J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting, John. What was the word on Gage Hinsz this season, and how would you evaluate his pitches and future projection?
John Perrotto: Hi everyone. It’s a sizzling 14 degrees here in beautiful Beaver Falls, PA. A good day to talk ball. As far as Gage Hinsz, he has made exceptional progress considering he is Montana, a state that does not have high school baseball. He will begin next season at High A Bradenton as a 20-year-old. He has a good fastball and he has a really good feel for the changeup despite his inexperience. If he can sharpen up his breaking pitch, he has a chance to be really good.
Frank (Indianapolis IN): How many of these prospects would you predict will have a shot at making the BA top 100?
John Perrotto: I would say the top six for sure — Meadows, Keller, Glasnow, Bell, Newman and Hayes.
Eric (Pittsburgh): At this point about where would you rank Nick Kingham within this system, and is he still a SP to you?
John Perrotto: He received strong consideration for the top 10 and the Pirates still consider him a starter. He looked good in his return from Tommy John surgery and should pitch in the major leagues at some point in 2017.
Kelly (St. Cloud, MN): Does Alen Hanson fit in anywhere other than the keystone, John?
John Perrotto: They’ve been grooming him as a utility man for two years now at Class AAA Indianapolis and that seems to be a good fit because he can play second, third, shortstop as well as left field and center field. I wouldn’t totally rule him out as a starter but I think a bench guy getting 250-300 PAs a year is more likely.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Yeudy Garcia did walk a career high this year, but his IP/K rate was good. What's his ceiling, and would he rank within your next ten names?
John Perrotto: Yes, he is in the next 10. The walks were a bit alarming but the stuff is still there. I’m not so sure he is going to be a starter in the long haul but he certainly, at the very least, could be an effective late-inning reliever with his fastball.
Sam (Washington DC): Had they not been dealt to Toronto, about where would you have ranked McGuire and Ramirez?
John Perrotto: That’s a great question and one I haven’t honestly thought much about. Both had disappointing seasons at Altoona this year but I probably would had both in the 8-12 range.
Grant (NYC): Is Jordan Luplow still someone to keep an eye on? Which OF spot suits him best?
John Perrotto: I’m not as high on Luplow as others as I expected more production from a high college pick. Left field looks to be his best spot.
Jake (Steel City): You mentioned the possibility of Glasnow becoming a RP if his command doesn't improve. What are the odds of this happening, in your opinion? (Please say "low".)
John Perrotto: A lot of that speculation is coming from outside the organization and Neal Huntington told Adam Berry of MLB.com and I point blank at the GM Meetings last month that there has been zero consideration to switching him to the bullpen. I’m still bullish on Glasnow and I think there was some knee-jerk reaction on some people’s part to downgrade him because of a couple of shaky big-league starts.
Wade (Cleveland, OH): Do you see the Bucs actually dealing Cutch in the near future? What package of prospects would you ask for in return if your last name was Huntington?
John Perrotto: That’s the million-dollar question. It’s become clear that teams aren’t willing to give up too much for a player coming off his worst season. That being said, the Pirates have painted themselves in a bit of a corner. If they don’t deal McCutchen before spring training then it is going to hang over the team all year until he is finally moved. I know Andrew will handle it professional, as he did last weekend at PirateFest, but it will be an issue that isn’t going away. The best case scenario, if my name were Huntington, would be for McCutchen to have a big first half then deal him for a couple of top prospects along with B- or C-lister at the deadline in July. The worst-case scenario would be for the Pirates to be in contention, trade him and then explain to their fans and players why they dealt a key playrer in the midst of a pennant race, a la Mark Melancon this year.
Ryne (Waco, TX): How close was Max Moroff? Can he eventually become an everday guy at second or third? Gotta love thay walk rate.
John Perrotto: Moroff was in the running for top 10. I do love the walk rate and I think there is a chance he could be an everyday second baseman if he can cut down on the strikeouts a bit and perhaps add a little bit more pop. If not, he still profiles as a pretty good bench piece.
Allen (TN): What do you make of Trevor Williams long term? Swingman? Ground ball machine out of the bullpen?
John Perrotto: TBD. Sorry for such a wishy-washy answer but I’m not sure yet. I think he will be back in the rotation at Indy to start 2017. They do love his ground ball capabilities, so it only makes sense to keep him as a starter until he shows he can’t do it.
Surprised Pirates Fan (Pittsburgh): I'm amazed that Mitch Keller is that highly thought of that he managed to leap over all other pitching prospects, especially Glasnow. Could you elaborate as to how he did this, considering he's still a few levels beneath him?
John Perrotto: It was a really, really tough call between the two and the decision wasn’t made lightly. It just seems that Keller seems a bit of a safer bet at this point because of his control. Glasnow has a chance to be a No. 1 but he has to start consistently throwing strikes at some point. That was the deciding factor.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Who among short season players is now an average guy that might have explosive improvement and become a legitimate top prospect?
John Perrotto: I saw Danny Beddes pitch this season at Morgantown and he really intrigued me. Big guy who throws hard and on a downhill plane. He had major control problems at Utah Valley State but he threw more strikes in the New York-Penn League. Could turn out to be a steal as a 15th-round pick.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of the pitchers moving to the West Virginia Power from the short season teams, who is your favorite?
John Perrotto: Funny you should ask that as I just mentioned Beddes. I also like Luis Escobar, a Colombian who is a wisp of guy but who also throws hard.
Ken (Lakewood CA): Hi John and thanks for the chat. Is Hutchison a serious part of the Pirate plan for their starting rotation - now and in the future- in your opinion?
John Perrotto: Scouts I talked to are mixed. Some felt he needed a change of scenery and could thrive in Pittsburgh and others say he’s a No. 5 at best or a long man out of the bullpen. However, talking to hitters who faced him in Toronto, I didn’t get the vibe that he is anything special. We shall see.
Austin (Pittsburgh): 1. What is the plan with Keller and Newman and is it possible Newman makes his debut along with Meadows? Also what about the plan for Clay Homes?
John Perrotto: Keller will start off in high A at Bradenton. Meadows will be back at Triple-A Indianapolis to start the season and it seems certain he’ll be in the big leagues at some point in ’17. Newman is an interesting case as I could see the Pirates starting him at Indy next season, though I don’t know if they would necessarily want to start his service-time clock in the big leagues yet. As for Holmes, he will probably wind up starting the season back at Double-A Altoona because of the backlog of pitchers at Indy.
Steve (Florida): Taylor hearn looked really good since the trade and slider is nasty and great fastball! What are your thoughts on him and when he might be up?
John Perrotto: Hearn throws even harder than Tyler Glasnow, which is saying something. The raw ability is there. Now he has two things to prove — 1. He can consistently thrown strikes, and 2. He can stay healthy. There is a lot of upside there.
Tom (Mercer, Pa.): With Kevin Newman moving rapidly through the minor leagues last year, is there any chance he will be the starting shortstop for the Pirates by the end of the 2017 season?
John Perrotto: I’d say 2018 is more likely.
G4 (Milwaukee): Whoa, I realize Keller is all the rage but jumping him over Glasnow, who dominated AAA (and every level of the minors for that matter), feels premature. As a Glasnow dynasty owner, I'm going to give you a chance to walk it back. (BTW, use of any "walk" pun against me in your reply? Dirty pool.)
John Perrotto: It’s never a good idea to use walk and Tyler Glasnow in the same sentence. 🙂
Jeff (The Frozen Tundra): Does Josh Bell take the opening day first base job, or spend more time in the minors working on defense? The bat appears to be ready for stage.
John Perrotto: I think he’ll be the opening day first baseman. If McCutchen is traded, then he will be the right fielder on opening day while Gregory Polanco moves to left field and left fielder Starling Marte moves to center field. Either way, I think Bell showed enough last season that he is a major-league hitter. Now about that defense …
Eric E. (Virginia Beach,Va): What are the odds that either Will Craig or Ke'Bryan Hayes get moved from third to first base?
John Perrotto: There is definitely a chance both could wind up being moved but I’d say Craig is more likely to be switched. He has a strong arm but really lacks athleticism. Hayes isn’t a great athlete, either, but shows a little more range and quickness than Craig.
Greg (Cincy): Pirates previous 2 1st round draft picks feel very analytics driven to me, should we expect more high floor low ceiling drafts picks like this?
John Perrotto: It certainly seems to be the trend and I think part of it is the bonus pool system. They want to go low-risk college players in the first round in order to possibly have a little more money left over to sign higher-risk high schools players in later rounds.
Reds fan (The 513): How does pirates top 10 compare with reds and brewers? Which would you want as a GM?
John Perrotto: Considering neither of those teams’ top 10 have been revealed yet, it’s a little bit of a tricky question to answer. However, on the whole, I like the fact that the Pirates have more premium prospects than the Brewers or Reds, though I do like Milwaukee’s system much more than Cincinnati’s. Seems to me you’re trying to size up who has the upper hand in the yearly pursuit for third place in the NL Central behind the Cubs and Cardinals.
Eric (Monroeville): Mitch Keller made a huge leap forward last year. Of the following pitchers Taylor Hearn, Gage Hinsz, Yeudy Garcia and Tyler Eppler, who do you see making the biggest leap in prospect status?
John Perrotto: Hearn has the highest upside, followed by Hinsz, Garcia and Eppler. I could see any of the four making the jump but Hearn has a really special arm.
Angela (GA): Hi John! I'm nicely surprised to see not even one, but two 3B prospects included in Top 10 list. I'm not worried about lack of outfielders yet, because we have great outfielders with long contracts, but in a long term, which position do you think we lack quality prospects the most? Also... why is Tucker so highly regarded?
John Perrotto: Outfielders. Beyond Meadows, there is really nothing to get excited about that. That was part of the allure of Victor Robles when the Pirates were in trade talks with the Nationals about Andrew McCutchen.
Warren (New London): How optimistic are you about Will Craig after a good but underwhelming debut? The Billy Butler comparison doesn't do much for me since Butler was already an established major leaguer at Craig's age.
John Perrotto: I know it is unfair to judge a player of seeing him play in only one game. However, I saw Craig play in Morgantown late in the New York-Penn League season and was thoroughly unimpressed. The last time I saw a 21-year-old kid get down the first-base line slower was me, 31 years ago. He did put up big numbers against strong competition in the ACC, albeit in a hitter-friendly home ballpark, so I’m certainly willing to give him a mulligan on an underwhelming pro debut.
Mick (Chicago): You're high enough on Adam Frazier to put him as the present and future 2B?
John Perrotto: Not quite. I like Max Moroff’s defense better and Kevin Kramer also looms in the second base picture long-term as he will be at Double-A Altoona in 2017.
Jason (New York): How long before Kevin Newman is in the majors? Do you think he could get to an all star ceiling? 65 bat with avg power and speed seems like that's a maybe?
John Perrotto: I don’t see him as a perennial All-Star, though he could get picked for a couple in his career. I think he’ll be a good, solid major-league shortstop, perhaps a touch better.
Nate83 (Ohio): Surprised Kingham didn't make it. Anything in particular besides just not enough innings since Tommy John to feel comfortable with what his ceiling is?
John Perrotto: I’d like to see a little bit more of him post-surgery but he is trending upward again. Pardon the corporatespeak.
Mick (Chicago): South African infielder Gift Ngoepe and India pitcher Rinku Singh are not performing well enough to make the majors. But perhaps Lithuanian pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas will. Do the Pirates still scout these non traditional baseball countries and is it bearing fruit?
John Perrotto: I think it is. Neverauskas looks like he will pitch in the major leagues and the only thing holding Ngoepe back is his bat because is a plus defender and runner. Singh made pretty amazing progress until getting derailed by injuries. Neal Huntington is always going to be stuck with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball so he has to always look for creative means to add talent.
mattyb (los angeles): Hi, Couple questions..Are you surprised Brault and Diaz are on the list instead of Hanson or Kingham. Also, I think Taylor Hearn should be here based on talent and potential, the same as any other prospect. Why do you think he isnt getting much recognition?
John Perrotto: Even though Brault struggled at times in the major leagues last year, a lot of scouts feel he has the athleticism and pitchability to be a potential No.3 starter. While I’m not usually keen on putting an older prospect like Diaz in the top 10, he is an outstanding defensive catcher who is well thought of both inside and outside the organization.
Jonathan (Syracuse, NY): How much separation do you see among the first four prospects? Are they all in the same general range, or are one (or some) clearly above (or below) the others?
John Perrotto: I think Meadows, Keller and Glasnow could all be superstars while Bell is just a notch below.
John Perrotto: Well, that’s all the Qs we have. Hopefully, I given you some insightful As. I really enjoy all the great questions and it was great fun chatting. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!