Top 21 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CIN)

Pirates Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Austin Meadows 21 AAA OF 2017 65
2 Tyler Glasnow 23 MLB RHP 2017 55
3 Mitch Keller 20 A+ RHP 2019 55
4 Josh Bell 24 MLB 1B 2017 55
5 Kevin Newman 23 AA SS 2018 50
6 Ke’Bryan Hayes 19 A 3B 2020 50
7 Cole Tucker 20 A+ SS 2020 45
8 Steven Brault 24 MLB LHP 2017 45
9 Will Craig 22 A- DH 2019 45
10 Alen Hanson 24 MLB 2B 2017 45
11 Nick Kingham 25 AAA RHP 2017 45
12 Elias Diaz 26 MLB C 2017 40
13 Taylor Hearn 22 A LHP 2020 40
14 Gage Hinsz 20 A RHP 2020 40
15 Trevor Williams 24 MLB RHP 2017 40
16 Clay Holmes 23 AA RHP 2017 40
17 Luis Escobar 20 A- RHP 2021 40
18 Travis Macgregor 19 R RHP 2020 40
19 Edgar Santana 25 AAA RHP 2017 40
20 Stephen Alemais 21 A SS 2020 40
21 Braeden Ogle 19 R LHP 2022 40

65 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Grayson HS (GA)
Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 55/60 45/60 60/55 40/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .266/.333/.536 between Double- and Triple-A as a 21-year-old.

Scouting Report
Meadows dominated Double-A for 45 games before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis in mid-June. Soon after that, he spent a month on the DL with a hamstring injury, the third one with which Meadows has dealt in as many years (he had reoccurring hammy issues in 2014) and never got things going after he returned, slashing .214/.297/.460. Even so, that’s not alarming in any way for a 21-year-old, especially in a small sample.

Most of the discussions I’ve had with scouts about Meadows eventually turn toward the logjam situation at the corners in Pittsburgh and how Meadows fits within that. He runs well enough to play center field right now and most think he’ll stay there (though his reads there are inconsistent), but Meadows does still has some physical projection left and might slow down as he fills out, even if he never has another hamstring issue. If Meadows loses the speed for center, he and his below-average arm move to left field, though some have posited a move to first base if Josh Bell continues to be unplayable there. The latter scenario would probably involve hitting the breaks on Meadows’ overall development to get him up to speed, and this is just a speculative possibility because of all the talented pieces Pittsburgh has at the corners.

No matter where Meadows eventually slots in defensively, his bat will play. He has tremendous feel to hit, plus bat speed and is balanced and comfortable at the plate. He also has a terrific idea of the strike zone which, of course, helps him get on base, but could also one day be the key to unlocking in-game power production as he narrows his focus toward pitches he can crush. If you want to nitpick, Meadows has a little bit of a hitch that can cause him to be late and push weak contact the other way, but he’s just 21 and has time to iron that out if you’re indeed concerned about it. This is a hitter who projects to hit for in-game power without sacrificing much contact. That kind of profile is rare for any hitter, let alone one who has a chance to play a premium defensive position.

I think .300 with 23-plus home runs is in play here. That’s a 5 WAR player if Meadows can stay in center. If he can’t (those hammy issues do worry me) or simply doesn’t due to positional need, then the value changes pretty significantly. I docked his FV by a half grade due to the risk associated with his relatively frequent injuries but think he’s one of the best prospects in all of baseball and the second-best one (behind Yoan Moncada) whom I’ve considered so far in this series.

While close to the big leagues, Meadows isn’t close to being a finished product. He should debut in 2017 but it’d be foolhardy to expect instantaneous value the way you could with Andrew Benintendi and Alex Bregman.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 14.4 WAR

austin-meadows-likelihood-of-outcomes

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 5th Round, 2011 from Hart HS (CA)
Age 23 Height 6’7 Weight 195 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 40/45 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Allowed 68 walks in 116.2 innings last year. Recorded average fastball velocity of 93 mph, but average perceived velocity of 96 mph due to extension (per Statcast).

Scouting Report
Glasnow’s scouting report has read the same way for the last four years. He throws hard, has touched 100 in the past (I have him maxing out at 97 this year) and spins one hell of a curveball — a potential plus-plus curve, in fact. When Glasnow (who was sitting 86-89 in high school) broke out in pro ball and started exhibiting those two unteachable traits, he became one of the higher-upside pitching prospects in the minors, as all he’d need to do would be to develop a third pitch and improve his command (both totally reasonable, pitchers do both of those all the time) and he’d be a really valuable big-league starter.

Neither of those things has happened and, in fact, one could argue Glasnow has gone backward a bit, as reports on the curveball were inconsistent this year and his command is bad. I’ve always been lower than most on Glasnow, because every time I see him he fails to throw strikes, and I think it’s more likely he ends up as a dominant bullpen piece than a top-end starter. That said, there are reasons for patience with the command. Glasnow’s velocity exploded in pro ball, and it’s not easy for someone to quickly learn how how to harness and command that kind of newfound arm speed — and even more difficult when the prospect in question is built like a giant whooping crane. I think it’s fine to be patient with Glasnow’s strike-throwing ability and to keep running him out there for the next couple of seasons as a starter to see if he can figure it out.

The changeup is more worrisome. Glasnow would go entire starts in 2016 without throwing it at all and, unless he quickly develops another pitch (I’ve long thought Glasnow could develop a nasty cutter because of his natural tendency to get around the side of the baseball during release) to deal with lefties and pitch through a lineup several times, it doesn’t really matter whether his command arrives.

I think patience is prudent here, and there’s still a chance Glasnow develops into an upper-tier starter, but I think Pirates fans should be bracing themselves for less than that.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 12.4 WAR

tyler-glasnow-likelihood-of-outcomes

3. Mitch Keller, RHP
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Xavier HS (IA)
Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 45/50 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced strikeout and walk rates of 26.8% and 3.7%, respectively, in 2016.

Scouting Report
Keller began throwing much harder as a high-school senior in 2014 (Pittsburgh has drafted several late-rising high-school arms in the past few drafts) and then blew away the GCL that summer but had trouble throwing strikes. He missed much of 2015 with a forearm injury and then returned in 2016, not only demonstrating no ill effects from the forearm issue but enjoying a yearlong parade of dominance.

A significant element of Keller’s terrific year was his ability to pound the strike zone. When I started making scout calls on Keller I expected his fastball/curveball combination to headline the discussion; instead, multiple scouts first mentioned how aggressively Keller attacks hitters before moving on to praise the stuff. There’s more control than command here right now (as in, Keller throws strikes consistently but not necessarily where he wants to), but Keller’s stuff allowed him to make mistakes in the zone against lower-level hitters.

That stuff is headlined by a fastball in the 91-95 mph range that will touch as high as 97. Sources to whom I spoke liked the ground-ball-inducing downhill plane Keller gets on his fastball, as well as his ability to miss bats up in the zone with riding life. His curveball, 75-80 mph, breaks at an 11-5 angle and always bites hard, though it’s depth waxes and wanes. It flashes plus and projects there, but is mostly average to above right now.

Keller’s changeup has some sink to it, but it lacks the impact fade and velocity needed to miss bats right now. Changeup projection is tough here. There’s very little effort involved in the delivery, but the arm action is long. I think it can be an effective pitch, just perhaps not in the way that we traditionally think of changeups, allowing Keller to induce weak, early-count ground-ball contact instead of missing bats.

The forearm issues from 2015 are a bit concerning and the Pirates are actively looking for ways to challenge Keller and force him to deal with adversity — they tried this by having him make a High-A start at the end of the year but Keller carved there, too — because, other than dealing with his injury in 2015, he hasn’t had any experience with it yet. Keep that in mind if there are performance hiccups next year. I think Keller is a potential No. 3 starter, but have his FV diluted by a half grade due to his (lack of) proximity to the majors and because of his past forearm issues.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.8 WAR

mitch-keller-likelihood-of-outcomes

4. Josh Bell, 1B
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2011 from Jesuit HS (TX)
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 235 Bat/Throw B/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
55/60 55/55 50/55 40/30 30/40 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
As LHB: .301/.387/.474.
As RHB: .260/.358/.400.

Scouting Report
Bell was generally viewed as the second-best offensive prospect in a pitching-heavy 2011 draft (it was one hell of a draft) but sent a letter to teams shortly before the day of selection informing them that he’d be honoring his commitment to Texas. However, Bell hadn’t formally opted out (the way we saw Kyler Murray do by skipping drug-test submission). The Pirates proceeded to draft him in the second round and make him a $5 million offer he couldn’t refuse. It’s the record for a bonus given to a second-round pick and will probably never be broken due to the CBA changes the draft has undergone since then.

Bell made his big-league debut this year in his fourth full pro season and had on-paper success despite dealing with numerous growing pains on both sides of the ball. He’s a terrific hitter from the left side, with natural ability to keep his hands inside the ball, good feel for the barrel, plate coverage, leverage and strength that allows for all-fields power. Bell hit well as a lefty despite extremely inconsistent footwork, striding closed and getting his foot down early at times and employing a big, slow leg kick at others. These changes appeared game to game, swing-to-swing and clearly screwed with Bell’s timing, which led to some pretty ugly hacks, but Bell’s prodigious physical talent allowed him to succeed in spite of this. I received mixed opinions when I asked scouts if they thought Bell’s modest offensive success amidst all these changes during his call-up was encouraging or if they found it disconcerting that a 24-year-old was still tinkering this much.

He’s worse from the right side, where Bell still has power (pull-only) and displays good bat control but the quality of the contact is not quite as good. His terrific approach and idea of the strike zone allows for offensive viability from both sides of the plate.

The plan for now is to continue running Bell out as a first baseman if for no other reason than because the Pirates don’t have any other options there at the moment. Bell is bad there, some would argue unplayable, and hasn’t progressed as much as hoped since he began getting reps there in 2014. Bell isn’t a great defender in the outfield, either, but at least there his above-average arm can impact the game more often than it does on the dirt.

I think Bell’s ability to walk and limit his strikeouts makes for a promising big-league foundation. I also think the power he displays as a left-handed hitter will allow the overall profile to play at first — or even DH, if things get to that point.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 7.7 WAR

josh-bell-likelihood-of-outcomes

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Arizona
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 40/40 30/40 60/60 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Steamer already projecting .273/.320/.378 after one full pro season.

Scouting Report
Varied opinions about Newman’s overall projection surround his defense. If a given scout thinks Newman fits defensively at shortstop, then it’s difficult to deny the likelihood that he becomes at least an average everyday player. If the scout finds Newman’s defense there to be subpar and prefers him at either second or third base, then suddenly the offensive bar Newman needs to clear to profile as an everyday player becomes ambitiously high.

Newman is a plus straight-line runner with an above-average arm. He has good defensive footwork but, despite his straight-line speed, he lacks an explosive first step (which limits his range) and his hands are inconsistent. He is a fringe-average athlete. I think the sum of the parts is enough to play at short, even if it isn’t spectacular, but acknowledge that the margin for error is pretty thin and, if an injury saps Newman of range or arm strength at any time, his overall utility looks pretty dicey.

This dude rakes, though. Newman has plus bat speed, terrific hand-eye coordination and can move the barrel around the hitting zone. He sprays line-drive and hard ground-ball contact to all fields and quite comfortably profiles as a plus hitter. He has no power, in part because of how little he utilizes his lower half in the swing, something that has followed Newman to pro ball despite what appears to be a narrower stance and longer stride than he had in college. I’m not advocating any sort of proactive overhaul to Newman’s approach, because I think a plus-hitting shortstop is a good prospect and it doesn’t make sense to jeopardize that with greed. But if, for some reason, Newman does have to move off of short and more power is required for him to profile, tapping into that lower half is probably a good place to start.

For context, Jordy Mercer was worth 1.5 WAR this year as an average defensive shortstop who hit for very little power. I think Newman has a more favorable contact profile than Mercer does and is a pretty solid bet to post 2.0-plus WAR annually at peak.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 6.0 WAR

kevin-newman-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Concordia Lutheran (TX)
Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/55 45/50 30/45 50/40 45/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded .130 ISO.

Scouting Report
The foundation of Hayes’ profile is built on his defense. He has a terrific first step (and good defensive feet in general) and range, and he sometimes fields balls to his left that seem destined for shortstop. He bends well at the knees and waist and has plus arm projection. He’s a potential plus defender at third base.

Offensively, Hayes has good feel to hit thanks to a relatively low-maintenance swing, solid hand-eye coordination and good offspeed-pitch recognition. His bat path is geared for ground balls but Hayes’ timing allows him to get to some of his currently modest raw pull power in games.

The aspect of Hayes’ future most difficult to nail down is his raw power projection. His bat speed is just average and his wrists aren’t especially strong through contact. If scouts think the power is going to come it’s because they believe the body has more to give. Hayes has a thick lower half but is cut and sinewy up top (something on which he’s clearly worked since high school, when his body was just bad), and some scouts think his upper body is going to fill out as he ages and lead to more strength-based power. Others think this is more or less the body Hayes will take into his prime and that Hayes’ power projection is somewhat limited.

I fall into the latter group because, even if Hayes does add mass, I’m skeptical about the bat speed as a power producer. Despite that, the combination of defense and contact here is very promising and the fact that there’s a non-zero chance for some power too makes Hayes a potential first-division regular. His proximity to the majors suppresses his FV, but he has a chance to squeak onto the back of my overall top 100.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.1 WAR

kebryan-hayes-likelihood-of-outcomes

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Mountain Pointe HS (AZ)
Age 20 Height 6’3 Weight 185 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 40/50 20/50 55/50 45/55 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted 9.5% walk rate at High-A.

Scouting Report
There are scouts who prefer Tucker to Newman based on upside. Indeed, Tucker’s is substantial if he can settle into a physical goldilocks zone that allows him to remain at shortstop while also growing into power. He has the frame for it at a wide-shouldered, thick-assed 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and has become more authoritative with the bat in the two years since signing. He’s still learning how to drive the ball but has a natural high finish to his left-handed swing and has flashed some opposite-field power from that side. His righty swing is raw and uncontrolled. He may never hit from that side.

Tucker is an above-average runner right now and has retained that speed since high school while also adding some strength. If, as his body continues to grow, he can hold serve there, he might be able to stay at shortstop. His footwork and athleticism are fine for short and his actions are promising, if somewhat unrefined. Tucker needed shoulder surgery late in 2014 and missed much of 2015 as a result. Scouts who have seen him at various times over the past 18 months have noted that the arm strength has continued to improve since returning as he’s gotten reps. If that trend continues, he could have a plus arm at maturity, plenty for whichever spot on the left side of the infield his body dictates he play.

I’m inclined to project Tucker to third base based on the discussions I’ve had with four-corners area scouts who have seen his body develop over the past several years, and I do think the power will come. The ceiling here is substantial — as is the risk, due to how much of the profile is still in flux and because Tucker already has a shoulder surgery under his belt.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.4 WAR

cole-tucker-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 11th Round, 2013 from Regis U
Age 25 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
45/45 50/55 40/45 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Struck out roughly 26% of opposing batters at Triple-A.

Scouting Report
An athletic, albeit somewhat undersized, lefty whose fastball sits 88-91 with some sink and will bump 93, Brault has a chance for plus fastball command. He’s especially good at locating to his glove side, which helps his fringey changeup play just off the plate against right-handed hitters. His mid-80s slider is average. It bites late but lacks length unless he’s burying it down and to his glove side, where it can be particularly nasty. The slider plays up against lefties due to Brault’s low-ish arm slot and crossfire delivery.

Brault’s strike-throwing was not as crisp this year as it has been in the past, but he’s a terrific athlete and repeats his delivery well. A bounce back in this area is important because that command is the glue that holds Brault’s entire profile together and allows him to have a back-end starter’s profile.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.4 WAR

steven-brault-likelihood-of-outcomes

9. Will Craig, DH
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Wake Forest
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 235 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/55 55/55 40/50 30/30 40/40 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
See paragraph below.

Scouting Report
Let’s enjoy Craig’s college stat line before we sober up by discussing his defensive profile. He hit .379/.520/.731 this past year with 47 walks, 35 strikeouts and 32 extra-base hits (16 homers) in 275 plate appearances as a junior. He was also hit by 11 pitches that, when combined with the 11 pitches that hit him in pro ball after Craig signed, comes to a total of 22 hit-by-pitches this year. That would have ranked No. 1 among qualified hitters in major-league baseball this year. (Human target Brandon Guyer didn’t play enough to qualify.)

This level of performance was not aberrational. Craig was also ACC Player of the Year as a sophomore and has a long track record of in-season hitting against large-conference college pitching (though he struggled to hit on the Cape in 2015 and in the Northwoods League the summer before that). For clubs that are more receptive to the warm embrace of on-field performance, Craig was one of the draft’s safer prospects.

And, indeed, he does have many admirable offensive abilities. Craig has a terrific idea of his strike zone and takes excellent at-bats, his swing is relatively compact, the bat speed is fine and Craig can punish balls in various parts of the hitting zone and is especially adept at golfing out balls down and in. He has above-average raw power and projects as an above-average hitter.

The offensive profile isn’t iron clad from a scouting standpoint. Craig’s struggles to hit and/or hit for power during summer ball and in his short pro stint after signing share a common thread: a wooden bat. I also had one source note that they thought Craig took an unusually high number of check swings in the series they saw, which made them question his pitch recognition.

There are also concerns about Craig’s defensive profile. He’s a third baseman right now — and his arm (plus) and passable footwork have Pittsburgh justifiably hopeful about his prospects there — but Craig’s already a 30 runner and has a big, mature body that seems likely to move to either first base or an outfield corner. Such a move would obviously put more pressure on Craig’s bat.

If you’re inclined to think a move to first base is in the cards at some point (I am), then Craig’s ceiling is probably that of an average everyday player, as he lacks the monster tools needed for star-level output at that position. Craig served as Wake’s closer and can touch the mid-90s with a moving fastball over which he has below-average command while spinning an above-average breaking ball, so a mound conversion is a viable fallback if things go that far awry.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR

will-craig-likelihood-of-outcomes

10. Alen Hanson, 2B
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2009 from Dominican Republic
Age 24 Height 5’11 Weight 180 Bat/Throw B/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 40/40 30/40 60/60 50/50 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Stole 38 bases, with 70% success rate, in 2016.

Scouting Report
It’s quite clear at this point that Hanson simply doesn’t have the power to profile as a regular at any of the defensive positions he’s capable of playing. He has a minimalistic, ground-ball-heavy swing that allows for average contact, but Hanson doesn’t get his lower half involved at all and many of his extra-base hits are of the slash-and-run variety.

But Hanson is a capable defender at second base, left field, and (if you’re okay with fringe arm strength at these positions) third and right. Ideally you’d like you’re utility man to be passable at at least one premium position but Hanson hasn’t played shortstop regularly since 2014 due to his arm, and saw his first action in center field (just one game) in 2016. Hanson is a plus runner and it would buoy his value a bit if he were to develop into a passable defender in center, though given how crowded Pittsburgh’s outfield is, it’s likely that spring reps will be tough to come by and learning the position at Triple-A robs a potentially competitive Pirates club of an already useful big-league bench piece. Hanson profiles as a contact/speed utility man with a relatively narrow defensive profile. It’s a great return on investment for a player who signed for just $90,000.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR

alen-hanson-likelihood-of-outcomes

11. Nick Kingham, RHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2010 from Sierra Vista HS (NV)
Age 25 Height 6’6 Weight 225 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/55 50/55 45/50 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. All but two starts this past year were rehab starts.

Scouting Report
Kingham had Tommy John in May of 2015 and was brought back conservatively, making his 2016 debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League early in July. He spent a month there before making two starts with High-A Bradenton and then kicking out of the complex for two starts at Double-A Altoona. He’s likely to begin 2017 back at Triple-A (where he spent the second half of 2014 and began 2015 prior to injury) and debut in Pittsburgh at some point this year.

Returns from Kingham’s handful of starts this year were good. His fastball velocity was back, mostly 90-93 with plane and some wiggle and creeping up above that at times. He continues to have feel for a mid-80s power curveball that has solid average depth but plays up because of its velocity. He can bury it in the dirt and locate it in the zone for strikes. His changeup is fringey right now but projects to average with reps. It featured solid arm speed pre-injury but Kingham wasn’t throwing it with the same conviction this year after he returned. It has a little bit of movement and should induce weak contact, but it’s not the kind of change that misses bats.

Kingham’s command was below average this year but command isn’t typically one of the first things to return after TJ, and his strike-throwing track record before his elbow blew out was good. It’s more zone-filling control than it is surgical command. The collective package profiles as a No. 4 or 5 starter.

40 FV Prospects

12. Elias Diaz, C
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2008 from Venezuela
Age 26 Height 6’1 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/50 45/45 30/40 20/20 50/55 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None. Was hurt for much of year, played just 34 games.

Scouting Report
Diaz earns significant praise for his defense, and deservedly so, as he’s an excellent receiver with good lateral mobility to block balls. An elbow injury delayed Diaz’s season until July. He was posting pop times that hovered around average after he returned, but an offseason of rest could yield more in the upcoming spring. Regardless, Diaz profiles as an above-average defensive catcher with at least a solid-average arm.

Diaz has some power (strength more than bat speed) at the plate, but it’s to his pull side only and he has pitch-recognition and bat-path issues. He keeps things simple enough to avoid big strikeout totals but the quality of the contact he generates is middling. The overall offensive profile is rather mediocre in a vacuum, but there are some who think it’s enough, when coupled with his defense, to make Diaz a low-end regular at catcher. He’s at least very likely to have a tenured big-league career as a backup due to his defensive profile and makeup, and limiting Diaz’s reps might be best for keeping him healthy. He had multiple 60-day DL stints this past season and suffered a back injury during winter ball. I have him projected as a backup.

13. Taylor Hearn, LHP
Drafted: 5th Round, 2015 from OK Baptist
Age 22 Height 6’5 Weight 210 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
70/80 50/55 30/50 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 39% strikeout rate in Pirates system after trade.

Scouting Report
Acquired from Washington in exchange for Mark Melancon ahead of the trade deadline, Hearn continued missing bats with his monster fastball for the final two months of the season. Hearn sits 93-96 mph and has been up to 100 with a fastball that features good downhill plane when located down and bat-missing life when it’s up. A lithe and projectable 6-foot-5, Hearn has some issues repeating what is a loose and athletic delivery. The arm is quick and Hearn extends well, allowing his mid-to-upper 90s velocity to play up. His slider is average and Hearn has very little command of it, but it has a chance to tick up a half-grade or so with reps. His changeup is also promising and projectable, mostly because of how quick and athletic the arm is, and I do think Pittsburgh is right to try to develop Hearn as a starter. He had been pitching in relief in Washington’s system leading up to the trade and continued to do so as he got his feet wet with Pittsburgh, but he was starting by the end of the year. He has the body and smooth, athletic delivery to start but also has well below-average command.

Hearn’s raw control can at least partially be explained away by his size (for those of you that skipped the Glasnow report, long-limbed pitchers can often take longer to develop) and development time lost to injury. Hearn suffered from a strained UCL in high school and had a screw put in his elbow as a college freshman after suffering two humeral fractures. He essentially threw 30 competitive innings between June of 2012 and January of 2015, which has kept Hearn’s arm fresh but has undoubtedly slowed his development.

If you’re willing to buy into Hearn as a circumstantial late-bloomer, then feel free to dream, because he has one of the higher ceilings in this system. His changeup is especially projectable because, as he’s spent considerable time in a relief role, it hasn’t gotten reps. Hearn has a lot of questions to answer, especially for a 22-year-old, but could be near the top of this list if he adds a healthy full season of starts to his resume next year.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.7 WAR

trevor-hearn-likelihood-of-outcomes

14. Gage Hinsz, RHP
Drafted: 11th Round, 2014 from Billings West HS (MT)
Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
55/60 50/60 30/45 30/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Walked just 11 batters in 60 innings between June and July. Walked 14 over his final 32 innings.

Scouting Report
With a big, sturdy, inning-eating frame, a fastball up to 95 and bountiful projection due to geographic background (he’s from Montana), Hinsz’s potential began to bubble to the surface this year. He has good curveball feel and consistently breaks off what is an average curve on shape and movement but still has issues locating it. It flashes better than that and has a chance to be plus at maturity. His changeup is well below average and likely a developmental priority moving forward.

Hinsz struggled to throw strikes late in the year, as he nearly tripled his 2015 workload. He wasn’t getting out over his front side consistently and leaving fastballs up out of the zone. His season-long stamina, changeup and command will all need to improve but he, somewhat conservatively, looks like a potential league-average starter who remains a long way off at this point.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.7 WAR

gage-hinsz-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2013 from Arizona St.
Age 25 Height 6’3 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command
55/55 55/55 40/40 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 53% ground-ball rate as minor leaguer in 2016, per MLB Farm.

Scouting Report
A lead-armed sinkerballer who dominated the International League with a low-90s fastball/sinker combo that he’d run up to 94, Williams made too many mistakes in the zone with that fastball and below-average changeup in his few big-league innings. He has an above-average slider and that pitch, down and in, is his best weapon against lefties. The command is going to need to come here if Williams is going to be more than a fifth- or sixth-starter type of arm.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 2.2 WAR

trevor-williams-likelihood-of-outcomes

16. Clay Holmes, RHP
Drafted: 9th Round, 2011 from Slocomb HS (AL)
Age 24 Height 6’5 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 40/45 50/55 40/45 40/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Conceded 64 walks in 136.1 innings.

Scouting Report
One of many pitchers on this list to have dealt with a major arm injury, Holmes had Tommy John in 2014. He returned to his first full season of work this year and struggled with command and to consistently miss bats at Double-A, and most scouts think his future is in the bullpen.

Holmes sits 90-94 and will bump 95 with varied amounts of movement. His delivery is a bit stiff and upright (though it has improved since he was drafted) and difficult to repeat, which has led to below-average fastball command. Holmes’ curveball, mostly 77-81, is average, flashes above and projects as his best secondary pitch. His changeup is below average due to a lack of movement but lost a year of development due to the TJ and could still get to average. Scouts who saw Holmes late in the year saw some early signs of a cutter/slider.

There’s a back-end starter’s repertoire here, but the command profile likely falls short of that. If Holmes’ velocity ticks up in short stints, he could pitch in a big-league relief role. It makes sense to run him out as a starter again in 2017 in case things click in Holmes’ second full season after surgery. The Pirates added him to the 40-man to protect him from Rule 5 exposure, and he’ll likely debut in the majors at some point in 2017 as a spot starter for a doubleheader or due to injury.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

clay-holmes-likelihood-of-outcomes

17. Luis Escobar, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Colombia
Age 21 Height 6’1 Weight 155 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 40/55 45/60 20/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has allowed just seven home runs in 170 career innings.

Scouting Report
Escobar has an electric arm action and throws the hell out of the baseball but has very little idea where it’s going, and his upper half isn’t developed enough to generate great velocity deep into starts. Escobar’s fastball sits in the low 90s with downhill plane. When it finds the zone, it elicits uncomfortable swings due to its movement.

Escobar has a thick, sturdy lower half (an integral part of his delivery), and it’s hard to know how much mass he’s going to add in other areas that might lead to more velo. His secondaries (a changeup and curveball) both flash above average or better, so if no more velocity is coming there’s still a chance for Escobar to make his way into a rotation as long as he reins in his control and tightens up his breaking ball. It has mostly vertical movement but will slurve out toward his glove side at times. He only uses it down and away against righties right now, because pitching inside to left-handed hitters is a risky proposition for someone with this kind of command.

The changeup projects to plus. Escobar mimics his fastball’s arm speed and the pitch’s plane and fade are very difficult to pick up out of Escobar’s hand. He’ a potential mid-rotation starter because of the stuff, but the command needs to triple jump its way to average for that to be in play.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.9 WAR

luis-escobar-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from East Lake HS (FL)
Age 19 Height 6’3 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
50/55 40/45 45/60 30/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
The Pirates have pounced upon arms that pop up late in the draft’s scouting calendar, as well as very projectable bodies that have feel for a breaking ball even if the velocity isn’t there yet. MacGregor represents the former catergory and his underslot deal in the second round was likely part of a failed effort to net prep lefty Nick Lodolo, the club’s Lottery Round A selection at No. 41 overall who falls into the latter. Lodolo was viewed as a tough sign and, while the Pirates liked MacGregor, he was more of a third- or fourth-round talent to many, which allowed for something under slot here, even if it was just $50,000.

The Pirates think they got in on the ground floor with MacGregor. His velo ticked up during his draft year and he was touching 94. He has good changeup feel, is a solid athlete and has tremendous makeup. The delivery is easy and repeatable and the body still has projection. The breaking ball is behind, though, and not all are convinced MacGregor has the arm speed to improve it significantly. There’s a chance for a No. 4 or 5 starter here if the command maxes out or if the breaking ball exceeds projections.

19. Edgar Santana, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 25 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
60/60 55/60 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 24% strikeout rate at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Santana sits 94-98 and will touch 100 with the occasional tail, but he didn’t miss many bats with his fastball in my Fall League looks at him and I wonder if hitters see the ball well out of his hand and can time it. His mid-80s slider flashes plus, with tigh,t two-plane movement. It’s a max-effort relief delivery with a long arm action. I think this is a middle-relief profile because of the way the fastball plays, even if it looks like a late-inning arm on the surface.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.5 WAR

edgar-santana-likelihood-of-outcomes

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from Tulane
Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 30/30 20/20 60/60 45/60 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .249/.286/.306 in pro ball after signing.

Scouting Report
A chop-and-run hitter with no game power and a generally poor feel for hitting, literally all of Alemais’ profile is wrapped up in his defensive promise. Alemais is an athletic shortstop with the range, actions and arm to play there and potentially become plus. He’s a confident, high-effort player with great makeup, but the ceiling is capped by his offensive inabilities. He projects as a utility man.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.7 WAR

stephen-alemais-likelihood-of-outcomes

21. Braeden Ogle, LHP
Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from Jensen Beach HS (FL)
Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 45/55 20/40 30/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Wiry lefty whose fastball was reaching the upper-90s late in the year. Ogle has feel for a slurvy breaking ball that flashes average but the delivery requires a great deal of effort and his changeup is extremely raw. Lefties with this kind of velo and some feel for spin are always prospects, but Ogle is probably at least five years away from the Majors.
*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)
Yeudy Garcia, RHP, 0.9 KATOH+ WAR – Garcia put up good numbers at Bradenton this year, but the scouting reports are middling beyond his velocity. Garcia’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and he’ll show you 95-plus deep into starts. Beyond that, things drop off. Garcia’s slider arm speed and quality are both inconsistent, flashing above average but also often below. His changeup is below average and scouts have soured on its projection, as Garcia has added physical bulk and stiffened up over the last year. That stiffness could also be contributing to Garcia’s below-average command, which went a bit backward in 2016. He’s a 24-year-old who hasn’t pitched above A-ball but is worth monitoring due to the velocity. Scouts with whom I spoke consider him an up-and-down relief arm.

Tyler Webb, LHP, 1.8 KATOH+ – A Rule 5 reliever pickup with low-90s fastball, average curveball and above-average changeup, Webb a chance to be more than a LOOGY if he sticks.

Max Moroff, UTIL, 5.2 KATOH+ – Moroff has some swing and miss from both sides of the plate and his right-handed cut is barely playable, but he’s an average runner and defender who can play multiple positions and sting right-handed pitching a little bit. He’s an up-and-down utility man for me. Ronnie Belliard is a statistical comp.

Jose Osuna, 1B, 1.3 KATOH+ – Osuna’s a 24-year-old Venezuelan who is twitchy for his size and has big pull power. Scouts don’t think there’s enough of a hit/power combo (mostly the hit variable) to play first base every day, though, and consider him a Quad-A guy.

Max Kranick, RHP – A projectable righty from a cold-weather climate with a low-90s fastball, Kranick also has some breaking-ball feel and hides the ball well. The delivery has some effort and the change needs to develop. A No. 4 or 5 extreme ceiling for me.

Kevin Kramer, 2B, 0.9 KATOH+ – Kramer has great bat-to-ball skills but is second-base-only due to range and arm strength issues and doesn’t have the power to profile there, nor can he touch lefties. Look for him to start branching out defensively. If he can be viable at a few positions the bat could carry him to the majors.

Barrett Barnes, OF, 0.3 KATOH+ – Barnes is corner-only outfielder who hit well as Double-A this year as a 25 year old but who lacks the power to profile as a regular. The cement is dry on the body, so it’s unlikely more is coming. He does have an excellent approach and runs fairly well. He might have a place as a fifth outfielder.

Jordan Luplow, LF, 1.0 KATOH+ – Luplow has some raw power and speed, but the former doesn’t play in games due to Luplow’s stiffness and his swing’s late trigger. When he gets a hold of one, it goes, but it may not happen often enough for him to profile in left field.

Frank Duncan, RHP, 3.4 KATOH+ – A rubber-armed sinker/curveball righty who has reached Triple-A in just two full seasons out of college, Duncan fills the zone and eats innings, but his stuff (sinker in the upper-80s, fringe-average breaking ball, below-average changeup) is that of an up-and-down arm more than a big-league mainstay.

Brandon Waddell, LHP, 2.0 KATOH+ – A pitchability lefty who had an excellent college career at Virginia, Waddell has a middling four-pitch mix and hasn’t pitched with the kind of command he’ll need to survive with this stuff since his sophomore year of college. He, like some other UVA pitchers, began to struggle in his draft year and he’s continued to have issues throwing strikes in pro ball.

Jin-De Jhang, C, 2.7 KATOH+ – Jhang’s a trilingual catcher with mobility issues that make it hard to consider him a long-term defensive catcher, but he receives well and can hit a little bit.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.
Pablo Reyes, 2B/SS, 0.4 KATOH+
Of the organizations considered so far in this series of prospect reports, Pittsburgh features one of the richest collections of fringe talent. Kevin Kramer possesses the precise combination of contact skills and defensive ability that allow a player to outperform otherwise marginal tools. Max Moroff features a similar profile, conceding some of Kramer’s bat-to-ball acumen while offering a resume that includes success at both Double- and Triple-A. Jordan Luplow and Eric Wood (1.2 KATOH+) also merit some attention.

As for Reyes, he’s nearly a clone of Kramer. Both just played the entirety of their age-22 seasons at High-A. Both were fixtures in Bradenton’s infield. Both finished in the 85th percentile or better of Florida State League batters by strikeout rate.

But Reyes’s success is even less probable than Kramer’s. He signed not for $850,000 (as Kramer did), but rather just $45,000. He’s three (or probably more, according to Jon Dreker) inches shorter than Kramer. He’s also, despite his size, somehow recorded better power numbers than Kramer each of the past two seasons. The combination of promise — and the unlikelihood of that promise — is notable.

*****

System Overview

This is a top-heavy system with six potential top-100 prospects and a deep coffer of young, projectable arms that should filter upward through the minor-league ladder and yield good pitching depth. The fascinating trends within it are the pitching archetypes (outlined in the MacGregor paragraph) Pittsburgh seems to hunt in the draft. The org has long been at the forefront of baseball biometrics research, and it’s possible they’ve identified traits that are indicative of fastball projection while the rest of us overvalue current velocity. Also of note is an international scouting strategy that focuses on signing a high volume of prospects for modest six-figure bonuses. The Pirates don’t often make big splashes on the IFA market but still consistently churn out contributors and prospects. Despite the likelihood of several 2017 graduates from this list, it’s an Andrew McCutchen trade and 13th-overall pick away from having the same number of 50+ FV prospects next offseason as it does right now.



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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.


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