A Minor Review of 2013: Pirates

There is always a bit of a lull between the end of the minor league playoffs in September and the start of the annual top prospects lists in early November. Because of that gap, I’m breathing new life into an old feature that I wrote for the site in FanGraphs’ infancy back in 2008 and 2009.

The series ‘A Minor Review of 2013’ will look back on some of the major happenings in each MLB organization since the beginning of April as a primer for the upcoming FanGraphs Top 10+5 prospects lists. This series will run throughout September and October. I hope you enjoy the series and are eagerly anticipating the start of ‘Prospect List Season.’

The player listed in the sleeper section was featured in a pre-season series that looked at one fringe prospect in each organization that was expected to take a big step forward during 2013, chosen by myself, a scout or a front office talent evaluator.

The Graduate: Gerrit Cole, RHP: The first overall selection of the 2011 amateur draft, Cole didn’t overpower minor league hitters as much as expected. However, he’s been better in the Majors than the minors — owing in part to the organization’s philosophy of teaching young hurler to pitch to contact rather than aim for the strikeout. During his big league debut, Cole commanded all four of his pitches and overpowered hitters with his mid-to-high-90s fastball. He profiles as a true top-of-the-rotation talent.

The Riser: Tyler Glasnow, RHP: There weren’t many prospects in baseball that improved their values more than Glasnow. The right-hander is now one of the top young pitchers in the minor leagues and adds to the embarrassment of prospect riches in the Pirates system. If/when he improves his control (61 walks in 111.1 innings), he could top the list of top hurlers in the game. When Glasnow found the strike zone in 2013, he was extremely difficult to square up and he allowed just 55 hits.

The Tumbler: Luis Heredia, RHP: Heredia’s game took a significant step backward in 2013 when he showed up to spring training out of shape and was forced to open the year in extended spring training. He eventually made his way to A-ball where he struggled with both his command and control, leading to higher fly-ball rates and more home runs allowed. Heredia showed some improvements late in 2013 so he’ll hopefully dedicate himself to his conditioning this off-season.

The 2013 Draft Pick: JaCoby Jones, OF: Jones has intriguing tools but he has yet to fully tap into them and there have been concerns raised over his commitment level. He has a chance to develop into a four-tool player if he can realize his full potential. The Pirates — with their deep system — could afford to gamble a third-round pick in the 2013 draft on his raw ability.

The Sleeper: Ryan Beckman, RHP: Beckman blew out his elbow while the facing his first batter of the 2012 season and underwent Tommy John surgery. The organization was eager for him to return after he made a strong impression on the front office the spring of 2012 before the injury and he finally stepped back onto the mound in mid-2013. If he can bounce back fully, Beckman has the ceiling of a set-up man or middle reliever.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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