2018 Pittsburgh Pirates top ten aggregate prospect rankings

A quick look at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system as ranked by major prospect watchers shows steadiness at the top, a mix up in the middle and uncertainty around one of the team’s most important farmhands

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system has been known as a deep one throughout the Neal Huntington era, even if it has taken a hit with recent graduations and some previously highly regarded prospects having taken a step back.

Regardless, there is some real talent in the Pirates’ system, and that is readily apparent when looking over the various top ten prospect lists that have been published over the past month and change by many notable prospect watching sites such as FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus and more.

Today,  we will take a look at a cross section of notable prospect-watcher sites, trying to create an aggregate ranking of the top 10 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. To do so, we will compile the top ten lists from FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, MLB Pipeline and Baseball America.

How it works

Here’s how this works. We’ll take each list of the top 10 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system and assign each prospect on that list a point value, with the top ranking being worth 10 points, and the 10th ranking being worth one point. We won’t give points to prospects ranked beyond 10. Thus, the most total points would earn a prospect the top ranking, the second-most would put a prospect in the second spot, and so on through 10.

So take a look at the table below. You can see how each site ranks the top 10 Piutsburgh Pirates prospects, and the total points for each prospect. They’re listed from first through 10th, and those that made some top ten lists but didn’t crack the total top 10 are listed as well.

The list

Here now is the aggregate list of the Top Ten Pittsburgh Pirates prospects (plus a few close calls), along with their rankings from each site, as well as point totals and degrees of variance (more on that later):

Top Ten Aggregate Pirates Prospects

Agg. RankProspectPOINTSFG RankBA RankMLBP RankBP RankDegrees of Variance
1Mitch Keller3911211
2Austin Meadows3722121
3Shane Baz3233330
4Ke'Bryan Hayes2654452
5Cole Tucker2546544
6Kevin Newman1995667
7Luis Escobar1187X71
8Taylor Hearn979X83
9LoLo Sanchez6610XX4
10Nick Kingham6X88X0
11Will Craig5XX7103
12Kevin Kramer4XX990
13Steven Jennings210X10X0

Findings

  • The list is very consistent at the top, with Austin Meadows and Mitch Keller taking all potential first and second spots across the rankings. MLB Pipeline was the lone site to rank Meadows ahead of Keller, who took tremendous strides in 2017. MLBP points to Meadows’ injuries as the biggest factor holding him back from moving onto the majors, and thus seems to not hold that against him.
  • Shane Baz was one of only two prospects in the top ten to carry zero degrees of variance. Fellow starter Nick Kingham was the other, yet he was out of the top ten on two out of four lists.
  • The Middle four of the aggregate top ten are quite jumbled, and Ke’Bryan Hayes and Cole Tucker were separated by just one point. Tucker was penalized by a sixth-best ranking from Baseball America, the lone publication to rank Newman ahead of Tucker.
  • A surprise entrant in the Top Ten is OF LoLo Sanchez, placed here solely as a result of FanGraphs ranking him as sixth best. Of Sanchez, Eric Longenhagen of FG had this to say:

    Sanchez loads his hands low, creating some natural loft in his swing. He’s short to the ball but still generates great extension through contact, a rare combination that signals there’s a chance Sanchez is going to hit for average and hit for power.

  • Kevin Kramer‘s breakout 2017 — albeit shortened by a wrist injury — did him no favors, as he could not crack the top ten.

Seven Degrees of Kevin Newman

We included degrees of variance here as a way to point out which Pittsburgh Pirates prospects are the most divisive — those young players that carry a greater difference of opinion. Here we define variance as the total number of difference in ranking across all sites. So, for example, Baz has zero degrees of variance as all sites ranked him third, while Luis Escobar has a variance of 1 as one site ranked him one spot lower than the rest.

With that in mind, this year’s surprising swing prospect is Kevin Newman. Our compilation shows that two out of the four sites shown rank Tucker ahead of Newman. Tucker took tremendous strides this year, reaching Double-A and contributing to the eventual 2017 Eastern League champion Altoona Curve.

Newman’s bat was lukewarm in Altoona, but nevertheless earned him a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he slashed .283/.314/.373. Newman’s power tool is now rated as a 30 according to MLB Pipeline, and though his overall hit tool ranks well at 60, the ceiling is clear for Newman. While his floor is high as well — Newman projects to be a very competent contact bat and defender — many feel that Tucker’s ceiling may eclipse Newman’s.

As many have noted, though the luster of prospects such as Newman and Meadows may have worn off, there is still some considerable talent at the top, headlined by Keller. The top ten aggregate Pittsburgh Pirates prospect list shows the uncertainty in the club’s system after the top tier, and there are clearly as many question marks as there is promise.

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)
  • redrage97

    what might be good. Of the pirates top 10 on pipeline all but Baz and Jennings project to be here in ’18 or 19

    • Lee Foo Young

      They’ll be here, but will they be any better than what we have now?

      • redrage97

        Between Kramer, Newman and Tucker we probably have a better 2nd/SS tandem. Considering it is highly likely cutch will be gone in ’19, yeah Meadows should be better (if for no other reason than the position is empty LOL). Between Kingham and Keller they’ll probably be better than Nova, Glasnow,Brault Willaims and Kuhl but if Kuhl and Williams keep the progress they made in the second half last season might be tough.

        So yeah.. i’d say at least a couple.

  • Lee Foo Young

    Jason……the best list is on Pirates Prospects (sub required). They follow them on a daily basis. Many times I read those other sites and they are going off of old info. It is most telling after the Top 5.

  • Norm Cubellis

    I think Keller will be better than the back end of the rotation we currently have, However, he will initially have a difficult time being better than Cole who in effect he will be replacing. Kingham is comparable to Williams and Kuhl. Taylor is plagued with some of the problems found in Glasnow. You can say Meadows is replacing no one, however he has long been hyped as the replacement for Cutch and he will need to improve quite a bit to make up for the lost production of McCutchen. Given the upside of Tucker I agree the three middle infielders will be better than we currently have. I would say the same thing about Hayes if he begins to show power as Bell has done as he matured.
    It is a decent top ten but still lacks any form of power given the disappointing performance of Craig so far. He was billed as one of the better power bats coming out of college when they drafted him, although there were concerns about his ability to hit for power with a wooden bat. Even if he starts to show power, where would they play him? He was already moved off of third base, but maybe he could go back if he really starts to hit