By Jason Shetler
Luis Heredia p/c: Tracy Proffitt/MiLB.com
Now that the 2015 preseason prospect rankings have wrapped up, the Pirates could have up to five prospects called up to Pittsburgh at some point this season. With some who are on the list now that are expected to be on there in 2016, here are some other Pirates prospects who may find themselves in the Top 10 next year.
Cody Dickson: The Pirates chose LHP Cody Dickson as a fourth round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. Last season, Dickson posted a 5.58 ERA in the first half for Low A West Virginia, but pitched much better in the second half, as he put up a 2.45 ERA. He has a 3.43 ERA along with a 7.9 K/9 in his first two seasons of pro ball. If Dickson can perform like the way he did in the second half of 2014 for most of this season, he’s likely to be in the Top 10 next year.
JaCoby Jones: JaCoby Jones may have had one of the better seasons by a minor league shortstop in 2014. The former LSU product hit .288 with 23 home runs, while posting an .851 OPS in 117 games for the West Virginia Power. Should Jones duplicate those numbers this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him as a Top 5 prospect in the system for 2016.
Luis Heredia: Prior to 2013, Luis Heredia was considered a Top 10 Pirates prospect, as well as a Baseball America Top 100 prospect. Heredia entered camp that year out of shape, and pitched just half a season for West Virginia. He was limited to 18 starts last year with a shoulder injury, posting a 4.15 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP and just a 4.3 K/9. Heredia’s fastball sat in the low-90’s most of the season, but he did induce plenty of groundballs. He must stay healthy so that he can increase his fastball velocity and start missing more bats. Heredia also needs to have a breakout season in 2015, and if he’s able to do that, then he should be able to reclaim his spot as a Top 10 prospect.
Stephen Tarpley: The Pirates acquired Stephen Tarpley from the Baltimore Orioles in the Travis Snider trade this offseason. Tarpley was considered the O’s 14th best prospect. Last year, he put up a 3.68 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP and a K/9 of 8.2 in 66 innings for Short A Aberdeen. Tarpley’s fastball has sat in the mid-90’s, which has given him a solid strikeout ratio for a lefty. However, his walk ratio is a little on the high side at 3.3. Tarpley will begin his first full season pitching for the West Virginia Power, and a strong year could put him in the Top 10 discussion for next season.
Steven Brault: Acquired as the player to be named in the Snider deal, Steven Brault entered 2015 as the Orioles 18th best prospect in their system. Brault profiles as a finesse left-hander. He had a very good 2014 season combined with Low A Delmarva and High A Frederick, as he posted a 2.77 ERA, a WHIP of just 0.89, thanks to a solid 1.8 BB/9. He had a 7.6 K/9 in 146.1 innings pitched. Brault also did a terrific job of keeping the ball down, allowing only four home runs. If Brault can put up similar numbers this year for High A Bradenton and possibly AA Altoona, there’s no reason to think why he couldn’t be a Pirates Top 10 prospect.
Wyatt Mathisen: Drafted as a catcher by the Pirates in 2012, Wyatt Mathisen took the Neil Walker route by switching from catcher to third base last season. In 103 games for West Virginia, Mathisen batted .280 along with a .704 OPS. While his on base percentage was good at .344, he slugged only .360, hitting just three homers. The ability to get on base hasn’t been a problem for Mathisen, but the power definitely leaves a lot to be desired, so if he can start turning his gap power into more consistent home run power, the Pirates would not only have a legitimate third base prospect, but also a prospect who could join the Top 10 next year.