Fangraphs released their list of the top 100 prospects and they have some major differences from the other top 100 lists that have been posted this off-season. This is the first list to have five Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s also the first list that has included Cole Tucker and Colin Moran.
As with every other list, Mitch Keller is the top prospect for the Pirates. Fangraphs has him 23rd, which is the lowest ranking so far. In their description for Keller, they mention how bad his changeup is and how that could hold him back. As we have mentioned here multiple times, Keller came up with a new changeup grip late in the season and he noted that he had a lot of success with the pitch in the playoffs, using it often. He continued to work on the pitch in the Fall Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League, so that information may have helped Keller rank up where he is for everyone else, which is the 12-18 range.
Austin Meadows was next up, which has been true of every prior list except Keith Law, who had Meadows as the fourth best prospect in the system. Fangraphs has him ranked 47th, which is one spot below his average ranking on the previous four lists. If you averaged out the five lists now, he would still average out at 48th spot.
Next up is the first surprise ranking. Colin Moran ranks 53rd on this new list and Fangraphs explains it by noting that Moran made a change to his swing to unlock more power, without sacrificing his natural hitting ability. Most people are in the wait-and-see mode with him because his first show of power came while repeating the level and playing in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. The problem with that thinking is that he already has 34 at-bats in the majors, so by the time we find out whether or not the power translates to the majors, he won’t be considered a prospect anymore. So anyone who believes it’s legit would rank him higher than someone waiting to see if it’s legit.
Three spots after Moran on the list is Ke’Bryan Hayes, who makes his second appearance on a top 100 list. Keith Law had him ranked 61st, while both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline noted that he just missed their lists. Fangraphs calls Hayes a plus-plus defender, who projects to be an above average regular, although they give him a higher ceiling.
The final spot goes to Cole Tucker, which gives the Pirates five of the top 74 prospects on the list. Fangraphs seemed to go a little light on Tucker’s defense, calling him a potential average defender. I would have agreed with that going into 2017, but he really improved as the season went along and by the end of the regular season with Altoona, he was making above average plays daily.
This was the second list that Shane Baz didn’t make this off-season. He was ranked 65th by Law, 67th by Pipeline and 96th by Baseball Prospectus.
ZiPS is Kind to the Pirates
Dan Szymborski does ZiPS for all 30 teams in the majors, which is a stats projection system for the upcoming season. Szymborski posted his list of the top 100 prospects for 2018 season, which he compares to Keith Law’s list in his article. Here’s his description of this list and why it differs from all of the lists referenced above:
“The ZiPS projection system is data-driven, so the names here will not necessarily match the names you see on a more scout-driven list. Which is fine, computers are great at sorting through large amounts of data, not scouting players, and what the data say provides a well-rounded look at a player in addition to the stats.”
That means that there is no adjustment for scouting, which would obviously make the list a lot different. His projections work better with players who already have stats in the majors as opposed to projecting what someone at a lower level could do if everything works out. With that in mind, here are his top prospects for the Pirates and their spots on the top 100 list:
28. Austin Meadows
50. Cole Tucker
77. Ke’Bryan Hayes
78. Mitch Keller
86. Kevin Newman
92. Colin Moran
I’m not going to critique the list because it’s strictly data-driven, eliminating the human element of scouting. If you like the ZiPS projection, then this list is for you.