there that 3b is the place where it’ll make sense to bring in outside talent. Try to trade for one, sign one of these guys, etc.

          I’d rather them invest in a 30ish year old 3b who can move down the defensive spectrum at age 33 or 34 to 1b than a 30ish year old 1b who has nowhere to go at the tail end of his contract and blocks an eventual move of Alvarez (Alvarez improved a lot, but he still wasn’t *good* at 3b. more *acceptable*.).

          • jaygray007

            no worthwhile 1b out there in 2015. maybe Lind if the Blue Jays buy him out.

    • I think the comparison of Meadows to Trout is like comparing two different big, tall right-handed pitchers who throw hard. They might be two completely different pitchers, but their values could be the same.

  • Roberrto21

    Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!! A lot to look forward to!!!! My own impressions from reading PP are that Polanco and Taillon might both be better than advertised! And I think Starling could just wind up being excellent! Not to mention that we have the pleasure of having Cutch and El Toro for several more years! And sure sounds like Meadows is getting raves on his potential too!!! After so many bleak years, the talent is really coming back!!! Yahooo!!!!

  • CalipariFan506

    Law does hate the Pirates. Actually I don’t think he hates the Pirates he hates Pittsburgh. He spent time here going to law school at CMU and he is open about how his anxiety and depression were really bad here because of the cold dark winters.

    • jon6er

      If that’s the case it is a little hard to take someone serious who holds local weather as a marker against a city, lol!

      • I can agree with that. I hate the weather in Pittsburgh. Reason I’d never live there.

    • buster09

      Substitute Western Pa rather than just Pittsburgh when talking weather,and I can see K Law’s reasoning !

    • PghPinstripes

      CMU does not have a law school. FWIW, according to Wikipedia, he received his Master of Business Administration from Carnegie Mellon.

      • belfry

        Yeah, as an alum, I had to smile. I was thinking “Wow, they must’ve hidden that school in some subterranean steam tunnel under Hammerschlag Hall.” Actually, on second thought, that would be the perfect place for a school of law.

    • NastyNate82

      You don’t really think he hates the Pirates, do you? Ranking someone lower than you think he should be ranked does not really constitute “hate.”

  • skliesen

    If this article doesn’t get a Pirates fan fired up, than you better go grab a mirror and exhale to check if you’re still alive!

    Clearly the future is bright as the morning sun in Palm Springs on a summer’s day for the Bucs. After two decades of unwatchable baseball, the Pirates are going back to the future of the glorious 1970’s. Maybe even better.

    I will say the projected holes of the IF corners do not concern me nearly as much as not having a dominant LH SP in the projected rotation. And that is why I am in favor of making Liriano the Pirates first $100mm player if he follows up last season with another one this year. Is it a huge risk? Hell yeah it is! But it’s the smart play and here’s why:

    1.) PNC Park favors LH pitchers because of the dimensions.

    2.) The farm system for all it’s strengths is void of LH SP’s ready to compete at the ML level any time soon.

    3.) The staff will benefit greatly from having a veteran presence in the clubhouse to act as a mentor.

    4.) Banking on catching lightening in a bottle by picking up a SP off the trash heap and revitalizing his career is not the formula for a team competing for a World’s Championship.

    Interested to hear what you guys think.

    • jaygray007

      It’s clear that – with all of the high ceiling talent coming up who will be playing for dirt cheap salaries, the pirates should be able to afford a big ole contract. I’m not sure pitching is the place to invest that just because pitchers are so risky, but liriano is kind of the perfect compliment to the power righties who are coming up (and are already here {morton, Cole}).

      I guess it could kind of depend on Locke’s progression.

    • buster09

      I personally think the ” mentoring ” thing is overrated. Having solid character players that show by example is an entirely different point.

    • Hank

      The simpler solution starts with letting Justin Wilson compete for a starting spot this Spring.

    • Andrew

      Why do teams need a left handed starting pitcher? I understand that PNC park crushes RHH’s power but I do not think it is worth paying a premium to have and due to pitchers high attrition rates I am not sure it makes sense for a team with admitted payroll restrictions to commit large amount of money to pitchers.

      I think Liriano will pitch well again, but if the Pirates are committing $100 million to a player I think it makes much more sense to pay position players who age well.

      • skliesen

        If, as most believe, the Pirates will soon have 4 of the SP spots taken by Cole, Taillon, Glasnow and Kingham, than they will have a minuscule portion of payroll committed to the rotation compared to either this year or next. And considering C, 1B, SS, LF & RF all making near league minimum, the Pirates can certainly afford to pay market value for Liriano. Of all the reasons not to sign Liriano to a lucrative long-term contract, affordability should not be a deciding factor.

        • The deciding factor should be whether it’s smart to give $100 M to a pitcher with an injury history, entering his age 31-36 seasons.

          • skliesen

            The injury history is a two-sided coin, it also means he has less wear and tear than other SP his age.

            Philosophically, you’re correct in that small market teams can’t afford to miss on a high-priced veteran contract. However, in the Pirates case, with so much quality depth in the system, this may be the isolated case where the reward is worth the risk.

            • jaygray007

              Research shows that the best predictor of future DL time is past DL time.

              Granted things like the broken right arm he got was a freak accident. just sayin that past injuries – those of a nonfreak variety – are not really a good thing.

              They’d be better off putting that into a position player or at least a younger, more durable pitcher ( the next 25ish yr old japanese import? ) but when it comes down to it, they’re set to have a bunch of very good righties. I’d be interested to see any research on having variety of types of pitchers in a rotation.

              put that into a position player. so much safer.

              • skliesen

                He had TJ surgery 7 yrs ago. Only significant injuries ides broken right arm. Do you think Cards should’ve given up on Wainwright for the next Japanese SP bc he blew his elbow out? Not exactly same, but similar to what you’re suggesting.

    • I’ve never understood this stance. If you’ve got Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, and Kingham as the top four starters, and they all have huge upsides, then what exactly is a left-hander going to do in the fifth spot? I think people over-state the need for that kind of flow in a rotation. I don’t think those four would be better if it’s Joely Rodriguez (LH) pitching 5th instead of Clay Holmes (RH).

      This whole stance ignores the fact that most of the time, teams won’t see your one left-hander. If you’ve got back to back three game series, then only one opposing team will see a left-hander. I’d rather just have the best five starters.

      • skliesen

        I understand and agree in principle paying a bat is a less riskier proposition than paying for an arm. However, Liriano’s performance at PNC last season speaks for itself, especially in post-season.

        And Tim, you said it yourself, nobody knows if the prospects the Pirates are depending on will achieve their potential. We know what Liriano’s ceiling is, especially if he shows he’s able to repeat it this season. I, for one, would feel much more confident in the staff with a proven playoff winner like Liriano in the mix. If you can’t understand this logic, than maybe it’s you who needs to re-evaluate your philosophy of how to construct a winning organization.

        • Signing Liriano to a $100 M deal means you’re paying him $20 M a year for 5 years, or ~$17 M a year for 6 years. That’s his age 31 through 35 or 36 seasons. You don’t know what you’re getting during that time. Saying that prospects are questionable and then saying that Liriano’s performance would be a guarantee during this time are completely wrong.

          • skliesen

            Tim, my stance is predicated on Liriano proving he can back up his performance again this season. If not, then we all know Pirates will let him sign elsewhere.

            However, given the payroll flexibility the Pirates will enjoy starting in ’15, paying Liriano market value is affordable even under the Pirates budget constraints.

            Liriano was 8-1 w/a 1.47 ERA at PNC last year, and he was 3-0 w/a 0.75 ERA vs the Cardinals, who is the team Pirates are trying to supplant as NL Central champs.

            Furthermore, even if Pirates sign Liriano to $20mm/yr for 5 years, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be on the hook for all of it. Trading him 3-4 years into deal to restock system or replace Alvarez may be an option, too.

            In summary, an asset like Liriano has tremendous value both in the short-term and long-term.

            • His performance in 2014 doesn’t erase concerns over what he can do the next 5-6 years.

              They can afford him, but that doesn’t mean it’s a smart investment to make.

              Also, a trade isn’t guaranteed. What if he falls apart two years into the deal? Then you’re stuck with him.

              • skliesen

                Of course nothing is for certain when it comes to baseball, except your opinion of small-market teams paying market value for seasoned veteran SP’s. But if Liriano is anywhere near as effective in ’14 at home, vs Cardinals and in the post-season, than how can you just let the guy walk when his salary is affordable?

                • Because affordable is not synonymous with smart.

  • Thanks Tim… you got me singing “Timbuk 3;s – The Future’s So Bright, I gotta wear shades”.

    I will now hate you fooever.

  • vck1

    Some “idiot” owner said a few years back he thought the Pirates had the best management team in baseball. This article seems to indicate he was not such an “idiot” after all. The transformation over the last 5 years has been truly amazing. I hate to date myself, but as a grade school student in the late 50s I remember the breakout that occurred in 1958 culminating in the 60 world series and two decades of competitive excellence after that. I don’t know if we are in for such a sustained era of excellence again. One can only hope.

    • emjayinTN

      vck1: Just so these young folks understand just how pitiful the Pirates were during the ’50’s
      1951 64-90
      1952 42-112
      1953 50-104
      1954 53-101
      1955 60-94
      1956 66-88
      1957 62-92
      But, sitting in the LF Bleachers at Forbes Field was a unique experience, and during some of their worst years, Ralph Kiner was hitting 30-35 HR’s a year. I remember marching around the field in full Little League uniforms prior to the Saturday Knothole Games. The Pirates have built the right way with this new Management Team, and any good foundation for a baseball team starts with PITCHING, and PITCHING, and PITCHING, and because of the numbers of prospects they have, they are very well stocked.

  • wtm1613


    In regard to Glasnow, in Keith Law’s recent prospect list, he had this to say about Glasnow’s arsenal:

    “He throws both a curveball and slider, with the slider the better pitch right now, hard and tight at 84-87, while the curveball has good 11-to-5 break and sits in the upper 70s.”

    We all know he has the great fastball and have read about his developing curve, but this is the first I’ve heard of a slider – which Law actually ranks as the better breaking ball. Any insight?

    • I didn’t know what he was talking about with the slider. Glasnow only throws three pitches. I talked to him a few weeks ago and asked if he was throwing anything other than the fastball, changeup, and curve, and he said it was just those pitches.

      Maybe his changeup has slider movement? His change sits in the 84-87 range. I haven’t seen it since last ST, and it has come a long way since then from the reports I’ve gotten.

      • NastyNate82

        Could it be he was throwing two different types of curveballs? One harder than the other?

  • Ecbucs

    the Bucs have talent come up thru the system and it is pretty exciting, especially compared to a few years ago.

    I am hoping most of these players hit the ground running when they first get to majors and perform well.

    I’m also hoping that the team will come thru and pay them. I’m a little concerned that the team is going to only be able to afford players thru first or second year of arbitration or that the next collective bargaining agreement will change free agency to after 5 years of service.

    But if Cole becomes a Kershaw like pitcher will the Bucs be able to pay him 15 million in 2017? When will the team need to deal Marte? Will it be because Meadows or Bell are ready or because Marte is going to make 10 million> HOw many high priced players can the team afford? Good players cost money (other than during their first couple years)

  • Surprised nobody mentioned the possibility of moving one of the young catchers to 1st base – I know they want Sanchez to play every day at Indy to get ready for 2015 – but why not give him some time at 1b too? They have Sanchez, Mathisen, Jhang and McGuire all in Tim’s top 22 [see it pays to have bought the book]. I would also think some consideration would be given to moving Jacoby Jones to a corner should he show progress this year. And there seems to be a lot of outfield depth – some with interesting potential [Barnes, Rojas, Osuna, etc] that might be candidates for 1b in a year or two if they continue to develop.

    Finally – all of these discussions assume that Lambo does not do well and is not a possible medium to long term solution. If he can get his strikeout rate down and hit .270 with 30 HR I would consider that problem solved. As optimistic as everyone is about Polanco – I remain hopeful that Lambo proves the same folks wrong for doubting him.

    • I’ve talked about Sanchez specifically in the past. You don’t move him to first base until there’s another long-term catcher moving him off the position.

  • This is all good news, but if you use the same premise, you could just as easily say the Cubs (or Astros) will be the best team in MLB in 3-4 years. Naturally I’d be more concerned with the Cubs as they’re a divisional rival. Anyway, it’s nice to think about, but as I’ve said here before, I was living in CT as a Mets fan when all the excitement was about Generation K. And in current news, the Yankees “KIller B’s” have turned out to have no sting. So jury is still out. Gotta see ’em all before in the Bigs before getting excited. The reviews on Taillon throw a bit of cold water on hopes that he’ll be picking up the staff in 2nd half.

    • The Masked robshelb



      imo the relatively lukewarm reviews of Jameson Taillon may be under-estimating the (sometimes important) intangible of coolness-under-pressure. For example, JT last summer pitching in the World Baseball Classic (at his baseball tender age). He did gud. Better than gud. Mega-gud.

      How’s a guy gonna pitch in high leverage situations in The Bigs in front of ten thousands of people ?? No way anyone can know that when ranking a guy as a prospect. But JT’s performance at the WBC was encouraging, illuminating, and for me tres exciting.

      The question of course is if Taillon can maintain that level of excellence over a long career on a regular basis. We don’t know if he can. But by the same token, we have no evidence that he can’t. At least not yet.


      • The Masked robshelb

        And as an aside, I for one would like to see all pitching statistics sub-divided into high-pressure vs. low pressure situations. Let up a little, experiment a bit, when your team is already ahead by five runs ?? That’s okay. But how does Pitcher A or Pitcher B perform when the game, or maybe the season, is truly on the line. That’s a crucial question.

        • Cato the Elder

          It’s been done, or rather is being done. There is a leverage index (LI) and a win probability added (WPA).

          Hell, WPA leaderboatds (for batters, starting pitchers, and relief pitchers) is on the front page of fangraphs.

          Moreover, it has been shown repeatedly that WPA is not predictive.

          “● WPA is not highly predictive. Generally, it is not used for player analysis and projecting the future. But it does give us a picture of which players helped their team the most during the course of a game. A fun way to think of WPA is as a storytelling statistic. It highlights the big (and most exciting) moments of a game as well as the players who contributed most to a win (or loss).”

    • stickyweb

      Scott, no doubt the Cubs and Astros (along with a couple others) have comparable farm systems. The difference is the starting point right now, where the Bucs already have most of their roster set on a team coming off a playoff season. Both the Cubs and Astros have many gaping holes to fill. They could actually hit on 100% of their top prospects and still just climb up to being an above average. For reference, Fangraphs has the Cubs with the 3rd worst 2014 projected team WAR in MLB, 1 WAR behind the Astros.

      Without diggin too deep, I’d say the only franchises with current success and a fram system comparable to the Bucs are the Cards and Red Sox. Oh well, at least only one of them is in our division.

    • “This is all good news, but if you use the same premise, you could just as easily say the Cubs (or Astros) will be the best team in MLB in 3-4 years.”

      Both have top farm systems, but the key difference is that the Pirates have a top farm system and a young team that is already a contender.

  • marty

    I think the Bucs take a step backward this year. End up in the 85-88 win range, while competing for the second WC spot most of the year but falling a few games short of it. However, 2015 is when I think the run truly begins. Cutch, Marte, Pedro, Polanco, Taillon, Cole, Morton all year. Kingham, if not here, knocking on the door. Hanson should arrive in 2015. Wilson, Watson, Melancon in the bullpen. Glasnow coming in hot and heavy. McGuire, Meadows, and Bell all a year closer to the Majors.

  • BigB2323

    Tim, why never consideration of moving Meadows to 1B? If he is on the fast track? He has the left handed glove, is already 6’3 and has been said the only flaw in his game is he has a suspect to average arm at best. I understand wanting to keep him in the OF/CF because of value and his tremendous athletic ability and speed. But if you have Marte, McCutchen, and Polanco speed and defensive ability already in the OF, getting Meadows bat on the field somewhere will be essential, especially if hes going to be a fast riser.

    Also I do not understand why people aren’t more high on Nick Kingham? The body type and the stuff is well above average to me. For him to not show up in the top 100 on is kinda ridiculous. I think we will look back in 5 years and say wow, where the scouts a little too low on him.

    • BigB2323

      In a perfect world moving prospects with good bats to new positions would ideal. Like moving Meadows to 1B because of his left handed glove and below average arm and moving Bell to 3B instead of 1B because of his strong arm. Then you could have your ideal fits in place for the lineup. One of those could happen in the future and neither or.

    • Meadows has more value in the outfield, and the Pirates might not even need a 1B when he’s ready.

      • NastyNate82

        If Meadows progresses quite well, do you think he gets moved or one of the other OF’s gets moved?

    • Meadows will be an OF. By the time he’s ready to become a full time OF, Cutch will be gone. Pretty much everybody here understands that. As long as the Bucs have quality OFs coming through the system, no OF is going to get paid a superstar salary from this owner. Not so much a knock on Nutting, but it’s WWTBD.

      • Suppose Cutch really, really likes it here and what he has accomplished as a Pirate He looks around at the team that now surrounds him (Meadows, Mcguire, Bell, Hanson, Polanco, Cole, Taillon etc) in 2018, after two division titles and one NL flag and decides he will stay for (let’s assume normal inflation) and tells his agent he would agree to stay for six years 15-17 million! He’s only had that one stint on the DL back in 16 and is still producing. He is the most popular Pirate since Stargell, maybe since Clemente.

        You mean to tell me Nutting, whose turnstiles are turning to the point of 2.75 million fans a year and a better tv deal, wouldn’t at least consider that?

        C’mon! :-)

        • IC Bob

          Yep I don’t see the Bucs even considering it unless a new TV makes them flush with money. Its just the way it is. With Cutch I am not so sure with his size that his skills don’t diminish a little quicker then some others.

  • MaineBucs

    The decision to draft Appel and then not being able to sign him may just turn out to be one of the better that the Front Office has made with the early signs of success shown by both Meadows and McGuire. While Appel is also a Top 25 prospect on most lists, I am very happy to have McGuire as a Pirate farmhand.

    • Meadows was the pick they got for Appel. He probably wouldn’t have been there at 14. McGuire could have still been there.

      • jaygray007

        a point that i heard that i haven’t heard voiced before until Callis was on David Todd’s show is that if they DID want to sign Appel for HIS demands at the time, it would’ve costed them the 14th pick this year.

        Therefore, the tradeoff is BOTH McGuire and Meadows for Appel…

        The tradeoff that could be worth talking about is Dahl vs Meadows. Dahl and Meadows are very similar, so it looks like the Appel gamble really didn’t hurt them.

        • Well if you’re taking that route, it’s actually worse. If they did want to sign Appel for his demands, it wouldn’t just be Meadows/McGuire. It would be Meadows, McGuire, Blake Taylor, plus the first and second round picks in 2014, plus the 100% tax on the overage for Appel (a few million dollars).

          • jaygray007

            Hahahaha yeah i didn’t realize Taylor and 2014 was involved. that’s pretty insane. holy crap.

  • freddylang

    I think Polanco is generally underrated although I am biased but the exponential improvement he has shown and the offseason he has had against very good competition combined with his size and ability to gain more power and his eye and patience for his age. Not many prospects I would rather have than him. Glasnow is an x-factor too considering he could be a top 5 prospect by this time next year…with Heredia hopefully ready for a breakthrough and also Clay Holmes plus the winter Harold Ramirez had…I like the Bucs chances of staying in the top 5 systems for 2-3,4 years despite consistently graduating guys to the mlb…hopefully they don’t trade too much of the talent away at deadlines and stick with the model they have used the last two deadlines.

  • Jason

    What’s really amazing about this concept is that you put together a future lineup that doesn’t include the reigning MVP, Andrew McCutchen. (Not to mention potential starters like Luis Heredia, Barrett Barnes, Clay Holmes, Harold Ramirez, Tony Sanchez, Joely Rodriguez, etc., plus “All-Star” Jeff Locke.)

    That really shows how stocked the system is today.

  • jg941

    It’s been an interesting approach, intentional or unintentional. As some point out above, there are still “holes” in the overall system, position-wise – 1B, 3B, LH SP and to a lesser extent SS, pending Hanson’s ultimate development and/or Mercer’s consistency.

    Ideally, I guess you’d try to spread it around and focus on getting each hole filled internally, but it looks the the approach they ended up taking (again, intentionally or unintentionally, sort of the “taking the best player available” approach) was to stack all the RHPs and CFs, and maybe catchers, they could find on top of one another.

    What that’s starting to look like is a pool of really talented players at those key positions that you can start, um, re-distributing in different ways. It’s already been CFs to corner OFs, which is gonna be prety exciting to watch over the next few years. Then maybe it’s surplus OFs to 1B or 3B, surplus catchers to 1B or 3B, RH SPs to bullpen studs, and/or having all of these surplus (but still top-quality) RH SPs, CFs and Cs lining up nicely as highly-valuable future trade chips that buy you the 1B, 3B or LHP of your dreams.

    It IS gonna be a pretty cool thing to watch unfold over the next18-24 months.

    • stickyweb

      Or they could teach some of the RHP to pitch left handed! :-)

      Seriously, I think the “need” for LH starters is overstated significantly. Yes PNC favors them, but if you have a stud RHP (or 4), that’s just as good.

  • This situation where the Pirates have a surplus of OFers and big stud RHPs remind me of thr Penguins.
    If u follow them, they’ve drafted a lot of young defensemen, and had the fans scratching their heads, but Shero just used em as assets, trading em as fit, bringing back needed talent.
    sure hockey and baseball systems are different, but just shows drafting best talent over “needs” is always the optimal method

  • Cecil.

    Tim, I understand the Bucs’ insistence on not moving a player to another position until necessary/or he’s matured more, but do you think in the back of his mind Huntington can see the day that Bell gets moved to first and Matheson and/or J. Jones get moved to third?

    • I think so. They generally have a plan, just like everyone on here does. The big difference is that I feel like 90% of fans would act based on that plan, while the team would wait until the plan actually happened before acting.

  • This is fun to read, but I always have to put my mental brakes on when it comes to high ceilings predicted for high school guys like McGuaire and Meadows.


    • I think that the process of evaluating prospects has gotten much better since the days of Chad Hermansen.

      I was reading an article the other day talking about the bust rates of top 100 prospects. It seemed the rankings were much stronger around 2009 than they were a decade earlier.

      That makes total sense. I know that my prospect rankings now are better than they were the first year, because I learn from mistakes. I’d imagine it’s the same for Baseball America and any other outlet that was rating Hermansen as a top prospect.

      • Agreed Tim, but let’s remember someone who has cashed several paychecks from a Major League Baseball organization (something you and I have NEVER done) used the term “Walks on Water” to describe Hermansen in rookie ball.

        • “someone who has cashed several paychecks from a Major League Baseball organization (something you and I have NEVER done)”

          Well, there are several MLB teams that buy the Prospect Guide each year. I don’t know if that counts.

          • I don’t think it counts as “paycheck” but I’ll give you that one. :-)

  • Jeff

    Looking at just 2014, if Wandy and Volquez wash out, what in the system is good enough for 4/5 in rotation and compete for playoff spot?
    Do you think a trade or signing is still needed for staff?

    • Just throwing out names here. No order, and not all of these guys will be available from the start of the season:

      Jameson Taillon, Brandon Cumpton, Phil Irwin, Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez, Justin Wilson, Kyle McPherson, Nick Kingham, Casey Sadler

      I might be missing a few names.

      • Like maybe Jeff Locke – I urge all of you who slam Locke’s second half to look at his game log – he had several quality starts after the All Star game and while I would agree that he outperformed what could have been reasonably expected in the first half – he swung the other way in the second half. He needs to work on command – get his walk rate down – and when he starts the plan will alway be to go to the pen after 6 innings – 7 in rare cases.

  • Heredia over Holmes for the number 5 starter of the future. He hasn’t progressed rapidly in the past two years, but he still has an ace ceiling and is still incredibly young

  • tim…i know you make a living from selling the bucs prospects ..but the prospects r too far apart to make any impact.. …given the Nuttings do not want to spend $ to win..the team would have to..have to.
    impact outfielder every yr.
    2 infielders every yr ex yr 1 -3b, yr 2 – ss ,yr 3 -1b and somewhere in between a 2b and utility inf..
    1 catcher every 2 yrs
    2 starting pitchers per yr
    2 relievers per yr..
    only then can the Nuttings keep salaries under 6-7 matter how good they are..if Cole turns to be a “stud” how many years do you think we will wear the black and gold..mmm 3-4 before arbitration gives him 12 14 million..(see David Price)..well you can “kiss him goodbye” and “bring on the next contestant”and winning have “NOTHING TO DO WITH IT BECAUSE IT”S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY”

    • buster09

      What is your proof Will ? Back it up or back on out…….

    • buster09

      Nutting took the biggest train wreck of an organization in the HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS…and the PEOPLE HE HIRED,AND PAID FOR,made them winners again. But chumps like you will never acknowledge it and it makes you look like a fool. For God’s sake, they were a few games away from going to the World Series last year! Did you not see that? Oh, I am sure you did. But people JUST LIKE YOU just said it would never happen. But it did,and it is probably going to happen again more than a couple of times over the next 5 or more years. But fools like you will continue the same line,and look just as stupid then as you do now. See you in the funny papers Will.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    Kingham is rated to low on these lists, IMHO – I think he should be in top 50.

First Pitch

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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