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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.

Others: Elias Diaz, Clay Holmes, Max Moroff, Kevin Kramer, Dovydas Neverauskas

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

Check Out Our Minor League Preview Index for all articles and podcasts on all 30 teams!

   
  1. Richard Davis says:
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    I see Newman as pretty much a “poor man’s” Dansby Swanson, maybe not even a “poor man’s”, and more of right on par with Dansby, with just less hype. Do you agree? Do you think they are pretty close to equals in their fantasy value and stats? Thanks

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Richard Davis: I think Swanson’s ceiling is higher, better power and wheels. I think Newman’s hit tool is better.

  2. Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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    Great one. How would you compare Meadows to Brinson? I have a hard time telling them apart!

  3. Alan says:
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    Finally, first names that are easy to say

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Alan: So true!!!

  4. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:
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    I got to the Snapface link and was all set to be fake angry at you for using a Belichik phrase in a Pittsburgh article, until I continued reading and now I’m going to have to take the next few months to see if my family and I want to finish reading this article.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Dr. Kenneth Noisewater: Sorry Noise I was just trying to
      Make Pittsburgh Great Again.

      Smooches

      • Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: Heard it’s going to be cold in Houston next weekend, cold as ICE. And actually, you’ve been kinder than expected.

        I can take comfort in the fact that Allegheny was the one blue county on this side of the state.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Dr. Kenneth Noisewater: Hey! We’re the ones that dubbed him Matty Ice!

          Cold is good for us though…..haha

          So your whole area supports losers?:0)

        • Big Odio says:
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          @Dr. Kenneth Noisewater: I blame LameAss Bell for your whooping. I hope that helps you sleep better

  5. Tweak says:
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    I’ve really enjoyed Pittsburgh’s resurgence over the last few years and have always found myself rooting for the Pirates.

    That said, it is hard to watch them near the end of each season. With the rise of the Cubs and the consistency of the Cards, to see them get so close and fail is almost harder than them being generally terrible for two decades. I hope that they can find a way to maintain their success, or even improve, with their top-4 arriving soon.

    I’m sitting on Meadows everywhere I’ve got him, but this past season I moved Bell and Glasnow for AJ Reed, Jesse Winker and a rd 2 pick (12-team dynasty, 30 players + 4 minors per team). Hopefully that works out in the long-run. I’ve got good, young pitching for now and Glasnow’s inconsistencies scared me off.

    Hanson is their next Josh Harrison. I like Craig for the future.

    Do you think Bell sticks as 1B for them this year? I can’t figure out their plan for him. Just let the dude play!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Tweak: Yeah I think he should get some run at first. His poor defense is holding him back.

  6. Ra'zbahl Al Ghul says:
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    Might you have any historical comps for guys like Glasnow and Snell that give hope their walk rates can settle the eff down? Doods scare me. I see guys that had career milb BB/9 in the 3’s and below that dominate. But who made a nice career out of rates in the 4 and 5s? Archer could be an example at 5, Snell and Glasnow both had 4.4…

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Ra’zbahl Al Ghul: Nolan Ryan, Kerry Wood, Rich Harden. There’s guys like Oliver Perez who were good for a year or two.

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        A ton of guys… Randy Johnson

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Grey: He didn’t have a walk rate like that for his career though. I figured he was disqualified by the 3’s thing.

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            The 3’s thing? You lost me

            • Ralph Lifshitz

              Ralph Lifshitz says:
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              @Grey: I thought he was looking for guys who had a career MLB walk rate in the fours and up. Maybe he just meant the minors .

              • Grey

                Grey says:
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                Oh

                • Ralph Lifshitz

                  Ralph Lifshitz says:
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                  @Grey: He’s a reliever :0)

                  • Grey

                    Grey says:
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                    Haha

        • Ra'zbahl Al Ghul says:
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          @Grey: Holy Johnson! His was 6.5 BB/9… Ryan 6.2… holy badonkadonks batman! Point taken.

  7. Big Odio says:
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    I hear Meadows throws like a girl.

    I have always thought he said Meadow in this song, which is weird for a hip hop song..he probably says metal, but who cares, Im bored at work today.

    http://www.tubechop.com/watch/8830659

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Big Odio: Haha I’ve always thought that too.

      He’s a centerfielder though, a lot of them throw like girls, the Red Sox had a string of them, Damon, Crisp, and Ellsbury. Maybe he plays left, I don’t care all I know is he has speed/power/hit tool.

      • Big Odio says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: see, I’m not always crazy

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Big Odio: How to answer this….

  8. MB says:
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    Hey Ralph, I am currently in a prospect draft for a dynasty startup. Cody Reed of the Reds is eligible. Would you go Reed over F Perez, Dunn, Whitley, Morejon or L Ortiz?

    25 man rosters, once a guy reaches 50 inn in MLB they have to be moved to the 25 man. Reed is at like 47 and looks like a bullpen piece.

    Just worried he will be a loogy ya know, tho a dominant one.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @MB: Reed, Morejon, Ortiz, Perez, Whitley, Dunn.

      There’s so many other guys they’d move to the pen first. He wasn’t ready for MLB last year. It happens.

  9. Sam Horn says:
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    You know, I remember when the Sox were drafting and everyone on a certain Red Sox site were sure they were going to pick the best guy available – Austin Meadows – but instead went against convention and picked Trey Ball. There were many who were furious and some say the fury still burns to this very day.

    So, MAYBE FOR YOU, Austin Meadows doesn’t have to do anything with the Bosox… Grrrrrr.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Sam Horn: I’m a Red Sox fan, I try and erase those memories from the recesses of my memory.

      Thanks Sam, keep repping for the fellowship of the miserable. Only old school Sox fans like us can find pain in a joyful period in our history.

      That Ball pick was so bad, when people bring him up I put my fingers in my ears and say nananananana

  10. Brian says:
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    . 16 team h2h dynasty. 6×6 with ops. Lost papi, looking to pick up another bat. Right now I start Wilson ramos (susac will fill in), hosmer, kipnis, correa, Bryant, Stanton, marte, Blackmon, beltre, cruz, with jose Ramirez, Brantley, sean rodriguez on the bench. Beltran is on the block. Would you trade for him if had to give up a 1st round prospect pick (15th overall) or Dylan cease?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Brian: I’d hold

  11. thorbs says:
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    Nice writeup as always, Ralphie, Hanson is an enormous waste of talent IMO.

    Quick Dynasty Q – been offered Bird/Aiken for Keuchel. As my current 1B are Votto/Pujols, I feel like this is a no-brainer. Am I overestimating Bird/Aiken’s floor and ceilings? I see Bird as Frazier without the steals, and as you wrote in a previous article, Aiken has legit #2 starter upside.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @thorbs: We shall see on Hanson, but you might be right.

      I’d make the deal fro depth reasons. Don’t have much faith in Keuchel.

  12. Richard Davis says:
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    Dynasty question: In a rookie/first year player draft this year, if both were available where I pick at #3, Would it be crazy to choose Ronald Acuna over Maitan? I have plenty of young infielders(Altuve, Arenado, Moncada), and I could use a top OF prospect for the future. Or is Maitan just THAT good to pass up? Thanks

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Richard Davis: Acuna ranks higher in my forthcoming Top 100 than Maitan does.

  13. Swfcdan says:
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    New Dynasty league, drafted too much pitching and need another upcoming bat. Would you trade Matz for ethier/any of Margot/Devers/Meadows?

  14. Nation says:
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    Currently in the process of a 12 team dynasty points league slow draft.

    I probably reached on meadows at pick 98 (rodgers was selected several picks before, swanson mid 60’s, and Moncada around 35 overall), but ive been trying to balance winning now while also adding top prospects as I get later in the draft.

    Where you would you be targeting some of the higher tier (for you and halp) guys like Senzel (I have Turner at 3b), Robles, and Tapia in a startup league like this?

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