The Pirates Prospects 2016 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2016 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get free and discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting the 2016 book for free, and Annual subscribers getting $10 off. Both levels of subscribers can also get the book for just $5. Details on all three promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Willy Garcia, RF
19. Clay Holmes, RHP
18. Mitch Keller, RHP
17. Max Moroff, 2B
16. Chad Kuhl, RHP
15. Cole Tucker, SS

We continue the countdown with the number 14 prospect, Stephen Tarpley.

14. Stephen Tarpley, LHP

The Pirates acquired two talented left-handed pitching prospects when they traded Travis Snider prior to the 2015 season. Steven Brault has developed into a safer prospect with a higher floor, but a limited upside. Meanwhile, Stephen Tarpley remains a guy who has a ton of upside, but a much lower floor, making him a bit more high risk/high reward.

Just like Brault, Tarpley had a lot of success this year, although it came at a lower level. He had much better stuff, working in the 90-94 MPH range with his fastball and touching 97 at times this year. He throws the pitch down in the zone, and hits both corners with command, which fueled his success this year.

He also showed good improvements on his secondary stuff, relying on a changeup a lot this year after getting comfortable with the pitch. He uses a circle grip, which he had in high school, got rid of in college, and brought back in pro ball. He works mostly with a fastball/changeup approach, while mixing in the slider as his primary out pitch. That’s not to say that the changeup can’t be an out pitch in the right situation. He also has a curveball, and uses that as a situational pitch the second and third time through the lineup, giving batters a different look.

Tarpley dealt with some control and command problems in the Baltimore farm system in 2014, but saw some big improvements when he dropped his arm slot at the end of the year. That led to some dominant numbers, and much better control numbers. He carried both trends over to the Pirates’ system in 2015.

There is a lot of upside with Tarpley, as you’d expect from a left-hander who can hit 97 with his fastball, is comfortable with his changeup, and has shown improved command. He will move to Bradenton in 2016, and could be in Altoona by the end of the season, as he is Rule 5 eligible after the year, and looks certain to be protected with another strong season. The jump to the upper levels will start to bring his prospect picture into better focus, especially regarding his floor.

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  1. Obviously, there are injuries ahead for some player(s) and not everyone will develop, But I’m getting very interested in the potential ’17 depth…

    Liriano, Cole, Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, Kuhl, Williams, Brault, and Tarpley.

    Oh, wait…I forgot Locke.

      • Sure, if you want to spend 10% of payroll on a redundant 5th starter when an in-house replacement should* be ready.

        *obviously questionable given this organizations past success developing pitching.

        • So are you just working off the assumption that Niese is never again going to be the ~2.5 WAR guy he was for the 4 years prior to this one? I mean if you are then what you’re saying makes sense, but if 2011-2014 Niese comes back then “redundant 5th starter” isn’t close to accurate.

          • Well no, I don’t make a habit of assuming 30 year old pitchers will be as good and as healthy as their 25 year old selves. Not sure why that’s such a wild notion.

            And regardless, the Pirates just traded a 2.5 win player because a cheaper in-house option was available which is what resulted in Niese becoming a Pirate in the first place. Seems like that logic will ultimately be his end, as well as beginning, in the organization.

      • Actually, I did forget Niese.

        If Taillon and Glasnow develop this season and Niese returns to form, it will be interesting to see what happens to him…kept in the rotation or option exercised and traded?

    • HUGE year for Huntington.

      Could change the narrative on his drafting ability real quick, or just about cement his reputation as a failure.

      • Actually, after the Rogers trade, I’m fearful of ‘dealing from surplus’. While the last five pitchers on that list could net a decent return if their progression continues, I’m a little wary they may be dealt in an overpay.

        • for the 700th time, this is why drafting requires you to focus on talent, position value vs. peers, AND organizational depth. Failure to do so leaves you with a ton of players/prospects with nowhere to play, and you end up getting 50 cents on the dollar for the position you need in a trade, thus taking away all that extra “value” you got from taking “the best players available” – I can’t remember the last time we traded a player from a position of surplus that didn’t end in us not getting the value back equal to the prospect player we are trading

          • Because this isn’t football and by the time that playe is drafted, many different things happen. Jesus, Ronny cedeno was our shortstop only like 4 years ago. I’d say that’s about the time it takes a highschool shortstop to make the majors. And look at how mercer and all these other individuals have popped up. Things just change and that is why.

            • Nick- I’m not talking about drafting for major league needs- I’m talking about drafting for oganizational needs. Your response is completely irrelevant because you aren’t paying attention to what i’m saying.

  2. I can understand the thought he may be moved to AA by the end of the year, but I would not be in too much of a hurry. Yes he will turn 23 before the season begins, but another solid year will be very important to his overall development. The Pirates are one of the slower teams to move Prospects, and I expect they will be very deliberate in the case of Tarpley – just way too much upside.

  3. The only reason I’d support a Mark Melancon trade is with the thought of getting an even better return than Tarpley and Brault.

    • A great move by NH at exactly the right time and B’more had the need for a LH hitting OF. Hard to believe Brault and Tarpley had the years they had in 2015, and can we expect that to continue into 2016 and beyond? I sure hope so because Brault and Tarpley are both on the radar of a lot of teams by now. If they do not make the Pirate Rotation, there will be plenty of folks wanting to talk.

    • I don’t really care what they “get” for Melancon as long as they use all of that money they save towards signing a decent starting pitcher.

  4. Upvote for NH on both Brault and Tarpley. Perfect example of getting something for nothing. As Bob Smizik weeps somewhere.

    • Exactly what they should’ve done with Neil Walker, once they decided they were going to trade him.

      Jon Niese does not move the needle toward a Division championship, just like Snider wouldn’t have last year.

      Huntington showed he’d could get value that outpaced what he gave up by targeting players further away from Major League-ready in the Snider trade, and he should’ve done it again once the decision was made to re-tool.

      There would’ve been plenty of Smizik-like hot takery all over again, but it would’ve been the smart thing to do.

    • they are nothing until they have MLB success, something Snider has had a little of. So essentially they traded little for promise.

      • Oh, I’ll be the first guy on this site to tell you prospects are lottery tix. But Travis Snider? Cmon man.

  5. I am excited about this kid…especially with the lack of LH starting pitching prospects on the system. He looks to have a fairly high ceiling…possible middle of the rotation guy or dominant LH in the bullpen…if he gets to Altoona in 2016, I will try to see him pitch. Is Brault expected to return to Altoona or start in Indy in 2016?

    • 100% agree. Hope he continues to see success. Would love to see both Brault and Tarpley in the Burgh is 17 or 18. Definitely thin on LH pitching talent.

    • They haven’t said anything for Brault’s placement to start 2016, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts in Altoona and moves up when either Taillon or Glasnow moves up. The Pirates are going to want someone with experience ready to step into a rotation spot early in the year, which could easily be someone not signed yet. That would leave Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl and Brault fighting for the last rotation spot. The other two have pitched(albeit briefly) at AAA already, so they would likely have the advantage, with Brault next in line. You may even see two of those last three at Altoona to begin the year.

      • Is Cumpton, Kingham, and Sadler expected to be ready at the start of 2016? Will they all be in that Indy rotation as well?

        • Sadler and Cumpton will be out all season. Kingham should return around the start of June, though he might be a little bit sooner as he is ahead of schedule

          • Sadler went down last year, near mid season – correct? I thought Cumpton went down early with TJS? If so, does this mean he will miss 18-24 months due to TJS?

            • Sadler had his TJ surgery in October. Cumpton had a setback in September which required shoulder surgery

              • That is a shame for Cumpton…I always liked him. He was kind of a bulldog on the mound – the opposite of Morton. I would rather have him in the rotation than Vogelsong. Now, he is losing two years in what should be his prime years….sounds a lot like another former promising pitcher – – was his name McPherson? He was very promising when he was healthy….

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