Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Top 50 Prospects

Pittsburgh Pirates Top 50 Prospects for 2018

The Pittsburgh Pirates definitely have a type. They love to draft high ceiling prep players early in the draft, as evidenced by the 2017 draft, where they selected 4 prep players in the first 2 rounds. They also invest heavily in the international market.  Both are quickly seen when you dig into their Top 50.  Acquiring prospects this way has worked fairly well for the Pirates as they have remained competitive for the past few years and kept a fairly stocked system, while maintaining a small payroll.  Strong player development and a little bit of luck, no doubt, and you have a recipe for success.  The Pirates have a lot of pitching that will be ready in the next year or two.  That’s not even including Tyler Glasnow, who has graduated from the Top 50 list, but bounced between AAA and the majors trying to find his footing.  Along with that pitching the Pirates have another influx of talent coming from the Gerrit Cole deal.  The Pirates acquired two players that would have jumped right into the top 50, but have previously been ranked by Brandon while they were in the Houston system.  Colin Moran was ranked 5th and Jason Martin 17th in Houston’s Top 50 Prospects.  While not adding a new write up, I would have added them to the Pittsburgh list at 6 and 16 respectively.

That said, top to bottom you can find plenty to get excited about in the Pittsburgh system.

Prospects1500 Tiers:
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 wotrth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster

 





Tier 1:

1. Mitch Keller, SP (‘17 Rank #1)
Age: 21 (DOB 04/04/1996)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Keller followed up a breakout 2016 by cruising through High A Bradenton to finish the year in Double A Altoona, posting a combined K/9 of 9 with an impressive whip of exactly 1.00. Keller followed that up by dominating the Arizona Fall League in 6 very good starts against stiff competition.  Keller could be an option for the Pirates by September. ETA: 2018

2. Austin Meadows, OF (‘17 Rank #2)
Age: 22 (DOB 05/03/1995)
2017 Highest Level: Triple A
In 2017, injuries (he’s only played 168 games over the last 2 years) continued to hamper Meadows’ ability to show off the five tools that he has flashed. After tearing up AA .318/.373/.620, Meadows has struggled a bit in AAA, .239/.306/.390.  Making it harder and harder to see him as the potential star Pittsburgh once thought they had. However, he’s still only 22, so time is still on his side. ETA: 2018

Tier 2:

3. Cole Tucker, SS (‘17 Rank #5)
Age: 21 (DOB 07/03/1996)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
2017 was a bit of a breakout year for the already highly regarded Tucker, putting up career highs in nearly every offensive category. Slashing .275/.358/.408, Tucker tripled his career high in HR with 6, nearly doubled his career high in SB with 47 and smashed 36 extra base hits between High A and Double A. Tucker could easily surpass those career highs in 2018 as he continues to grow into his body.  The future is bright up the middle. ETA: 2019

4. Shane Baz, SP (‘17 Rank #3)
Age: 18 (DOB 6/17/99)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
Scouts rave about the 3 plus pitches that Baz already possesses. Add an above average curveball and a developing changeup and Baz has the tools to be a frontline starter.  Baz has the size and makeup to find himself at the top of the rotation.  A very small sample from his debut showed some issues with control, but when we’re only talking 23.2 innings, I’m not prepared to call that an issue. ETA: 2021

5. Bryan Reynolds, OF (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 22, (DOB 1/27/1995)
2017 Highest Level: High A
Headlining the Andrew McCutchen trade will, in an odd way, give Reynolds some big shoes to fill.  Even if they’re not McCutchen’s directly.   The good news for Pirates fans is that all Reynolds has done since he was drafted in the 2nd round out of Vanderbilt is hit, posting a slash line of .312/.364/.462 with 45 extra base hits, though he does strike out quite a bit with an almost 20% K-rate.  Despite not stealing many bases, Reynolds has a shot to stay in centerfield as his speed plays up in the field. ETA: 2019

6. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (‘17 Rank #4)
Age: 20, (DOB 01/28/1997)
2017 Highest Level: High A
After a solid, but injury shortened full season debut in 2016 for the Pirates 3B of the future, the Pirates stayed aggressive, promoting Hayes to High A for the 2017 season. Playing all year at 20, Hayes held his own.  While not considered much of a runner Hayes stole 27 bases while slashing .278/.345/.363.  The Pirates are still confident the power will come despite seeing his pop fall off the table in 2017. ETA: 2019

7. Kevin Newman, SS (‘17 Rank #7)
Age: 24 (DOB 07/04/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Triple A
After struggling a bit to start the 2017 season in Double A, Newman was promoted to Triple A where his bat began to return to the form the Pirates are hoping for. Without much power and only solid speed, Newman will need to continue to show the form that won him back to back Cape Cod League batting titles to be a full time regular at Shortstop.  I imagine we will see Newman in Pittsburgh in 2018. ETA: 2018

8. Luis Escobar, SP (’17 Rank #10)
Age: 21 (DOB 05/30/1996)
2017 Highest Level: Single A
Escobar was incredibly raw when the Pirates signed him in 2013. Pushed by a strong fastball and improving curveball and changeup, Escobar is learning to pitch on the fly and improving every year.  A K/9 of 11.5 in 131.2 innings in 2017 has opened some eyes.  Watch out if he can improve his command. ETA: 2020

9. Taylor Hearn, SP (’17 Rank #8)
Age: 23 (DOB 08/30/1994)
2017 Highest Level: High A
You won’t likely find anyone that would question Taylor Hearn’s fastball. It is a plus pitch and he loves to throw it.  However, that isn’t likely good enough to make you a major league starter.  Hearn’s slider could develop into an above average pitch, and he is continuing to work on his changeup.  Should that develop Hearn has mid rotation upside, with a likely floor of a high leverage late inning reliever. ETA: 2019

10. Steven Jennings, SP (’17 Rank #15)
Age: 19 (DOB 11/13/1998)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
Jennings, a 2nd round pick in the 2017 amateur draft, who was committed to Ole Miss to play Quarterback, has barely tapped into his potential as a starter.  As Jennings turns his focus solely to baseball and fills in his frame, he should see his stuff take a step forward, giving him a shot at 4 average to above average offerings.  While very young, Jennings can certainly be in the middle of the rotation. ETA: 2021

11. Kevin Kramer, 2B (‘17 Rank #12)
Age: 24 (DOB 10/03/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Kramer got off to his best season as a pro in 2017, finally starting to show some power, while keeping up the solid slash line of .297/.380/.500. Unfortunately, a broken hand cut his season short, but we finally saw the offensive comparisons to Neil Walker showing through.  The combination of Kramer, Tucker and Newman should be very solid for Pittsburgh up the middle for years to come. ETA: 2018

Tier 3:

12. Will Craig, 1B (‘17 Rank #6)
Age: 23 (DOB 11/16/1994)
2017 Highest Level: High A
The Pirates, as a franchise, have been aggressive with prospects, and it has been no different for Craig, making his full season debut in High A Bradenton. Craig held his own, for a solid, yet unspectacular season, where the showed great command of the strike zone, posting a .373 OBP, however it’s his .371 slugging pct, that worries me a bit though.  Hopefully, with a full season under his belt the power will come. ETA: 2019

13. Oneil Cruz, 3B/SS (’17 Rank #20)
Age: 19 (DOB 10/04/1998)
2017 Highest Level: Single A
The 6’6” Cruz has a ways to go, but the upside is huge when looking at an athletic kid with size, above average speed and huge power potential. The strikeouts have piled up, but considering Cruz spent all of 2017 in full season A ball at 18, he has plenty of time to shorten the swing without losing out on power. ETA: 2020

14. Conner Uselton, OF (’17 Rank #17)
Age: 19 (DOB 05/20/1998)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
Plenty of power and arm to show why Pittsburgh made Uselton the last pick of day one of the 2017 MLB draft. Although unable to show the upside due to a hamstring injury 2 games into his debut, Uselton has the tools to find himself a mainstay in the Pittsburgh OF in a few years. ETA: 2021

15. Calvin Mitchell, OF (’17 Rank #14)
Age: 18 (DOB 03/08/1999)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
Drafted 8 picks after Jennings in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, falling to the Pirates after a bit of a drop off during his senior season.  Mitchell then got off to a slow start in the GCL, but did show good discipline at the plate, walking 24 times in his 159 at bat debut. ETA: 2021

16. Nick Kingham, SP (‘17 Rank #11)
Age: 26 (DOB 11/08/1991)
2017 Highest Level: Triple A
Kingham is almost a forgotten man in Pittsburgh, after missing most of 2015 and 2016 with Tommy John Surgery. Kingham turned in 6 consecutive quality starts from 7/24-8/21 throwing 6 innings or more and allowing 2 runs or less.  Kingham should be ready for Pittsburgh as soon as they need a starter. ETA: 2018

17. Travis MacGregor, SP (’17 Rank #28)
Age: 20 (DOB 10/15/1997)
2017 Highest Level: Appalachian Rookie League
Projectability and athleticism. Those are the two most important words when discussing MacGregor.  A power sinking fastball and improving curveball and changeup give him more than a solid chance of finding himself in the rotation in Pittsburgh. ETA: 2020

18. Gage Hinsz, SP (’17 Rank #18)
Age: 21 (DOB 04/20/1996)
2017 Highest Level: High A
Another power sinker baller. Just like MacGregor the Pirates have worked with Hinsz to improve his secondary pitches because the sinking fastball give him mid rotation upside. The curve has a chance to be above average as he continues to work. ETA: 2019

19. Clay Holmes, SP (’17 Rank #13)
Age: 24 (DOB 03/27/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Triple A
Holmes is the third power sinker baller in a row. He falls below MacGregor and Hinsz as the secondary pitches have likely topped out at league average.  This doesn’t mean that Holmes can’t contribute though.  Just like Kingham, should the Pirates need a starter in 2018, don’t be surprised to hear Holmes get the call. ETA: 2018

20. Braeden Ogle, SP (’17 Rank #23)
Age: 20 (DOB 07/30/1997)
2017 Highest Level: Appalachian Rookie League
Another high school arm with mid-rotation upside, the Pirates will take things slowly with Ogle. With 3 pitch potential there is a lot to like from the lefty who still has a ways to go.  He won’t blow you away, but that’s the norm for most of these young pirates pitchers.  He keeps the ball down and in the ball park, a jump in command and we should see good things. ETA: 2020

21. Lolo Sanchez, OF (’17 Rank #35)
Age: 18 (DOB 04/23/1999)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
It can be difficult to say this based on a 234 plate appearance American debut, but Lolo Sanchez looks every bit the future centerfielder Pittsburgh was looking for. Posting more walks than K’s (21/19), a triple slash of .284/.359/.417, while stealing 14 bases and playing plus defense in center.  The future is bright for Lolo. ETA: 2021

22. Nick Burdi, RP (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 24 (DOB 01/19/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Burdi has one of the best fastballs in baseball and when healthy a nasty slider. He will have to make the MLB roster after being traded to the Pirates from Philadelphia who drafted him in the Rule V draft, but if healthy he could eventually be a closer, and that’s worth watching. ETA: 2018

23. Brandon Waddell, SP (’17 Rank #24)
Age: 23 (DOB 06/03/1994)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Injuries slowed Waddell’s progress in 2017. Repeating Double A in just his second full season, Waddell has moved quickly and could find himself at the back end of the Pirates rotation at any point now. ETA: 2018





Tier 4:

24. Kyle Crick, RP (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 25 (DOB 11/30/1992)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Also just acquired for McCutchen, Crick will likely impact the Pittsburgh bullpen right away.  A very hard thrower with good stuff, when it’s in the strike zone.  In his first full years as a reliever in 2017 he posted a 12 K/9 and an average fastball velocity of 95.9 MPH. ETA: 2018

25. Jordan Luplow, OF (’17 Rank #19)
Age: 24 (DOB 09/26/1993)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Luplow earned a call to the show late in 2017 after hitting .302/.381/.527 with 23 HR in AA and AAA. While he is likely a 4th outfielder, he has the potential to put up solid numbers with an extended shot. ETA: 2018

26. Yeudy Garcia, RP (’17 Rank #34)
Age: 25 (DOB 10/06/1992)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Shifted back to a relief role in the second half of 2017, I think Garcia has found a home. While his command still has a ways to go, (5.8 BB/9),  he could find himself in a high leverage late inning role. ETA: 2019

27. Stephen Alemais, SS (’17 Rank #32)
Age: 22 (DOB 04/12/95)
2017 Highest Level: High A
No question Alemais can play shortstop. The huge question is whether the bat can make him an everyday regular and I believe it’s more likely he ends up as a utility infielder. ETA: 2019

28. Edgar Santana, RP (’17 Rank #26)
Age: 26 (DOB 10/16/1991)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Santana has a plus fastball and a much-improved slider, giving him the makeup of a potential back end reliever for Pittsburgh. Consistency is the key at this point. ETA: 2018

29. Dovydas Neverauskas, RP (’17 Rank #22)
Age: 24 (DOB 01/14/1993)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Another mid to late inning reliever that got a brief shot in 2017, Neverauskas also has a plus fastball. As he continues to improve his cutter and slider he should see the later innings. ETA: 2018

30. Max Moroff, 2B/3B/SS (’17 Rank #29)
Age: 24 (DOB 05/13/1993)
2017 Highest Level: MLB
Moroff hit a career high 13 HR in AAA in 2017. However, he didn’t do much after being called up.  He will need to make more consistent contact, (31% K rate), to be more than a Utility infielder. ETA: 2018

31. Tyler Eppler, SP (’17 Rank #33)
Age: 25 (DOB 01/05/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Triple A
3 solid pitches have kept Eppler in the rotation as a possible back end innings eater as he’s advanced through the minors. Seems tough to see Eppler hitting that ceiling at this point. ETA: 2018

32. Sherten Apostel, 3B (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 18 (DOB 03/11/1999)
2017 Highest Level: – Dominican Summer League
While it did come in the DSL, I can’t sit here and ignore what the 6’4” Apostel did in 2017. More walks than K’s (56/49), a triple slash of .258/.422/.495 with 9 home runs and a plus arm at third.  With room to fill in Apostel has plus power projection and a shot to stay at third. ETA: 2023

33. Max Kranick, SP (’17 Rank #30)
Age: 20 (DOB 07/21/1997)
2017 Highest Level: Appalachian Rookie League
I could see Kranick flying up these rankings by mid-season, should be put together a healthy first half. Shoulder fatigue slowed his progress in 2016, but he should move quickly. ETA: 2020

34. Domingo Robles, SP (’17 Rank #39)
Age: 19 (DOB 04/29/1998)
2017 Highest Level: Appalachian Rookie League
Robles is still a long ways off, but carries the upside of a mid-rotation starter. A lefty with a solid sinking fastball, curve and changeup, Robles could easily find himself in the rotation in a few years. ETA: 2021

35. Dario Agrazal, SP (’17 Rank #37)
Age: 23 (DOB 12/28/1994)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Closing another trio of power sinker ballers, a target for Pittsburgh. Agrazal lacks the secondary offerings that Robles and Kranchik have right now, making him a likely candidate for the bullpen. ETA: 2019

36. Deon Stafford, C (’17 Rank #45)
Age: 21 (DOB 03/17/1996)
2017 Highest Level: Low A
5th round pick in 2017 with solid to above average tools all around.  Solid debut in the New York Penn League that showed some pop, a little bit of speed and a little bit more swing and miss than you’d typically like. ETA: 2020

37. Dylan Busby, 3B (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 22 (DOB 11/28/1995)
2017 Highest Level: Short Season A
While Busby struggled a bit in his debut, .188/.266/.256, we have to remember it was just his debut. The 3rd round pick was saddled with a .261 BABIP, so we should expect a return to the norm in 2018 when he repeats Short Season A ball. ETA: 2021





Tier 5:

38. Adrian Valerio, SS (’17 Rank #27)
Age: 20 (DOB 03/13/1997)
2017 Highest Level: Single A
Valerio profiles as a glove first utility infielder. However, he showed some pop that he had not previously shown in his full season debut, Posting a .442 slugging percentage, more than 100 points higher than his previous career high. ETA: 2020

39. Rodolfo Castro, 2B/3B/SS (’17 Rank #43)
Age: 18 (DOB 05/21/1999)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
Castro continued to hit in his American debut in 2017. Posting a triple slash of .277/.344/.479 while splitting time between second, third and short.  The glove will need some work, but Castro has time to smooth things out if he continues to hit. ETA: 2021

40. Mason Martin, 1B/OF (’17 Rank #31)
Age: 18 (DOB 06/02/1999)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
It’s not often a 17th round pick bursts onto the scene like Martin did in 2017.  However, when you slash .307/.457/.630 and hit 11 home runs in your first 166 plate appearances heads tend to turn a bit. ETA: 2021

41. Pedro Vasquez, SP (’17 Rank #48)
Age: 22 (DOB 09/23/1995)
2017 Highest Level: High A
Vasquez impressed in his first season in the Pirates organization. Starting in High A after only 8 starts in A ball for Seattle in 2016, the 6’4” righty used his strong fastball/slider combo to show back end rotation potential. ETA: 2019

42. Cody Bolton, SP (’17 Rank #38)
Age: 19 (DOB 06/19/1998)
2017 Highest Level: Gulf Coast League (Rookie)
Bolton, a big projectable prep starter came to Pittsburgh in the 8th round in 2017. Seeing success in 2017 expect him to progress with the likes of Baz and Jennings to short season ball. ETA: 2021

43. Oddy Nunez, SP (’17 N/A)
Age: 21 (DOB 12/20/1996)
2017 Highest Level: Single A
The 6’8” Nunez took a huge step forward in 2017. He added more than 5 mph to his fastball, earned a promotion to Single A from the GCL and turned in a very solid first full year season.  At 20 he could continue to add velocity, he’s one to watch for sure. ETA: 2020

44. JT Brubaker, SP (’17 Rank #40)
Age: 24 (DOB 11/17/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Brubaker has never been dominant at any level since being drafted in the 6th round in 2015, but he has slowly progressed and has proven to be a steady, big right handed arm.  While he could sneak into the back end of the rotation, he most likely ends up a middle reliever. ETA: 2019

45. Logan Hill, OF (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 24 (DOB 05/26/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
A fairly low K rate (23%) and solid power, (18 HR in 2017), have pushed Hill through the Pirates system since he was drafted in the 25th round in 2015.  Limited to LF, he is likely a 4th outfielder or bench bat, but one with some intriguing upside. ETA: 2019

46. Pablo Reyes, 2B/CF (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 24 (DOB 09/05/1993)
2017 Highest Level: Double A
Reyes added centerfield to his defensive repertoire in 2017 making him a potential super utility type should his bat continue to progress. Walking almost as often as he struck out (51/70) and adding 10 HR and 21 SB Reyes can contribute all around the diamond. ETA: 2019

47. Eduardo Vera, SP (’17 Rank N/A)
Age: 23 (DOB 07/03/1994)
2017 Highest Level: Single A
It’s been a long road for Vera. Missing a year and a half after having Tommy John Surgery in 2014. He finally made it back to the mound in 2016 and then impressed in 2017. Sitting in the mid 90’s, with a solid curveball Vera has some ground to make up but he has the stuff to do it. ETA: 2019

48. Jason Delay, C (’17 Rank #46)
Age: 22 (DOB 03/07/1995)
2017 Highest Level: Short Season A
Not a lot to go on in his short debut. But he played solid defense, avoided the strikeout, (10.3%) and walked a pretty high percent of the time (9%).  The call-up to Short season A was a disaster, but overall not a bad debut. ETA: 2020

49. Juan Pie, OF (’17 Rank #49)
Age: 16 (DOB 04/01/2001)
2017 Highest Level: – N/A
Pie was signed at the open of the July 2nd, international period for a bonus of $500,000.  At 6’3”, he has good size and plenty of room to fill in.  Pie will likely make his 2018 debut in the Dominican Summer League. ETA: 2023

50. Bligh Madris, OF (’17 Rank #47)
Age: 21 (DOB 02/28/1996)
2017 Highest Level: Short Season A
Drafted in the 9th round, Madris hit the ground running in West Virginia, slashing .270/.344/.429.  Hitting 22 extra base hits in 226 at bats.  If he can continue to limit his K’s he should progress quickly. ETA: 2020

About Ryan James 10 Articles
An absolute sports fanatic. Be it at the office, a family gathering or my wife’s restaurant you can usually find me talking sports, especially baseball. When I am not at the office working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at a small bureau in the Dept. of Human Services, I love to golf, go to Baltimore to catch the O’s or Ravens and spend time with my amazing wife of 5 years. Follow me on Twitter @RyanJames5.

7 Comments

  1. Did you forget about Colin Moran & Jason Martin? You’ve added Reynolds & Crick from Cutch trade, but nothing from the Gerrit Cole trade.
    Where would you slot Moran & Martin?

  2. Hi Ryan,
    I just joined a 16-team dynasty league and my team is awful. We can have up to 50 minor leaguers so probably the top dozen or so of these prospects are taken, but I’m hoping to rebuild with some under-the-radar guys. One guy who is not taken is Lolo Sanchez. What is his ceiling and ETA? I inherited Jordan Luplow. Hang onto him, right? Any other guys outside the top 15 that you really like?
    thanks,
    jeff

    • Thanks for reading and the question Jeff. I love Lolo Sanchez. He has one of the highest ceilings in the Pirates system and could absolutely be the center fielder of the future in Pittsburg. He is very young, but the Pirates are pushing him. Jumping from the Gulf Coast League to full season A ball is no small feat. However his ETA is still likely 2021. But with a minor league system that goes 50 deep he is definitely worth owning. When you’re in a rebuild a guy like Luplow is also worth owning. He will likely see some Major League time this season and can put up solid numbers should he get an extended shot, but his ceiling is much lower. Likely topping out as a 4th outfielder. When I rebuild, I like to grab a couple guys with high ceilings, so keep an eye on Sherten Apostel, big, tall, strong power hitting 3B and Domingo Robles, young SP with mid rotation potential. Theyre both teenagers that could both jump up the rankings this year. And keep an eye on Bligh Madris, a 9th round pick in 2017 and a big bat. They’re pushing him, starting him in High A this year and he’s off to a hot start. He could move quickly if he continues to hit!

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Spring Training Outlook for Non-Roster Invitees | Prospects1500
  2. 2018 MLB Draft Link Round-Up | Prospects1500
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates Midseason Top 50 Prospects | Prospects1500

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