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2017 Pirates Minors Breakdown – The Cream

If Bell’s bat outweighs his defense, the heart of the batting order will be better for it.
Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

With the “real” spring training games starting, the offseason prospect talk needs to stop. Time for our fourth and final installment of our winter, but first our previous pieces in a very clickable format:

The Dreamers (High Ceiling, Low Floor)
The Safe, But not Sexy (Low Ceiling, High Floor)
The Fringe (Low Ceiling, Low Floor)

Every prospect has a range of potential outcomes for their career, some being wider than others. We decided to break the break the system down into tiers this year grouping players based on their ceiling and floor. For the sake of this conversation a player with a ‘high ceiling’ would be an average or better position player or a #3 or better in a rotation. A ‘low ceiling’ would be like a bench or non-closer type bullpen role. Meanwhile a player with a ‘high floor’ is someone who we felt pretty good will stick in some capacity on a major league team for multiple seasons. A ‘low floor’ would include your AAAA, cup of coffee or career minor leaguers.

High Ceiling, High Floor players are often incorrectly described as can’t miss. They do and more often than people acknowledge. However, if you’re going to have a critical mass of a certain type of prospect, you’d probably build a system with this type first. These are Top 100-type prospects, but make no mistake not every single player in this category has true star power. If you have average upside and a good chance of sticking around the show for a while, here you belong.

Unlike other categories, there was a lot of consensus among those surveyed on these guys. If you follow the system, you’re not going to get some the inside scoop on some hot prospect, just some hot takes.

Josh Bell

Steve DiMiceli (SD) – Most underrated tool at First Base? Hit. Most overrated tool at First Base? Defense. Josh Bell is still a work in progress, but the bat will play enough to generate a lot of runs in the middle of the lineup even if he boots the occasional grounder.

Michael Bradley (MB) – Keith Law just said 5 WAR a year possibility.

Alex Stumpf (AS) – Barely a rookie anymore. The glove is still the biggest concern. Should be a middle of the lineup bat Opening Day.

Kevin Creagh (KC) – His true ceiling will not be as limited by his defense as it will be by his lack of in-game power.  His body frame screams perennial 35 HR’s, but he’s looking more like a high teens HR guy right now.  That just won’t be enough at 1B to overcome his defensive lapses.  If he bombs dingers into the Allegheny, that will cover up a lot of flaws.

Kurt Hackimer  (KH) – We spend so much time talking about what Bell can’t do (play defense) that we may overlook what he can do, which is hit the snot out of the ball. His power might never match his imposing frame, but Bell has excellent bat control and plate discipline beyond his years. And, after talking to him several times last season, he seems to be a humble guy who will enter 2017 as a much more complete player than he was in 2016.

Tyler Glasnow

AS – Control issues still linger, both with walks and not serving up meatballs. He was rushed a bit in 2016, but he should be a contributor in 2017.

KC – His lack of a third pitch and needing a sundial to time him to the plate worry me a great deal and I was a huge supporter of his.  He still has low-end #1/high-end #2 potential, but Steve’s dire prediction of bullpen stud last year is at least more a possibility for me now.

MB – Dellin Betances at worst.

KH – Control problems have kept Glasnow in the minor leagues longer than expected, but these issues don’t change who he is: A tall, supremely athletic young starter with two plus pitches. There is no way anybody can look at Glasnow and not see his star potential, which makes it all the more difficult to remain patient while he puts it all together.

SD – I still have questions about Glasnow’s floor due to the reasons stated above, but I’m excited about his ceiling due to the reasons stated above.

Mitch Keller

MB – MLB Pipeline best command in minors.

KH – Injuries stymied his progression in 2015, but Keller made the leap to full-blown prospect with a dominant season in the Sally League last year. Keller has already demonstrated impressive control, which should bode well for his future as a big league starter, even if he doesn’t have the obvious pedigree of someone like Glasnow, Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole.

SD – It’s a rare case where I’d give a player this far from the majors a high ceiling, but Keller feels like the real deal even in a small sample.

KC – This year’s rapid riser in the system, Keller is being talked about as a future #2 level pitcher.  His K/BB ratio was phenomenal in 2016, so we’ll see how he progresses this year at High A.  I’d love to see him tested at AA at some point in August.

AS – Keller looks poised for a breakout this year. He may not have Glasnow’s fastball, but he has better control and comparable offspeed stuff.

Nick Kingham

AS – Finally back after Tommy John surgery. He only has 20 starts at the AAA level, but he should be available for a spot start or two in the majors in 2017.

KC – Tommy John recovery is hopefully behind him this year, so he can again be considered as a #3/4 level pitcher.  If not, I’m unsure how his stuff would play in the bullpen and he could find himself without a chair when the music stops.

MB – Pitching is most in demand position, hence his rank.

SD – I have my concerns about the longevity of players returning from TJ, but I think he could still be a middle of the rotation cog for a little while at least.

KH – Kingham was on his way to a major league call-up when his elbow gave out in 2015. By the time he recovered from Tommy John surgery toward the end of last year, Chad Kuhl had already stolen his fourth spot in the Pirates rotation. Kingham appears to be back on track, though, and should be on the shortlist when the Pirates need an arm to fill in a rotation spot.

Austin Meadows

KC – I’m a little worried about his injury proneness in the early part of his career, ranging from hamstrings to fractured orbital bones while playing catch in the outfield.  He has yet to put a full season together.  If he can consolidate his gains this year, he can slot right into RF upon McCutchen’s departure at some point during/after the 2017 season.

KH – Meadows has been touted as Andrew McCutchen’s heir apparent for a couple of years now, which makes a lot of sense. He’s got everything you look for in a major league player: Power, speed, hitting acumen, defensive instincts. Meadows has struggled with injuries, but at this point he’s just waiting for a spot to open up in the Pirates outfield.

AS – We finally saw his raw power come into play in AAA, hitting six homers with a .246 ISO. The batting average was lower than hoped for, but it should improve.

MB – Mark Kotsay at worst.

SD – It’s taken me a while to truly get to the party on Meadows, and I still think his being cast as the next Cutch might be a little big for his britches. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while Starling Marte was OPS’ing .819 in his age-21 season in the FSL, Meadows split his OPS’ing .976 and .757 with a crap BABIP in AA and AAA respectively.

Kevin Newman

KH – His ceiling isn’t high the way that Meadows’s ceiling is, but Newman has the defensive chops to stick at short and has a remarkable eye at the plate. That combination of glove and patience should be enough to keep him in the majors for a long time, even if he never develops consistent extra-base power. Has the upside of someone like Freddy Sanchez.

AS – Newman has always boasted a good average, but he’s been walking more since playing pro ball. He tore up High A ball to get promoted to Altoona and held his own there. A trip to the majors may be coming in 2018.

SD – You can be an average shortstop with little more than a fair glove and a really good hit tool. In an era where it feels like you’re not a shortstop prospect if you’re not a superstar shortstop prospect, the Pirates may have a steady producer in Newman.

KC – I think Newman will be able to competently play either SS or 2B in the majors defensively.  But like Cole Tucker, I don’t like his bat.  He has no power, but makes great contact.  To me, that’s a utility man profile more than a starter.  If he develops to his 90% capability, he might be a better Jordy Mercer.

MB – MLB Pipeline best hit tool in minors.


And in case you missed those links above.

The Dreamers (High Ceiling, Low Floor)
The Safe, But not Sexy (Low Ceiling, High Floor)
The Fringe (Low Ceiling, Low Floor)

About Steve DiMiceli (116 Articles)
Steve is a naturalized yinzer hailing originally from just north of Allentown, PA. He came to Pittsburgh to attend Duquesne University and decided to stick around after graduation. Steve is best known for his contributions to Duquesne hoops community as the owner of the Duquesne Dukes forum on Yuku and as the former editor of We Wear the Ring on the Fansided network. He is an avid Pirates fan, home cook and policy nerd. He is the co-founder of the Point of Pittsburgh. Easily irritated by people who misuse the word regress.

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