Last year the Pirates had a wave of prospects in the upper levels, making their way to the majors throughout the 2016 season. A year later, three members of the 2016 Indianapolis rotation are now in the Pittsburgh rotation -- Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, and Tyler Glasnow -- while a few other players who started the year in Triple-A find themselves starting off in Pittsburgh a year later, such as Adam Frazier and Trevor Williams.
This year's group looks very similar. We already wrote about how the Bradenton group is one of the strongest in the system, and that has to do with having so many of the top ten prospects on their team. Indianapolis might be the strongest group overall due to their amazing depth. Our top ten list below leaves off a lot of players who fell just outside the top 30 in our rankings, including one or two guys who will move in to the top 30 as players lose prospect eligibility.
The 2017 Indianapolis group can help in many ways. There are some players who can provide immediate depth, such as Steven Brault in the rotation, or Elias Diaz and Max Moroff on the position player side. There are other players who are more impact guys that could arrive in the second half, similar to what we saw from Jameson Taillon last year. The highlight of the impact group this year would be Austin Meadows. Nick Kingham is another guy who could get a spot in the majors in the second half. The rest of the impact would be seen from hard throwing relievers in the bullpen, led by Edgar Santana.
Here are the top ten prospects at the level, based on our rankings in the 2017 Prospect Guide.
1. Austin Meadows, CF - Not only is Meadows the top prospect for Indianapolis, he's also the top prospect in the system. Out of all of the guys on this list, he could provide the most value for the Pirates this season, though that will matter mostly on when he gets to the majors. Meadows tore up Altoona last year with a .976 OPS in 45 games and received a promotion to Indianapolis in July. He had some trouble adjusting to the more experienced pitching as one of the youngest players in Triple-A. Meadows hit just .214 in 37 games, though it came with an impressive .460 slugging percentage. He impressed during an extended look this spring, posting a .979 OPS in 22 games.
Meadows has two obstacles this season keeping him from Pittsburgh early in the season. He missed time with three separate injuries last year, and while his eye injury was a freak accident, the hamstring injury was a problem that crept up in the past. Meadows has dedicated himself to staying healthy this season, carrying a jug of water with him to stay hydrated, and taking up yoga in the off-season to help with his conditioning. He is one of the best hitters in all of minor league baseball. Add in that he can steal bases and play plus defense in center field, and he should be ready for the majors within a couple months, as long as he stays on the field. The Pirates have one of the best outfields in baseball though, so he will need an injury or a trade to open up a spot before September.
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