Baseball America released the International League top 20 prospect list today and it includes three Pittsburgh Pirates players. Scouting reports are now up and can be viewed here. Just like yesterday, this list offers a surprise, though it was nothing like what we saw yesterday with the Eastern League. With the top 20 lists out for all seven affiliates in the U.S.(BA will put out a top 20 DSL/VSL combined list as well), the Pirates had a total of 12 players make the list, with Nick Kingham placing on both the EL and IL lists. Jamestown and Bristol were the only lists without any Pirates player on them, while all of the others had at least two Pirates. You can see links to the earlier lists at the bottom.
The International League list begins with Gregory Polanco in the #1 spot. That isn’t surprising because he tore up the league and spent half the season with the Pirates, doing most of it at age twenty-two. His numbers with the Pirates were disappointing, but that was mostly due to the hype, not because of the performance of someone his age in the majors. Polanco should be the Pirates Opening Day right fielder next season and hold the job down for years to come.
Here is the surprise for this list and it also involves the other Pirates player. BA has Casey Sadler ranked 11th overall. He is a good pitcher, efficient with his pitch counts and gets a lot of ground balls, but this seems very high for him, especially when he is ranked nine spots ahead of Nick Kingham. The odd part is that Kingham was called a likely number three starter in the majors, which seems like a safe estimate and Sadler profiles as a fifth starter, possibly a middle reliever if that doesn’t work out. The Pirates wouldn’t have used Sadler the way they did this year if he had the same upside as Kingham.
The difference between the two is overall stuff and projection. Kingham has the ability to strike out batters at a higher rate and at 16 months younger than Sadler, he has more room to grow. They both have above average control, but Sadler is more of a finesse pitcher(pitch to contact), while Kingham is more of a power pitcher. Both pitchers should be in the Indianapolis rotation to begin next season and early in the year, Sadler will probably be the first option if the need for a replacement starter should arise before the All-Star break. Prospect lists are about future projection though and Kingham definitely has the higher upside.
BA added the scouting reports and they call Sadler a possible closer down the road because he doesn’t get rattled on the mound. They also said possible back of the rotation starter. It’s interesting to note that both the EL and IL scouting reports for Nick Kingham mention that he lost seven straight decisions in AA, without mentioning that he had a 3.51 ERA during that stretch. Among Eastern League pitchers that qualified for the ERA title, only seven of the 28 pitchers had a better season ERA than Kingham had during that losing stretch, showing it was more a lack of run support than a poor streak of pitching.
Overall with the prospect lists, Polanco and Glasnow gave the Pirates two #1 overall players. Reese McGuire, Austin Meadows, Josh Bell and Elias Diaz gave them another group of players in the top ten. Jameson Taillon wasn’t eligible for the list because he didn’t play, but he surely would have ranked right up there if eligible. Baseball America seems really down on Alen Hanson and Nick Kingham, though both still project to be big parts of the Pirates’ future.
Other Top Prospect Lists