Everyday in our nightly Prospect Watch article, we give daily summaries of the performances from the top 30 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The minor league season is at the 1/4th point for teams now, so it’s a good time to check to see how those top prospects are doing. While I’d still call it a small sample size, we are getting to the point where stats aren’t skewed in either direction by a really good or really poor game.
This list is from our 2018 Prospect Guide. If we were to do a top 30 now, there would obviously be some changes. Since I wanted to look at the top 30 prospects right now, I eliminated the five players who already lost their prospect status this season. Colin Moran (#8) Max Moroff (17), Edgar Santana (18), Kyle Crick (19) and Dovydas Neverauskas (26) all exceeded the guidelines (at-bats and games pitched in these instances) for being considered prospects.
Our next update to the list will be in mid-to-late July after the draft picks have all signed and we get a chance to either get a look at them in person or a better update once they are in the system.
1. Mitch Keller – He has had some shaky outings so far this season and performance-wise, has easily been the fourth best starter for Altoona. Nothing alarming though, so while he might drop a few spots on national top 100 rankings, he’s in no danger yet of dropping from the first overall spot for the Pirates.
2. Austin Meadows – Meadows has a .286/.333/.393 slash line. Those numbers (besides the average) are lower than you want to see, but he hasn’t been struggling at all. The stolen bases are there, the defense is there and he isn’t striking out often, so it hasn’t been that bad, you just want to see some more power and a little better on base.
3. Cole Tucker – Tucker is in the worst slump of his career and not much is going right so far. He played well at Altoona last year, but the return trip has been very bad. He started the season off fine, putting up an .861 OPS through 15 games. Since then he is in a 7-for-66 slide. He’s also 0-for-5 in steals after running wild last year for 47 steals.
4. Shane Baz – In Extended Spring Training (EST) and the reports are strong. We were originally told that he would join West Virginia around this time and he’s been pitching well enough to make that jump.
5. Ke’Bryan Hayes – The defense has been as advertised, but the bat hasn’t broken out yet. He has a .630 OPS and just like Tucker, he isn’t running as well as last year when he went 27-for-32 in steals. He’s 5-for-12 with two walks in his last three games, so maybe this is him beginning to warm up at the plate.
6. Kevin Newman – Had three big games over the weekend, which has pushed his numbers up close to where you would like to see them. He’s stealing some bases and playing steady defense between second base and shortstop. A few days ago, his report would have been less optimistic, so we will see if he can maintain the recent trend.
7. Taylor Hearn – Hearn has been inconsistent this year. His strikeout totals have been very good and the control is better than before, but he’s had three strong outings and three poor ones.
8. Lolo Sanchez – Sanchez has had a surprisingly awful season while jumping over two levels to West Virginia. He was hitting well during Spring Training, but once the season started, he hasn’t hit at all. He has a .486 OPS and nearly as many strikeouts this year already as his first two seasons of pro ball combined.
9. Bryan Reynolds – Injured during the fourth game of the season. Shouldn’t be too long before he returns.
10. Jordan Luplow – Had a horrible April, and is hitting the ball great since the calendar flipped to May. His current season stats are where you want him to be while he waits for a spot to open up in Pittsburgh.
11. Luis Escobar – Typical results so far from Escobar. Looks completely dominant one start, has trouble throwing strikes in the next game. The upside is there, the consistency is not.
12. Clay Holmes – Spent two weeks with the Pirates and barely pitched, then made two starts in Indianapolis and threw shutout ball. Since then he has had command issues and hasn’t put up a quality start in his last three games.
13. Braeden Ogle – Has been slowed by a minor should injury, but he was putting up solid numbers before the injury and should return soon.
14. Nick Kingham – Kingham had a terrific start to his season with Indianapolis, earning a start for the Pirates. Had a career game in his debut, then a mediocre second start before returning to the minors. He is in line to make a start for the Pirates on May 19th, then we will see from there.
15. Kevin Kramer – Has a .789 OPS through 32 games and is splitting his time between shortstop and second base. Isn’t Major League ready yet, but isn’t far off either.
16. Adrian Valerio – Got off to a slow start at the plate, but the numbers are creeping back up to respectable levels. Defense has been solid as usual and he’s running a little more often than in the past, which is a nice positive.
17. Calvin Mitchell – Mitchell was the top hitter in the system in April, but he has really cooled off since the start of May with a .538 OPS in 12 games.
18. Oneil Cruz – Cruz has basically maintained his prospect status by putting up some decent power numbers, while also struggling with strikeouts. The shortstop experiment isn’t working so far, as he committed his 15th error of the season on Monday.
19. Nick Burdi – At Pirate City rehabbing from Tommy John surgery
20. Dario Agrazal – Has been the best pitcher in the Eastern League so far, leading in both ERA and WHIP. His strikeout totals are low, but he picked it up in his last start.
21. JT Brubaker – Has dominated this season at Altoona, then got promoted to Indianapolis and threw six shutout innings, so you could say things are going well.
22. Will Craig – He’s showing slightly more power than in the past, but it’s coming with more strikeouts and a lower OBP. His better conditioning has shown on the bases and with his footwork in the field.
23. Stephen Alemais – When you factor in his defense, Alemais had a semi-decent jump to Double-A after barely playing a half season of A-ball at two levels last year. That was until the calendar hit May and he has put up a .213 OPS in his last ten games.
24. Jason Martin – Best hitter in the system right now. He’s making a push to climb well up this chart. We will see how that plays out in two months when we re-rank them.
25. Brandon Waddell – Has been just as strong on the mound as anyone so far and looks like he is ready for the jump to Indianapolis. Didn’t look good in relief on Monday after Kingham started, but it’s hard to fault someone struggling a little in an unfamiliar role.
26. Eduardo Vera – Has looked very well this season so far except a low strikeout rate. He’s been a very effective pitcher though, and could move up to Altoona soon.
27. Mason Martin – In a bit of a slump recently, but he’s skipping two levels and holding his own overall with a .770 OPS. Still learning first base.
28. Conner Uselton – In EST, with solid reports about his hitting down there.
29. Cody Bolton – In EST making four inning starts. Reports have been strong.
30. Steven Jennings – In EST making four inning starts now after dealing with a rib injury early in spring. Reports have been mixed.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates were off yesterday. They begin a quick two-game set against the Chicago White Sox today. The Pirates will send Trevor Williams to the mound for his ninth start. He went five innings against the White Sox in his last start, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks. The White Sox scheduled starter is right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who allowed two runs over 7.1 innings against the Pirates in his last start. He has a 2.44 ERA in 44.1 innings this season, with 31 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP.
The minor league schedule includes Mitch Keller trying to bounce back from his last start when he was knocked out in the fifth inning after giving up four runs on nine hits and three walks, with just one strikeout. Bradenton will send Eduardo Vera to the mound in game one of their doubleheader after a rain out yesterday. He has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts, pushing it to seven innings on three occasions. No starter has been announced yet for the second game, but James Marvel was originally scheduled for the day. Domingo Robles goes for West Virginia. He walked four batters in a game for the first time since his fourth game as a pro back in 2015. Indianapolis starter Alex McRae has a 1.69 home ERA and a 9.42 road ERA.
MLB: Pittsburgh (23-17) vs White Sox (10-27) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (3.13 ERA, 29:20 SO/BB, 46.0 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (17-16) @ Norfolk (19-15) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (5.34 ERA, 24:16 SO/BB, 30.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (18-16) vs Richmond (20-16) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (3.44 ERA, 30:17 SO/BB, 34.0 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (19-16) vs Daytona (22-13) 4:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (2.55 ERA, 23:8 SO/BB, 44.0 IP) and TBD
Low-A: West Virginia (21-14) @ Lakewood (20-16) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (3.82 ERA, 30:9 SO/BB, 33.0 IP)
From Sunday’s action, Jason Martin hitting his fourth homer…
and Austin Meadows doubles home Kevin Newman
5/14: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Altoona. Jackson Williams assigned to Morgantown.
5/14: Josh Harrison assigned to Altoona on rehab.
5/12: Joe Musgrove assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
5/10: JT Brubaker promoted to Indianapolis. Nick Kingham assigned to Altoona
5/10: Sergio Cubilete activated from disabled list. Jacob Taylor placed on West Virginia disabled list.
5/9: Brett McKinney placed on the Indianapolis disabled list
5/8: Pirates recall Jose Osuna
5/7: Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis
5/7: Sam Street released
5/7: Wyatt Mathisen promoted to Indianapolis. Logan Ratledge assigned to Altoona.
5/7: Joe Musgrove assigned to Altoona.
5/5: Braeden Ogle placed on West Virginia disabled list. Gavin Wallace activated from DL.
5/4: Pedro Vasquez promoted to Altoona. Sean Keselica assigned to Morgantown.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a pitcher who played nine seasons for the team, and the franchise’s first 20-game winner. Also on this date, Roberto Clemente had a huge game in Cincinnati.
On this date in 1967, Clemente went 4-for-5 with three homers and drove in seven runs. The Pirates scored seven runs on the day and lost 8-7 in ten innings, despite one of the best games of his entire career. He would have another three home run game near the end of the 1969 season and the Pirates won that game by a 10-5 score. You can find the boxscore of the 1967 game here.
Among the players born on this date, Al McBean played for the 1961-68 Pirates, then after playing for the Padres and Dodgers, he returned to Pittsburgh during the 1970 season. He pitched in 376 games for the Pirates, 75 as a starter. McBean won 65 times and picked up 59 saves for Pittsburgh. He had a 3.08 ERA in 1,016 innings.
Harry Salisbury, 1882 pitcher who won 20 games during the first season of the franchise. He started 38 games and pitched 38 complete games. That not only ended up being his only season with the team, it was his last season in the big leagues.
Also born on this date, outfielder Jimmy Wasdell (1942-43) and 1916 shortstop Jimmy Smith. Wasdell was one of four players acquired from the Dodgers in the Arky Vaughan deal at the end of 1941. He hit .259 over 122 games in 1942, then was sold to the Phillies after four early season pinch-hit appearances in 1943. Smith split time at shortstop with Honus Wagner at the beginning of the 1916 season. Wagner would play first base at times, while Smith took his spot at shortstop. After hitting .188 through early June, Smith was sent to the minors.