The Pirates have some very intriguing prospects for their rebuild, but in the modern era, they may need to tear it completely down to try and nab some top draft picks over the next few years, if they are to compete with the systems on the level of the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs. This probably starts with the tough trades of some fan favorite stars, like Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and Gerrit Cole to name just a few. For now, they have a solid base of players that can form a solid core for the future, but nothing that looks Championship-caliber…
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
My list obviously varies a great deal from our preseason Prospects1500 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 50 Prospects. If you feel like I slighted your favorite prospect or disagree with my rankings feel free to rake me over the coals in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter at @ChillChief and tag @Prospects1500 too.
1. Mitch Keller, SP (Preseason #3)
Age: 21 (DOB 04/04/1996)
Keller, along with his 97 mph fastball and 11-5 curve, has been aggressively promoted, with only a few minor stumbles. Expect him to reach AAA next season with a possible September 2018 callup. Looked upon as a future ace or #1A/#2 starter.
2. Austin Meadows, OF (Preseason #1)
Age: 22 (DOB 05/03/1995)
It isn’t entirely damning that Meadows hasn’t dominated AAA as a 22-year-old, and injuries have contributed. Next year he should be completely recovered, and then he just needs a slot to open up (most likely via a trade of Andrew McCutchen.)
3. Shane Baz, SP (Preseason N/A)
Age: 18 (DOB 06/17/1999)
For a pitcher drafted out of high school, all four of Baz’s pitches show impressive advancement. I really like his chances to move through the system quickly and become a reliable top-of-the-rotation starter.
4. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (Preseason #6)
Age: 19 (DOB 01/28/1997)
Hayes could end up in the range of a solid to excellent major league third baseman. As a speedy contact hitter, and in all aspects on the defensive end, he has already shown great progress. I believe that the game power will eventually show up too.
5. Cole Tucker, SS (Preseason #11)
Age: 21 (DOB 07/03/1996)
The Pirates’ first-rounder from back in 2014 has been on a tear lately and is starting to live up to his potential. Quickness, range and a strong arm should allow him to play shortstop at the big league level. He has also started to show a little pop and a lot of speed on the basepaths.
6. Will Craig, 1B (Preseason #7)
Age: 22 (DOB 11/16/1994)
After a slow start to 2016, Craig has shown that he has the plate discipline, hitting ability, and defense around the bag to someday be a solid major league first baseman. As with Hayes, we are still waiting for Craig to start hitting home runs as a pr0.
7. Kevin Newman, SS (Preseason #4)
Age: 24 (DOB 7/4/1993)
The Pirates’ 2015 first rounder has always been an excellent defensive shortstop. I am less confident about the overall package at the plate.
8. Taylor Hearn, SP (Preseason #19)
Age: 23 (DOB 08/30/1994)
A lesser-known but hard-throwing pitching prospect still being groomed as a starter. He has a shot to be a decent MLB starter but his 95-99 mph fastball heat gives him a chance to be a hi-leverage reliever as a fallback option.
9. Steven Brault**, SP (Preseason #12)
Age: 25 (DOB 04/29/1992)
Older, advanced, high-floor types like Brault are given a chance to succeed in the Pirates organization, and rightfully so. Brault’s time is now, and he should be a successful major league pitcher, although the ultimate role is unknown.
10. Luis Escobar, SP (Preseason #18)
Age: 21 (DOB 05/30/1996)
Escobar is a much more raw project than Taylor Hearn at this point, but his outlook is similar: A talented kid that will be given every chance to succeed as a starting pitcher, but has what it takes to thrive as a reliever if Plan A should fail.
11. Nick Kingham, SP (Preseason #8)
Age: 25 (DOB 11/08/1991)
Another starting pitching prospect with the pitch repertoire to succeed in the middle or back of the rotation. Kingham is still building back up the arm strength and the innings after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in May 2015.
12. Kevin Kramer, 2B (Preseason #20)
Age: 23 (DOB 10/03/1993)
Kramer has a similar package at the plate to Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker, but no longer is viewed as a shortstop at the professional level. Thus he has found a defensive home at second base.
13. Clay Holmes, SP/RP (Preseason #14)
Age: 24 (DOB 03/27/1993)
A post-hype name who has experienced a kind of resurgence. Holmes’ ability as a sinkerballer / groundball specialist could find him well-suited as a fifth starter, but it could also play well in shorter stints out of the bullpen.
14. Calvin Mitchell, OF (Preseason N/A)
Age: 18 (DOB 03/08/1999)
Picked in the second round this year, Mitchell is not the toolsiest of prospects. He does have the ability to hit, has shown glimpses of that so far as a professional, and could be a starter in left field in a few years.
15. Steven Jennings, SP (Preseason N/A)
Age: 18 (DOB 11/13/1998)
The Pirates’ other second round pick had limited innings due to injuries. Jennings has a full pitch repertoire a la Nick Kingham but is obviously much further away.
16. Elias Diaz**, C (Preseason #10)
Age: 26 (DOB 11/17/1990)
Diaz has already been placed in the role he has long been rumored to fill: the starting catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The defensive side will always be his calling card, but he could at least end up a non-negative presence with the bat.
17. Conner Uselton, OF (Preseason N/A)
Age: 19 (DOB 05/20/1998)
If you could somehow combine Uselton’s tools with Mitchell’s refinement, you’d have a pretty complete outfield prospect. Uselton has the speed and arm to be a dynamic presence in right field and has power potential as well, although he is still a wild card at this point. He could be a mover in 2018.
18. Gage Hinsz, SP (Preseason #13)
Age: 21 (DOB 04/20/1996)
Hinsz is a prospect whose name has been attached to the “high ceiling” label for some time. His fastball-curve combo will probably serve him well as a reliever, but he needs refinement his command and a third pitch if he is going to fulfill the Pirates’ hopes of a rotation stalwart.
19. Jordan Luplow, OF (Preseason #40)
Age: 23 (DOB 09/26/1993)
Luplow lacks major upside but he could make it as a fourth outfielder, or the weak side of a platoon in left field. He has made it as a September callup, and so far the results have been quite positive.
20. Oneil Cruz, 3B (Preseason N/A)
Age: 18 (DOB 10/04/1998)
A young toolsy prospect that came over recently from the Dodgers organization. Currently a shortstop, should move over to third eventually. Speed, arm strength, and power potential, just raw. Of course, he is 18.
21. Christopher Bostick, IF/OF (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 24 (DOB 03/24/1993)
A post-hype name finally coming into his own, Bostick has a chance to pass several names above him on this list and become a solid MLB utility player. And his time could be now.
22. Dovydas Neverauskas, RP (Preseason #28)
Age: 24 (DOB 01/14/1993)
Neverauskas took a long road to reach his destination, but he has become a very good MLB reliever. He racks the fastball up to 99 mph and doesn’t walk many batters. Hi-leverage potential here.
23. Braeden Ogle, SP (Preseason #24)
Age: 20 (DOB 07/30/1997)
With his fastball-curveball combo, Ogle has a good chance at being at least a fine lefty reliever at the big-league level. If he can add a third pitch and better command, the potential is there for more.
24. Brandon Waddell, SP (Preseason #21)
Age: 23 (DOB 06/03/1994)
Waddell is pitching depth at this point but should begin making a contribution next season. He shows advancement in his pitches which could lead to the realization of his back-of-the-rotation upside.
25. Edwin Espinal, 3B (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 23 (DOB 01/27/1994)
2017 Eastern League All-Star has shown improvement, will likely end up as a bench bat and/or utility option as early as next year.
26. Edgar Santana, RP (Preseason #31)
Age: 25 (DOB 10/16/1991)
Santana already has major league middle relief innings under his belt. So far the results have been underwhelming due to lack of command but a possible fastball-slider combo could help him carve out a decent career in the bullpen
27. Adrian Valerio, SS (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 20 (DOB 03/13/1997)
Valerio profiles as a potential utility infielder option based on his superior shortstop defense at a young age. The bat has potential as well, but lags behind the defense.
28. Travis MacGregor, SP (Preseason #25)
Age: 19 (DOB 10/15/1997)
Second round pick from 2016 is all stuff and projection at this point. Bullpen is the likely ending spot, but the Pirates are still hoping he is a starter.
29. Max Moroff, IF (Preseason #15)
Age: 24 (DOB 05/13/1993)
Moroff hasn’t been given a ton of at-bats or had much success, but many in the organization still see him as a viable future utility infielder. He would probably need a trade to open up a spot.
30. Max Kranick, SP (Preseason #27)
Age: 20 (DOB 07/21/1997)
31. Mason Martin, OF (Preseason N/A)
Age: 18 (DOB 06/02/1999)
32. Stephen Alemais, SS (Preseason #30)
Age: 22 (DOB 04/12/1995)
33. Tyler Eppler, RP (Preseason #22)
Age: 24 (DOB 01/05/1993)
34. Yeudy Garcia, RP (Preseason #9)
Age: 24 (DOB 10/16/1992)
35. Lolo Sanchez, OF (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 18 (DOB 04/23/1999)
36. Francisco Acuna, SS (Preseason #17)
Age: 17 (DOB 01/12/2000)
37. Dario Agrazal, SP (Preseason #47)
Age: 22 (DOB 12/28/1994)
38. Cody Bolton, SP (Preseason N/A)
Age: 19 (DOB 06/19/1998)
39. Domingo Robles, RP (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 19 (DOB 04/29/1998)
40. JT Brubaker, SP (Preseason #32)
Age: 23 (DOB 11/17/1993)
41. Alex Manasa, SP (Preseason N/A)
Age: 19 (DOB 01/06/1998)
42. Kevin Krause, OF (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 24 (DOB 11/23/1992)
43. Rodolfo Castro, SS (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 18 (DOB 05/21/1999)
44. Eduardo Vera, RP (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 23 (DOB 07/03/1994)
45. Deon Stafford, C (Preseason N/A)
Age: 21 (DOB 03/17/1996)
46. Jason Delay, C (Preseason N/A)
Age: 22 (DOB 03/07/1995)
47. Bligh Madris, OF (Preseason N/A)
Age: 21 (DOB 02/28/1996)
48. Pedro Vasquez, SP (Preseason Unranked)
Age: 21 (DOB 09/23/1995)
49. Juan Pie, OF (Preseason N/A)
Age: 16 (DOB 04/01/2001)
50. Ike Schlabach, SP (Preseason #48)
Age: 20 (DOB 12/27/1996)
Missed the Cut: Adam Oller, RP; Tate Scioneaux, RP; Tristan Gray, 2B; Austin Shields, RP; Jake Brentz, RP; Taylor Gushue, C; Eric Wood, 3B; Barrett Barnes, OF; Casey Sadler, RP; Pablo Reyes, SS; Cam Vieaux, SP.
Received Consideration: Carlos Munoz, 1B; Jin-de Jhang, C; Connor Joe, 1B; Dylan Busby, 3B; Logan Hill, OF; Casey Hughston, OF; Jared Lakind, RP/1B; James Marvel, SP; Jacob Taylor, RP; Miguel Rosario, RP; Chris Sharpe, OF; Gift Ngoepe, 2B.
** At the time this article was started, Elias Diaz and Steve Brault had not exceeded the AB/IP limits for Prospects1500 eligibility. They have since graduated. The author has chosen to keep these two deserving players on this list, and give them their proper send-off.