Baseball America released their top ten prospect list for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday morning. Austin Meadows has taken over the top spot on the list, followed by Mitch Keller, Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Kevin Newman in the top five spots. They are followed in order by Ke’Bryan Hayes, Steven Brault, Cole Tucker, Will Craig and Elias Diaz. The link above has scouting reports on each player. While most of that list is for subscribers, BA also posted a free list that includes such things as the best tools in the system and their 2020 lineup.

Bell remained prospect-eligible by sitting out the last day of the season. Most sources use 130 at-bats as a cutoff, so even though he played 45 games and had 152 plate appearances, he finished the season with 128 at-bats. Brault pitched the most innings among prospect-eligible players with 33.1 innings, falling short of the 50 IP max for the list.

Tyler Glasnow ranked #1 on last year’s postseason list for BA. Then they had Glasnow, Meadows, Bell, Newman and Keller among their top 100 prospects during the mid-season update, with all five listed among the top 52 on that list. The rest of the mid-season top ten included Cole Tucker, Harold Ramirez, Steven Brault, Reese McGuire and Ke’Bryan Hayes. That list didn’t include draft picks, even though it was posted mid-July.

That mid-season list shows that there hasn’t been much movement in their rankings. They included eight of the same players that made today’s list, with Ramirez and McGuire being replaced by Diaz and Craig, with the latter likely making the list if he was eligible mid-season. Diaz shouldn’t be a surprise on the list, despite missing a large portion of the 2016 season. BA named him the best defensive catcher in all of the minors after the 2015 season, and they believe that he will hit enough to earn a starting role once a spot opens up for him in Pittsburgh.

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    • To quote NMR : NMR BuccosFanStuckinMD • 2 days ago
      “So you’re pretending only offense counts. Got it.
      Tucker handled an aggressive promotion to high-A, the same league as Kramer, while providing above average defense and base running at the more difficult position at an age where Kramer wasn’t even starting for his *college* team.”

    • They usually don’t make roster decisions like that for their future lineups. If a player is going to be around for 2-3 more years, then they usually keep him on the team, rather than assume he leaves.

  1. I am curious what happened to their rankings since both have dropped out of the Blue Jays top ten. Both of them will be relatively young (22) at the start of the season, should start the year in AAA (with a chance of a promotion after mid-year if needed), and had typical seasons (high average no power for Ramirez; great defense/acceptable OBP/nothing else for McGuire).
    I don’t understand the hit in rankings unless there was an expectation that they should have figured some things out by now…

    • FWIW…

      “Warren (New London): What do you make of Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez at this point? The Pirates don’t seem to have thought they had much value.

      John Manuel: They both just missed the top 10, in particular McGuire. I make them both to be prospects but with some challenges. McGuire’s power production has been non-existent as a pro. Right now he’s trending toward a Jeff Mathis type of career. That would be lucrative for Reese McGuire, but I thought that wasn’t quite enough to crack the top 10. Harold Ramirez reminds a lot of folks of Jose Tabata, and that again wasn’t quite enough to push him into the top 10. Obviously the Pirates-Jays trade had a lot to do with the financial ramifications of Francisco Liriano’s contract as well and wasn’t a straight talent deal.”

    • Ramirez played one game with the Blue Jays before a leg injury sidelined him for the season. If that happened with the Pirates, to go along with his lower body injuries in the past, he would have dropped on this list as well. The injury happened while he made an awkward diving catch, so it’s unlikely he gets hurt the same way with the Pirates. As for McGuire, I would have him 9th on the Blue Jays list, so that’s just BA’s preference. He also missed two weeks with an injury, although BlueJaysProspects never reported what it was.

  2. Tim or John … I was thinking about Glasnow being on the team next year and figuring things out in the majors against professional hitters and it got me to thinking… I know you can’t just drop a low A player in the big leagues but I am curious what you think would happen to someone like Keller in the big leagues. He already has more control of his arsenal than Glasnow, an actual change up, and he seems better prepared to execute his game plans.

    Would the issue be that he would crack mentally or build bad habits trying to pitch beyond his level?

    • If you use Keller as an example, he noted the big difference in approach going from Low-A to High-A. Imagine just skipping the next two levels and facing the best. If he thought the difference was big at that point, imagine the surprise he would get in the majors.

    • Your question (although directed towards Tim or John) reminds me of Jose Fernandez (Marlins), who I believe was skipped from A+ to The Show. He was quite successful, but obviously he was a special talent. But it does show that in certain circumstances, some can do it. I believe the Pirates as a organization like their prospects to iron out all the little things in the minors before they get called up. If I recall correctly, I think NH referred to it as he wants them closer to their “peak” so they stay in the majors and don’t needs to be sent back down.

      Huge loss for Miami though, may he RIP

  3. I think the list is reasonable:
    – I agree that the top four in some order are the best
    – I personally would have grouped Kingham right with Newman at number 6. But I can understand someone wanting to see some results after the surgery/recovery process
    – I would group the next 5 along with Holmes, Hinz, and Garcia in some order so no complaints there
    – I don’t know enough about the younger pitchers (Ogle, Kranick, MacGregor, Escobar, and Hearns) to have even an I’ll-informed opinion so I am curious to see where they are ranked by P2 shortly

  4. Daniel Moskos is still in baseball? Goes to show how many chances players get just for being left handed.

  5. Craig and Tucker are only in the top 10 for one reason only….they were first round picks. There are a number of guys more deserving based on actual performance. The rest of the list looks about right.

      • Agreed – mainly just a lot of arms you can dream on: Hinsz, Luis Escobar, Yeudy Garcia, Holmes, Ogle, Kranick, MacGregor, etc. I think Tucker and Craig are firmly in the top 10 as low ceiling / high floor guys, although Tucker has more upside if he ever fills out.

        • Very much agreed.

          Bunch of 40/45-type players, which isn’t the worst thing considering you only need a relatively slight bump to reach an average big leaguer, but the position players are extremely light on tools and the arms are waiting for breakouts.

          Still bullish on Tucker if he ever fills his frame and overhauls his swing. The Pirates have been doing a great job developing slap hitters.

            • It’s very “linear”, which can mean a lot of things but generally that the swing is GB/LD contact-oriented by leading with the hands straight to the ball and hips leaking rather than torquing the swing through his core. Very little leverage and loft needed to drive the ball consistently.

              No big league hitters with any sort of power have linear swings to the extent of Tucker right now, so he could add a leg kick and put on 20 of muscles and he still won’t produce average game power.

              • It’s very possible that the Pirates have a policy of constantly adjusting the swing of one switch hitter at a time. Maybe now that Bell is up for good they can focus on Tucker’s swing full time?

                • I’m not wild about the organization’s hitting development, but I even give them more credit than that. I just don’t think rotational hitting is something they agree with, or at least something they strive to teach. Reese McGuire was the poster child for a linear swing and that primarily explains his struggles. Scouts were never wild about the swing, and it got worse under the Pirates.

          • Maybe they hire Whitey Herzog and spend 2/3 of the preseason working on drag bunting and steals then…….and move the fences back 20 feet- thoughts?

        • Yeudy may have an argument if you ignore the relative age of his competition, but I cannot fathom a performance-based argument for Clay Holmes over either of the two you mentioned.

          • And you can for Tucker and Craig? I would also put Osuna and Kramer above those two as well….if performance matters.

            • So you’re pretending only offense counts. Got it.

              Tucker handled an aggressive promotion to high-A, the same league as Kramer, while providing above average defense and base running at the more difficult position at an age where Kramer wasn’t even starting for his *college* team.

        • And, of course, prospects aren’t ranked simply by production but you know that and willfully choose to ignore the fact, as we’ve seen in the past.

          • I don’t ignore it, but I’m not foolish enough to consider it over actual performance…especially when you see a first round pick and former seasoned college player struggle year after year like Connor Joe….people had him pretty high on these lists for awhile too. At some point, you have to produce. I think of hundreds of guys who had great potential, but never did anything.

            • Connor Joe has only ever been in two lists, with the upcoming one being his third. He was ranked 29th and 32nd in our lists. I don’t think anyone had him much higher.

    • This does have kind of a default look to it with so many first rounders in there. Maybe that’s to be expected but you’d hope to see more Latin American free agents or other lower draft round/high upside guys they were able to hit upon. Does the lack of those types in the top 10 mean something?

      • Hitters from Latin America haven’t panned out. I think it was John who had a recent article on this. The PBC has been getting players from the low end bonus wise. They have picked up some promising pitchers, but it might be time to re-evaluate L.A.

  6. can I just say that Mitch Keller, standing next to Josh Bell in that picture, looks like he belongs in the front office more than front of the rotation. If he takes his conditioning seriously and continues to fill out and add functional muscle…WATCH OUT NL

    • I said the same thing when a similar photo was posted at the awards ceremony in September. I know Bell is a beast but Keller does not seem to have a “projectable” frame – especially in the shoulders.

  7. Surprised that Brault continues to rank highly in BA despite the lack of control or out pitch. Without a fairly substantial adjustment, his profile is that of a #6 SP/middle reliever. Which is just fine by the way – not throwing shade on Brault at all. But I would have expected Holmes, Garcia or Hinsz – or even the forgotten man, Kingham, to be considered for that top 10 ahead of the guy whose ceiling already looks fairly modest.

    • His profile is higher than a #6/middle reliever. It’s just not going to be higher than a back of the rotation starter. That said, he’s got a high floor, which is probably why he rates higher.

    • Is his profile a #6 SP, or is that what his floor is? I agree he can’t live off of walking 4.5 / 9 with that stuff lets not forget he figured out a way to strike out 10 k/9 in AAA last year so there is something he was doing right. Also, you could argue that a guy with a floor of a 40/45 RIGHT NOW like Brault and if things break right could be better should be ranked higher than guys who could be a 50 in 3 years but is a 30 right now like Cole Tucker. Call it a risk adjustment factor.

      (Sorry Tim, started my post between tasks at work and didn’t refresh before you answered)

      • I would say his floor is a #7 SP, which is pretty much what he was in 2016. Replacement level pitcher. My sense that he is a #6SP/MR actually factors in some development, which would make him a 1-WAR swingman kind of guy.

        He has below average command, only average swinging strike rate, and is below average in contact authority, So right now you’re looking at a high BB/low K guy with persistently high pitch counts and no demonstrated skill to minimize damage on contact. I’m not the most knowledgeable guy on the site, so I’m open to hearing what as-yet-undemonstrated skill he possesses that would elevate him to a #4 or even a #5 SP.

    • I think the reality is that there’s just not much separation between the #6 Prospect, Hayes, and probably the #20 prospect or so. They all have modest ceilings but high floors. If everything really, really clicks then guys like Hayes and especially Hearn could jump but the risk profile mitigates the upside.

      Can’t say I would’ve put Brault at #7, but I don’t really think anyone else has a better argument. Take your pick.

    • Also forgot Kingham in my response, but they dropped him completely last year as well so it looks like they’re not considering him until healthy again.

    • I have a higher opinion of Brault. In his minor league career, he had a 1.11 WHIP, .226 OAVG, and struck out 8 per 9 innings (and that number goes up to about 9 per 9 over his two years in the Pirates’ system).
      I think he wasn’t impressive in his first go ’round as a rookie last year but I have faith that he will figure some things out moving forward.

  8. It will be interesting to see what the Pirates do with Hayes/Craig this season. I’m guessing that Craig gets promoted and Hayes stays behind in WV to establish himself after missing so much time. But, if he gets off to a start like he did last season, it will be interesting to see what happens in Bradenton.

    • I would agree with your assessment. Hayes did not get many at bats and in the ones he got he didn’t do all that well. He was not overwhelmed but he was on pace to strike out close to 100 times and his K/BB ratio was about 3 to 1.
      Additionally, Craig needs to hit against better competition than WV has to offer.
      The plan will probably be Craig in Bradenton and Hayes in WV for the first half and then a promotion for each for the second half.

  9. Thanks Tim. Small sample size, but on the “Best Tools” list, I would think that Craig could be argued for the best power & strike zone judgement over Wood & Meadows.

    • I also was surprised that Gasnow has slipped to third on the prospects list. This spring will be very important for him to see if he can reduce the walks,and most important to work at holding runners on first base. That to me is very concerning because the Reds and Phillies ran at will on him in two of his starts.

      • not surprising to 2nd, but keller……i mean he’s good and all,but…..i personally would keep keller behind until we see whath appens with both of them this year.

  10. 2011 saw the Pirates hand out $13M in bonus money to Cole and Bell. The heck with FinFlex then.

    A little surprising to see Diaz and Hayes in their top 10 after missing so much time.

    • Bobby: BA does not really evaluate the season to arrive at their prospect lists, but is putting Mitch Keller ahead of Glasnow a major wake-up call for the big guy?

      Not surprised at Hayes. With his defensive skills at 3B is it possible we see him get some work at 2B as well? Brault at No. 7 is a really nice compliment, and should prime him for a run at the Rotation in 2017.

      Will Craig in the Top 10? We can hope, but, IMO, that’s just a tip of the cap for being the First Round pick in 2016.

      • I wonder how they’ll handle Hayes and Craig or where they get placed. I’m thinking Tim and the boys put Glasnow 3rd on their list.

        • Craig had 16 errors in 63 games; Hayes had 8 errors in 65 games at a higher level.

          Craig had 2 HR in 217 AB; Hayes had 6 HR in 247 AB

          I know there had to be a reason why the Pirates drafted Craig, but it is hard to see so far. I’m glad we did not opt to draft Zack Burdi who was still on the board until being drafted 4 spots later by the CWS. Why would the Pirates need a RH Closer who throws triple digits and has two other VG to plus pitches?

          • Don’t get me wrong – I’m not comparing them defensively by any means. It’s not even close. But from everything I’ve read/heard is that there’s no rush to send Craig to first. He feels he can play third (of course what’s he going to say other than yes) and it sounds like they’re going to run him out there. I wonder if they’re going to send him to Bradenton and Hayes back to Low A due to age and injury.

            I’ve gone back and forth about drafting closers in the first round. I’m old school as far as not wanting to value a closer or someone who pitches 80 innings maybe as your first rounder. That being said I don’t think you can argue that the value of a closer has never been higher. NEVER. I won’t talk about the returns that Miller and Chapman got because those are extreme cases and the best of the best. A more comparable trade would maybe be Ken Giles who brought back a big haul. And since financial flexibility is all the rage these days, a young controllable closer allows you to spend your resources elsewhere. So I’ve gone from never to – I could be convinced on drafting a closer in the first round as long as you’re not passing up someone you rate well ahead of him.

            • This sounds right but isn’t. Draft stud starters (Keller) and smooth powerful bats (Meadows).
              You can turn failed Kellers into power relievers.

            • Deacs: The CWS drafted Burdi and moved him fast – he finished the season at AAA. They are looking at him as a Closer-only right now, but the kid has a Plus FB, Plus Slider, and a Plus Change-up that he hardly uses because he can be a late inning reliever/Closer with only 2 pitches.

              The Pirates always supposedly look for sleepers who could possibly be Top of the Rotation guys. A Closer who can also be considered as a possible SP because of having high 90’s velocity with two other plus pitches is very rare and valuable.

              I am “old school” as well, but I have watched the Pirates pass on prospects in favor of guys that leave me shaking my head. This year we knew we were not going to re-sign MM, and needed a RH Closer candidate. We passed on Burdi in favor of a college 3B with questionable power and defense, even though we just drafted Hayes and Tolman last year, and both of those kids are ballplayers.

          • Because it is absolute lunacy to draft a closer in the first round.
            The Pirates have a style of player they are going for when they draft hitters, it involves good strike zone judgement and a high OBP. I will let it play out before I cast my judgement on the plan.

      • Interesting you mention a possible wake up call for Glasnow. He has failed to follow changes the PBC has asked and I wonder if his stubborness is affecting his prospect status.

        I really like Hayes, but I am concerned his injury (injuries) may drydock him. Back problems are not easy to overcome. He’s the best
        we have at 3rd and I hope he stays there and doesn’t become another utility type.

        • Bobby L, do you know what specific changes Glasnow has been reluctant to make? I have heard this before, but never with any details. Sounds like an excellent topic for an article by Tim if it is really true.

          • More or less Glasnow has refused to throw his change up more than a few times a game. Whether it’s stubbornness, belief that he can get by on two pitches like he did at the lower levels or just complete lack of confidence in the pitch I don’t know and without being in the know I’m not going to speculate.
            I put a lot of the blame on Glasnow but a fair amount on the Pirates as well for advancing him in the upper levels without him improving this pitch. Without remembering exactly where they were when they faced the Cards back in July for his debut as far as who’s turn it was, who was unavailable, who was injured – they now have a chance to really sit him down and tell him he’s not getting a promotion unless he can make that change up an average offering. If they need him for a spot start, so be it. Injuries happen. But I don’t see him improving the pitch in the majors. Control may come over time up there but I don’t see how he can develop an average change up against major league hitters.

            • deacs: It was the change-up, and there are many pitchers who just cannot get the right feel for the pitch. It does not seem to be a stubborness on his part, just a pitch he is not comfortable throwing.

              His average for his FB was only 93.5 in the majors in 2016 which tells me he was guiding rather than throwing a pitch he usually gets into the upper 90’s. Maybe not the change-up, but a Slider or sinking 2 seamer might work. I’m rattling on and what I am talking about adds up to many of the reasons why some guys make it and some do not.

              He may be further away than we think. If he does not develop the 3rd pitch he will have to be a Closer and only make $16 to $18 mil a year rather than $22 mil.

              • I thought Glasnow was stubborn with the changeup until I actually saw him throw some. Then it made more sense. He could throw that thing fifty times a game for the next five years and it’s not getting to average.

                They need to teach him different grips until finding something that gets the velo separation and allows him to refine the feel and command through repetition, or just move on and teach him a cutter. Glasnow with a cutter boring in against lefties would be intense.

                • On fire- exactly. Not every guy develops a change, and there is some great tall pitchers that turned to the slider and dominated the bigs. Cutter or slider some say they’re the same. Either would benefit him greatly.

                • The curve is a change of speed. The issue is getting lefties out. A cutter might be the best option for him and Taillon who’s change is not that great either.

                    • AA Glasnow is what I keep remembering back to…AA Glasnow had the most devasting FB+CB combo I’ve ever seen from a kid his age. Everything was sharper, more downhill.

                      I’m optimistic after seeing how quickly Searage identified Glasnow’s stride length as a problem once he got to Pittsburgh. Shorter stride should help timing and plane, and would explain his AAA struggles – at least to me – more adequately than some nebulous idea about him willing himself to better control and command.

            • he needed to come up and struggle to get the picture. i’m sure now he has. lets see what he does in march/april

              • Let’s hope so. And maybe it’s not change up or bust. Maybe he develop a third off speed pitch that’s not a change.

                • I completely agree. The issue is that it has to add some deception. Make that fastball less recognizable. For me, I do the Greg MAddux thing and work on both a 2 seemer and a cutter. having three fastballs and a great curveball is all you need.

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