Baseball America posted their top 20 list for the New York-Penn League on Tuesday morning and they had a pleasant surprise for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the prior lists, the only real surprise wasn’t a good one, as Austin Meadows was left off the International League top 20. The Pirates came up empty on the Eastern League list, then placed three players in the top ten for the Florida State League. We learned from the South Atlantic League chat that Luis Escobar just missed the list.

In that Escobar article, I mentioned to not expect anyone from Morgantown to be on the NYPL list. There were three main reasons for me saying that. One is that the lower level rankings rely more on scouting reports rather than stats and for the NYPL, it’s heavy with college players who were just drafted. The Pirates highest draft pick in the league was third round pick Dylan Busby, who had a lot of trouble at the plate with a .188 average and 48 strikeouts in 160 at-bats.

Another reason is that the NYPL is a 14-team league, so that doesn’t leave a lot of room to sneak players on the list. Combined with the first reason, it means that even first round picks sometimes get left off the list. The third reason is that no one really stood out for Morgantown. I watched approximately 25 of their games online, and while many of the hitters showed they had the tools to develop into prospects, no one had a huge season. When you combine that with the first two reasons, then it was hard to see a later round pick moving into the top 20 of the NYPL, but that’s exactly what happened.

Baseball America named Tristan Gray as the 19th best prospect in the league. I mentioned early on, after watching about 12 Morgantown games, that Gray looked like the best hitter for the team. He was crushing line drives all around the field and he also showed glimpses of over-the-fence power. What I liked back then is that he was consistently making hard contact and he didn’t swing and miss often. He did drop off after that article was posted, finishing with a .716 OPS over his last 38 games. When I wrote up that article, he had an 1.104 OPS through his first 15 games. A .716 OPS is still well above average for the NYPL, where the teams combined for a .655 OPS this season.

We will have our top ten rankings for Morgantown in with our season recap. I personally had Gray third on the team when I submitted my top ten, but he was basically 1C because I thought there wasn’t a clear top choice, but a big jump from Gray at #3 to the fourth spot. The Morgantown recap will be up soon, and since I saw them a lot, I’ll probably write up the recap. So you’ll get my reason for the top three spots in that article, even if Gray ends up #1 overall when the others chime in.

For now, it’s good to see him unexpectedly make the top 20 for the NYPL, especially since I watched the team a lot and finally settled on two other players edging him out for the top two prospect spots on the team. Early on, Gray looks like a late round steal for the Pirates. He played solid defense at second base and they also gave him time at shortstop. He had 25 extra-base hits in 53 games, while playing in a pitcher-friendly league. I also think that he could still fill out his 6’3″ frame some without sacrificing any athleticism.

We will find out next year in his first full season if his dip in production after a hot start was just a small sample size and he has big upside, or it’s closer to the player he really is, which is why he lasted until the 13th round.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Gray is hopefully the type of prospect that the Cardinals always seem to get; a gem in the late rounds.

  2. All I do is look at the box scores daily and Dylan Busby was a huge disappointment. I hope he can show something next year.

  3. One thing I really liked about Gray is that he showed a really strong batted ball profile indicating good swing plane and approach. Since the Pirates don’t seem bothered by working on such things, coming in with the ability to lift the ball is a good thing.

    • Lift is something that Branson and Co seemed unimpressed by as the season started. Perhaps they should rethink this????

  4. Related, but OT: Do you guys (John/WTM/Tim) remember seeing much of Max Moroff at SS in the upper levels and if so, could he pick it like he showed in Pittsburgh this summer?

    I came away very impressed with his short time up with the big club.

  5. I prefer to think that the Pirates moving Gray to short for the last month of the season was an indication that they realized they might have something a lot better than the usual 13th rounder and decided to get more ambitious with him.

    • It’s possible, but I’d still like to see more from him before getting too excited. He played three seasons at a major college, he played three years of collegiate summer ball and he was a known player out of HS, even as a junior, so it’s hard to imagine he somehow flew under the radar.

    • If he was playing an unfamiliar position in the field that may have carried over to his plate appearances.

      • He was playing shortstop, which he played regularly in high school and occasionally in college and summer ball.

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