Fangraphs Releases Their List of the Top 25 Prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates

On Thursday afternoon, Fangraphs posted their list of the top 25 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We just posted our 2018 Prospect Guide, which has in depth reports of the top 50 prospects in the system. That can be purchased on our products page. I won’t go over the entire list for Fangraphs here, as you can see that in their link, along with reports on about 40 players total, but I will point out some of the bigger surprises on their list.

They have Steven Jennings rated a lot higher than we do right now, but he has the potential to be that high in a short time. We didn’t see a lot of strong results in person and the scouting reports we got were mixed. Our ranking was based more off what we saw/heard after the draft, but we also took into consideration what scouts saw prior because he was highly ranked by most. Fangraphs has him ranked tenth in the system, which I could see down the line if he matches up more to the pre-draft reports, so I wouldn’t call that a surprise by any means.

The next player up on their list (#11) is Stephen Alemais, who is a surprise to me. We ranked him fairly high I thought and it was based more on the adjustments he made at the plate later in the season, continuing to have positive results. Ranking him #11 now seems fairly high for his current progress.

In the 14th spot, they have Sherten Apostel, who had a terrific season in the DSL this year. We don’t rank players out of the DSL in our top 50, but Apostel would not have been considered for the list if we did. We had him ranked second on our DSL top ten back in September after he put up a .917 OPS in the pitcher-friendly DSL. He should be an interesting player to watch in 2018, where he will likely play third base in the GCL. Apostel has two plus tools in his power and his arm. He has some issues with strikeouts and there’s no guarantee right now that he will stick at third base, so those are things to watch going forward. Check the video out that they have for Apostel, it isn’t much, but it’s the first time I’ve seen footage of him outside of a few quick clips from a still camera in center field from the DSL.

Travis MacGregor made it at #18, which just like Jennings and Apostel, seems like it’s a more potential down the line ranking if all goes well, rather than a current ranking. We saw him in person and his progress was well behind Braeden Ogle, who ranks 22nd on their list.

The one surprise outside the top 25 is Jordan Luplow, who already has a decent amount of Major League time for someone who still qualifies as a prospect. He also has a lot of upper level success, which got him ranked much higher in our guide.

Most differences in prospect rankings are just a matter of opinion on where that player fits among the farm system. Different people put different values on positions, or how to rank upside vs likelihood to reach that upside. As I said for most of the “surprises” up top, I could see those players eventually ranking that high someday. Fangraphs sees them there now.

There are some scouting reports that seem old in their link, so if you have any questions on how they differ, feel free to leave them below and I’ll try to answer them. Some, where they aren’t velocity differences or pitches, just could be a matter of the scouts they talked to versus the scouts we talked to. I will point out one, which is Nick Kingham having a below average changeup. I have never heard that before and I’ve seen it be his best pitch during numerous games throughout the years, so I can’t explain that.

  • O’Neil Cruz power potential. Just such a sweet swing. Natural power. Very good get for Watson.

  • LoLo Sanchez at #6

  • i really think uselton is a nice sleeper. i’ll be watching his progress closely next year

  • A plug for you guys, they don’t seem to know why Alemais returned and hit better in A+ But they still rated him that high. I like knowing the back story!

    One thing I was going to ask is: why don’t you guys get into the specific pitch and skill ratings? You discuss them but I do find them convenient in the format that fangraphs uses.

  • How about some of those comps. Clay Holmes and Tim Wakefield! Maybe they’re trying to tell him he needs to try throwing a knuckleball. Alemais and Ian Desmond. Comps always crack me up, but thought a few of these were a little out there.

    • DrStrangeglove
      December 29, 2017 8:27 pm

      Taylor Hearn = Roy Oswalt and his 52 career WAR (nothing out there about that one!)
      Mitch Keller = Mike Trombley?!
      Ke’Bryan Hayes = Eric Chavez (I’m going to stop worrying about the power now)
      Shane Baz = Marc Kroon (I didn’t know, either)

  • Still think lots of people are sleeping on Luplow, though I have yet to see where he is ranked in the 2018 PP book. Glad to hear he has been moved up. I am not impressed with their assessment of Keller as a #3 starter. It is fun to dream on Apostel, Cruz, and some of the other low level guys.

  • Longenhagen gets it. NH should have cashed in some chips while the window was open.

  • Fangraphs projects Keller to be a number 3 starter that generates a lot of ground balls, mostly because he lacks a 3rd pitch. It seems you are higher on him as you have him listed as a top of the rotation type to pair with Taillon. Can you provide some explanation as to why you are higher on him than Fangraphs?

    Thanks Tim.

    • Jumping on this comment too -How much of this ‘lack of 3rd pitch’ is pitching philosophy where the Pirates emphasize relying on the fastball and generating weak contact vs. swing/miss stuff?

    • It’s interesting. Baseball America says he’s in the conversation for best starting pitcher prospect in all of baseball.

  • How is Nick Kingham not on the list??

  • Did anyone else notice that the highest single future grade was for O’Neil Cruz’ arm? They gave him a fricking 80. I guess it helps when you can hand the ball to second base from SS.

    Also, I doubted Alemais had any shit at all of making it past AA, but that young man can cover some real estate at SS.

  • Watch that clip of Sherten and tell me you’re not excited.

    The Pirates don’t have three guys on the *big league* club who can leverage their swing like that.

  • They’re pretty rough on Mason Martin

    • It’s fairly accurate. He is already very strong for his age, so don’t expect more power, even though his raw power is some of the best in the system already. The defense does need work regardless of where they put him. He is the type of player who will put in that work though. He isn’t that athletic because he’s already filled out and is built for power. The one thing they leave off is his plate patience and strike zone judgement, which should help him going forward. That’s a great combo with the power. Without that, we would have him ranked about the same as they did.

  • Keller’s writeup was oddly light, but the rest of these reports are exceptionally well done.

    I’d be curious to hear where you differ with his velo reports, and what dates you took your readings.

    • The war prediction is not very generous

      • No offense to Chris Mitchell out there, but the KATOH system is less than worthless to me as a specific numerical projection. So much failure gets cooked into these translations, that I don’t find them to actually be very predictive at all.

        If Mitch Keller succeeds, he’s going to blow past 3.5 WAR. If he fails, he’s probably not going to get there at all.

  • Says Hearn’s velocity was down in the AFL. Is this because he didn’t throw from July to September?

    • It was down late, which is probably when they saw it. Tim got reports that it was 93-97 earlier in the AFL. That difference could just be him at the end of a long season. He made a September start in the GCL and was throwing for a few weeks before that game, plus he pitched in the Instructional League, so it was a long season that started back in early March.

      • Got it. Was a bit worried by “Hearn’s fastball was 90-94” (especially 90 mph) part. And that 60 grade since I thought lefty with a fastball that can touch 100 mph meant 70+ grade. Really hoping at least one of Hearn or Escobar improve their command and become a starter! 🙂

  • It seems like the Craig ranking and writeup is based solely on power. I know I read here that their FSL hitting approach deliberately depresses power output by focusing on off speed pitches and hitting fastballs the other way. Was that the case last year as well? I know we saw major power spikes from Kramer and Luplow when they moved to Altoona.

    • The Pirates do teach players things in stages, which is why you will see players take jumps in Altoona. People are quick to credit Kevin Riggs for the difference, but he is just part of those steps and at the level where everything is supposed to come together. The league doesn’t help at all for power, but someone like Craig still should have been able to reach double digits. His approach is geared towards getting on base and lacks any aggression.

      • Btw, Kevin Riggs is no longer with Altoona, right?

        • Yeah, they didn’t announce anything, but he did leave for the Phillies

          • John: The Pirates left the door open for Riggs to leave. Listening to Cora and then Ryan praise the work of Riggs in the development of hitters at AA gave me hope that maybe the organization was reading the same copy. I expect Joey Cora will also leave rather than wait 4 years for a managerial opportunity to develop in Pittsburgh.

            Overall, IMHO, Fangraphs was not very complimentary of the Pirates system for developing hitters. Nothing written specifically, but just a generally negative tenor that started with Meadows and continued with just about every hitter.

      • Thanks. I guess for me, the other peripherals are strong enough to discount the low power production. The main guys whose production slipped between FSL and the EL that I can think of are Newman and H. Ramirez. Both players that look more like they are slap hitters in the upper levels. So their production might have been boosted by the team’s FSL approach. After seeing the jump in SLG% from Kramer, Luplow and Meadows with the move to Altoona, I’m going to withhold judgement on Craig until this year.

        • You’re not going to get more power from guys who aren’t that type of hitter. Newman changed his stance this year to try to get more power from his swing, but it didn’t work.

          Ramirez was more of a line drive hitter who used the middle of the field, so that wouldn’t work for more power. I think his downfall was more injury related and his knee injury right after the trade was major. It was another leg injury for someone who already lost a couple of steps. At some point, all of those injuries can catch up to players.