By Jason Shetler
The 2016 season for the Pirates created a ton of buzz in regards to their prospects. Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Josh Bell and Adam Frazier have each showed glimpses of what they’re capable of moving forward. So which prospects in the system could arrive to Pittsburgh next season? – Here are some of the possible candidates.
Austin Meadows: 2016 did not start off well for Austin Meadows, as he suffered an orbital fracture in Spring Training, and missed the first month of the season. However, the injury had little affect on his performance, as he posted an .867 OPS and stole 17 bases in 82 games combined with Altoona and Indianapolis. What the Pirates decide to do with Andrew McCutchen next year is ultimately going to dictate when Meadows will join them. At the very least, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be a September call up.
Barrett Barnes: In 124 games this year with Altoona, Barrett Barnes had his best season, as he hit .306, while posting an OPS of .853, which was good for sixth best in the Eastern League. Barnes should begin 2017 with Indianapolis, and could get called up in September.
Brandon Waddell: The Pirates don’t have a ton of left-handed pitching prospects in the organization, but Brandon Waddell is perhaps their best one right now. Waddell pitched for Bradenton and Altoona this season, as he posted a 3.49 ERA and held opposing batters to a .246 average in 147 combined innings. He’s likely to start out next year with Indianapolis. Even if the Pirates don’t call up Waddell as a starter, it’s certainly possible that he is used as a long reliever out of the bullpen.
Jose Osuna: One of the more underrated prospects in the Pirates system currently is Jose Osuna. The native of Venezuela put together another quality season in 2016, combining to hit .279 with a .787 OPS and collecting 37 doubles for Altoona and Indianapolis. Osuna will head back to Indy to begin next season, and could get called up in the event of a Josh Bell or David Freese injury.
Kevin Newman: Since being selected by the Pirates in the first round of last year’s draft, Kevin Newman has done nothing but tear the cover off a baseball. The former Arizona Wildcat batted .320, which was the highest mark among all Pirates minor league position players this year, while putting up an .814 OPS combined with Bradenton and Altoona. Newman will likely join the Pirates in 2017 either replacing Jordy Mercer, in case of an injury, or in September as an extra bat off the bench.
Nick Kingham: A few years ago, Nick Kingham was beginning to emerge as one of the better pitching prospects in the Pirates system. Prior to last season, he was considered by most as the Bucs third best prospect arm behind Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Kingham was set to join the Pirates in 2015, but elbow discomfort led to Tommy John surgery. Now fully recovered, he pitched extremely well in ten rehab outings combined with the GCL Pirates, Bradenton and Altoona, posting an ERA of 2.93 along with a 0.93 WHIP. Kingham will return to Indianapolis next year, and should see Pittsburgh at some point.
Tyler Eppler: Another pitching prospect who is quietly becoming a quality arm is Tyler Eppler. The 23-year-old right-hander has displayed excellent control during his time in the system, and that trend continued in 2016 with Altoona, as he put up a 1.8 BB/9. In 27 starts for the Curve, he posted a 3.99 ERA. Eppler is likely to start the 2017 season with Indianapolis. He could find himself in a Trevor Williams type situation, in which he pitches the entire season for Indianapolis and then joins the Pirates in September as a multiple inning arm out of the bullpen.
Willy Garcia: Unless Matt Joyce was going to struggle or get hurt, there was a good chance that Willy Garcia would get the call to Pittsburgh, but of course, it never happened. It also didn’t help that he had just a .659 OPS to go along with a high strikeout rate of 26% for Indianapolis this year. Garcia will return to Indy to begin next season. He could get join the Pirates at some point in 2017, assuming he can bounce back offensively.