Last week, we released our mid-season Pirates Top 50 prospect list. The list is made up of the evaluations of every writer on the site, both the local writers who rank their individual teams in the system, along with myself, John Dreker, and Wilbur Miller, who provide evaluations on every player in the system.

We like the rankings to include a strong background, with plenty of live reports, stats, talks with the players, with the coaches, and outside evaluations taken into consideration (both scouts we talk with, and evaluations from other outlets). So when the Pirates add a player via trade, it can be difficult to get the same quality of evaluations, as obviously we haven’t talked with the player, the new coaches haven’t seen him, and we haven’t seen him play in most cases.

Taylor Hearn at least provides some advantage for us in that process. He was drafted by the Pirates in 2012, but didn’t sign. That usually puts a player on our radar, and that was shown last year when John Dreker wrote about him and other missed players before the 2015 draft (note that key final line, which will now come into play). So we’ve followed Hearn from a distance, but still don’t have the live reports, or the conversations to see what he’s working on with his game (and that always reveals a lot about a player).

I asked Wilbur and John yesterday for their rankings on Hearn, looking for his floor, ceiling, and likely upside. We combined all three rankings, then discussed where he would fit in the system.

Hearn ended up being ranked 25th overall, being placed at the end of Tier 4, right between Max Moroff and Adrian Valerio.

The rankings that we came up with had Hearn grouped in with the pitching trio of Stephen Tarpley, Brandon Waddell, and Tyler Eppler, and almost identical to the rankings of Tarpley. This could be due to the fact that Hearn and Tarpley are similar stories — both traded to the Pirates, both left-handers who can hit upper 90s, and both were acquired in Low-A ball, before they had a chance to really increase in value.

At the moment, we’ve got Hearn with a higher ceiling than any pitcher in that group, including Tarpley. But we’ve also got him with a lower floor and more risk.

The high ceiling is obvious. Hearn can throw 93-97 MPH, touching 98, with some reports having him hitting 100. Also, in the comparisons to Tarpley, Hearn has the clear height advantage. Tarpley comes in at 6′ 1″, 180 pounds, while Hearn is at 6′ 5″, 210 pounds. Tarpley usually sits 90-94, touching 97, while Hearn already has more velocity. There’s a chance that Hearn could continue to add, although sitting 93-97 for a lefty is not bad. Both pitchers have dealt with fastball command issues in their young careers.

The lower floor is due to the secondary stuff. Keeping the comparison with Tarpley, a key difference is the changeup. Tarpley is very comfortable with the pitch, which is huge for a lefty and his ability to remain a starter. He’s so comfortable that he has mostly been a fastball/changeup guy up until this year. Hearn isn’t at the same place with the pitch. Neal Huntington talked yesterday about how the Pirates see the potential for a good changeup. In terms of the slider, Hearn has seen success with the pitch, leading to a ridiculously high strikeout rate in his limited time this year, while Tarpley has seen his pitch improve to eventually being an above-average MLB pitch.

There is a lot of upside with Hearn if he can develop a good changeup. If we’re only going by the ceiling rankings (which isn’t a good approach, but good to compare upsides), then Hearn would be tied for 14th in the system with Yeudy Garcia, ranking just under the “Strong #3 Innings Eater” upside. In terms of his floor, we’ve got him between a career minor league player, and a guy who could become a “Quad-A” player, although the ranking is closer to the 20 grade. His likely upside has him between a strong middle reliever or a spot starter, and a #3-5 starter.

There’s a lot of upside with Hearn, and all of this could really go up in a short amount of time, especially if he develops the changeup. I’d imagine his initial ranking here will be volatile, and could change by the end of the year, after we get more information and more looks at him. I talked with Wilbur this morning about him, and Wilbur noted that the more he reads on Hearn, the more he thinks he’s a better prospect than where we currently have him. I agree to some extent, but I think that all largely depends on the changeup. If you think the changeup has a good chance of developing, then you could easily put Hearn higher in the system, grouping him in the 15-17 range with Clay Holmes, Yeudy Garcia, and Gage Hinsz in Tier 3, with the chance to go much higher as his stuff develops.

Overall, that last part is what I like. No matter where you have Hearn now, there seems to be a higher ceiling on him than some of the other pitchers in his tier. So whether you want to focus on the tools that give him a high upside, or focus on the lack of a changeup that keeps his floor lower, there’s no denying that he’s a very promising prospect who could really move high up the rankings if his development goes right. And that’s something that isn’t true for every prospect in the system.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. I like his size and the fact that he’s a lefty. He’s also got plenty of time to develop a change-up. How many kids in the lower minors have a good one? I think they’re still preaching fast ball command where he’s at.

  2. While the Pittsburgh sports media makes a valiant attempt to put a positive spin on this trade, baseball writers and fans in DC toasting their good fortunes over this trade because, in their opinion, they obtained one of the premier closers in MLB “without giving up any of the perceived key pieces to the future of the Nationals organization.” This quote is taken directly from a column in today’s Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/31/once-again-nationals-gm-mike-rizzo-works-impressiv/
    Like the Neal Walker trade with the Mets, it looks to me like Neal Huntington got took.

    • Read Tim’s comment from above:

      “The Pirates could have gotten a top prospect. Instead, they went for a good MLB reliever with 5+ years of control.”

    • The Mets won’t win the World Series this year, and Walker will leave via free agency. The Nats won’t win the World Series this year, and Melancon will leave via free agency. Take a deep breath and relax.

      • Perhaps, mike367, if you’ve listened to Huntington’s brutally honest comments about Niece, you’ll tone your defensiveness down a bit. NOBODY in NY is complaining about that trade; period; end of discussion. Only time will tell whether Melancon works out as well for the Nats.

    • Neil walker is batting .250 with a career worst (despite 16 HR) OPS… And already has 74 Ks which is on pace for career worst. Nobody took anybody. He is clearly in decline and we got a lefty starter under control for mutie years. Not sure what anyone wanted for a slow, aging second baseman… From Pittsburgh doesn’t get you syndergard.

      • I could care less about the number of years we have Niece under control when he’s a liability as a starter and also as a relief pitcher. Also, please check today’s box score for the Mets and notice Neil’s performance. Granted, his stats don’t compare with the gaudy numbers being posted by Daniel Murphy, but they are FAR better than Niese’s ABYSMAL numbers. Admit it: we got took in that deal and more than likely in the most recent Melancon deal as well.

      • Yes but that was one reason they liked him!! Dammit wake up and quit drinking the tainted Kool Aide! NH blabberd about years of control! How about these prospects! How about Hurdle and his lack of discipline. I love you man Kumbaya Kumbaya! Shit give me a sob ball buster.

      • I doubt we carry Rivero 5 years. Middle relievers never stick around after arbitration starts and Rivero has the look of a middle reliever.

    • Neil walker is batting .250 with a career worst OPS. It’s worth responding in multiple threads. Not sure what return anyone wanted.

  3. Paraphrasing what I wrote on DK’s site today, the Washington Post reporter covering the trade said, “Washington got Melancon without having to give up any of their highest ranked prospects.”

    I support the trade–since they were not going to sign Melancon after this season–but NH didn’t get enough in return.

    • Well, there are two ways to look at it…one is that the prospect haul would’ve been greater if the Pirates hadn’t required an ML reliever in return…asking a team in need of BP help to surrender a good reliever in the trade surely depressed the return.

      As well, even though the Pirates’ fans loved him and he provided great stability, I think a lot of folks overestimated MM’s trade value.

      Kimbrel, Giles, Miller, Chapman…those guys with ‘electric’ stuff seem to bring a premium. Even though he got results…Melancon’s stuff never seemed to generate excitement as a brick wall pitcher.

      IIRC, there were whispers that MM was shopped in the off-season…and the supposed return wasn’t enough. I’m not surprised by what the Pirates received and, to be honest, I think they did alright…Rivero, alone, could make this deal a winner.

      • Was that the guy I saw yesterday? Didn’t look too good to me, just a LH version of Caminero– high velocity no command.

        • They should just release him now then! A lefty sitting 96-98 with a wipeout slider who had some command issues in his first appearance since the trade, but still worked a clean inning. If he’s not going to be absolutely perfect every single time, then why even have him?

    • Remember they got a MLB player and a prospect. I’ll take an actual player who is performing well with upside over a just prospect any day.
      In addition a highly productive prospect lefty. I laugh at everyone who thinks they would rape the Nationals for more.

  4. I think it is easy to say we were fleeced. I am not drinking NH’s Kool Aid. I am tired of hearing he is not on par with Chapman, when beforehand all I heard was how he lead MLB in wins probability among RPs. He’s either elite or not. Strikeouts are sexy but results matter more.

    • Probably the same reasons he is 25th for us. He would technically be 27th, since we don’t include Jameson Taillon or Adam Frazier on our list (others do) since they’re staying in the majors while everyone else has gone up and back to Indy. Nationals have a strong farm system, so ending up in the same place switching systems makes a lot of sense, though that isn’t how we figured it out as Tim mentioned above.

      • I read also on a Washington blog he would of moved way up those rankings were at the beginning of the year when he was coming back from injury

        • MLB Pipeline did their re-rankings last week and had him 27th for Nationals. They have him 28th for the Pirates now

          • I think too many fans look at him and say ‘meh’ without looking at the broken foot. That is a lot of development time for someone so inexperienced.

            The Pirates are targeting a lot of LHs, which fits their major league park and fills a need since basically LHs are in short supply generally.

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