Indianapolis Top 10: Austin Meadows Leads a Strong Group of Pirates Prospects in Triple-A

Last year’s Indianapolis top ten prospect list was both top-heavy with top prospects in the system and it had depth. This year’s list is very similar and we should see some major contributions from this group in Pittsburgh in 2018, as well as some players outside the top ten who should at least see time with the Pirates next year. The difference between last year’s group and this year’s is the amount of players who have Major League experience already. Nine of the top ten players in 2016 saw time in Pittsburgh in 2017, and for four of them, it was significant time. As you will see below, this year’s top ten has four players who haven’t made their MLB debut yet, including two of the top three prospects. So you probably won’t see the impact help right away from them, but that will make Indianapolis interesting to follow early next year. Here are the reports on the top prospects at the level.


The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. This excluded Jose Osuna from qualifying, as well as some other players mentioned briefly in the notable section below, although none of them would have been considered for the top ten. Unlike the lower-level lists, this list factors in actual results more than potential and upside. The latter is still factored in, but this is the level where we want to see players producing on the field and showing their tools in games.

1. Austin Meadows, OF – The 2017 season didn’t go as planned for Meadows. Before the season started, the questions were concerning where he would fit in once the Super Two deadline passed in early June. Then once Starling Marte was suspended for half of the season, it became more of a matter of just waiting for the deadline to pass to get him to the majors. The problem was that Meadows didn’t cooperate with those plans. He started off the first week looking bad after a solid Spring Training performance. His bat looked slow in Indianapolis and he was striking out a lot. That didn’t last long, but it stood out because of the time of season. He started hitting the ball better, even if the results didn’t show up in the box scores right away. By mid-June, his stats looked much better and it appeared like we could see him in Pittsburgh soon. Then came the first injury, at least the first one from this season. Meadows has dealt with injuries in the past and they were a concern. This year, that concern became a problem.

Meadows missed five weeks with a hamstring strain, which is an injury he has had in the past. Even after he returned, it was cautious, spending a week in the GCL and then another week in Morgantown. His return to Indianapolis lasted just three games before a minor oblique strain put him out for a few days. He played another five games, but the strain returned and he was shutdown for the season. The Pirates originally wanted him to play some winter ball to make up at-bats, and he even signed with the same team that Jung-Ho Kang is playing for, but it appears that those plans have been scrapped. Meadows now has the injury-prone tag, but the 22-year-old still has the skills to be a star in the majors. Even when he was slumping after that bad first week, he was still hitting the ball well at times and using the entire field. He has shown power in his bat and a strong approach at the plate. Meadows was still making a difference during his slump, using his speed on the bases and playing strong defense, while seeing time at all three spots. His lone missing tool is a strong arm, though he makes up for it somewhat with accuracy and a quick release. The 2018 season could look a lot like what we expected from the 2017 season. If Meadows is healthy and avoids the slow start, we will sit around wondering what the Pirates plan to do in early June.

2. Tyler Glasnow, RHP – Glasnow actually lost his prospect status before he appeared in a minor league game this season, but he spent more time in Indianapolis than he did in Pittsburgh. Part of the reason for keeping him down so long was to get an extra year of service time out of him, as he is still short of a full year in the majors, giving the Pirates six more seasons of control. The results in Pittsburgh were very poor, with control issues, high pitch counts and an unusually high home run rate. Just in general, the stuff wasn’t there that made him such a big-time prospect. He went to Indianapolis in June and made an immediate change, losing his wind-up. Last year, we noted that Glasnow didn’t look ready for the majors. What he was doing to get out Triple-A hitters, wouldn’t translate to the majors. His time in Indianapolis this season was completely different once he got settled in. His control was greatly improved and the velocity was the best we have ever seen from him. He also looked confident on the mound, which is something we rarely saw in the past as soon as one thing went wrong.

The 2017 version of Glasnow in Indianapolis was significantly better than the 2016 version. The problem now is that even though he was a much better pitcher, the results were not there at all in his September time with the Pirates. He issued 15 walks in just 7.2 innings, being limited to those 7.2 innings due to his control. So we are now left to wonder if he can translate the minor league success to the majors. He will be 24 years old for most of the 2018 season, so youth is on his side. With the way he looked in Indianapolis this season, we now know the stuff is there to get big league hitters out. We just have to wait to see if the confidence in his abilities will ever be there for him to reach his potential.

3. Kevin Newman, SS – Newman ranked second on the Altoona list behind Cole Tucker, who right now looks like the better future shortstop. Newman didn’t put up good stats with Altoona in his second season with the team, then moved up to Indianapolis and basically matched those Altoona stats. The only real difference between his time in Double-A and Triple-A was his base running. While he still wasn’t running enough, he went 7-for-8 in steals during his 40 games in Indianapolis. That needs to be part of his game for him to reach his ceiling in the majors. Newman played solid defense all season. There’s nothing flashy to his game, but he handles all the plays you expect from your shortstop. He’s going to need to improve at the plate before we see him in Pittsburgh. His .283 average in Indianapolis came with just seven walks and no homers, which led to a .688 OPS. Newman is already 24 years old, so there isn’t much room for growth in the power area, but he could do a better job of drawing walks, especially if the plan is to have him hit at the top of the order. Best case scenario now appears to be a mid-season promotion, but it won’t be that quick if he doesn’t do a better job of getting on base and using his speed once he gets on.

4. Jordan Luplow, OF – Luplow held the same spot on our Altoona list after putting up strong stats there, followed by a promotion to Indianapolis in late June. He wasn’t in Triple-A long before he got his first chance at the majors. It was an extremely quick promotion for the Pirates and one that didn’t last long. Luplow returned to Indianapolis until late August and continued to put up big offensive stats. He finished the season with a .325/.401/.513 slash line in 44 games with Indianapolis. That OPS was slightly up from his time in Altoona. Luplow didn’t do as well in Pittsburgh, putting up a .660 OPS and striking out more than normal. His 26 homers total this season almost equaled his total from his first three years of pro ball. Luplow always showed some power and a strong approach at the plate, with the ability to make consistent contact, but he never put it all together like he did this season. It will be interesting to see if he has the fourth outfield job going into 2018, or he will return to the minors for more time. Luplow has just one season above High-A ball, so the experience factor isn’t on his side, and he didn’t exactly tear up the majors. He also needs to work on his outfield defense. However, he was getting priority playing time in September, and getting starts, which has been a good indicator in the past of a guy who will get a shot in the majors the following season (SEE: Adam Frazier in 2016).

5. Steven Brault, LHP – Brault dominated at Triple-A, but ended up staying there for most of the season because the Pirates didn’t need an extra starter at any point early in the year. With Trevor Williams making the Opening Day roster, it gave the Pirates someone to go to when they needed a starter to fill in for Jameson Taillon and then later to replace Tyler Glasnow. Meanwhile, Brault plugged away in the minors, where he was named as our Pitcher of the Month for both May and June and also our Pitcher of the Year. He ended up throwing 120.1 innings for Indianapolis, posting a 1.94 ERA that led all of Triple-A. He also had 109 strikeouts, a .199 BAA, a 1.07 WHIP and a 1.29 GO/AO ratio. Brault eventually got four starts and seven relief appearances for the Pirates, showing mediocre results, though they were better than his 2016 stats for the Pirates. Despite the terrific showing in Indianapolis, he was being used as a reliever at first, so that wasn’t the ideal situation for him. He has the stuff to be a starter, though sometimes he tries to get batters to chase rather than go after them. That issue even came up this year at times when he was at his best, but he limited it compared to what we saw in prior years. We could see Brault again serve as a depth option in 2018, or he could move to the bullpen. He displayed more fastball velocity this season, which could play up in relief, especially if he does a better job of staying in attack mode mentality.

6. Clay Holmes, RHP – Holmes really impressed the Pirates this Spring Training on the Major League side. In particular, they raved over his slider/cutter combo, which sat 96 MPH with a ton of movement. In his first start of the season, he hit 99 MPH, and at times, he flashed four pitches that would rate average or better. Add in the 6’5″, 230 frame, and there is a lot to like from him. Holmes put up decent stats this season, compiling a 3.36 ERA in 112.2 innings, with 99 strikeouts, a .238 BAA and an incredible 2.80 GO/AO ratio. When he is on his game, batters are beating the ball into the ground, with a lot of soft contact and broken bats to show for it. He allowed just four home runs all season. The problem is that he still had his bouts of control problems, leading to high pitch counts and shorter outings. Holmes has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter, but his control will keep him from ever reaching that point. The question still remains as to what his potential could be. He still has two option years left, so there is no reason to rush to a decision. With improved control, he could end up as a mid-rotation starter. If he improves just slightly, then back-end seems more likely, though there is always the chance that he ends up as a power reliever, who can get grounders and strikeouts. His stuff is too good to move him to that relief role anytime soon though, so expect him to be in the 2018 Indianapolis rotation.

7. Elias Diaz, C – Diaz finally got an extended look in the majors after making it to Pittsburgh in 2015. His 2016 season was a lost year due to injuries, but he was healthy for the entire 2017 season and the absence of Francisco Cervelli led to his chance to play regularly in the majors. Diaz didn’t have the best results in Pittsburgh with a .579 OPS in 200 plate appearances, which leaves questions as to whether he could be a starter in the majors. At worst case, he is a solid backup due to his defense and ability to control the running game. He threw out 30% of runners in the majors and 46% in Indianapolis. Diaz has shown a solid bat in the minors over the years, driving the ball well, while limiting his strikeouts. He wasn’t hitting much better in Indianapolis this season than what we saw in Pittsburgh. The Pirates decisions behind the plate will decide what role he has in 2018. Diaz is out of options, so he needs to stick in the majors. They have Cervelli signed for two more years and Chris Stewart has a team option on his 2018 contract. Diaz should be able to hit better than what we saw in 2017, he has shown that ability over a long stretch in the past, but it might not be enough to give him the starting job.

8. Nick Kingham, RHP – Kingham will have an interesting off-season because we don’t know yet whether he will have a fourth option year, or whether he has to stick on the 2018 roster on Opening Day. Through extensive research, all I found was confusion on the rules of a fourth option. Kingham didn’t get a call to the majors in September, with the Pirates saying he could use rest from a long season, his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. That’s true in the sense that he didn’t pitch in games on paper all year in 2015, although he was going through normal work from Spring Training until the end of the Altoona playoffs. Most of his work came at Pirate City that year. Kingham suffered an ankle injury during Spring Training this season, so that limited him to 118.1 innings, plus seven shutout innings in the playoffs. He was very inconsistent this season and went through a very poor stretch, before turning things around in late July. Kingham lacked confidence in his pitches and after a meeting between him, coaches, and Jacob Stallings, it changed his thinking. His next six starts saw him allow six earned runs over 45.1 innings. He didn’t end well though, allowing 12 runs over his final 8.2 innings. When he was on, he was commanding a 91-94 MPH fastball, which is down from the peak velocity we saw prior to his injury when he would hit 97 MPH. His curve looked strong at times and his changeup was a plus pitch all season. Kingham still has a workhorse frame, with the secondary pitches and command to be a mid-rotation starter, but the fastball he once had isn’t there anymore and can be very hittable at times, which will likely limit his upside to back of the rotation.

9. Max Moroff, INF – Moroff came out swinging this season after a tough first year in Indianapolis in 2016. He homered in his first three games, then really put things together in late April and May, which earned him a trip to Pittsburgh. It was a brief stop in the majors, but he hit his way back by the end of the month. Just days after he was called up, he had the highest OPS in the International League, as the league leader dropped behind him. Moroff was hitting for power without swinging for the fences. He went from someone who constantly worked the count, to a hitter who still drew his share of walks, while being more aggressive with pitches in his zone early in the count. The power was coming from swinging at good pitches, rather than bulking up or swinging harder. Moroff spent more time in Pittsburgh than Indianapolis this season, although his playing time was very sporadic. Even with four full months in the majors and a couple of at-bats from 2016, he still fell short of losing his prospect status due to that lack of playing time. We really didn’t get a good sense of what he could do in the majors because he wasn’t given a real chance. Due to his defensive value, FanGraphs had him as an 0.5 WAR player this season. Part of that was from not committing an error with the Pirates, while playing three infield spots. There should still be more in the bat though and Moroff attempted just one steal despite slightly above average speed, so we should see him as a better bench option in the future if given the playing time to establish himself.

10. Edgar Santana, RHP – Santana had an up and down season. Coming off of a dominating performance in the 2016 Arizona Fall League, the April/May version of Santana looked like someone who was Major League ready. Late in May and in early June, he had a few tough outings, which occurred right before his big league debut. The Pirates called him up during a time he was going through issues with his fastball command and his slider not showing the bite that made it such an effective pitch. He basically came to the majors with no pitches working for him and saw some struggles. That period of losing his stuff continued for nearly a month after he was sent down to the minors. He finally got back on track in late July and after being called up to Pittsburgh in September, Santana made nine scoreless appearances. The pitcher we saw during the middle of the year could have just been a young pitcher pressing to get to the majors, stay there, then try to get back there. He was still showing mid-to-upper 90s velocity on the fastball and the plus slider eventually returned, so the chance of him being a future back-end reliever is still there. He has the potential to begin the season in the Pittsburgh bullpen.

Other Notable Players: The top ten is very strong top to bottom for Indianapolis, which leaves some top 50 prospects just outside of that list. Dovydas Neverauskas would have easily made the top ten in many seasons. He had a 2.86 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning, while showing a high-90s fastball and a solid breaking pitch. He also put up solid stats in the majors for a rookie who bounced between levels all season. Angel Sanchez returned from Tommy John surgery and was throwing harder than before. That helped lead to a strong strikeout rate. He had some consistency issues, but still got the call to the majors in August. He had his issues there, allowing runs in eight of his ten relief appearances. Christopher Bostick had a strong all-around season, which got him two calls to Pittsburgh. He played multiple positions well, did a nice job of getting on base and flashed some power and speed, making him a versatile bench option in the majors. Tyler Eppler flashed signs of being a future MLB starter, then couldn’t back those outings up with repeat performances. He has the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, but needs to do a better job of mixing up his pitches. He throws a lot of strikes and makes it easy for batters to sit first pitch fastball, even if he is sitting 92-95 MPH with the pitch.

Eric Wood showed slightly more power than last year, matching his home run and triple totals, while adding five doubles in nearly the exact same amount of plate appearances. The downside was that his average and walks total both dropped, and his defense wasn’t as strong at third base, possibly due to him moving all around, with time at first base and outfield. Jacob Stallings improved his hitting and continued to provide strong defense behind the plate, which got him some MLB time. Gift Ngoepe saw time in Pittsburgh this year. His defense remained among the best in the system at any position, but strikeouts continued to be a major problem. Casey Sadler, Barrett Barnes and Edwin Espinal didn’t put in enough time to be considered for the list and there is no certainty that any of them will be back next year. Sadler and Espinal are free agents, while Barnes missed most of the season with injuries again and didn’t play well when he was healthy.

  • Only really Meadows and Glasnow on this list have much upside at all. We have a very mediocre farm heading into 2018, imo.

  • uggg, I was much more excited last offseason seeing these names on the list. Meadows just went on the DL due to eye strain while reading this article.

  • From a Cardinal Article:

    At the top two levels, the Pacific Coast League and Texas League, Baseball America rated a total of 40 prospects. Eleven were Cardinals. The next closest team, Oakland, had six.

    How many did we have besides Meadows and Keller?



  • Ugh.

    As a prospect guy and Pirate fan, this list is almost as – if not more – haunting as the infamous 2014 BA Top 10 that earned them system of the year.

    It’s absolutely a positive that all ten are at least big leaguers, and several of these guys may yet turn into impact players, but this is also lining up to be incredibly disappointing based on what each once was or the promise they had.

    Such is baseball, such is life.

    • “Such is baseball, such is life.”

      i’m glad these wise words from that wise man stuck with someone else 🙂

  • I still think that some of our pitching depth will go for some hitting…whether a prospect or MLB, probably more the former, not unlike an O’Neill Cruz?

    For instance, if Glasnow and/or Brault have VG Spring trainings, do one or more of them get moved or does a Williams/Kuhl/Nova go?

    Sad to hear that Kingham’s FB hasn’t rebounded to his pre-TJ years. Some pitchers just don’t do well after TJ (around 10-15%).

  • Here’s wishing for a healthy and happy 2018 for Austin Meadows.

  • This comment on Holmes applies to Glasnow also?

    Holmes has the stuff to be a top of the rotation starter, but his control will keep him from ever reaching that point.

  • I think Luplow continues to be underrated. I think Moroff and Luplow will be better than Newman. I would have them ranked ahead of Newman.

    • Chris..I totally agree with your post.

    • I love his combination of power and plate discipline. His minor league performance was on par with Polanco or Meadows. At some point results matter more than potential.

      minors during ages 20-23
      1619 PA, .275/.369/.465, HR 3.2%, BB 11.8%, K 16.7%
      AAA, age 23: .914 OPS in 182 PA

      minors during ages 17-22
      2000 PA, .285/.356/.432, HR 2.1%, BB 9.5%, K 15.6%
      AAA, age 22: .880 OPS in 314 PA

      minors ages 18-22
      1685 PA, .292/.359/.459, HR 2.0%, BB 9.0%, K 16.9%
      AAA, age 22: .697 OPS in 457 PA

  • A lot of potential to go along with a lot of disappointment with this group. Write ups on players at times make them sound great and then they get to the majors and they do not perform up to that expectation. There is always next year to fix what is wrong and to have great success in the majors.

    • Joe: I think that the performances of our young SP’s like Williams, Kuhl, Taillon, and to a lesser degree, Brault indicate that our SP’s seem to be able to be better than average after entering MLB. Glasnow has been a bust so far, but busting out with only one of five is excellent. Our hitting is another story.

      47 games in 2016 of scoring 2 runs or less increased to 59 games of scoring 2 runs or less in 2017. A housecleaning of our hitting coaches is needed, yet we hear nothing. We have a very talented and successful hitting coach over at Altoona – is that too difficult?

  • The one argument I could make for extending GM NH is the organizational depth in the minors. If you are not spending in MLB payroll your MUST develop from within. They are starting to stack players in AAA. The area they need to figure out is how to better transition players from AAA to the big club.

    • Question: where does the banner for organizational depth get placed at PNC?

      • A decade on the job, a decade- and we are celebrating him for organizational depth.

        A decade on the job and this team might have to take a chance rolling with someone the “quality” of Elias Diaz as starting catcher.

        • I honestly wish I hadn’t stooped to snark to make this point; I apologize for that, EW.

          It just frustrates me, as a fan first and foremost, to see how far away from their original mission this organization has gotten.

          Do we even still remember all the talk about prospects being the only path to *star* players? Why is it that we’re so happy with mediocrity?

          I’ve made the point and I’ll make it again; Dave Littlefield left an organization is disarray and without the depth to contend.

          However, he *did* leave behind players who eventually went on the give Huntington more than *80 WAR*, and counting. *Eighty Wins Above Replacement*. At the Major League level.

          If Huntington were fired right now, the chances of leaving behind that sort of eventual production for his successor is exceedingly low. He’s unquestionably run a better organization, but it simply has not been enough.

          • It’s strange because the startling littlefield incompetence can make today’s situation look relatively rosy. But I think I’m actually more pessimistic than I ever was in the dl era because his incompetence suggested change could be coming. Now I feel we could be stuck on this treadmill of mediocrity for years. A fate I deem worse than outright failure. I’m afraid this organization is unwilling to honestly self evaluate and we will just continue to “hope” a lot of guys play better.

            • this top 10 list for AAA is probably better than any full-org top 10 that littlefield ever put together. i mean maybe i’m wrong. I was too young to pay a ton of attention, and probably didnt think about top 10s until the Neil Walker days, give or take.

              • You may be right but most of these guys don’t have the ceiling of a Neil Walker let alone an Andrew Mcutchen. And this team desperately needs an infusion of star power, not average regulars or guys who are a full step below that.

                • don’t forget that Walker was never thaaat highly regarded of as a prospect. I dont remember where he tended to max out on lists, but he sure wasn’t on them when he was in AAA. unless i’m super fuzzy.

                  moroff might be the next walker 😉

                • couldn’t agree more with your comments.

                • Cutch is a generational talent. With his bat speed I don’t understand why he fell in the draft. He was good in the minors, but not off the charts. Bell will be better than Walker. Meadows and Tucker have a chance.

                  • Most Years Walker approached 3 war. It is far from a guarantee, and probably unlikely bell matches that production.

                    • I don’t know much about WAR. I was surprised Bell had a .800 OPS and only a 1.7 WAR this year. 800 OPS is good and I can see him raising it down the line. Walker’s best OPS with the Pirates was 811.
                      Bell will be higher than that next year.

                    • You have to account for defensive position and offensive environment. 800 ops isn’t mearky

              • But instead of rolling with that top 10, he’ll go get 2 seanrod’s, a gossellin, and throw in a vogelsong. Instead of going out and spending 20 million or more on mediocrity, bring in one major upgrade and give some of these kids an opportunity. If Huntington’s drafted players aren’t good enough, why did they extend him?

                • I’m 100 percent with you that playing kids, and buying 1 major upgrade is the way to go this year.

                  This wave of kids wasn’t ready in the past. They are now.

                  I’m on record wanting Mercer and Harrison to be traded, playing Moroff at 2b or SS because i think he’s going to be really good, and giving up prospects in a trade to get the best SS or 2b they can find.

                  i’ve also taken it a step further saying to use Cutch (and a prospect or two) to try to entice the Jays to deal Donaldson, and ride and die with Frazier in LF, his best position.

                  As far as i’m concerned, the Lineup could be

                  LF Frazier
                  3b Donaldson
                  CF Marte
                  1b Bell
                  SS Andrelton Simmons (Harrison, Mercer, and a few good prospects would probably be enough to entice the Angels. Andrelton is just an example)
                  RF Polanco
                  C Cervelli
                  2b Moroff

                  and that wouldnt be all that hard to do, wouldnt break the bank, and would be pretty freaking good.

              • Back then no one cared as much about MILB.

          • No worries NMR. Its all good. We all want the same thing, the Pirates to win. I’m optimistic that in 3 years Bell, Meadows and Tucker will be on pace to hit that 80 WAR mark. Aided by Tallion, Keller and Rivero anchoring the pitching staff.

        • They also had 3 teams that had a real shot at a title, which we celebrated.

      • i think the point EWS is making… or at least the point that i’d make… is that it seems like their ability to find good players later in drafts has massively improved to the point of being probably-above-average since 2013 or so. And it’d be a little weird to fire a guy as those efforts are just starting to pay off.

        obviously… and i think this is probably the point that you want to make… Neal now has to trade some of that depth for present help and do that extremely well. But having the currency is step 1, and he’s done that.

        • I don’t think this “depth” is going to get us anywhere close to what we need. Now if you are talking about trading elite pieces such as meadows , Keller or glasnow that is another story. But those guys aren’t depth, they are our best pieces we very much need for the future

          • i have a feeling we fundamentally disagree, but it’s all currency.

            Instead of making trades for several years of underpaid stars (that involve multiple Kellers), make a trade for 1-2 two years of a less-underpaid star (that involve 2-3 2nd/3rd tier guys). Not every trade is the Chris Sale or jose Quintana trade where multiple great guys are traded for 3-4 years of super underpaid aces (/near aces).

            • Could you give me example of who you would deem a “less underpaid star” and what prospect currency we could use to acquire him?

              Maybe I’m wrong but I think I disagree that our prospect “depth” would be enough to even acquire a “less underpaid star”

              • probably literally any other star in the game that has reached Free Agency and in their late 20s or older. I didnt think it was controversial to call Quintana and Sale much more underpaid than the average star. theyre both paid probably < 35% of what they should be earning.

                Sale and Q had so much trade value because in addition to being great, they were also paid like role players and locked in for multiple years.

                if they made 20 million and were under control for just 1 year, then a package of 3 good-but-non-elite prospects had better be enough.

                Let's just say… 1 year of Josh Donaldson at ~$20 million would not or at least should not require a Mitch Keller unless the Jays ate Donaldson's entire 2018 salary.

                just like how we shouldnt expect a ton for 1 year of Andrew McCutchen at $15 million to fetch a ton.

                if cutch was on another team, i dont think i'd want the Pirates giving up more than a Kebryan Hayes for him… or 2-3 of the next tier.

                Cutch is a tier behind "star" now, but keeping it close to home was the best way to make my point

                • I’m not sure what one year of Josh Donaldson would cost but I’m guessing it would cost much more than Kevin Newman, Jordan Luplow, or Steven Brault. Quite frankly I doubt Toronto would be interested in all 3 of those guys put together.

                  I think people all too often assume quantity can make up for quality in trades.

                  • Well can we at least agree that 1 year of $20 million Donaldson wouldnt be worth a Ronald Acuna (Moncada equivalent) or even a Mitch Keller either?

                    • I’m really not sure Donaldson took a step back last year but he still put up 5 WAR. Based on the fact that he put up almost 8 WAR the previous 2 years I suspect he will probably project for near 5 WAR in 2018.

                      He is making 20M which is still basically what 2 WAR costs on open market. So in theory I see him having 27-30M surplus value. I’m guessing Keller might be deeemd to have slighly in excess of 30M surplus value, maybe near 40M. So it could be an overpay, but not a dramatic one.

                    • that’s a fair analysis. i totally forgot about all of that research about the dollar value assigned to prospect types. i guess ultimately we are talking about what dollar value is assigned borderline top 100 guys, top 150 guys, and top 200 types. and how many of them you need to equal $30-40 million in value.

                    • I’m not sure. I realize you are simply using JD as an example but I think with players of his caliber(Machado) teams might not even be likely to trade them as they would rather take a chance at one more last run with them under control.

                      And I suspect if they are going to trade them they might almost have to be persuaded by a bit of an overpay.

                      I guess what I’m saying is in reality it might take someone like Keller to land one year of Donaldson. And it’s possible that might not even be enough if another team is willing to spend a little more.

                      But I just don’t think they are going to be persuaded to trade them with a lot of Brault type players as part of the package.

                    • You’re definitely right about the “just an example” thing.

                      Specific to the Jays, i think they’d be a lot more likely to accept something like… oh… say…. Cutch, Freese, and Newman for Donaldson or something weird like that.

                    • Yeah maybe- I would think maybe something such as Cutch, Glasnow and Freese for JD

                    • and if that’s the case, i’d just hold.

                      This was a fun rabbit hole to go down. till next time!

        • “And it’d be a little weird to fire a guy as those efforts are just starting to pay off.”

          This is a sign the organization has lost its mission.

          Why is *this* an indication of success? Look at any winning ballclub; they’re not where they get due to an abundance of 40s and 45s.

          The Pirates can afford to pay 1 WAR ballplayers. They cannot afford to pay 3 and 4 WAR ballplayers. The success of the farm, for a small market club, must primarily be its ability to deliver *impact* Major Leaguers.

          There’s simply no alternative path to success.

          • Yes.

            I can’t buy the argument of: “Well, we have developed the guy to trade for impact players,” because the Pirates aren’t going to acquire that talent because of the hit to payroll.

            Hell, we’re already talking about how the team can’t afford to keep Harrison, Cervelli, and Cutch…and only one of those guys is topping $11M next season.

            • And as Tim astutely pointed out, the only reason paying guys that kind of money is an issue is what?

              That the younger players developed internally haven’t produced star-quality production around them.

          • Maybe they should try not paying 4 different 1 win players (free agents) $5M a year, and find 1 win players from AAA, then use the money to pay a 3-4 win player.

            So many depth guys eating up chunks of the budget, why not fill *those* roles from within? Last year, Jaso, Freese, Rodriguez, Hudson were paid $21.5M

            • For one, I do agree that they’ve stumbled into inefficient budgeting over the last few years.

              But the bigger problem than AAV for those 3-4 win free agents you’re talking about will always be *length* of commitment, and the risk that comes with it, for a club like the Pirates.

              You’re not finding many – no, any – 3-4 WAR players on two year deals. At least not ones who aren’t at the end of their career.

      • Hopefully over the Pirates Charity sign. The Pirates have had a lot of bad GMs. I’m still not convinced NH can pull off a big trade. With limited resources NH is adequate, maybe better considering other
        potential GMs would not even consider coming to Pittsburgh.

    • I beg to differ with you. I would agree that they have some starting pitcher prospects. But otherwise, super thin in the outfield, no third basemen to speak of, catcher isn’t exactly a position of strength. They do have a gaggle of interchangeable middle infielders though but high upside wouldn’t fit many of them. They have depth in C+/- prospects but that isn’t going to get a scarce dollar team like the Pirates very far.

  • Also, hot take:

    Max Moroff will have the 3rd best career of the players listed here.

    • I can get behind that. Who do you think will be the two that best him?

      • Still gotta bet on Meadows and Glasnow.

        I like Newman and Brault too, but i just really like Moroff. I like Luplow too, but just to be a nice platoon guy (unless he really improves the offense. then all bets are off)

    • Now that’s probably damning with faint praise! 😉

  • Tim,

    Diaz hasn’t OPS’d above .713 since AA in 2014, and hit pretty much exactly how the projections said he should hit. he hasn’t hit above the mid .600s since 2015, and has consistently been significantly below even *that*.

    What about Diaz makes you think he’s more than a .600 OPS guy at this point? Is it really just his hitting in A and AA ball in 2013 and 2014?

    Strong backup is the *best* case here. not the “worst case.” He’s only a strong backup is he turns his bad framing into good framing. and that’s a big leap.


    • A .711 OPS in Indianapolis at age 24 in 2015 isn’t a bad number. The league OPS was .689 that year. He barely played in 2016, so you really can’t look at those numbers. So basically the down year is this year, returning from a missed season to play 20 more games than any previous season in his career.

      I wouldn’t assume that his first trial in the majors is his top end production when he has shown the ability to hit in the past. Just like we don’t assume he can get back to where he was from 2013-15.

      The write-up for him reflects the unknown at this point, but with his defense, he doesn’t need to be a great hitter to be considered a starting option. If you look at the hitting from catchers around baseball, it’s not exactly filled with big hitters, many of the regulars were low .700 OPS or worse. That’s who he is being compared to when you mention him as being a possible future starter, not the entire league.

      • Not sure why i addressed it to Tim. You wrote the article haha. Thanks, John.

      • When I watched Diaz closely in Altoona for at least 3 months, that was not the same catcher I saw framing in Pittsburgh this past season. Whatever the reason (s), he just wasn’t nearly as good. IMO, losing most of last season had a lot to do with it.

        • that’s good insight. if he’s shown good framing, then i’m definitely more hopeful.

        • Also looks like he has put on weight around the midsection

        • I think fatigue could have played a factor, and it sounded like the Pirates believed that too. He isn’t allowed to play winter ball right now because they wanted him to rest and they specifically pointed to his career high in games and the significant increase over any previous year. Diaz wants to play winter ball right now (I confirmed that last night), so it’s probably good they shut him down for now, otherwise he would be the everyday catcher if he had his way. I think he will play later in the winter though, when it’s more a case of him getting ready for next season rather than extending this season.

        • The interesting thing about Diaz’s framing, at least to me, is that he never even graded out well in AAA, which is the first level publicly-available metrics are compiled. All despite having the “eye test” reputation as a good framer.

          • The other thing I find interesting is the version of Elias Diaz which matters most , the current iteration not only grades out as a horrible framer, he very much looks the part.

            It takes a lot for someone like bob walk to criticize a pirate during a broadcast. When he is calling attention to a problem you know it is glaring.

            And no, I’m not buying that this is largely just fatigue.

            • Thing is, even the “fatigued” excuse is damning.

              This kid is 26 years old and barely logged 400 PA. If he *was* fatigued, and it impacted his performance this much, he better get his ass in shape because that’s not going to cut it in Major League Baseball.

      • His defense is NOT good when one factors in framing which is a big reason baseball prospectus had him at -1.4 WARP last year. And there is no guarantee the framing just gets better with experience.

        • John, you harp on Diaz as much as I harp on Mercer! 😛

          It seems to me you are assuming his worst year of framing is indicative of where he will end up. He had many good framing years in the minors according to the same BP stats.

          Year, FRAA*
          2011, -3.1
          2012, +3.5
          2013, -1.7
          2014, +12.2
          2015, +2.0
          2016 injured
          2017 aaa +6.7
          2017 mlb -9.1

          *Framing Runs Above Average

      • Even a 711 ops for someone near 25 would never have a MLE anything near the same number at MLB level.

        THere is nothing to suggest Elias Diaz could be 700 ops hitter at MLB level. That would be 80 to 90th percentile outcome