Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, John. What's the scouting consensus of Dilson Herrera, and was he considered for your top 10?
Herrera is a very high upside player who
is still very young. BA recently ranked him as the young Latin American
player most likely to break out this season. He should hit for average
and some power with good speed, though his arm will probably limit him
to second base. He will start the season at low A West Virginia and the
Pirates would love to see Herrera and Alen Hanson one day form a dynamic
double play combination.
Ben (Leland Grove): How many of these guys do you believe are worthy of making BA's top 100 prospects list?
I would say Gerrit Cole, Jameson
Taillon, Luis Heredia, Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson are all worthy of
consideration. I think if Josh Bell hadn't gotten hurt last season, he,
too, would have gotten strong consideration.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Had Mark Appel signed with the Pirates, where would you have ranked him on this list?
Probably No. 3, behind Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon and ahead of Luis Heredia.
Frank (Chicago): What can you tell us about Tyler Glasnow? One to watch?
Absolutely. A tall, lanky kid who throws
hard and has the making of a pretty good breaking ball. He is still in
the rudimentary stages of his development but I had one member of the
Pirates' player development department — I won't name names because it
was off the record — tell he think Glasnow could eventually be better
than Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia. Pretty high praise.
Dave (Pittsburgh, PA): Do you concur with Huntington that Taillon's ceiling is higher than Harper's?
I won't go that far because, when I
doubt, I'd go with the everyday player and I think Harper has Hall of
Fame-type talent. That being said, I can see Taillon being a No. 1
starter in the major leagues for a long time. He has the ability and the
makeup to be special.
Wanda (St Louis): What's the latest on Josh Bell's recovery? Are you optimistic he'll bounce back this season?
The Pirates are hopeful he will be good
to go for the start of minor-league spring training in early March. From
a personal standpoint, I found it very troubling that he had so many
complications after arthroscopic knee surgery. It reminds me of Kevin
Young many years ago and he was never the same. I hope that isn't the
case with Bell because he is a very special talent.
Ben (Leland Grove): How high are you on Mathisen and his skills behind the plate? Could he be a fast riser?
Not to be wishy washy, but this could go
either way. I think he has the talent and athletic ability to move
quickly up the ladder. However, he didn't catch a whole lot as an
amateur, so we'll have to see how quickly he catches on — pardon the
pun — to calling games and handling pitchers. I didn't get a chance to
see him last summer but the people who did came away very impressed.
Grant (NYC): John, what's the skinny on Jin-De Jhang?
Jhang is a real sleeper, a catcher the
Pirates signed from Taiwan who made his debut in the Gulf Coast League
last summer. He's a stocky kid who can really hit and has above-average
defensive skills. He could be a real sleeper and might even force Wyatt
Mathisen to another position down the road.
Johnny (Denver, CO): Tony Sanchez - prospect or suspect?
Prospect but he could very well be a
suspect when we chat again next offseason. He really needs to take a
step forward this season.
Kelly (Saint Cloud, MN): Who is the biggest sleeper in the organization, in your opinion?
Well, Jhang, who we just mentioned is
certainly one. I'm going to throw out another name and don't laugh —
Rinku Singh. He is the pitcher who won the reality show "Million Dollar
Arm" in India. A lot of skeptics thought it was a publicity stunt when
the Pirates signed him but he keeps improving every year.
Eric (Pittsburgh, PA): Your personal thoughts on the unorthodox training methods the Pirates used last season? Justified or no?
I rarely defend the Pirates on things
because most of the criticism they have received over the years has been
justified. However, people who I implicitly trust in the organization,
told me none of the players were every put in any danger of suffering
serious injury. While I'm not so sure military training is something I
would implement if I were a farm director, I think the whole SEAL thing
got overblown to an extent.
Jim (KC): Even if NH were to be let go, what would the next GM do differently under the circumstances?
I think there is only so much any
general manager could do in the Pirates' current stat. You have an owner
in Bob Nutting, who really knows next to nothing about baseball, and a
team president in Frank Coonelly, who is a micromanager. That's not a
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Other than Holmes, who are some of the pitchers moving from State College and the GCL to West Virginia that are your favorites?
Well, the two guys who really jump out
are Luis Heredia and Tyler Glasnow, though the Pirates may have Glasnow
stay in extended spring training and go to Jamestown instead. I had the
chance to see Heredia last summer and it's obvious why the Pirates are
so excited. He's a big kid with a great arm, very good mound presence
for a teenager and I was extremely impressed with how mature he is when I
had a chance to talk with him after the game.
Greg (Ohio): How much better would this list look with David Dahl in it?
Dahl would be No. 6 on the top 10 list, just behind Gregory Polanco and just ahead of Josh Bell.
Rafa (Los Angeles): How far were Dilson Herrera and Jose Osuna from the Top 10?
Close enough that I definitely see Herrera in the Top 10 next winter and Osuna possibly joining him.
Jeff (Chicago): Is Polanco a type that could
make a serious jump up on the overall top 100 rankings with another
solid year? He seems like a potential fast riser.
I certainly think so. I believe Polanco
is still somewhat of a secret around the game because he made such a big
jump last season statistically at low A. He is a true five-tool player
and I could see him cracking the top 25 in baseball if he has a good
year at high Class A Bradenton.
alex (Mass): I noticed you have Polanco in LF
over Marte for the projected 2016 lineup. Can you please elaborate on
both players and why Polanco has the edge?
Many of the scouts I talked to — and
this is no knock on Marte — think Polanco has even more range than
Marte. A Polanco-McCutchen-Marte outfield might be something to behold.
Joe (Clintonville): Is Justin Wilson REALLY
closer material?? There aren't many lefty closers.....If you think he
has closer stuff, when do you believe he'll be ready?? I assume Grilli
is not a long term answer......
Wilson has the stuff to be a closer and
so does Bryan Morris. The Pirates are looking at Grilli as a bridge guy
until one of the other two are ready to close, which would likely not be
until sometime in 2014 since they have such limited major-league
experience. I agree that lefties usually don't close but Wilson does top
out at 99 mph with his fastball when pitching out of the bullpen so it
makes him an intriguing closing option in the future.
Rich (NJ): In addition to Polanco and Hansen,
West Virginia had two othr young powerful hitters in Jose Osuna and
Willy Garcia. Can you provide your impressions of these two players,
where they rank in the Pirates system and their upside potential?
They are a step, step-and-a-half below
Polanco and Hansen at this stage of their careers but they both
certainly have a chance to be major-league regulars. I like Osuna a
little bit more because I think he has a better approach at the plate.
Dwayne (Greensburg, PA): Hi John, Thanks for
the chat. Where would Mark Appel & Miguel Sano have ranked if the
Pirates would have signed them when they had the opportunity?
As I mentioned earlier, I'd have Appel
No. 3. I think there would be a strong case for Sano being No. 1 because
I personally believe in taking the position player when things are
close. I believe you could make Sano, Cole or Taillon No. 1 and not
really be wrong.
Dwayne (Greensburg, PA): Where does Alex Dickerson rank in the Pirates system, and what can you tell me about him?
He received consideration for the top 10
after being named the MVP of the high Class A Florida State League last
season but didn't make the cut. He is a line-drive gap-to-gap hitter at
this stage of his career but the Pirates are hopeful he will develop
Mark L (Henderson, NV): I have heard some good things about Jin De Jhang's swing. Is it good enough to play somewhere besides catcher?
Yes, but his body type (5-11, 200) screams catcher.
dale (boston): Where do you predict Polanco and Hanson to be in the top 100? Is Barnes a top 150 or top 200? Thanks
I think Polanco and Hanson are indeed top 100 talents and I'd put Barnes somewhere in the 175-225 range.
Jason (Walnut Creek, CA): Does Barrett Barnes equal Michael Choice ? Is that a good comparison for him?
I think Barnes is a little bit different
hitter. More of a leadoff or No. 2 guy, whereas the Athletics are
hoping Choice to hit in a run-producing spot.
Greg M (Pittsburgh): After the breakout seasons we saw from Hanson and Polanco last year, who's most likely to repeat that trend this year?
I'm going to say Dilson Herrera. He has a
lot of talent and he has already had success in the GCL. I have a
feeling he will have a big year in low Class A with West Virginia in the
South Atlantic League.
Greg M (Pittsburgh): After getting burned by
Appel, could you see the Pirates going conservative this year and maybe
going for slot or under-slot guys at #9 and #14 and using a strategy
similar to 2009?
I could see them going conservative with one of the two picks but not both.
nb (philly): Hey John, thanks for the great
work. I'm intrigued by Hansen and Polanco. Neither was high on radars
heading int0 2012, but then had breakout seasons. At this point in
time, how do you guys and other scouts differentiate between these guys
being legit prospects (as you have done based on your rankings) or
simply 1-year wonders? Thanks!
A lot of it has to do with the scouts'
eyes, especially since you are dealing with limited statistical profiles
at that point in a player's career. I did have Hansen ranked No. 14 in
last year's Prospect Handbook, so it's not like he completely came out
of nowhere. I didn't have Polanco in the top 30 but there many in the
Pirates' player development system who felt he had big-time talent and
they were proven right last year.
Gob Bluth (SoCal): Middle of the diamond
prospects with a chance to hit in the middle of a major league order are
so rare. From an offensive perspective, how do Polanco and Hansen
compare to the two other young, up-the-middle breakout prospects of last
year - David Dahl and Addison Russell? Which of those four players is
most likely to be an impact bat in MLB?
If forced to pick just one, I'd go with Russell. I think he's going to be a great player but I like ALL FOUR of those guys.
Bernie (Warwick, RI): What can you tell me
about Dan Gamache ? Solid defender, doubles-hitter and has good plate
discipline. Any chance he can make it as a utility infielder in the
He's a fringe prospect. He'll have to
hit every step of the way to get a chance and probably need to catch a
break along the way, too.
Corey (Lewiston, NY): Why did you focus so much
on the SEALS stuff when we've known for months that a.) it was blown
totally out of proportion and is not at all unusual and that b.) Polanco
wasn't really injured during those drills?
I did not write that story.
ttnorm (Connecticut): John, Thanks for the
chat! You mentioned the 2011 binge draft for the Bucs. Two guys that
didn't make the list were overslot projectable pitchers, Jake Burnette
and Tyler Glasnow. How are these guys progressing?
The Pirates are taking very slowly with
both pitchers and having them ease into professional baseball. Glasnow
has shown more promise at this point but Burnette is still highly
Joe D (Everson, PA): Gerrit Cole has great
stuff but has always gotten spotty results. Do you have any confidence
in the Pirate's developmental staff to turn him into a true No. 1
Not a whole lot. I think the kid is going to have to figure it out.
Joe D (Still in Everson): Do you think the farm system has improved greatly under Neal Huntington and Greg Smith?
Absolutely. I've been doing these
rankings for many, many years. When Huntington took over in 2007, it was
hard finding 30 legitimate prospects to put in the Prospects Handbook.
Now, it's become a chore to figure out who to leave out.
Dan (Idaho Falls): Thoughts on Adrian Sampson? Thanks.
Good arm who has adapted quickly to
professional baseball. I could see him challenging for a spot in the top
10 next year if he continues to progress at low Class A West Virginia.
Napoleon (Waterloops): Is this the best top 6 in baseball? When does the prospect handbook ship? Thanks!
It certainly has to be one of the best top six, if not the best. The Handbook ships out late this month.
bspellman (Fairbanks, AK): Is failing to sign Appel as big a deal as you propose seeing how the Pirates will have two top 15 picks in the 2013 draft?
You know what? I give the Pirates credit
for trying to add a high-end talent. As you say, they do have two of
the top 14 picks this year, so that's not so bad.
Mike C. (Lynchburg, Va): Thanks for the chat
John! I'm not sure if you get a vote for the BA top 100 list, but where
would Cole and Taillon rank for you? And is Cole really ready to help
the Pirates this year?
No, I don't get a vote but I'd have Cole in the top 15 and Taillon in the top 25.
bspellman (Fairbanks, AK): It seems like most
of the top 10 are a mixture from Rene Gayo's input internationally and
top pics from very recent drafts. The lack of prospects from '08, '09,
and '10 is troubling. Can this happen to any franchise (especially one
who is banking on high school talent like the pirates did) or is it more
a factor of a disfunctional front office?
I think there is little doubt that the
Pirates missed on a number of high school player in those drafts. It's
always a gamble when you go after young kids but the Pirates' record in
those drafts wasn't very good, even by that standard.
Rob (Hamilton, ON): Is Robby Rowland starting
to come round? He put up some pretty pedestrian numbers at West
Virginia but they are much better than previous years.
He didn't get Top 10 consideration but there is enough potential in that arm to make him someone to keep an eye on.
Steve (Sarasota): Were the Pirates bizarre
training regime and unqualified player development personnel factors in
the failure to sign Mark Appel?
No. It was money, pure and simple.
bspellman (Fairbanks, AK): Keith Law (at ESPN),
Jim Callis and many other "gurus" often mention how the Pirates farm
system has no depth. Often that is mentioned in relation to how much
has been spent, which leaves one to wonder if they think they could have
done better with the monies spent. However, it seems a lot of the
drafted players were rated quit high by these same gurus (e.g. Stetson
Allie). If you were the GM would you shoot for high-risk high-reward
type prospects or prospects that have a decent chance of being a number 3
pitcher (e.g. Bryon Bullington)?
I'm a high-risk, high-reward guy myself.
The Pirates drafted conservatively for years and it got them nowhere.
I'm not saying the current approach is working so well, either, but they
needed to try something different.
Dan (Ohio): I thought Jeff Locke had a pretty good year in 2012. How far did he fall? Do the Pirates still cosider him a #5 starter type?
Locke passed the 50-inning threshold and
is no longer considered for the rankings. The Pirates still think
highly of Locke and he'll compete with Kyle McPherson in spring training
for the No. 5 starter.
Frank (Pitt): If Starling Marte was still eligible, where would he have ranked on this list?
No. 3, behind Cole and Taillon, and ahead of Heredia.
David (Fort Worth): Man, Stetson Allie has
turned out to be a disaster. Any hope he can forge any semblance of a
career as a postion player? I don't remember what the scouting reports
were on that aspect of his game prior to the draft.
He was a good hitting third baseman in
high school but I think it's a real longshot that he'll ever make it to
the major leagues as a hitter. The Pirates are just trying to exhaust
all avenues in hopes of getting something on their investment.
Brett (Valparaiso In): Seems to me the question
of depth in our system that BA raises is unfounded. With Bell checking
in at #6 and so many break out candidates that didn't make the top 10
(Mathieson, Herrara, Glasnow, etc) I can't remember in the past 25 years
the system being so deep - can you?
I think that's fair but you're also
judging against a pretty low standard because it's been a long time
since the farm system was really brimming with talent. There are still
weak spots, especially left-handed pitching and upper-level middle
Mickey (Spokane): Obviously their numbers this
year were incredible. How did you choose between Polanco and Hansen?
How do you see their offensive ceilings?
It really could have gone either way but
the tiebreaker for me was that I think Polanco will wind up hitting for
more power than Hanson. But it was awfully close.
Jeff (Chambersburg, Pa): What is the opinion around baseball about the Pirates developmental staff, particularly Kyle Stark?
Not good. There were a LOT of raised eyebrows about the whole Hoka Hey stuff.
Mike C. (Lynchburg, Va): Is this the year the Buccos finally break the under .500 drought?
I think there's a decent chance.
Mick (Chicago): Will the Pirates give any more chances to Jordy Mercer and Chase d'Arnaud at SS?
Possibly next season after Clint Barmes
leaves as a free agent. I think Mercer is more likely to get a shot than
d'Arnaud but I also don't think either one is an everyday big-league
shortstop. I think Mercer would make a nice utility player, especially
since he has some pop in his bat.
Greg M (Pittsburgh): With 2 picks in the first
14 selections in this year's draft, how much pressure is on Huntington
and his staff to pull off a great class this year?
I don't know if there's pressure as far
as job pressure because it's hard to judge a draft class for a few
years. Certainly, for the long term, though, they need to cash in on at
least one of those two picks.
jeff (pittsburgh): do you see the pirates playing the service time game with cole and taillon and not calling them up to pittsburgh this year?
Absolutely. That's the way they operate.
That's why I don't think you'll see Cole until at least Memorial Day
this year and Taillon until at least Memorial Day 2014.
Jim (KC): Followup: If that's the case, you mean the GM isn't really the main problem with the Pirates...?
The problem runs higher than GM. It starts at the very top.
Mick (Chicago): Does South African Gift Ngoepe
have the tools to be a legit prospect, or is he a novelty item because
he would be the first MLB player from that country?
He's a legit prospect defensively and
speed-wise. The big hurdle for him now is hitting. If he hits, he's
going to play in the major leagues.
Corey (Lewiston, NY): Which prospect(s) do you
see having the largest impact at the big-league level this year?
McPherson? Cole? Wilson? Locke? Morris? Somebody else?
Kyle McPherson. I like him and I think
he'll win the No. 5 starter's job in the spring. His stuff isn't
overwhelming but he has a really good idea of what he's doing, he has
good mound presence and he doesn't seem to rattle. I don't think he's
going to be a superstar but I do think he could wind up developing into a
solid No. 3 starter in the long run.
Fred (NYC): I noticed that despite the top 3
having "frontline" potential/stuff, none of them currently strikes out a
ton of batters. Is pitching to contact something the Pirates system is
consiously teaching them or is this just a coincidence? Would this be a
red flag that all of them may NOT be frontline material?
The Pirates want their pitchers to
concentrate on fastball command to both sides of the plate rather than
strikeouts. Having seen Cole, Taillon and Heredia pitch — and I'm not a
scout, mind you — I think they'll strike guys out in the majors. They
are big guys with good stuff.
Well, that will do it. Thanks for all
the great questions. Hopefully, I provided some lucid answers. I
appreciate you taking the time to send in questions. Have a good rest of
the winter and see you in Bradenton!