The Athletic and ESPN both released prospect rankings on Wednesday morning. Kiley McDaniel rated the top prospects from all 15 National League teams, while Keith Law rated the top 20 prospects for each NL Central team, posting each team individually.
Starting with Law, where we already knew his top five Pirates prospects in order due to his top 100 prospects list from last week. In order, he had Termarr Johnson, Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez, Quinn Priester and Bubba Chandler.
The rest of his top ten consisted of Anthony Solometo, Mike Burrows, Liover Peguero, Nick Gonzales and Malcom Nunez. Luis Ortiz ranks 11th and Ji-hwan Bae is 12th.
I won’t go into full details, as it is a subscription site, but I will note that he expands beyond 20 players with some players that intrigue him outside of the top 20. He also had Axiel Plaz in the top 20, which is interesting, but appears to be based on DSL stats adding intrigue.
I feel I need to stress that we did a deep dive around this time last year into the correlation of strong stats in the DSL and future success (aka just reaching the majors) and the two had nothing to do with each other, both for pitchers and hitters. A guy who slugged 1.000 in the DSL, had the same chances of making it as a random guy who had a mediocre or below average OPS.
As someone who has followed the league closely for as long as boxscores from the league were available, it was a disappointing discovery, but good to know as well. Do not scout DSL boxscores.
Scouting reports are much more important, which is still good for the case of Plaz, as he was considered an advanced defensive player, with a chance to become a solid hitter with some power. He wasn’t a huge bonus guy, but he was among the top bonuses in his signing class, so he is a prospect to watch from that league. I talked to one of the coaches about him near the end of the season and I got the sense that he still had a lot to work on to become a legit top prospect.
As with the rankings for The Athletic, the rankings for ESPN aren’t a complete surprise. We already knew that Termarr Johnson, Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis were 1-2-3 in the system. We also knew that Quinn Priester, Ji-hwan Bae and Liover Peguero were the 4-6 group, though the order was unknown.
Here’s the rest of the top ten in order: Priester, Peguero, Bae, Chandler, Ortiz, Burrows and Travis Swaggerty.
This is also a subscription article, so I won’t go into full details, but I do have some notes. The list here is based on Future Value, so 17 players are in order at the top, all at least 40+ FV. For reference, an elite prospect like Termarr Johnson is a 55 FV on his list.
Nick Gonzales did not make the top 17 here. He’s among the next tier of players, putting him somewhere in the 18-30 range. I don’t know if that group goes in order, but it might because it’s not alphabetical or by position, so he could rank 21st. That’s an assumption based on not seeing a pattern from the list.
The 40 FV group also includes Jun-Seok Shim, the recent signing from South Korea. He’s joined in that group by Po-Yu Chen and Tsung-Che Cheng, which looks good for the Pirates focus on Asia. You can throw Bae in that group as well.
Thomas Harrington is ranked as a potential breakout prospect among the top 13 prospects on the list (all 45 FV or better players).
Carlos Jimenez didn’t get a single mention on either list, which is shocking to me. I saw enough of him, as did everyone else on the site, to know he’s a legit high upside prospect. Maybe he turns into a reliever, but most of the pitchers in the system also have that risk. What they don’t have is his elite changeup, to go along with a potential plus breaking ball and a mid-90s fastball. The thing that keeps him from being a top ten prospect in the system now is command (control at times), which is why he has that reliever risk, but he will still play a majority of the 2023 season at 20 years old.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Ya seeing Plaz and Silvera on a lot of Pirates Top Prospects lists was surprising. I get it but I wouldn’t give any international prospects a “top prospect” ranking(top 30 in the system) except for the big bonus babies and top rated signees(I.E Shalin Polonco, Yordany DLS, Tony Blanca Jr, Raymond Mola and Jun-SeokShim). Just because those players tend to get pushed faster and given the best opportunities.
I can’t imagine putting Plaz or Silvera ahead of Yordany(a power hitting MI) or Shalin(a power hitting CF) on any Pirates Top Prospects list.
I get it though; 99% of these websites or “scouts” are just “stat line scouting”. But I’ve learned to listen to people smarter than me and most(including John) reiterated the sentiments in this article.
Scouting reports matter more than production in the lower levels of the minors and the DSL/FCL. Development isn’t always linear and is never “one size fits all”. And production plus a good scouting report is when you want to buy in the most.
And pitching is even harder to scout just by stat lines. It’s more important to work on and dial your stuff in at the lower levels. Good stuff, good control will trump production.
Once pitchers(or hitters) get to High A, AA, and AAA production does start to matter more though. And most of these DSL guys that everyone is drooling over won’t even make it to AA. See A.Mojia, G.Planchart, to name acouple recent ones.
Along with scouting reports I’ve learned to look more at the number of AB given in the DSL/FCL. It tends to show how highly the prospect is thought of by the organization.
I would be more inclined to be excited for a prospect like Daje Morales than Plaz or Silvera.
Morales is a 17 year old, switch-hitting MI that was given the 2nd most AB, 155(just 3 behind Eduardo Oviedo’s 158AB), for the Pirates DSL Black team. And 4th most AB between both Pirates DSL teams. Behind only Yordany(190 AB), Isaias Dipre(174 AB), and Eduardo Oviedo(158 AB).
good stuff bob.
I am curious as to how truly independent these player ratings are. Where or who do the raters get their information from? Do they independently scout all the players or do they go to each organization and ask them for input? I doubt the raters see all these players and come to their conclusions without some independent help. I like to see what they think but do not live or die on their opinions. Remember Priester was a number one starter before last year and then they discovered his fastball was a bit to straight.
I’m not sure I’ve ever really heard that Priester had that kind of ceiling. Maybe when he was drafted, but you could say that about many first round prep arms when they’re drafted. And that’s just if everything goes right.
FG’s write up before last season says he’s tracking like a mid rotation starter. Seems right on target to me.
Think back to the halcyon days of disinfecting your groceries, wearing stupid face shields, and having nothing else to do but read overwhelmingly fluffed scouting reports from alternate training sites.
The top dogs went nuts over Priester for a very brief period, and then they started playing actual games again…
Christ, now that you mention it I do remember DK talking about that.
I take all of those lists with a grain of salt. Especially kids at the lower level since there’s way too many variables that can affect their growth in the game. And with a lot of those lists, the guys making them are using third-party opinions, word-of-mouth info, out-of-date info, and do not have semi-daily direct knowledge of the player(s) in question. That’s why I would never trust something I see from ESPN or the Athletic because they have general knowledge of all the teams, but not in-depth knowledge of each, like this site provides, since people like John, the author, lives, eats, and breathes this organization’s team and players.
The other side of that coin, though, is those lists provide a solid reality check. All of us here are Bucs fans, and thus, we tend to think lots of these guys will be the best versions of themselves. It’s easy to do because we’re all fans. But how often does that happen with all the prospects? How many guys have we seen flash stuff like Luis Escobar or hit like Mojica and then fizzle out? There are a lot more examples like that than Ronald Acuna.
I love this site for the in depth coverage on my favorite team and their prospects. If there’s a legit breakout of a prospect, we’ll likely hear about it right here first.
But the other sites offer a much higher view of the industry; where we stack up, how good our guys actually look, who looks like a solid regular vs a star, etc. I think they’re both useful resources as a fan.
Plaz was Baseball America’s deep cut sleeper as well, and none of these outlets care about DSL stats.
Remember when Pirate fans were triggered that manchild Al Mojica didn’t get any list love after beating up kids in the DSL?
Law specifically mentioned his stats, which is why I mentioned the stats/research. I’ve also seen him as a top ten prospect from fans who have never seen him before, but saw his stats, so it was worth mentioning.
I used to do a combined ranking based on stats/scouting report/bonus, but now DSL stats are almost worthless to me. If someone has a 50% strikeout rate, I’ll take notice, or if they are crushing the ball like Plaz, I’ll inquire, but the scouting report is still the most important thing by far at this point in their career. Javier Rivas was the worst qualified hitter in the DSL in 2021, yet he stood out in extended ST this year and the season. His scouting report said he had the potential we saw in 2022, his DSL numbers said he should have been released.
A recent podcast from an Orioles prospect guy had some interesting discussion re: Plaz
DSL dudes rarely draw my attention, but I’m curious…
Big Al was like the dude who only used the big red wiffle ball bat. And then he wasn’t allowed to anymore.
My take on Luis Heredia as well, fwiw.
A 6’6″ 200+ lb 14 yo who had already maxed out against kids half his size.
“Once upon a time” … I thought the sheer number of credible prospects would guarantee solid long-term middle infielders for the Pirates. A year ago, it seemed they were ‘lousy’ with them. Except for Cruz, who’s a subpar fielder, and Johnson, who’s a few years away, the Pirate mid-infield prospects may have plummeted. Unfortunately, if Reynolds is lost, the outfield could be in a similar situation. There are many ‘ifs’ on this team.
On the other hand … like spring training stats, minor league performance is not always indicative of major league success. Perhaps a few underperforming players will ‘figure it out.’ The only way to know is to free them of minor league ‘tinkering,’ and audition them in ‘the show.’
I’ll still argue the perception of a declining system is a function of analyst behavior and nothing to do with their actual player development.
Ben Cherington bet his rebuild trades on mostly kids a million miles from the show with nothing but potential at a time when scouts drastically altered their value preferences towards these types. The system’s “strength” was always in large part due to this change in evaluation; Peguero and Malone and Head and Escotto etc etc etc were never “good” prospects in any traditional sense.
Huntington’s systems had a slow build to #1 in baseball in spite of mostly being intact for years simply because analysts used to wait for a much longer track record of performance before assigning high value to a prospect. They do the polar opposite now; shove a kid up a list and then drop him when their wild-ass guesses do not become reality.
Amen dude. It reminds me of a Mel Kiper mock draft. Put everybody in any reasonable draft spot and say you were right when you hit on a few. Then preach about the few predictions you had correct to prove you know your crap.
Strongly agree, good points. They’re going wild on guys just drafted & with little milb experience only at lower levels. Then by the time they get to AA & don’t lead the league in OPS or K/9, they’re off the top 100 lists.
I’ve gotten to the point that I stop paying to much attention to lower level guys, since Greensboro is a joke I have started to pay attention to AA and up. Kind of suck since I’ve a subscription to MiLB TV going on my third year…..
I called this the Great Prospect Inflation of 2020.
Yes, I do crack myself up. 😉
It does feel like analysts get a tad carried away these days. I wonder who’s a ripe candidate in baseball now to get that roller coaster treatment. My guess is Chourio in the Brewers system.
People thought he’d be good and gave him the MVP award
He’s no good now
Cody Bellinger was legitimately good or outstanding through 2020 (although that 19 certainly seemed like an outlier). Then he got hurt and either wasn’t able to fully recover or something happened with his swing.
Either way, Bellinger was (may still be!) a good MLB player. I think NMR was referring more to prospects who spike way up on overall prospect lists, not MLB players.
For being no good, Bellinger still would have been fourth in WAR on the 22 Bucs.
I wonder if those same things happen to minor league players 🙂
They didn’t *give* Bellinger anything. He deserved his MVP. Yellich (although not quite the drop) is similar.
MLB history is full of guys who performed at a high level for a short time and then for one reason or another either dropped to average or worse players. See Bob Horner, Dave Hollins, Bobby Tolan, Morgan Ensberg, Shane Mack, Edgardo Alfonzo, Kelly Gruber, Lloyd Moseby come to mind off the top of my head.
Agree. He just not nearly as good as he was when he was healthy as noted by Arky
Lists are good for conversation. Not much else.
Once you get past the Top five or so, prospects can land anywhere depending on the evaluator.
Which is why I still prefer Tim’s Tiers.
I tend to like Keith Law more after watching his “conversation” with Brian Kenny, self-appointed keeper of the gate at the HOF. They were discussing Jeff Kent, a BK favorite, but Law was having none of it and made it quite clear.
Anybody following the Pirates and their stacked prospects at the upper levels has to prepare for trades that will include Gonzales, Bae, or Peguero, or possibly even 2 of that 3. All have decent trade value.
IMO, Bae is possibly the best all around 2B/Util guy in the system, with Castro equal too or a little behind Bae. If Cruz has a better year at SS and at the plate, the Pirates are set in the infield for at least the next 2 or 3 years. That includes my expectation that Malcom Nunez will earn 1B by the trade deadline.
I couldn’t disagree with you more about 2b.
I couldn’t disagree more with your disagreement. I’m in 100% alignment with emj here
And that’s fine!
After para 1, it’s basically 2 paragraphs of hyperbole.
The Law piece could be subtitled, “I want to believe.” Which I do.
On Peguero, the Hanson comp is scary, for good reason.
Jimenez I think suffers from Radar Gun Derangement Syndrome. Apparently it’s no longer possible to have outstanding stuff and not hit 98.
I don’t know man, Solo barely breaks 90 after a few innings and gets shoved up lists ahead of Ortiz pumping 100 with a plus or better slider.
I never got the Jimenez love on this site, but I also think an absurd number of dudes have disgusting stuff anymore. I don’t know how scouts differentiate most from one another, period. Everybody shoves.
I’d more or less reverse Ortiz and Solo. I’m much more interested, though, in the writeups than the rankings. You (the generic “you”) can have a guy with ceiling/floor of #3 /#5, and another with #2 /BP, and you can rank them however you want, and I won’t likely argue. I’m far more interested in the ceiling and the discussion of how they might reach it.
I think you’re underselling Solo, though. He just turned 20, he had little trouble with full season ball without pitching below that level, he has a difficult motion for hitters, and he has plenty of projection. Worrying that he’s not vaporizing the guns now doesn’t make sense to me.
With Jimenez, it’s simple. Plenty of pitchers at that level do not have changeups like his. Hardly any do.
Yeah I have plenty of interest in Solo’s upside, just using him as a point of comparison here given your velo assumption.
Very much agree the grades and reports are far more interesting than the ranks.
How really do you rank, on the same scale, a guy who’s appeared in the majors and shown the ability to blow away ML hitters and a guy who’s thrown 47 pro innings? Just saying “ceiling” doesn’t explain it.
Sorry, but I keep thinking about this. I like both Ortiz and Solo a lot, obviously. But they have the same “ceiling,” which is probably a #3 , mayyyybee a #2 if we really squint. But Ortiz has basically one big “if,” which is doing something about LH hitters. Solo still needs to realize some of his projection. He needs to get through three more MiL levels without getting derailed by injury. He needs to build stamina. And . . . well . . . we don’t know for certain exactly how well his stuff will play as he moves up, which is automatically a question with a lower level pitcher. So what exactly is the basis for ranking Solo higher?
Very interesting and knowledgeable discussion by you both. Fans, scouts, and probably all of us have some of that velocity disease – it’s nice if a pitcher knows what to do with that velo.
The Changeup is truly a finesse pitch and can be just as devastating as a triple digit FB. Command has to be plus, and it has to be paired with a FB nearing at least the mid-90’s. Jimenez is still very young, and probably could need a dedicated diet and exercise program during the off-season?
With Jiminez it’s not the FB
His stuff is visually appealing
I don’t see anything wrong with his stuff
This line was from his first game as a 20 y/o
I disagree, and it appears so do most.
Like I said, they all look filthy to me! He just does not come close to standing out. Good cambio, absolutely.
I wonder what the folks at Fangraphs will think of him
It would be cool to see a Devin Williams comp
I think I excitedly threw out an airbender tag the first time Anthony posted a video, but it’s crazy that Williams almost doubles the amount of spin on the pitch compared to Jimenez.
Visually comparable, but getting it done in different ways?
I am going to be honest I think Peguero is another Alen Hanson. I just don’t see it with him. I am still very high on Gonzales. I just think he’s gonna be a stud and surprise a lot of people. Also, I think Endy and Davis are gonna be studs. So I think there are stars here. You could see a team with Reynolds, Cruz, Gonzales, Davis and Rodriguez (all consistent all stars). I think they all need to just stay healthy and this team could be fun the next few years.
9. Nicky G
This may be a very deep system, but I really don’t see any star level prospects here. Maybe Termarr, but dude is a long way away. I’ll wait until he rakes in Altoona. I think the arms have better breakout potential than the bats. I don’t think Endy is going to be this huge star that many in these rooms thinks. I could see similar value as Cervelli had with the Pirates. Not quite 5.9 fWAR good like Cervelli had in 2015, but 2-3 fWAR should be attainable.
The star has to be Oneil Cruz. If Cruz puts up monster seasons and guys like Endy, Hayes, Peggy, Davis, Swaggerty, etc can put up 2-3 WAR seasons, you have a chance. Then again, the pitching is going to need to click, and I do like the arms, especially if they can draft a unit 1-1 to anchor the rotation.
Yeah I’m feeling this view overall. Good pieces on MLB level, but not many stars if any. Even Endy who I like a lot looks more like an above average regular, maybe a fringe AS if it all breaks right in a season for him (kinda like Marte). The rest, not so much. Of course this can all change in six months; maybe Sol is hitting 98, Davis is raking, Lonnie White plays a dozen games. Anything is possible.
I like Ortiz but I’m not sure I’m as high as you are on him. The one I’m really excited for to fly high is Bubba.
If Endy has a Marte type career in terms of WAR, I’m ecstatic.
We’re talking 35 fWAR in a decade.
I’m high on Ortiz because my eyes saw him blow Major League hitters away with plus, plus stuff.
He’s not refined as he needs to work on his bb’s and really needs a change to get lefties out. If he can get those 2 issues under control…W.T.F.O
I should have clarified; I didn’t mean Marte’s long career because I don’t think that should ever be the expectation, but that type of player at peak (3-4.5 wins per season, but never more than that). Also he’s a catcher so it makes it more difficult for him.
As for Ortiz, I’d add the gopher ball issue as something to keep your eyes on too. If he gets a viable change, I think that helps with the walks and homers. If he doesn’t, make him a Josh Hader out of the pen.
Starling marte has 6 seasons over 4 WAR AND 3 over 5. Lumping players together from 3-4.5 as a group is too broad a range. 4.5 is a big WAR number we should never be disappointed to see.
A starling Marte career is a win for any player in our system. Even Cruz, despite hoping for more.
I’m using fWAR where Marte’s numbers are in that range. On FG he only has one five win season. A 3-4.5 range isn’t too broad and that’s not the overall point anyway. The point is I see a guy like Endy ending (heh) up as a plus regular fringe all star type if all works out.
Lonnie White plays a dozen games
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here . . . .
I feel the same way about expecting more arms than bats breaking out this season, disagree on Endy and I’m glad to see Ortiz included in your list.
I’m way high on Ortiz. He went into Yankee Stadium vs that lineup and made them look silly. His upside is through the roof.
What do you project with Endy? I’m real curious on this.
Endy has hit at every level and in a small sample size in the highest level last season (actually hit better). His defense is above average with perhaps a chance to get better, not a clog on the bases. First full season around high 3 WAR. Between 4-5 after. A star.
Nice. I just don’t see the power there for him to be a star.
30-40 doubles with 12-16 homers is doable and should be plenty of power.
That would be more than plenty. I just don’t think he has that in him.
Now I’m curious, why? He doesn’t has the raw power, but does have the contact skills and the ability to lift the ball.
It’s gonna be a Josh Harrison situation, walking the razor’s edge of power production,
Years they land in the seats he’s a star, years they don’t he’s a useful role player.
This feels ludicrous to say because Harrison has had a solid MLB career and Endy is still in the minors. But it feels like Endy has more to hang his hat on offensively than Josh did. Not as hack happy for one.
Did one of these articles cite Danny Jansen? Someone did, I think. That feels pretty on target, which is roughly a three win player per 500 plate appearances. I’d take that.
Speaking of Gonzalez, he looks huge now from a picture in dk sports daily.
The scouts were wrong, he’s power over hit. Embrace the dark side.
The look on my face at these haters when Nick G starts tearing it up in the majors. Absurd there’s “experts” ranking Peguero & his .692 OPS & 31 Errors over Nick G & his .812 OPS & 10 Errors
A year and a half younger is pretty important as is playing short
The error difference is probably chalked up to Peggy playing 50 more games and Nick G having range like Neil Walker. Can’t make an error if you can’t get to the ball!
Career Defensive Fielding % was harder to figure out than i thought to find, as BR & FG separate for different postions (included AFL for Nick):
Liover career Fielding % (1218 Chances – both at SS & 2nd) – .926
Nick G (798 Chances – at SS, 3rd & 2nd) – .969
obviously, SS is a harder defensive position, but was curious to find how they stacked up.
It would be interesting to take today’s MLB players from Dominican and track their starts and see where they started and led to MLB.
I think JD did something similar, that’s what he’s referring to in the article.
Sort of, but some of the better prospects skipped the DSL. I looked at the top 20 hitters every year for stats available then compared it to the league as a whole and it was basically the same exact success rate for making it to the majors. Doing great in the league didn’t lead to any better success than impressing no one with your stats.
Those Jimenez “ haters” will pay, dearly pay for their foolishness!
Swaggerty confirmation bias. Thank you, Kiley
Or the original narrative bias, is very common for these 30 team prospect ranking sites.
Kiley dropped Nicky G out of his Top 17. So….
The thing with Swaggerty is the defense, they seem to feel that if you plug him in CF to start the season he will have a positive WAR,
Yeah, and that’s in part why I’m pro-Swag’s. Almost every other (true) OF’s, aside from Gorski, floor/ceiling is contingent on hitting.
I am too. Travis Swaggerty could be our Harrison Bader. Look at their minor league WRC+ numbers side by side. That defense has real value and I’m glad to see someone acknowledge it.
Personally, I think Cherington knows it too and agrees. I think swags was sent back to Indianapolis because he wanted to be near his newborn preemie in the NICU at the hospital there. The pirates were quiet about it. The media was quiet about it. We all assumed he was on the shitlist, but he was actually being treated like a key piece and respected enough to be helped through a tough time.
He will get his chance. Maybe he does well maybe not, but he will get his chance.
Got to love their stubbornness! Better than flip flopping, I guess.