Oh the Pirates, a team I was excited to write about due to my fondness for their high end prospects. But much like a beautiful woman with a pretty face and a giant set of sweater puppets, they top heavy. I mean top heavy AF, as the kids say on the Snapface. Seriously, after Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, Mitch Keller, and Josh Bell, the system falls off a cliff. I found myself 10 players in trying to figure out if there was anyone else to write about besides Steven “freaking” Brault. Sorry Noise, I really didn’t want to add insult to injury after that thorough stomping the Pats gave the Steelers, but it is what it is. Razzing aside, it is RAZZ-ball after all, the Pirates have 4 prospects I’d like to own everywhere. Meadows, Glasnow, Bell, and Keller, and all offer potentially premium ceilings with relatively safe floors. Though Meadows is blocked at the MLB level now, I think we all anticipate that changing. One of the great things about owning prospects from small market systems, is they need those players to strive at the major league level to control costs. I’m not saying it’s a value boost, but it leaves their futures less murky than say a Dodgers, Yankees, or Red Sox prospect. Ahhhh whatevs, let’s talk the Top Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects for 2017 Fantasy Baseball.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Austin Meadows, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AAA/AA
Quite possibly the best hitting prospect in the minors that’s never had anything to do with the Red Sox in any way shape or form. A true 5 category contributor for fantasy, and a potential superstar in waiting. The one catch is he’s got to stay healthy. Last year was an up and down year for Meadows. He struggled at times upon promotion to AAA, and was once again hit by the injury bug, missing almost the entire month of July. Conversely his power broke out in a significant way, nearly tripling his 2015 ISO of .100 to a robust .270. There was also the 25 game hit strike that spanned his last month in AA through the first 2 games of his AAA career. All in all Meadows went from a hit tool/speed player with projectable power to a true offensive force on the cusp. Now we just need Andrew McCutchen traded. Unless that happens we might be waiting on Meadows until late August. Oh by the way Grey covered him on Halloween, it’s super scary.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | MLB/AAA
By this point you should know all about the 6’7 giant with the good stuff. No, not you JB, get out of here. I save you for Brewers material. Podcast hosts aside, we’re obviously talking about Tyler Glasnow. After dominating AAA during his time with Indianapolis, the righty struggled in his brief 23.1 innings in the bigs. His massive strikeout upside is only matched by his control problems, easily identified in his 5+ Bb/9 across multiple levels. There in lies the rub (no prude brothels in mi casa), Glasnow for all his upside is as risky a top 10 prospect as you’ll find in the upper minors. Granted it takes tall pitchers longer to find their control, and Glasnow is only 23, but still a freaking 5+ Bb/9? That’s atrocious! His issues are easy to diagnose even to a novice like myself. He needs to repeat his mechanics to control his pitches. If he can do that his nasty arsenal will play up. There’s a solid chance Glasnow gets a shot at the rotation out of camp. At the moment he’s penciled in. Won’t be a bad risk/reward pick late in redraft if he breaks camp.
Mitch Keller, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: A+/A-
When you watch Keller pitch you can see what all the hype is about. The fastball is an effortless 95-97, with bite and sink, the curve has a sharp 11 to 5 shape, and the change has nice sinking action as it approaches the plate. His major question is health after missing most of 2015 with a forearm injury, but he pitched a full season in 2016 tossing 130 innings. He’ll look to defy the health concerns again in 2017. I expect him to start the season with an assignment to Bradenton of the Florida State League, and should see some starts in AA with Altoona. How much helium does Keller’s prospect status have? He was ranked ahead of Glasnow in Baseball America’s Pirates top 10.
Josh Bell, 1B/OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
Long a name on the tongues of Prospectors and dynasty managers, Bell is the ultimate great hit tool/projected power guy. Dom Smith, wishes he was Josh Bell, but probably doesn’t. Josh Bell is on every one of James Loney’s fantasy teams. (Little known alternative fact, Loney is a big dynasty player.) Thankfully 2016 was a year of firsts for Bell, as he debuted in the majors. But more importantly, it was the first time he showed some of the power expected from a man his size. Hitting 17 homers, and eclipsing his former season high of 14 in A ball way back in 2013. Bell’s a switching hitting contact machine, spraying hits to all fields, and consistently hitting for a high average. The problem is even with the power gains Bell hits too many groundballs. A 48.81% GB rate to a 24.51% FB rate ain’t getting you to 25+ homers Joshie. I’d like to see him adjust his line drive approach to tap into some of his power potential. Just a little tilt. Could be a sleeper for best offensive rookie if he gets everyday at bats at first.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Kevin Newman, SS | Age: 23 | ETA: 2018 | 2016 Level: AA/A
Newman is a very nice real life prospect a good defensive shortstop with an excellent hit tool, and the profile of a number 2 hitter. He should have fantasy relevant seasons in his prime with a high average, and low teen homers possible. He’s an excellent base runner with above average speed, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he has seasons with double digit steals. Overall he’s a very nice prospect with a high floor and mid-round fantasy ceiling. Newman’s a guy you take in the 5-9 round that never hurts you. That’s how I see his future.
Alen Hanson, 2B/OF | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
He’s got speed and hit tool, and I’m a little shocked we didn’t see more of him in Pittsburgh last season. Then again where does he play? Could be an excellent source of steals if he gets 400+ at bats. That’s a rather large if though. Swiped 36 bags in AAA last season while slashing .266/.318/.389. The steals and slashline perfectly illuminate the type of player Hanson is. It’s tough to know where Hanson fits in today with the Bucs, barring injury, but he could win some time in a super utility role.
Nick Kingham, RHP | Age: 25 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: AA/A+/Rk
Once on the cusp of joining us he Pirates rotation back in May of 2015, when tragedy struck and Kingham needed Tommy John surgery. How tragic! He returned in the second half of last season and threw 46 innings across three levels. When he’s right he mixes a plus fastball, with an above average change, and an average breaking pitch in his curve. He controls and commands his stuff well, and uses his easily repeatable mechanics to pound the zone.
Steven Brault, LHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2016 Level: MLB/AAA
When you look up Floorbored in the Prospector dictionary (real thing), a picture of Brault is next to it. A lefty with three average pitches and good control, who should get some run in Pittsburgh this year. He’s on my radar for NL only leagues and 16+ team leagues.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B | Age: 19 | ETA: 2020 | 2016 Level: A-
Son of former major leaguer Charlie Hayes, Ke’Bryan not only has a name from Key and Peele’s East/West Bowl skit, he’s also a good prospect. Mostly hit tool and projection, he flashes moments of brilliance. The hope here is his pitch recognition skills and hit tool continue to grow and the power grows in. This could be a breakout year for Hayes if he shows improvement in those areas.
Will Craig, 3B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
I ranked Craig 7th overall in my first year player draft rankings back in October, here’s what I said then. Considered one of the top college bats in the draft, Craig is lauded for his bat speed, and pretty right handed swing. He has advanced approach which he showed with West Virginia of the New York-Penn League. He’s someone who will draw a lot of Billy Butler comps, but those are kind of lazy and body driven. Craig’s power didn’t translate initially but I wouldn’t write it off, based on what he showed at Wake Forest.
Cole Tucker, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A+/A-
A tools and makeup guy with no real carrying offensive tool. The Pirates are so top heavy I’m writing about this mook. That’s a little harsh, as Tucker was young for the Florida State League last year, and he has the baseline tools and athleticism to make a jump forward in the next two years.
Gage Hinsz, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2016 Level: A-
A young projectable righty the Pirates bagged in the 11th round of the 2014 draft. Hinz in addition to having a great name follows in the grand tradition of the Pirates taking chances on high school arms and uncovering gold (see Keller,Mitch and Glasnow, Tyler). His fastball is a plus pitch, and he has feel for the change. Will get a shot at the Florida State League this year after showing well in the Sally with West Virginia.
Others: Luis Escobar, Taylor Hearns, Danny Beeddes, Dr. Kenneth Noisewater
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