Baseball America released their list of the top ten prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday morning. Their top ten list is free for non-subscribers, but the scouting reports are for subscribers only. The link also includes best tools, a system overview and the potential 2021 lineup.
As for the top ten list, no surprise that Mitch Keller has the top spot. With his success in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League, he has established himself at an upper level. Add in the fact that Austin Meadows, who some had in the top spot at mid-season, had multiple injuries this year and struggled at times when he was playing. The pair have likely flipped spots this year for everyone who had Meadows ahead of Keller.
The upside to that is literally the upside, as in Meadows hasn’t seen a change to his potential ceiling because the tools are all still there. If he can stay finally stay healthy, then BA believes he will be the same player who they ranked first in the system before. The injuries just add a risk factor that helped drop him below Keller. If you’re being realistic, a healthy 2017 for Meadows means he wouldn’t even be eligible for this list because he would have got 130+ at-bats for the Pirates.
In the third spot, BA has Shane Baz, which is where most people had him in the post-draft rankings for the Pirates. He was followed by (in order) Ke’Bryan Hayes, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, Luis Escobar, Nick Kingham, Taylor Hearn and Lolo Sanchez. I think you will see a similar order in the top six for most people, as Hayes seems to be just outside the top 100 prospects whenever we hear his name. Newman also still seems to get some benefit of the doubt due to his college track record and possibly his incredible stretch at Bradenton in 2016, but he didn’t hit well at either stop this year. Our mid-season ranking had Cole Tucker ahead of Newman and Tucker improved after those rankings, though his injury history could add risk for some people.
I will point out two things in their write-up of Hearn that would likely affect their rankings. They mention that Hearn hasn’t found a slider that he is comfortable with yet. Readers here know that isn’t true as Tim Williams pointed out last week while talking to Hearn, his AFL pitching coach and Justin Meccage, who is the minor league pitching coordinator for the Pirates. They also called his changeup “potentially average”, which is far from true as many of you know. The scouting reports on Hearn last year said that it was his third pitch and he rarely if ever threw it. The actual fact was that it was his best pitch and he stopped throwing it to work on his fastball command and his slider. His changeup is an above average offering.
I don’t see Escobar or Kingham ranking ahead of Hearn at this point. His upside is higher than Kingham, who is three years older than him. He’s closer to the majors than Escobar, who also has control issues to work on. Being a 6’5″ lefty who has hit 100 MPH also helps.