Baseball America continued their rankings of the top prospects by position on Thursday morning, going with corner outfielders this time. For the fourth straight list this week, the Pittsburgh Pirates had two players ranked among the best.

Here are the previous articles from this series (click on the name):

C/1B: Mason Martin

2B: Kevin Kramer

SS: Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker

3B: Ke’Bryan Hayes and Colin Moran

CF: Austin Meadows and Lolo Sanchez

As for the corner outfield list, BA gives the group a four star ranking (out of five) which is better than the center field class and only trails the shortstop class. The list goes 30 deep and includes 12 players who are among the top 100 prospects in the game. They have newly-acquired Bryan Reynolds in the 21st spot and Jordan Luplow is ranked 25th.

Luplow got some competition recently with the Pirates about to sign Daniel Nava (deal still isn’t official yet). It appeared that Luplow, Jose Osuna and Max Moroff would be battling for the final two bench spots before Nava, but now it appears that those three will compete for one spot. That could change obviously due to a trade or injury of course, but it looks like Luplow will be fighting for an Opening Day bench spot at this point.

Reynolds hasn’t played above High-A ball yet, so expect him to be in Altoona this year. It’s unlikely he will make the same jump that Luplow did this past year because the Pirates rarely make that jump. There aren’t many recent cases where a player went from no Double-A time to 41 days in the majors in the same year, at least not in Pittsburgh.

Fangraphs Projects Future WAR

Fangraphs released their KATOH top 100 prospects list on Thursday morning and it’s filled with Pirates. This is their projection system for prospects and their potential WAR over their first six seasons in the majors.

The WAR numbers seem very low for the top of the list, with the best player getting 13.3 WAR by the time he hits free agency. That seems unrealistic that none of them project to be better than 2.2 WAR per year and most are well under 1 WAR average. Many of the players on the list will finish with low WAR numbers obviously, plus some won’t make the majors, but if you use Starling Marte as a comparison, he has 23.3 WAR and less than five years of service time. Jordy Mercer would be one of the top 25 prospects with a year left to still pick up some WAR.

So instead of giving the numbers, I’m just going to note the Pirates and their spot on the list. If you want to check out the WAR rankings in the link up top, just be ready for everyone to be rated low.

18. Ke’Bryan Hayes

19. Cole Tucker

27. Austin Meadows

46. Mitch Keller

57. Jacob Stallings

73. Lolo Sanchez

89. Colin Moran

Mason Martin didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the list, but he WAR projection would put him 63rd on the list. Stallings is one that actually seems like a realistic upside. They give him a 5.0 WAR. If he got in six seasons of MLB ball, then I could see his defense being strong enough to get him around that number, while his offense would limit him from being any higher. I should note that I don’t expect him to get six years of service time in the majors, but I could see him doing it if he ends up with a team that has a strong/reliable starting catcher ahead of him.

Projection systems seem to favor Cole Tucker as we are seeing recently, while Mitch Keller seems to be rated low. I think that’s the difference between scouting stats and using both stats and actually scouting.

Regardless of what you think of the WAR rating, it has to make fans happy to see eight Pirates get mentioned in the article.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Confused on how Reese McGuire would be listed under “Small Sample” Darlings. He has been playing as long as Meadows…

    • Alright, I did some research. KATOH appears to only use the previous year’s stats. So:
      – McGuire didn’t have enough plate appearances to validate his power surge. And they didn’t leverage any of his historical inability to hit HRs.
      – That means Stallings is only being judged based off of his surprising (hitting) year in 2017
      – It also demonstrates why Moran is so high since he had a very good 2017 (and apparently it was good enough to compensate for the PCL)

  2. Osuna, Luplow, and Moroff all waiting to play the musical chairs game? The more things change for the Pirates, the more they stay the same. Just glad to see re-treads like Rodriguez and Nava brought in to absorb two active roster spots.

  3. “The WAR numbers seem very low for the top of the list, with the best player getting 13.3 WAR by the time he hits free agency. That seems unrealistic that none of them project to be better than 2.2 WAR per year and most are well under 1 WAR average.”

    That is because they are averages and most prospects don’t make it. So when you average a good player with a bunch of zeros, you get low numbers. Nothing that mysterious.

  4. Seems like we have a good number of guys in the top rankings by position. How does that reconcile with our minor league system being ranked middle of the road? Is it all about the flash of guys in the Top 100 and their perceived upside or do these “experts” analyze it more than that. Seems to me that we have to be in the top 25% with these rankings by position.

    • Ever spent any time looking at the hit rates of these positional lists?

      SS and CF go deep, but rarely do you get more than a handful of successes past the top handful of spots at the corners and catcher. Being the #9 first baseman or whatever, historically, has been relatively meaningless.

  5. So let me get this straight. Some individual, or group of individuals, developed a system to predict the future, crunched some numbers, and published for the world to see that Mitch Keller will have a slightly better first 6 years of his career than Jacob Stallings?!!!!

    Just wow.

    • I’m going to link this post every time someone complains about so-and-so not being highly ranked and cites their stats as evidence.

      This sort of projection is *literally* scouting the stat line, and the reaction easily explains why any evaluator will explicitly tell you not to do so.

      That being said, this sets up a fascinating experiment for Pirate fans.

      Outside of Meadows and Keller, almost all of these kids – along with Luplow and Moroff from previous KATOH runs – roughly fit into the “failed” Huntington low upside development strategy.

      Their ability to translate what are perceived to be mediocre tools onto the big league stage should actually tell us quite a bit about how relevant this sort of “scouting the stat line” projection type really is.

      • So, how does KATOH work with guys that won’t be in the majors next season? Are we counting 0,0 WAR for Keller in 2018 + 5 more years of ML. Or, do the projections start at 2019 and count 6 years from there?
        In other words, would a player’s projected KATOH WAR be docked b/c he is in the low minors. I noted that Victor Robles was pretty low on the list as well BTW.
        (I responded to NMR but John and Tim please feel free to chime in).

        • From what I understand, KATOH projects the first five years of a player’s career with a floating baseline of the year they debut.

      • I suppose I shouldn’t be so critical of this particular list, and these particular authors. God knows they’re much smarter than me.

        Baseball lends itself to being dissected 6 ways to Sunday. Some methods of examination are clearly of more value than others. And this list illustrates this point, in my opinion.

        • Brian Cartwright often comments over at BucsDugout and has his own proprietary projection system that he often cites.

          While I often disagree with the process and results, I give him a massive amount of credit for one, being able to put such a thing together, and two, being willing to share said projections publicly which obviously opens his work up to critique. Where scouting has rough grades that can be sort of judged for accuracy by translating certain statistics, these projections are black and white.

      • if nothing else, it at least encourages us to challenge preconceived notions about a guy like… in this case…. stallings.

        For example, i never realized he had such a good year in AAA last year! Maybe something like Katoh would encourage a scout to re-evaluate… or even evaluate for the first time… stallings’ hit tool.

        Heck… that makes for one more good year in AAA than Elias Diaz has ever had.

        I’m now unconvinced that Elias Diaz is the better player.

  6. I’m higher on Stallings than others. I think the kid can play and really liked the adjustments with the bat last year.
    I think he has a chance at a starting role at some point.

    • The big problem is his age. They say players reach their peak between 28-32. He’s 28 already with ten MLB games. As a catcher, it’s tough to predict him getting THAT much better that he can start somewhere.

      • He seems like an odd inclusion on this list. It would seem like more upper level relievers would made this list. If these are guys that have like a 95% chance of being a 1 WAR/year player. Future backup catchers and relievers would be all over this list.

      • If a player hits the majors at a young age his peak performance years, age 28-32, may be missed by his initial team that has him for before he is in free agency – for instance Barry Bonds or Aramis Ramirez. The first 6 year WAR won’t reflect the player’s ultimate production. The next 6 years may reflect the maximum WAR of Jacob Stallings’ career while if Mitch Keller has any difficulty adjusting to the Major leagues, at a younger age, his first 6 years may not be indicative of his total career with respect to WAR.

  7. I thought Reynolds was going to be given a chance to stick at center? Is this just BA projecting otherwise or am I wrong?

    • Pirates haven’t talked about moving him. I could see them using him in all three outfield spots, just so he is ready to play wherever he is needed.

    • Yeah. I put the explanation so people wouldn’t just look at this list and say the best they will get is a 1.3 WAR per year player out of all of these prospects. The list really isn’t that useful as far as WAR, but it works better as a ranking from 1-100. If you just looked it at by their WAR numbers, the entire list would be disappointing. I don’t think any Braves fan would be satisfied if that’s how Acuna actually turned out.

      • True. I would have been disappointed if I didn’t know Acuna (#1) ‘s projected KATOH WAR was just 13.3 WAR 🙂 Then I remembered reading an article about how they calculate these and was relieved.

        Stallings is a surprise, but I guess he’s ranked so high because he has lower bust % than Lolo or Moran even if his max WAR outcome % is lower than them.

        • I didn’t expect to see Stallings on the list, but as far as prospects reaching their upside goes, he’s as safe as there is right now. His upside is a backup and I’m sure he could do that somewhere in the majors right now.

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