Keith Law’s top 100 prospects came out today, which is the third top 100 list that came out in the last week. MLB.com 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.
17. Gregory Polanco
21. Jameson Taillon
30. Tyler Glasnow
56. Austin Meadows
81. Alen Hanson
83. Josh Bell
85. Nick Kingham
87. Reese McGuire
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.
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.