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2016 Pirates’ Trade Value Rankings — #20 to #14

TV Collage Tues

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

Today’s rankings start to include more prospects. My prospect evaluation has many resources, but normally includes reading Keith Law from ESPN, Bed Badler and JJ Cooper from Baseball America, John Sickels (who has been doing prospects so long that he owns the URL and finally whichever Fangraphs prospect writer hasn’t been hired by a MLB front office. Then I scout prospects myself in Altoona as I live close to the ballpark….plus my normal number crunching.

On to the rankings:

20. Reese McGuire (21, A+/AA)

6.5 years of control Trade Value Score – 77.4

The Pirates started a notable trend a couple drafts ago where they draft the youngest players in high school/juco/college that are draftable. The 2013 draft was the bellwether when they drafted Reese McGuire and Austin Meadows in the first round who were barely 18 and Blake Taylor in the second round who was 17 at draft time.

So when talking about McGuire you need to factor in his youth. He’s consistently been in the top 10 youngest players in whatever league he plays in and has been able to battle through that obstacle. The one thing that isn’t youthful about his game is his total defensive package. He calls, blocks and throws like a seasoned major league catcher.

On the offensive side he has two things going for him: he has a good eye and he has good bat-to-ball skills. He might not ever hit for any power, but his floor offensively might be a left-handed Chris Stewart which isn’t terrible. In a very small sample size McGuire hit .294/.379/.412 in the Arizona Fall League, which should have been the best competition he has seen.

McGuire will battle Elias Diaz for “catcher of the future” and it will be a fun to have multiple options.

19. Harold Ramirez (21, AA)

6.5 years of control Trade Value Score – 77.4

Harold Ramirez has been on scouts’s radars since the Pirates signed him out of Colombia in 2011, but when Keith Law scouted him last July Ramirez was acknowledged by other national prospect nerds. Ramirez has suffered through a lot of hamstring issues and hearing Law talk about how he maximizes his lower half might have something to do with it.

21939810Ramirez is a luxury item for the outfield talented Pirates. He’s a gifted defender and has a great hit tool which should get him to the bigs. He probably doesn’t have the best arm for center field, but the Pirates current ML outfield setup might show that they’d rather have the cannons in the corners. The comp I see when I look at Ramirez is Melky Cabrera with his strong hit tool, some power and small frame.

Since Ramirez is playing in Altoona this year I’ll try to talk to him at some point. The two questions I will ask him is 1) do you feel that your small strike zone is an advantage to you? and 2) have you watched Narcos?

18. Kevin Newman (22, A)

6.5 years of control Trade Value Score – 77.4

When the Steelers were building a dynasty back in the 90’s they were religious about drafting the best player available. The Pirates definitely used that philosophy with the Kevin Newman pick in the 2015 draft.

Kevin Newman made his prospect name by being a consistent performer and winning the Cape Cod league batting title twice (which had never been done before). The Cape Cod league is a nice litmus test for hitters as they are in a minor league like environment and they use wood bats.

Coming into the draft the aforementioned Keith Law drew some criticism when he said that Newman was the 2nd best prospect in the whole draft; a thought that was shared by few. He thinks Newman could have a quick path to the majors with his glove at shortstop and his all fields approach with the bat.

Newman also continues with the high character type picks that the Pirates seem to emphasize more than other system. The story that Newman tells Greg Brown about when he was watching the ML draft with his parents shows how he might have those intangibles that will benefit the Pirates going forward.

17. Jordy Mercer (29, MLB)

Three years of arbitration ($2.075M in arb-1 year of 2016) Trade Value Score – 80.0

Jordy channeling El Toro – courtesy of @27imokemp

Jordy Mercer is one of my favorite Pirates so I won’t even try to sugarcoat that. Guys that are great teammates and work hard to overcome lack of physical tools will always have a special place in my heart.

When Jordy was coming through the organization I thought there was zero chance of him being an everyday shortstop, but with tons of reps and a lot of learning (something he credits Clint Barmes with) Mercer has become a plus glove shortstop.

Mercer also crushes LH pitching to the tune of .324/.374/.490 in 320 plate appearances. This platoon advantage and glove make him a given on any major league team. Mercer also has some nice pop in his bat which he’s shown a little the last three years.

As far as trade value, Mercer is never going to break the bank in arbitration so he’ll be a value the next three years. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates signed him to a Chris Stewart-style extension and keep him around for two or three extra years.

I also would love to see him bulk up his 6’3″ frame and man a corner in his last few years. I could see 20+ home runs in that bat.

16. Francisco Cervelli (30, MLB)

Final year of arbitration control ($3.5M in arb-3 year of 2016) Trade Value Score – 80.0

Ask yinzer nation about Cervelli and they’ll just say “he’s awesome” but let’s quantify awesome. He’s debatedly the best pitch framer in the majors, especially now that Jose Molina can’t find a job. Cervelli calls a great game too and has a great rapport with pitchers, which is impossible to put a statistic on.

How about Cervelli offensively? He’s pretty much exactly what you’d want as a ML starter: walks around 10% of the time, K’s less than 20% of the time, BA around .290, 10-15 homers and probably more outside PNC. He’s really the perfect catcher and at $3.5M he’s a steal.

When Cervelli is suggesting a 3/$39M extension you know the Pirates have severe leverage. No chance they trade him prior to Opening Day, but if they would he’d return a bundle.

15. Francisco Liriano (32, MLB)

Two years remaining on contract at 2 yr/$27.33M Trade Value Score – 80.0

One might think I’m talking out of two sides of my mouth when I’m saying that two years of Francisco Liriano are really valuable and also say that the Pirates should dumpster dive for free agent starting pitchers. I’ll explain more in an article someday but to summarize, #1 and #2 starters are now the most valuable property in baseball and are distancing themselves from even the shortstops in value.

Since “Frankie” is now a true #2 starter, he’s incredibly valuable at $13.67M a year. You could argue he might command $25-30M on a one year deal in this crazy market we’re seeing and if I was the Pirates I’d at least think about extending him now while they’ll have a little leverage (4/$60M?) or they can plan on a draft pick after 2017 if all goes well.

On Liriano the ballplayer it’s probably obvious to even the most casual fan how good Liriano’s slider has become. It’s been written about by every baseball thinktank from to Beyond the Boxscore to our friends at Fangraphs … and more.

He’s really talented and really affordable making him a very valuable asset.

14. Josh Bell (23, AAA)

6.5 years of control Trade Value Score – 82.8

The richest second round draft pick ever, Josh Bell, has taken a lot longer to reach the show than his college pitcher draft mate Gerrit Cole, but he’s about to come onto the scene this year. Bell, who has been covered a lot since he was drafted, has become one of the better hitters in the minors and whose bat has carried him to the brink of the majors.

Bell has a great approach at the plate and hits the ball incredibly hard. I’ve watched Polanco, Marte, Allie, etc. all play at Altoona and it’s no question that Bell has the highest exit velocity of all of them, I just don’t have the Trackman data to prove it. The problem with Bell currently is that he doesn’t get enough loft on the balls and many of his screamers just go for singles and doubles; hopefully the Pirates coaching staff can fix that.

Bell could also be a real asset to the Pirates if he could come up midseason 2016 and start at 1B full time. This would give the Pirates 6.5 years of a everyday 1B in the long term and in the short term would make the Pirates bench pretty stout with Jaso and Morse… not to mention pseudo-1B Sean Rodriguez.

You could argue that Bell’s potential and 6.5 years of cheap control would rank him higher on the list, but his questionable defensive position, the pitching premium and the Pirates’ stacked system have him ranking lower than one would guess.TV 25-14


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.