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2016 Pirates’ Trade Value Rankings — #13 to #8

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Continuing with our trade value rankings of the Pirates organization, today we’ll look at #13 to #8.  You can read the primer and #25-21 and numbers #20-14 to catch up.

In today’s rankings you’ll start to question whether or not I’ve been drinking too much, but let me defend with some facts.

This offseason 30 year old David Price signed a deal that pays him 7 years at $31M a year AND has an player opt-out after three years so he can get back out in the market.

Also this offseason Zack Grienke used his opt out clause to get out of his contract with the Dodgers and sign a contract with the DBacks.  The contract will pay him $34M a year for the six seasons lasting from his 32 year old season through his 37 year old season.

J.A. Happ -3/$36M… Cueto… Samarzdzija ..etc.etc etc.

Then you get a player like Alex Gordon who is a rock solid, strong offensive and defensive player and he “only” gets 4/$72.

What I’m trying to say is the premium on good starting pitching has never been higher and the prospects ranked higher (or lower) than you’d guess has a lot to do with this effect.

On to the rankings:

13. Yeudy Garcia (23, A+/AA)

6.5 years of control     Trade Value Score – 82.8

Who-y is Yeudy?   That’s what I bet a bunch of you are saying, and I said the same thing last spring when I started hearing about this stud pitcher throwing in the South Atlantic League.

Yeudy Garcia was a “late sign” out of the Dominican Republic back in the 2013 at the old age of 20.    Normally prospects are signed before they finish puberty and this guy could almost drink by the time Rene Gayo inked him.    He had a good season in the Dominican Summer League in 2014 but nothing that would make you think he’d come stateside and dominate… but that’s what he did.

In 2015 Garcia dominated the South Atlantic League in 124 innings and went from an interesting name to an interesting prospect.  Baseball America rated Garcia as the 9th best SAL prospect in a year where the league was stacked with prospects.

Baseball America’s JJ Cooper (who’s also a rabid Steeler fan) wrote Garcia’s prospect writeup and mentioned Garcia’s lively 93-96 mph fastball, work ethic/demeanor and plus but inconsistent slider.  In an organization that has the most fastball emphasis around this sounds like some great qualities.

Garcia turned 23 in October so the Pirates might consider an abbreviated stop in Bradenton at High A ball and getting him to Altoona by mid-season.   If the Pirates consider him a bullpen piece he could be in the ML bullpen by next year, but I think they will exhaust him as a starter first and mid-2017 or 2018 would make more sense.

12.  Elias Diaz (25, AAA)

6.5 years of control     Trade Value Score – 82.8

I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard a lot about Elias Diaz by now.  Diaz has been heralded defensively his whole way through the minors, but he didn’t break out offensively until 2014 when he was in Altoona.

Diaz is one of a couple Pirates prospects that came from Venezuela.  He was signed at 17 and spent his first summer in the Venezuelan summer league.  After coming stateside, he struggled offensively for his first three seasons even repeating Low A in West Virginia. The Pirates know to be patient with catchers, especially ones with Diaz’s skill.     He turned the ship around in High A in 2013 and was named the best defensive catcher in the Eastern League by Baseball America in 2014 while hitting .328/.378/.445.

Baseball America bestowed an even bigger award naming him the recipient of the Captain’s Catcher award for the best defensive catcher in the minors.

Another thing worth noting with Diaz is the fact that he crushes LHP.   Diaz had a strong .271/.317/.500 line in 105 PA’s against LHP in ’15 buffering his .268/.332/.329 in 260 PA’s against RHP.  If Diaz comes up in 2016 it will probably be due to injury, making him a nice platoon candidate against LHP’s with no need to worry about his defense.

11.  Chad Kuhl (23, AAA)

6.5 years of control      Trade Value Score – 82.8          TV bernouli

Chad Kuhl might be another one where you say “who?” especially if you’re used to getting all the prospect news from the national guys.

I noticed Kuhl in 2013 when the Pirates skipped him over low A ball and sent him right from short season to Bradenton.  Normally this is a sign of a prospect they think is on the fast track (Justin Wilson, Adrian Sampson) and for a pitcher it probably means he has good fastball command… which the numbers back up.

Kuhl’s fastball bumped up a step this year at AA (touching 97 while sitting at 94) and he was able to control it better than most.  I think he could enter into a big league bullpen tomorrow and be a nice asset but the Bucs have other ideas.

Kuhl moved up the ladder so fast that he’s not even on the 40 man roster yet, meaning he can hang out in AAA, work on his stuff and not burn any options, i.e. like having a 41 man roster.  The thing is his stuff is ready right now… but the roster flexibility is more important which makes his trade value even higher.

10.  Alen Hanson (23, AAA/MLB)

6.5 years of control     Trade Value Score – 82.8

When I look at a player and try to assess whether they can play in the majors I start with defense.   Alen Hanson is a borderline Major League shortstop defensively, meaning he’s probably an above average third and second baseman and could even possibly play center field.   So “check” — Hanson is fine there.

Then you assess whether you think he could hit a level appropriate for his position.  If Hanson was still a shortstop this bar could be lower but let’s look at him as a 2nd baseman.

If you look at full season batting average and home runs Hanson doesn’t look too studly, but if you start breaking out splits Hanson begins to shine.  Hanson hits better LH against RH pitching with  a .270/.332/.405 line in 330 plate appearances… not to dismiss his 35 SBs.

So in an infield with the RH Kang at 3B, the RH Mercer at short and the RH Harrison at 2B, with the RH Sean Rodriguez as the primary backup, wouldn’t it be nice to have a LH middle infielder that could come up and give them a break against some RHP’s?  Hanson is a nice find and his time has come.

9.  Austin Meadows (21, AA)

6.5 years of control     Trade Value Score – 85.7

We’ve been talking about Meadows for a few years now and he still can’t legally drink a beer… if they even card him in his home state of Georgia.

Meadows was the gift given to us when Mark Appel didn’t sign and looks like a nice find with the ninth spot in the 2013 draft.  He made his way all the way to AA by last September.  I didn’t get to scout him in person yet, but that will be on the agenda for 2016.

I’ve tweeted with the aforementioned JJ Cooper about Meadows and he says the thoughts of Meadows needing to leave center field for a corner are inaccurate as Meadows plays a fine center.  I also tweeted with Eno Sarris about Meadows during the Arizona Fall League and Sarris said he has an “80 body” which we’ve heard before.

I’ll be anxious to see if his physique changes when he shows up to Altoona as I’ve watched Josh Bell and Willy Garcia throw some serious bulk on between A+ and AA.   If Meadows looks similar I’ll guess CF is still the plan and if he adds to that 6’3″ frame I’ll assume a corner is more likely.

8.  Nick Kingham (24,  AAA)

6.5 years of control     Trade Value Score – 88.9


Kingham would be the tallest member of the Blue Man Group

So far the Pirates 2010 draft class has had 16 starts made in the majors and zero from the two prize arms of Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon.  Brandon Cumpton has 15 starts and Casey Sadler has one.    The ironic thing is that all four of the pitchers mentioned have now had Tommy John surgery.

Kingham was signed for $485,000 as an overslot sign with all the Bucs could cobble together after paying large bonuses to Taillon and Stetson Allie.

Kingham, which autocorrects to Kingdom more than I’d like, did the elite high school pitcher track by only spending one year in short season ball and moving directly to West Virginia in 2012.  He started breaking out as a prospect then by having great numbers as a 20 year old in 127 innings.   Kingham continued his progression and I caught one of his starts in Altoona in 2014.  You could tell he was focusing on his changeup as he struggled through the first two innings, but then they gave him his curve back in the third inning and he scuffled no more.

Kingham has the height and frame to be an easy 200 inning horse, with his upside being dependent on that changeup.  A #2 starter is not out of the question.

Kingham isn’t supposed to return to full workload until midseason so I’d expect him to be initially at AAA. He’d be an option to come up after the All Star game, but there might not be enough room.  I know that Huntington takes the roster a day at a time but a promotion for Kingham after the Super Two deadline in 2017 might be a good bet now.

***Updated Venn Below

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Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.