Over the weekend, John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com released his top 20 Pittsburgh Pirates prospects for the 2013 season. As he notes, the grades are preliminary and subject to change, with no grade being final until January 5th.
There weren’t many surprises on the list. In comparing his list to our list, there are a few differences in the ranking order, but for the most part everyone is in the same tiers. Sickels breaks his rankings down with letter grades. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon both received Grade A rankings. Nine prospect received a Grade B ranking, ranging from a B+ to a B-. Last year the Pirates had eight players combined with Grade A and B rankings, so there has been some improvement. Some of the guys who jumped into this group were Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, Barrett Barnes, Dilson Herrera, Wyatt Mathisen, and Clay Holmes. He also noted Tyler Glasnow was a C+ prospect, but a borderline B- (Holmes was B- and borderline C+).
Two of the big differences that stood out to me were the rankings of Tony Sanchez and Kyle McPherson. Sickels rated McPherson as a C+ prospect, down from a B- last year. He also said that if Jeff Locke would have qualified, he would have been a B- prospect and ranked 10th, both ahead of McPherson. I would take McPherson over Locke, since the stuff and upside are both better. In the comments Sickels noted concern with McPherson’s shoulder injury. I’m not concerned by that since McPherson was fully healed from the injury by the end of the year, showing his old velocity and his pre-injury effectiveness. He’s the same prospect he was last year, just with major league experience. So I would disagree with McPherson being lower than Locke.
Sickels ranked 22 players in his numerical rankings, then mentioned 19 other players at the wend of the list. One of those players was Tony Sanchez. We had Sanchez in the top ten last year, and he’s fallen out of that group this year, but he’s still in the top 20. The defense is there for Sanchez, but the concern has been the offense. He did improve his offense at the end of the season, hitting for some power at the Triple-A level. His AB/HR pace in Triple-A, stretched out over a full season, would have amounted to 19 homers. That’s a pretty good number for a catcher. His bat is going to ultimately determine what kind of catcher he is. He’ll make the majors with his defense, but the bat will determine whether he’s a starter or a backup.
In his summary, Sickels called the system “a rapidly improving organization”. He noted that he thought the breakouts of Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco were both real, and that the real depth in the system is on the pitching side. Check out the link above for his full rankings, his comments on the system, and some good discussion in the comments.