Keith Law posted his list of the top 20 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday morning. We already knew his top five prospects due to his earlier rankings, but he added 15 names to that list with details for each player. He also threw in a few extra names to watch. I’ll leave out some of the details because it is a subscription article, but there are a few players I wanted to focus on.
After Mitch Keller, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Shane Baz, Austin Meadows and Kevin Newman, who all comprised the top five prospects, Law has (in order) Colin Moran, Bryan Reynolds, Cole Tucker, Steven Jennings and Conner Uselton rounding out the top ten.
The next ten in order contain one surprise omission because everyone seems high on him. From 11-20, Law has Kevin Kramer, Oneil Cruz, Nick Kingham, Taylor Hearn, Luis Escobar, Nick Burdi, Will Craig, Braeden Ogle, Sherten Apostel and Calvin Mitchell.
Apostel wasn’t eligible for our top 50 list, but he was second on our top ten prospects from the DSL behind Jean Eusebio. We don’t rank players until they play in the U.S. and we can get a look at them. Apostel ranks lower than Eusebio due to being a below average defender at third base, who has had strikeout issues and his speed is below average. Eusebio is 1 1/2 years younger and has been described as a five-tool player with an advanced approach at the plate. He doesn’t have the power of Apostel, but he should hit for some power as he gets older.
As for the surprise snub from Law, it’s Lolo Sanchez, who put up a terrific all-around season in the GCL this year, especially from a scouting standpoint. He’s been top ten for a few sources, including our own 2018 Prospect Guide (shameless plug: limited edition paperback version is for sale now until it goes to print next month, so don’t miss out). Sanchez didn’t even make Law’s extra section, so that’s quite a difference from everyone else.
Some quick notes starting with Luis Escobar, who I thought might make Law’s top 100 at the back, or possibly his just missed list. Law has been very high on him and Escobar just led all Pirates in strikeouts, as well as leading the South Atlantic League in strikeouts at 20 years old. Despite moving up a level since last year and showing some improvements, Law dropped him down in his rankings.
We have been asked a few times about our ranking on Steven Jennings, which is lower than everyone else. I can’t speak for the others on this site, but they are the ones who saw him live multiple times each, while I got scouting reports from them and many others who saw him pitch often. I agree with what Law says in his recap about the potential he has, but it’s not there currently and a lot of young pitchers fit that same exact mold. Jennings has great upside, but he’s just starting to scratch that surface and I wanted to see more from him before he ranked higher. The scouting reports were just average for him, which kept us down on our ranking.
We actually did have him five spots higher in our rankings, but off-season acquisitions pushed him down. That’s one of those things where strength of the system affects rankings. Pirates aren’t top-heavy, but they have depth. Jennings is still the same exact pitcher who was five spots higher at the beginning of last month, the farm system just got deeper.
The other wait-and-see ranking we had was Conner Uselton, who isn’t far ahead of Jennings in our book. That was more about a significant injury and lost time. Hamstrings can become lingering injuries. Uselton was also 19 already on draft day. That high school senior year is when a lot of players break out, but it means more if the guy is still 17 when he does it, as opposed to being drafted at 19 and then missing months of development time.
Both Uselton and Jennings have a chance to move up the prospect list this upcoming year. More so Uselton if he gets the push to West Virginia because Jennings is likely headed for fastball command academy in Bristol. They have a lot of room to go up, but we want to see results first before we push them that high.