John Sickels’ Top 20 Prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates

John Sickels from Minor League Ball posted his list of the top 20 prospect for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday afternoon. He includes letter grades for each player and gives his ETA and a brief write-up of each player. He has some differences from the lists we have already seen and you can see right near the top of the list that he must have been fairly high on the Gerrit Cole trade.

No surprise with the first two players on his list, which almost everyone agrees with so far. He has Mitch Keller as his only A- grade prospect, followed by Austin Meadows in the second spot. Sickels then has Colin Moran ranked third, and he sums up his profile by saying he has a chance to be a decent regular for a long time, or an excellent role player. Skipping ahead to keep with the Cole trade theme, Sickels has Jason Martin ranked as the ninth best prospect. Those are both the highest rankings I’ve seen for both prospects that the Pirates acquired from the Astros.

As for the McCutchen trade, Sickels had Bryan Reynolds rated eighth in the system and he gave Kyle Crick a C+ grade before saying that he wasn’t eligible for the list. We put Crick on our list, but he will lose his prospect status after his first appearance. That C+ grade he gave him is the same grade that everyone got in the 12-32 range, so Crick would have been somewhere in that large group.

As for some surprises, he has Kevin Newman ranked 12th in the system, which I believe is the lowest ranking so far for him. Christopher Bostick is up in 17th place. I think Bostick could be a bench player now for many teams, but I don’t see that spot right now with the Pirates, so we probably won’t see him early in the season unless a couple of spots open up. That wouldn’t affect his prospect ranking, as you’re trying to project what a guy would do if given the chance, rather than guessing whether or not he will be blocked in the system.

With Bostick, I think the bench is his upside, though he could be a versatile bench player due to his speed and ability to play multiple positions well. So 17th in the system seems a little high, but the fact that he appears to be ready for that role now should help his ranking (lower risk factor).

Sickels is another person who has Sherten Apostel on his list. As I mentioned with Keith Law’s list yesterday, we don’t rank guys anymore until they play in the U.S., so DSL players and internationals signings don’t factor into our rankings. We do however post a top ten for the DSL team, put together with a lot of input from the people who see them play, and Apostel ranked second this year. He’s a third baseman with a strong arm and erratic defense, who has power potential and a solid approach at the plate. Apostel drew a lot of walks this year, but they came at a fast rate once he started hitting homers and then wasn’t seeing pitches to hit. Between his current questionable status at third base and the fact that he doesn’t run well, his value will all be in his bat. He will need to cut down on his strikeouts to have success as he moves up the system.

If his hitting carries over into the GCL this year, then you will see Apostel debut on our mid-season top 50 update. Right now, I’d still put my money on Jean Eusebio being the top prospect from that DSL team because everyone raves over his tools and his advanced approach. I’ve talked to him numerous times and he’s a very smart kid, who will still be just 17 years old for most of this upcoming GCL season. Apostel could be the better prospect for the next 1-2 years because he’s older and has an extra year of pro ball experience, but long-term (right now) I’m higher on Eusebio.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    January 31, 2018 10:27 pm

    Will Craig doesn’t even make the top 20? A first round pick, just 2-3 years ago? You mean a non-power hitting DH isn’t a hot commodity?

  • rickmontgomery
    January 31, 2018 10:10 am

    The understatement of Sickels’ article: “some additional impact players would be nice.” Word!

    • Liked how he also thought the system was under rated or somewhat under the radar with solid depth throughout. Also good to see Mason Martin at 20.

      • WillyMoGarcia33
        January 31, 2018 11:13 am

        Saw that, and thought back to yesterday’s conversation. Put himself on the radar.

  • Have most people just given up on Craig at this point? And not having seen him play, only the injuries and not great stat lines, is Meadows actually any good?

    • Craig needs to change his approach at the plate to be interesting. He’s like Max Moroff if Max Moroff were an average fielding first baseman.

      The only thing that concerns me with Meadows is the hammies. I think he’ll hit

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        February 1, 2018 8:34 am

        Barring unforeseen circumstances, like Bell getting traded or having career ending injury, Craig doesn’t have a future in Pittsburgh. He is Matt Hague – hits for decent average, but little power and provides precious little defensively. Also, a slow runner who can clog up the bases.

        He was a terrible pick where they selected him…no one drafts a DH/1B type that high….when was the last time someone who profiled like that was drafted that high? Add in the fact that it was a NL team who selected him, you just have to wonder about this FO….

  • From Meadows part: “…but also due to inconsistent swing and hitting approach”

    What would he mean by hitting approach – any guesses? Is Meadows too aggressive? Or is it about him not lifting the ball enough? Hmm

    • Eric Marshall
      January 31, 2018 9:14 am

      I believe he is talking about his shift in approach last year that didn’t work out. Belief is that he will be coming to spring training with his old stroke/approach this year.

      • Thanks, and do you know what kind of shift it was? If there was an article about it here, I must have read it and .. forgot about it, I guess…

        • “Part of Meadows’ attempt to deal with a poor first two months was to re-work his swing as he came back from injury. He ditched the stance and stride that made him successful throughout the low minors and opened his stance up, presumably to see the ball better. Now he’s just closing off his front side before contact and getting very little from his lower half.”

          https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/top-25-prospects-pittsburgh-pirates/

          I’m sure Tim and John have more stuff on this but I seriously can’t use the search function on this site for anything worthwhile.

          • Is approach and swing/stance/stride/stroke the same thing? I assumed approach meant plate discipline, groundball, flyball, lift, and those kinds of stuffs. TIL.

            • Not specifically, but certainly intertwined.

              For best results, a player’s mechanics should mirror the manner in which they approach an at-bat. If you’re the type of payer who wants to maximize power output, your approach should be focused on attacking certain pitches in certain zones but your mechanics also must enable you to consistently put the ball in the air when you make contact on those pitches. The two can often be conflated.

              Colin Moran, for instance, has been lauded for a swing change that’s been given credit for increasing the amount of fly balls he’s hit, and that’s probably at least partially true. His swing has changed, and he did hit more fly balls. However, that increase in fly balls has been almost exclusively to the pull side and he’s spoken about altering his contact point, hitting the ball “out in front”. That’s an approach change that would also inherently result in more pulled contact in the air. How much either should be given credit, or if it even really matters, is up for debate.

              Looking forward to Tim’s work on Meadows.

          • I talked to Meadows about this a few weeks ago. I’ll have something upcoming. I think Brian had something at the end of the year.

          • thank you NMR. Knew i had read that but couldn’t find.

  • mike_carlini66
    January 31, 2018 8:19 am

    Regarding Sherten Apostel, 56 walks in 198 at bats?? Is this correct? Sounds like an advanced approach to me.

    • I think the walks are more a result of his power. In June when his SLG was only .366 he only had 8 walks in 91 PA’s. But in July when his SLG was .697 his walks jumped to 26 in 93 PA’s. Apparently some pitchers just decided they weren’t going to pitch to him any longer. To his credit he was willing to take the walks (he had another 22 in just 75 PA’s in August), though his BA did drop to .220 in August which suggests he chased some.

    • As I mentioned in the article and TNBucs broke down in his comment, the walks jumped tremendously right after the power did. I was told that he was being patient, but that just meant that he wasn’t chasing pitches out of the zone. He stopped seeing strikes and that led to the big walk total. If more teams down there allowed their pitchers to do intentional walks, he probably would have had more than five of them.

  • piraterican21
    January 31, 2018 8:12 am

    Decent regular or excellent role player, I hope we get more out of Moran than that.

    • There’s so much group think with these lists, that’s why I like Laws’s lists the most because he’s at least willing to make statements that aren’t consistent with the other outlets. No one is going to go out on a limb for Moran right now and call him a star, or even a starting third baseman.

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