Fangraphs Rates the Top 22 Prospects in the Pirates’ System

On Tuesday afternoon, Dan Farnsworth from Fangraphs posted his list of the top prospects in the Pirates’ system. Their list went 22 deep, as they rank the players based on future value, which is similar to the tiered ranking we use in our book.

Future value is the same as the 20-80 scouting scale to rank players. For example, they have Tyler Glasnow as the top prospect in the system, just like everyone else who ranked the prospects. Glasnow received a 65 ranking, which would make him an All-Star type starter, or a #2/#3 starter on the staff. That’s not to be confused with their ceiling, which has Glasnow as a future ace. Future Value is the middle ground that a certain player will likely attain, as most prospects don’t reach their ceiling. The more certain a prospect is, the closer the Future Value will be to his ceiling.

This list has a surprise ranking near the top, with Reese McGuire ranked third overall after Glasnow and Austin Meadows. Farnsworth liked how McGuire finished his season in the Arizona Fall League this year, looking like a different player at the plate. We took that into account with our ranking of McGuire, but only to show that he has the potential to hit Major League pitching, not to push him up the charts. The AFL by itself is a small sample size, so the finish to an AFL season is even smaller, especially for catchers, who split their time with two other receivers.

If you saw McGuire’s at-bats this Spring Training, he looked like the same batter we saw during the regular season. Showing a strong ability to put the ball in play, but nothing hit with any authority. If he hits like the player we saw during the end of the AFL season, then combined with his defense, you would be hard-pressed not to rank him high in this system. However, he’s headed to Altoona this season, so there shouldn’t be high expectations for his season on offense. Especially not at his age, and with his stats the last two seasons. He will be one of the youngest players in the Eastern League on Opening Day.

After McGuire, Farnsworth has Josh Bell, Harold Ramirez and Jameson Taillon. No surprises there as we saw those three in a row on a few lists, usually with Ramirez behind Taillon, but not always. All three of them have the same Future Value(55), which puts them ahead of the next group of players.

That next group of nine players is actually a bigger step down from the previous three, all getting 45 rankings(with some either 45+, or 45-50). Probably the only surprise in here is that Elias Diaz ended up ten spots lower than McGuire. That might have more merit if Diaz’s elbow discomfort turns into a bigger issue, but that likely wasn’t taken into account with the proximity of this list being published, combined with the timing of Diaz’s injury announcement(plus there is no mention of it, and it would be purely speculation at this point). There are a lot of similarities between Diaz and McGuire, with the latter having a big advantage in age, while Diaz is on the doorstep of the majors. It’s tough to see such a big difference between the two at this time.

The last group of players has a 40 Future Value and is led by Cole Tucker. I think it’s fine to use some caution at this point while ranking him. There is no guarantee his arm strength will still be good enough for shortstop, though the Pirates intend on keeping him there. Something else that isn’t mentioned often is that his first pro season was ended by a thumb injury which required minor surgery, so there should be some doubts as to whether he can stay healthy at this point. If he proves he is healthy once he returns, and continues to progress like he was last year, then he will easily secure a spot in the top ten for the Pirates next year.

No surprises in this last group, other than possibly the 45 rating for Chad Kuhl’s fastball, while ranking him as the 21st ranked prospect. I don’t think many people would rate a sinker with command, that has a lot of movement and touches 97-98 mph, as slightly below average, so a more reasonable grade might have got him ranked higher. Farnsworth sees him more as a solid bullpen arm, and while I disagree with that assessment at this point, I do agree that being a bullpen arm should get you ranked lower on the list.

You can check out the rest of the list in the link at the top, complete with ratings on their top 22 prospects in the system, plus some thoughts on other players.

  • Hill gets mentioned but not Osuna.

  • Anyone notice how many PP videos were linked by Farnsworth. Well done, gents.

  • My scouting eye has been vindicated. Farnsworth mentioned how quick Newman is on the exchange, and that’s exactly what I noticed. And he came to the same conclusion I did, thinking that quickness will allow him to not just stick at short, but to be a solid or better defensive shortstop in the Majors.

    • Hot take, but I think Newman in general will separate good scouts from meh. Doesn’t take much to scout big tools; players like Newman, though, require a real talent.

    • Don’t be surprised if/when Newman becomes essentially Frazier.

      • So you’re saying he’s going to lose at least a full grade on his hit, glove, and speed tools?

      • Newman has two inches on Frazier, which I would suspect portends Newman will have better batted ball authority, Newman’s faster than Frazier, and Newman’s instincts are probably the best among the infielders in the system, both defensively and on the bases, based on all the scouting I’ve read on him. The speed may regress a bit, but nothing else will, and even the regression in speed will be small in the short term.

        There’s not a lot of reason, right now, to suspect Newman will drop in prospect status so far as to be on Frazier’s level. Frazier’s a fine player, but Newman is that same player, but better in every facet.

  • Johnny D….so what you’re saying is that McGuire will make the same leaps and bounds improvement that Diaz did?

    Well….let’s do that with ALL the prospects. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I can’t win with that kind of logic.

    Btw, when is Heredia going to make the same leap that some of our top pitchers have made? He’s still young, right? 🙂 🙂

    • The “young-for-his-level” fallacy.

      • agreed. i’ve heard that crap way too much, i’ve never bought it either.

        • I think there’s too much arguing the general for the specific, all around. Of course age is a major factor in prospect development, and why nobody should be assuming McGuire *won’t* improve. But at the very same time, nobody should be assuming McGuire *will* improve just because he’s young and a bunch of other kids over the years have done so.

          Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had folks around here tell me I was too harsh on Willy Garcia and his plate discipline, solely because he was//is young. Well, I had that opinion not because I didn’t think it was possible for him to adjust, but because I saw no appreciable sign that he had the ability to adjust. Fast forward a few years and he’s barely holding on as a prospect, for this very same reason.

          In the Diaz-McGuire debate, I think arguing Diaz’s improvement relative to McGuire is the most damning part. Diaz *still* has major questions about the bat, even *with* massive improvement he’s shown. McGuire has to have a similar jump *just* to get to that level of risk.

  • Interesting notes on Figueroa at the bottom. And, I had missed that Sawchik article on how he taught himself how to write code in order to maximize his potential through analytics- that is awesome.

  • Mentioned this in a post yesterday, but I really wish the Pirates would get moved up in the order one of these years.

    Kiley was incredible and Farnsworth is very good himself, but both Pirate lists coming at the end of the line showed noticeably less detail than the 5000-word scribes at the beginning of their roll out.

    Also found a comment Farnsworth made about Bell’s defense really interesting, since it pretty much exactly reflects what Dreker has been saying all winter:
    “I think he has the arm for it (outfield), but the defensive skills as a whole would be exposed in right. That’s the same impression I got from the Pirates’ guys, for what it’s worth.

    That 40-45 reflects where his outfield play would sit also, I believe. About average or a tick above for first base, but below for the outfield. Either way I’ll bet he’s pushing 10 runs below-average on defense, whether because of the positional adjustment at first or his lesser range/ok glove in right.”

  • Primary conversation should be on retaining Cervelli IMO. He’s proving to be a very valuable player on the team.

  • Tim/John … This article reminded me of an idea. Have you considered comparing the current prospects to Pirate Prospects from 10 or 5 (if using your data) years ago? It would be interesting to see where they fit in numerically or even tier-wise

  • McGuire and Meadows will be trade bait at the deadline, for the missing piece we need for another playoff run.

  • John, if I were to suggest Kuhl might end up being a reliever, it wouldn’t me being negative. I think it is possible because of several guys ahead of him as starters,and also the fact that that his hi velo sinker would be a real weapon there.

  • Bold prediction: Chad Kuhl and Jordan Luplow will both exceed their ceilings and be above average major leaguers. Is that bold enough John?

  • Prediction: Assuming Diaz’ elbow doesn’t blow out, HE will be the better MLB player than McGuire.

    • Just for reference. At age 21, Diaz hit .208/.262/.288 in Low-A and wasn’t near the defensive player he is now. At age 21, McGuire will be in AA.

      • Just for reference, at age 21 in High A, No List hit ..296/.347/.458 and you see where that has got him. 🙂

        • He was ranked 34th after that season, not sure what you mean. He’s also 36th now, so I can find two lists since then he made. I can find more going back over the years too because we have followed him since he signed.

    • I want to see a bolder prediction from you. Since we have McGuire ranked #7 and Diaz ranked #8 and Diaz has already played in the majors while McGuire hasn’t played AA yet, you’re not exactly going out on a limb here. Let’s hear something better, and it can’t be Glasnow as a reliever or Hanson-related, as you have beat those two to death.

    • Foo you just got Drekered! But @ Mr. Dreker I predict Glasnow will struggle this year at AAA.

      • It’s certainly possible due to his command and demeanor on the mound. One thing to watch early with Glasnow, is that they may have him throwing his change-up more often than he would normally and that could lead to some bad results. We will have reports on all of his starts, so if that happens, it will be pointed out.

        • The mind is a powerful tool. If Glasnow can’t learn to manage his emotions the results will suffer despite having command of his pitches.

        • We keep reading and hearing from the prospects themselves that they are being forced to throw change-ups more often than is normal. And as you point out batters are anticipating it and crushing it. With acknowledgement that our prospects need to refine their change-up, I think it is damaging to their confidence for the pitch to be feasted on by AAA batters. Why screw around with their heads like this?

          • You have the priorities completely wrong.

            Wanna know what will *really* “screw with a kid’s head”? Getting demolished by big league hitters because they never refined their fastball command or developed a third pitch. All the meaningless success against minor league hitters in the world won’t fix that.

            • Throwing changeups 3x more than you would normally does nothing to help them refine their fastball command. I believe you build the change-up as a third pitch while not losing the command and intimidation of the fastball and curve. The change-up is supposed to look like the fastball coming out of the hand. If you lose that deception by throwing it often and getting it crushed do you really think these prospects are going to gain confidence in it?

              • No, the four full seasons of pro ball *before* this year with a *specific* focus on fastball command is what helped him refine that part of his game. You make it sound like Glasnow will straight up forget all that because he’s throwing a few more changeups. The entire *point* of this development strategy is to imprint fastball command as the primary building block before developing secondaries, as he’s doing now.

                Look, what you’re saying is natural to believe, but it’s incredibly shortsighted. Minor league success is completely, utterly superfluous if you haven’t developed what is needed to succeed at the highest level.

                • The problem is- after 4 years of focusing on it- he still isn’t that good at it, nor is he good at commanding his curveball, so why are you focusing on a #3 before mastering #1 and #2. I think that is Michael T’s point. And it’s a point with merit.

                  • I highly disagree that that’s michael’s point; I took his point as purely concerned with minor league results and their impact on a kid’s “heads”.

                    I’ll also disagree with your view of how much this fastball focus has helped. Kid’s still just 22 and at 6’8″, it’s simply unrealistic to expect 50 or better command of two pitches this quick. Those are really, really long levers. To go from a prospect who many considered on the starter/reliever line just three seasons ago to one that has scouts/analysts saying “There isn’t much of a reason to think Glasnow won’t improve his walk rates and the consistency of his secondary offerings” is pretty damn impressive to me.

                    At some point you gotta look at development practically, I think. Wait til a kid masters one skill before moving on to another and you’ll have 28 yo rookies be the norm.

                    • I think you are missing what i’m saying NMR- I didn’t mean that it didn’t help to focus on it and improve the control/command, I mean that the work isn’t done, and it just plain isnt good enough,so why are we moving on.? I guess we just disagree on where the focus should be……and that’s simply opinion at this point. I think this year I would be focusing first and foremost on throwing that curve for a strike- almost exclusively along with continued command of fastball, working counts backwards for awhile, and when he does that, go back to focus on the changeup- that curve is way more important than the change, and fastball command is more important than both combined.

              • I learned to read many, many years ago, so I may be off base here. I did not read anywhere that John said Glasnow will be required to use his Change up 3x more. John said “that they may have him throwing his change-up more often than he would normally.” IMHO, i don’t think the Pirate brass would have Glasnow forgo a fastball that reaches up to 100 mph. They just want him to have three go to pitches, that’s it.

                • I am talking about now…..not forever. Our prospects and coaches have been saying they are being told to throw lots of changeups, more than you would normally sequence. In fact, Hurdle came out and said changeups thrown to minor league bats do them a favor. All I am pointing out is that they are losing the third pitch contrast and surprise by being told to throw so much….and I really don’t see how it helps their confidence or their effectiveness in dropping in the change-up as a true third pitch. We are arguing semantics not substance on a slow news day.

                • 2 seam fastball, 4seam fastball. power curve, slow curve and half ass change here are 5 pitches to work with.

          • Probably because they feel that getting feasted on by ML hitters due to lack of a changeup is more damaging to their confidence.

        • I think that would be the bold prediction: that Tyler Glasnow will implode at AAA. His demeanor and mental make-up just does not seem good enough to be a front-line pitcher!

          • For f’s sake…

            • LOL! Seriously NMR? I said that would be a bold prediction–in response to Dreker. I was not making the prediction myself.

              • I was fine with the prediction, just not the reasoning.

                I’m within ten years of being 22 myself, so maybe this is a generational thing, but I’m close enough to Glasnow’s age to know that judging a guy’s future based off his early-20s maturity level is just silly.

                This nerves narrative pushed by PP is sloppy journalism.

        • I predict that Chad Kuhl will pitch more games in Pittsburgh this year than Taillon and Glasnow combined

    • I’ll let you know after I watch McGuire for 3 months or more as I was able to do with Diaz. You are just speculating out of….somewhere.

      • Well shit, this oughtta be definitive…

      • I’ve seen him a bunch Leo- and i have to say every report tim’s had on him is 100% accurate. He hits like me….and that’s fine if you run like the wind, but hitting like Juan Pierre doesn’t work with catchers speed.