Once again, the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system has been highly touted as one of the best in the National League, but how do the individual prospects rank heading into 2016?
The Pirates Breakdown staff members voted on their top ten prospects list. The list was compiled by awarding the top prospect ten points, second nine, and so on and so forth all the way down to the tenth prospect on each list getting one point. Without further ado, here are our Top Ten Pirates Prospects, in order, that got the most points.
As has often been the greatest criticism, and wrongly so, the top prospect rankings is top heavy with six of the ten prospects on the list having a chance to see time with the Pirates at some point this season. While other organizations may be highly touted because of big names and even bigger spending, Neal Huntington and the Pirates front office have accumulated a wealth of talent that, for now, appears to allow the organization to be competitive for many years to come. The four prospects on the list that are a few years away from making it to the show also speak volumes about what we, and others, think about their potential.
Before we get to breaking down the prospects that could impact the big league club in 2016, we want to give you a chance to vote on who you think the top ten prospects in the Pirates organization are using the same scoring system discussed earlier. Click HERE to rank the prospects. It takes just two minutes, and we will release your results tomorrow.
Now, let’s take a look at the six prospects on our list that could make the jump to the show at some point in 2016.
Tyler Glasnow (RHP) – Drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Glasnow was regarded as a potential back of the rotation starter. It didn’t take long for him to reverse his projection as he has excelled at every level in the minor leagues. Using a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s, Glasnow also consistently induces ground-balls and limits home runs. His biggest issue is his inability to limit walks and the greater issue of control.
Josh Bell (1B/OF) – I still list Bell as a dual first base and outfield prospect because he was drafted in the second round in 2011 as an outfielder. With the dream outfield in place, the Pirates wanted to find a place in the lineup for Bell and his extraordinary bat, which decided to be at first base. He struggled in 2015 in his first full season as a first baseman with 16 errors, but Bell only committed three errors after being called up to Triple-A Indianapolis. If he carries that over into 2016, he will certainly see time with the Pirates this season.
Jameson Taillon (RHP) – Originally supposed to be the other half of the pair of young aces at the Pirates disposal in 2014, Jameson Taillon had to watch the development of Gerrit Cole into a top of the rotation starter along with every other Pirates fan, as he spent that season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Fully recovered, he was expected to have a chance to receive a September call-up. That never came as hernia surgery sidelined him once again in 2015. Now in 2016, Taillon looks to prove he hasn’t lost the last two years and can be a solid major league starter.
Alen Hanson (2B/IF) – The prospect with the best chance to make the Opening Day roster is Hanson. Drafted as a shortstop, Hanson projects as at least a league-average second baseman. Quite possibly the most intriguing factor with Hanson is the bat. Expect him to struggle at the plate in any time he sees with the big league club in 2016, as he has at every level, Hanson makes great adjustments. In 2017, the position battle between Hanson and Harrison at second will be one of the key storylines to follow at the next spring training.
Elias Diaz (C) – Diaz puts the Pirates in the rare situation of having a pair of quality defensive catcher prospects, but for Diaz the situation is a little more complicated than it is with Reese McGuire. Called up in September last season, Diaz was barely used in what was believed to be a stepping stone to Diaz challenging for the backup catcher position in 2016. That all changed when Chris Stewart was signed to a two-year contract extension with an option for a third season. The extension threw doubt onto Francisco Cervelli’s future with the team and Diaz’s role moving forward. It appears Diaz will once again be auditioning for a role as a major league catcher, either with the Pirates or with another team.
Nick Kingham (RHP) – As the third part of the trio of pitching prospects on this list that could see time with the Pirates in 2016, Kingham is also the least regarded. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Kingham established himself as a quality middle of the rotation prospect before he fell victim to Tommy John surgery in May of 2015. Still recovering, Kingham is unlikely to see any game action until around the All-Star break. With over a hundred innings of experience already at Triple-A, he has an outside chance of getting called up in September if he returns from the injury well. Prior to the injury, Kingham didn’t strike out a lot of batters, but he didn’t walk many either. He doesn’t give up a ton of home runs, and with the jury still out on whether any of the Jon Niese, Jeff Locke, and Ryan Vogelsong trio will be with the team in 2017, Kingham will be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on late this year.