By Jason Shetler
The Pirates this season have already called up several of their prospects with Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, Adam Frazier, Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault. Alen Hanson was also with them briefly when Starling Marte was on paternity leave. With Glasnow, Bell, Taillon and Hanson ranked in this year’s Top 10, what will those rankings look like entering 2017? – Here is my early projection.
1. Austin Meadows: The top outfield prospect of the Pirates continues to put up strong numbers, and 2016 has been no different. He was hitting .317 with an OPS of .976 for Altoona. Meadows received his promotion to Indianapolis on June 16th. There’s a chance he could join the Pirates next season, but that will ultimately hinge on what they decide to do with Andrew McCutchen.
2. Kevin Newman: Kevin Newman began the year in his first full season of pro ball. The 22-year-old shortstop completely wore out Florida State League pitching during his time with Bradenton, as he batted .366 along with a .922 OPS. Newman dealt with an orbital injury, but surprisingly didn’t miss much playing time. On June 17th, he was promoted to Altoona where he’s currently batting .333.
3. Mitch Keller: Prior to the 2014 MLB Draft, Mitch Keller had a commitment to pitch for the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Pirates drafted him in the second round, and persuaded him with a signing bonus of $1 million. Keller has displayed dominance on the mound this season for the West Virginia Power, posting a 2.87 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP, a 10.0 K/9 and a batting average against of .208.
4. Ke’Bryan Hayes: The Pirates received a first round compensation pick in last year’s draft after Russell Martin signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. That pick was used on Ke’Bryan Hayes, the son of former Pirate Charlie Hayes. Just like his dad, Hayes has the potential to be a steady, all-around third baseman. Although his OPS this year is at .711, he’s playing in the South Atlantic League for West Virginia as a 19-year-old, which is certainly advanced for his age.
5. Reese McGuire: In the 2013 MLB Draft, the Pirates had a pair of first round picks. The first was used on Austin Meadows, while the other was on Reese McGuire. Most baseball publications regard McGuire as the best defensive catcher in the minors, and he continues to be solid this season with a 35% caught stealing rate for the Altoona Curve. At the plate, he has more walks than strikeouts with a 10.9% walk rate compared to a 7.3% strikeout rate. Some seem to view McGuire now as a trade candidate given the Pirates extension of Francisco Cervelli this year.
6. Harold Ramirez: The Pirates signed Harold Ramirez out of Colombia for $1 million in 2011. The 21-year-old outfielder continues to hit well at every level he’s played at so far, and this year is no exception, as he’s hitting .304 with Altoona. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates decide to keep Ramirez as an offensive-minded fourth outfielder or as a trade chip in the right deal.
7. Cole Tucker: Cole Tucker was the Pirates first round selection in 2014. He played his first full season a year ago with the West Virginia Power as an 18-year-old, and really held his own, batting .293 along with 25 stolen bases. Tucker underwent labrum surgery in August, returning much sooner than expected this year. He was promoted to Bradenton on May 28th. Tucker is posting only a .567 OPS with the Marauders, but he’s still at a very young age for the High A level.
8. Yeudy Garcia: In 2013, the Pirates signed Yeudy Garcia out of the Dominican Republic as a 20-year-old, which is considered “old” for a Latin American amateur player. He had a breakout season last year with the West Virginia Power, as he posted an ERA of 2.10 with a .204 batting average against in 30 games, 21 of which were starts. Garcia has been impressive again this season, putting up a 2.56 ERA along with a 10.2 K/9. He throws a mid-90’s fastball that can touch 97 mph, and compliments it with a very good slider.
9. Nick Kingham: The Pirates selected Nick Kingham in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft, and he’s quietly emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the system. During his time in the organization, he’s posted a 3.35 ERA, while holding opposing batters to a .239 average. Kingham was supposed to be one of the first prospects called up last year, but Tommy John surgery foiled those plans. He should join the Pirates at some point next season.
10. Stephen Tarpley: Prior to the 2015 season, the Pirates dealt Travis Snider to the Baltimore Orioles, which was actually deemed very unpopular among the fan base. The Bucs received a pair of pitching prospects with Steven Brault and Stephen Tarpley. In his first season in the Pirates system last year, Tarpley was solid, as he put up a 2.48 ERA along with a K/9 of 8.1 in 20 starts for the West Virginia Power. This year for Bradenton, he’s posting a 3.42 ERA with an 8.5 K/9. Tarpley has very good velocity for a left-hander, topping out at 97 mph with the fastball.