MLB Pipeline Releases Top 30 Prospect List For Pirates

MLB Pipeline posted their list of the top 30 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system on Wednesday. Earlier this off-season, they had five Pirates in their top 100 list, and a total of seven players made their top ten for each position. At the same time, they also ranked the Pirates as the eighth best farm system in baseball.

We already knew the top five players on the list due to the top 100 rankings and the next three were players they mentioned as just missed, so we had a great idea that their top eight was(from 1-8): Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows, Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Reese McGuire, Harold Ramirez, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Elias Diaz. They even mentioned during questions about the list that Ramirez just missed, Hayes wasn’t far behind him and Diaz got some consideration. So no surprises there.

The last two spots in the top ten go to Cole Tucker and Alen Hanson. After that, they still have Willy Garcia rated high, putting him 12th last year and 13th this year. We have him 20th due to a lack of plate patience over his career. He still has a lot of power in his bat and the best outfield arm in the system, but he has lost a step over the years as he’s filled out, so the range and speed on the bases have taken a step back. He’s gone from a four-tool player to two tools and average at best speed. With his inability to take pitches and recognize breaking balls, he’s going to have a hard time becoming anything more than an extra outfielder unless he improves. He’s still only 23, so something may eventually click, but he’s never show it during his career.

We mentioned in Keith Law’s rankings that he was very high on Luis Escobar(ranking him 12th), who we have called a sleeper pick, while placing him in the back-end of our top 50 list. Escobar is ranked #21 by MLB Pipeline, which again seems like an aggressive ranking for a pitcher who has only GCL experience and a lot to work on still. He still doesn’t have good command of his pitches and his secondary pitches need work, but the upside is in the fact that he’s been pitching for only three years and he can hit 95 mph.

Escobar was a third baseman until age 16, when his coach switched him to the mound. The Pirates followed him for awhile before signing him, eventually inking a deal when they saw an uptick in his velocity. He showed command improvements last year over his rookie campaign in the DSL in 2014, but he’s still someone who can lose that command batter-to-batter at this point. If you rank him #21 now and he doesn’t have a solid season in 2016, there is nowhere to go, but down. I wouldn’t expect the surprise showing Yeudy Garcia had with West Virginia in 2015, but Escobar will probably go there this season and look like a top pitcher at times, while his command will get the better of him at other times.

The other two biggest surprises might be at the end of their list, where they have Jacob Taylor and Dario Agrazal Jr. Taylor was a fourth round pick this year and he’s shown the ability to hit 97 mph. The problem with his ranking is that he is out this entire season due to Tommy John surgery. That was after throwing just two innings in his debut this year. He won’t be ready to pitch until 2017, and then you’re basically starting from scratch with a potential strong arm. If he was healthy, he probably would have been in this range on our list, but now there is more uncertainty and the lost time doesn’t help.

Agrazal is a favorite of mine, due to the reports we got from the DSL in 2013 and even before he signed. His father was one of the best pitchers in Panama and is now famous there as a pitching coach, so he has a solid background. Agrazal also has one of the easiest fastballs that touches low-90’s, looking like he’s just playing catch. That smooth, clean/easy delivery leads to terrific command. He won’t overpower hitters, pitching more to contact and looking for ground balls, but there was word that he was hitting 94 mph in the Fall Instructional League. He has an advanced feel for pitching, though he doesn’t have huge upside, profiling as a back of the rotation starter for his ceiling.

The ranking isn’t a bad one in my mind, just a little aggressive for where he is at now. Agrazal is someone who will probably ease into our rankings at the back end if all goes well and slowly rise if he continues to progress. He will pitch for Panama in the WBC qualifiers later this month, so that will be interesting to see how he does against top competitors from other countries. He should be at West Virginia this year and has the stuff to put up strong numbers at the level, which could possibly get him promoted to Bradenton mid-season.

The entire list from MLB Pipeline can be found here.

  • The listed weight for McGuire must be his draft day weight. That picture doesn’t look like a 181 pounder to me.

  • I still see Holdzkom as a major prospect. Especially as relievers become more respected and more well paid, and his upside is the replacement for Melancon with that nasty cutter. What’s a primo closer get paid these days? pretty darn good.

    • Gotta show that control before he’s a primo anything.

      Lotta upside for sure, but a big step back last year.

  • You know the system is deep when Adam Frazier is your 27th ranked prospect.

  • And once again, Osuna gets no love.

  • What really makes me excited is that the MLB ETA for 11 of those players is 2016, can’t wait to see some of these guys in PGH.

    • John Dreker
      March 2, 2016 1:47 pm

      It will actually be interesting to see how many guys do graduate to the majors this year because a lot of those 2016 ETA guys are the top prospects in the system. Since the Pirates didn’t bring over any strong players from the DSL this year, next year could be a down year in the cycle, putting the Pirates in the lower half of the farm system rankings. They will definitely need a strong draft, or some of the players from the 2014-15 drafts to step up if they’re going to avoid that.

      • I think we’ll be able to survive, it’ll be just like last year. Hopefully this wave works out well enough that there won’t be a need.

      • They’ll trade Cutch for a passel of prospects.

        What? Sacrilege? 🙂

      • 2017 could be a down year? Seems like MLB disagrees. McGuire, Meadows, Kingham, and Ramirez all have an ETA of 2017. Seems like a solid graduate class to me if all goes well.

        • John Dreker
          March 2, 2016 3:09 pm

          The entire group I’m talking about. Where the farm system will rank at this time next year. If the prospect lists end up losing Bell, Taillon and Glasnow, that will surely knock the Pirates down the rankings. Throw in some others like Diaz and Hanson and that won’t help.

          • I agree. No chance they wont drop after losing those guys. I guess I misunderstood your point

    • imo Be nice if none get called up before Sept. That would mean the current roster is chugging along just fine.

      • That won’t happen though, someone will get either injured and players will go through slumps.

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