Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Keller, whose older brother Jon is a righthander in the Rockies system, became a major draft prospect between his junior and senior years of high school when he added 10 mph and started hitting the mid-90s at showcase events. He struck out 91 batters in 69 innings as a senior and was committed to North Carolina, but the Pirates selected him in the second round in 2014 and got him on board with a $1 million bonus. Keller started out strong in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014 but missed much of 2015 with forearm problems. However, his dominant 2016 campaign at low Class A West Virginia turned him into a priority prospect when he combined swing-and-miss stuff with outstanding command, striking out 131 batters and walking just 18. His rise accelerated in 2017 despite a lower-back injury that cost him several weeks and a shin injury that also cost him time. Keller began the season with high Class A Bradenton and was promoted to Double-A Altoona in August. He pitched a one-hit, 90-pitch shutout in the Eastern League playoffs against Bowie. Keller has put on muscle to a rangy frame, which allows him to produce easy velocity without overly stressing his arm. His fastball sits 94-96 mph with late life, tilt and armside run. He can hit 99 when he rears back. His fastball command is improving, and he can throw it to all four quadrants against batters on either side of the plate. His heater sets up a big looping curveball with an 11-5 shape with hard downward bite. He still considers his fastball his best pitch, but the Pirates are trying to convince him to trust his curveball. Their next goal is to help him with a developing changeup, which is still an average pitch for him. It has armside run and sink, but he probably needs to take something off because it comes in too close to 90 mph. Keller projects to be a mid- to top-of-the-rotation starter and could eventually mesh with a big league staff mostly comprised of young, tall righthanders with skill sets similar to his. He will most likely begin 2018 at Altoona, but could find his way to Triple-A Indianapolis by the end of the season. A big league debut in 2019 seems probable.
Meadows was considered one of the best high school bats in the 2013 draft. The Pirates took him No. 9 overall and signed him away from a Clemson commitment for $3,029,600. Meadows backed up his reputation all the way through Double-A, but he has struggled at Triple-A Indianapolis. He suffered through an injury-riddled 2017 season, playing just 81 games thanks to hamstring and oblique injuries. It's the third different season where hamstring injuries have hamstrung him. Throughout his career, Meadows has shown a smooth swing, good feel for the barrel and the strike zone, so his struggles at Triple-A don't worry the Pirates. They trust that Meadows will be a plus hitter who will develop consistent home run power, even if it doesn't come early in his major league career. He is a plus runner with solid outfield instincts. His arm is his weakest tool, but it's still adequate enough to play all three outfield spots. Meadows was widely expected to make his big league debut in 2017, but injuries prevented that from happening. There's a good chance he'll start 2018 at Indianapolis, especially if Andrew McCutchen remains with the team. Meadows has a chance of finally breaking through if he can stay healthy.
Baz was a two-way star at Concordia Lutheran High, the same program that produced system-mate Ke'Bryan Hayes. As a senior, he played on USA Baseball's 18U National Team and recorded an 0.93 ERA and hit .431. The Pirates took him No. 12 overall in 2017 and gave him a slightly over-slot bonus of $4.1 million, buying him out of a commitment to Texas Christian. Baz finished the season strong in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, allowing only one run in nine innings in his final three starts. Baz has a long athletic frame that can support additional weight. His double-plus fastball sits between 94-96 mph with late heavy life--both armside run and late sink that makes it exceptionally difficult on righthanded hitters. He's working with both a slider and a curveball, and both have bite, depth and plus potential. Baz's changeup isn't quite as developed but shows late fade. His control is advanced for his age. Baz will require time to develop, but he has all the ingredients to eventually be a front-of-the-rotation starter. The Pirates haven't taken a prep pitcher in the first round since Jameson Taillon in 2010, and Taillon began at low Class A West Virginia in his first full season.
The Pirates took Hayes, whose father Charlie played 14 years in the big leagues, with the No. 32 pick in 2015, convincing him to turn down a commitment to Tennessee. After a strong performance in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2015, he played in just 65 games in 2016 thanks to a cracked rib. However, he still started 2017 in high Class A Bradenton and had his most complete season to date. Hayes showed better feel for the strike zone, a compact swing and the ability to drive the ball to all fields in 2017. He hasn't shown a lot of home run power, but he could develop power similar to that of his father, who hit 144 home runs. Hayes continued to drop baby fat and add muscle in 2017. He's transformed from a poor baserunner into an above-average one. The conditioning also aided his range at third base. He has sure hands and a quick first step. He should be a defensive asset as a plus defender with a a plus arm. Hayes will likely begin 2018 at Double-A Altoona despite being just 21 on Opening Day. While his statistics have been modest, scouts see him as a future above-average regular thanks to his hitting ability, work ethic and understanding of the game.
Newman won the Cape Cod League batting title twice and hit .370 in his junior year at Arizona. He continued to build on his reputation as a pure hitter in his first two seasons as a professional, hitting a combined .320 in 2016. Newman has a strong frame and outstanding feel for the strike zone and the barrel, so the Pirates have to fight the temptation to mess with his swing to try to produce more power. However, he has struggled any time his swing has become too big and has found his most success hitting line drives to the opposite field. He shows the potential for a plus hit tool, albeit with well below-average power. Newman has good speed on the basepaths and good athleticism, but his body is a bit stiff. He has average range and an average arm at shortstop. He's steady defensively, though and tends to make all the routine plays without issue, committing just 17 errors in the past two seasons. Newman could still use some time at Triple-A Indianapolis. If he hits in 2018, he could earn a big league callup, particularly if Jordy Mercer is traded. He's a sure-fire big leaguer, but the question is how much impact he'll have.
The Pirates surprised many by taking Tucker in the first round in 2014 convincing him to pass up a commitment to Arizona. He missed time in 2015 as he recovered from labrum surgery to his right shoulder and the injury seemed to still limit him in 2016. Despite a broken left thumb, he had his best offensive season at high Class A Bradenton in 2017, when he led the Florida State League with 36 stolen bases, then helped Double-A Altoona to an Eastern League championship. Tucker made drastic strides as a hitter in 2017, greatly improving his strike-zone awareness and overall approach. He has a loose swing and quick hands from both sides of the plate. Below-average power is still the weakest part of his game, but he has present gap power. His wiry frame suggests he can add strength as he ages. Tucker's long strides obscure his plus speed, his most impressive tool, and he drastically improved his intelligence on the basepaths in 2017. He is a fluid athlete with good range who projects as above-average at shortstop, and his above-average arm is back to full strength. Tucker will likely start 2018 at Double-A Altoona but could eventually challenge Kevin Newman for a spot in the big leagues.
Pirates international scouts found Escobar as a 17-year-old in Cartagena, Colombia, and liked his live arm. They signed him for $150,000. He was just 155 pounds at the time and played third base, but the Pirates pushed him to pitch. Escobar has increased his velocity as he added weight and strength, and his breakthrough season in 2017 included a trip to the Futures Game. At low Class A West Virginia in 2017 he led the South Atlantic League with 168 strikeouts and a .200 opponent average, though he also ranked second with 60 walks. Escobar throws a four-seam fastball with riding action that he can get up to 97 mph and usually sits in the 93-95 range. He can still be a little scattershot with his fastball, but he has made major control improvements in the past year. He pairs his heater with a sharp above-average 12-6 curveball with late drop. His changeup needs further development, but it generates fringe-average to average grades as well. Escobar will likely begin 2018 at high Class A Bradenton. Some scouts see him as a future power reliever, but if his changeup and control keep developing he could stay in the rotation.
Kingham was one of several long-framed high school pitchers the Pirates went over slot to sign at the beginning of the decade. However, he has become a forgotten member of that group thanks to injury. He rose steadily through the organization until 2015, when he had Tommy John surgery while in his second season at Triple-A Indianapolis. That cost him most of that season and 2016, when he made just 10 starts. His 2017 campaign also got a late start thanks to a spring training ankle injury that kept him out until mid-May. Kingham's average fastball generally sits around 92 mph, but his 6-foot-6 frame allows him to create downhill plane. He has an average hard curveball with three-quarters break and a plus changeup with sinking action. His control is a strength, but he can sometimes get hit hard by staying in the zone too much. The Pirates consider Kingham one of 10 pitchers they would feel comfortable starting at the big league level, but the Pittsburgh rotation remained relatively injury free in 2017, and he was never called up. He will be in the rotation mix in 2018, but that's no guarantee that he'll be called up from Indianapolis.
The Pirates acquired Hearn along with Felipe Rivero when they traded Mark Melancon to the Nationals in 2016. Rivero became the Pirates' closer in 2017 and was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Hearn has some of the same attributes as Rivero. He missed the final two months of 2017 at high Class A Bradenton thanks to a strained left oblique but still finished with 11 strikeouts per nine innings in a career-high 89 innings. Hearn's near top-of-the-scale fastball plays in the 96-97 mph range, and he frequently hit 99 in games. On occasion he even topped triple digits. His below-average control is still an issue, and he is also working on secondary pitches. Hearn is making progress with his potentially average 84-86 mph changeup. It's tough on both righthanded and lefthanded hitters. He's working on his fringy slider, but he hasn't found a shape and velocity he feels comfortable with yet. The central question for Hearn is whether or not he can remain a starter, and that might not be possible if his control and slider don't improve. He will likely move up to Double-A Altoona in 2018, but he could move to the bullpen there if it becomes clear that's his best bet to reach the majors.
The Pirates made Sanchez their big-ticket signing on the 2015 international market, coming to terms for $450,000. He showed impressive maturity for an 18-year-old in his first season in the U.S. in 2017, when he hit .284/.359/.417 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with 21 walks against just 19 strikeouts and 14 stolen bases. He led the circuit with 42 runs and placed third with 85 total bases. Sanchez showed excellent hand-eye coordination and plate control in the GCL. Even though his frame doesn't project for more than average power, his four home runs showed he is capable of running into a few because he's good at getting the barrel to the ball and his body possesses some twitchy athleticism. Sanchez's speed is a plus-plus tool, and he has good baserunning awareness for his age. He's also an above-average center fielder with an above-average arm. His display of all of those tools in the GCL have quickened his track significantly. Sanchez may not start 2018 at low Class A West Virginia if the Pirates keep him in extended spring training, but he will almost certainly end up there at some point.
Jennings didn't spend much time at showcases as a high schooler, in large part because he was the starting quarterback at DeKalb County High, ending his senior season early because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. That probably helped the Pirates get him early in the second round with the No. 42 overall pick. Thin but athletic, Jennings posted a 0.52 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 51.2 innings as a prep senior, then signed for $1.9 million, passing up a commitment to Mississippi. Jennings doesn't pitch with a ton of velocity yet, sitting around 90 mph in games, but the Pirates expect him to add velocity and be around 92-93 with armside run. He has an easy delivery and is good at repeating his arm action, which projects well long term. He's working on honing in on a breaking pitch, using several that fall somewhere on the spectrum between slider and curveball, and he has a changeup that could end up being a plus pitch. He shows control with everything he throws. Jennings could be on the same track as 2017 first-rounder Shane Baz, which would mean he would start 2018 at low Class A West Virginia, but he could also be in a short-season league preceded by time at extended spring training.
Kramer was taken by the Pirates after his redshirt junior season at UCLA, having been a part of the 2013 national championship team before missing his third year with a torn labrum. He then hit .323 in 2015 for a Bruins team that entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. Kramer has shown patience and the ability to hit for average at every level on the way up the Pirates' minor league ladder. He missed much of the 2017 season with a fractured hand but returned in time to help Double-A Altoona win the Eastern League title. Kramer reminds many in the system of former Pirates second baseman Neil Walker. He doesn't have great range or a great arm, but he has good hands and positions himself well, so he projects to be average at second base. He has hit just 10 minor league home runs, but his ability to drive the gaps suggests that he'll find below-average to fringe-average home run power in the major leagues. Kramer might spend a little more time at Double-A in 2018, but he'll likely find himself at Triple-A Indianapolis at some point.
Luplow was an afterthought heading into the 2017 season after a mediocre year at high Class A Bradenton. However, the former Mountain West Conference player of the year at Fresno State had the most successful offensive season among Pirates minor leaguers in 2017. Luplow hit 23 home runs in 117 games at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, helping both teams reach the postseason. He was then called up to the Pirates to shore up their outfield depth. Throughout the season, he showed power to all fields, good feel for the barrel, quick hands and good pitch recognition. His success at the plate also seemed to translate to improvements in the rest of his game. Luplow doesn't have great speed, but he's smart on the basepaths and quick to take extra bases when they're there. A converted third baseman, he doesn't have great range in right field, but it improved this year, and he also showed a plus arm with excellent accuracy. Luplow has a good chance of starting 2018 with the Pirates as an extra outfielder.
Mitchell was considered one of the best high school bats in the nation going into his senior year at Rancho Bernardo High in 2017. The year before he had finished second in the home run derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic, and he helped Team USA win the Pan American Championships. He struggled early in his senior year, going through an 0-for-22 stretch at one point, which caused his stock to fall significantly. Mitchell, however, found consistency late in his senior season and ended up hitting .369 with 11 home runs. He finished his first pro season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with 12 hits in 36 at-bats in his last 10 games. The Pirates were never bothered by the slump and still considered Mitchell one of the best high school bats in the draft. He has a smooth lefthanded stroke, good command of the strike zone, and a quick enough bat to let the ball get deep and drive it to the opposite field. He has good power, and should be able to generate above-average home runs production more when he adds weight to a long frame. He has slightly below-average speed and average defensive tools, however, which means he profiles as a corner outfielder and will need his bat to play. Mitchell should begin his full-season odyssey at low Class A West Virginia in 2018.
Uselton was a high school quarterback but gave up football in his sophomore year to pursue baseball. The move paid off when Uselton signed for $900,000 as the Pirates' supplemental second-round pick in 2017 after hitting .467 as a senior at Southmoore High. Uselton played both ways in high school and hit 91 mph with his fastball, but he'll focus on the outfield as a pro. He went down with a hamstring injury in just his second game in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and never returned, but he went 3-for-5 in that game. Uselton's swing mechanics will need extensive work in the minor leagues. There's a lot of motion in the swing that doesn't need to be there, he's prone to too many strikeouts and he doesn't have a great feel for the barrel yet. However, he also has a lot of raw power, so when he does barrel the ball, it can go a long way. Uselton has a chance to start his career in center field because he has above-average athleticism, good instincts and a decent arm. Uselton might eventually have to move to a corner outfield spot, but if he reaches his offensive ceiling, he may still fit well in PNC Park's spacious left field.
Five years after the Pirates convinced Moroff to pass up a commitment to Central Florida for a $300,000 signing bonus, he got extensive major league work in 2017. Moroff never had more than eight home runs in a minor league season, but he hit 13 at Triple-A Indianapolis in 2017 in just 51 games, slugging a career-high .519. That earned him a spot in Pittsburgh as a utility infielder. He struggled with the bat for much of the season, but he drove in seven runs in the season's final two games. Moroff has good feel for the barrel and can create some leverage with the bat despite a lack of length. He's prone to high strikeout totals, but he also has high walk totals and can extend at-bats and make pitchers work. His defense at second base, third base and shortstop is about average. His arm can play at any of the three positions. His speed isn't what it was when he stole a combined 38 bases in 2014 and 2015, but he still has average speed. Moroff could start in Indianapolis again in 2018, but he will have a chance to make the Pirates' Opening Day roster as a utility infielder.
Neverauskas, who first drew the Pirates' attention at the European Academy in Italy as a 16-year-old, became the first Lithuanian player in major league history in 2017. Neverauskas' career trajectory has spiked since he moved to the bullpen in 2015 after a rough season in at low Class A West Virginia, and he was dominant throughout the higher levels of the minors before breaking through and making 24 appearances in the majors in 2017. Neverauskas has long limbs, but he has an efficient delivery and can easily locate a four-seam fastball that averages 97 mph and tops out around 99. He also uses an average slider to keep the ball off the barrel. The Pirates showed increased faith in Neverauskas throughout his big league appearances, and he could soon be part of their bridge to closer Felipe Rivero.
Martin was the 508th overall pick in the 2017 draft and was committed to Gonzaga, but the Pirates offered $350,000 and acquired the player who had the most impressive summer of any of their 2017 draftees. After hitting .507 as a high school senior, Martin slugged seven home runs in seven July games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He came back to earth, but then hit four home runs in the season's final nine games to win MVP honors in the GCL. He showed a simple, efficient lefthanded swing, good feel for the strike zone and the barrel. He also showed easy above-average power. He has wiry strength and could add more power as his body fills out. He doesn't have plus athleticism or speed, and he still has a lot to learn about the fundamentals of playing first base. Because of those deficiencies, Martin may have to start 2018 with a short-season club to get work in extended spring training, but if he learns quickly, he could start the year at low Class A West Virginia.
Waddell was Virginia's go-to hurler in big games, and he went 6-1, 2.34 in 11 NCAA Tournament games. He won all five of his career starts in the College World Series, helping the Cavaliers to the 2015 national title. That convinced the Pirates to take him in the fifth round. Waddell reached Double-A Altoona in his first full season in 2016. He didn't get a chance to move up in 2017, thanks in part to two left forearm strains that cost him close to a month, but he still became a stalwart for the Curve in their Eastern League championship run. He pitched six shutout innings in his start against Trenton in the championship series, continuing to be a go-to starter in big games. He gets most of his work done with the combination of a fastball that sits between 88-92 mph that he can locate to both sides of the plate and a changeup with fade that looks exactly like a fastball out of his hand. He's working on a breaking ball that's something in between a slider and a curveball, and he's trying to commit to one direction or another with it. Waddell will join at backlog of pitchers at Triple-A Indianapolis in 2018 and has No. 5 starter potential.
Ogle topped out at 96 mph in the first start of his senior season and struck out 59 batters in 35 innings at Jensen Beach High to draw a lot of college and pro attention. He ended up signing above slot for $800,000 with the Pirates, passing up a Florida commitment. Ogle has spent his first two pro seasons in Rookie league, but he has shown good signs in 18 starts. He sits 94-96 mph with his fastball, with easy effort and a consistent delivery. The pitch has armside run, sometimes a little too much, but his overall command of it is better than expected at his age. He also has a sharp slider that runs between 83-86 mph and has some depth to it, and a changeup that matches the fastball well and has sink and armside run. Ogle's control of all three pitches is decent, and the Pirates hope he puts more faith in the secondary pitches. After two seasons at the Rookie level, Ogle will most likely get a chance to experiment with all of his pitches in 2018 at low Class A West Virginia.
Holmes still has the highest signing bonus ever given to a ninth-round pick at $1.2 million--which convinced the high school valedictorian and physics enthusiast not to go to Auburn. However, the Pirates haven't seen any return on that investment at the major league level yet, thanks in large part to his Tommy John surgery in 2014. Holmes' 2016 and 2017 seasons show him coming much closer to making the leap, though, when he proved to be a durable starter with an average strikeout rate at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. He has a heavy, two-seam fastball with which he usually pitches in the 94-96 mph range and a big, looping curveball that he struggles to control but could use as a chase pitch. He also throws a slider/cutter around 90 mph and keeps in the zone. His walk numbers remain a bit too high. Holmes doesn't have a true out pitch, but he is an extreme groundball pitcher, which the Pirates favor. He has a chance to break into the majors in 2018, either as a starter if the Pirates deal with extensive injuries, or in long relief.
Cruz stood 6-foot-1 at age 15, but he had shot up to 6-foot-4 by the time he signed with the Dodgers for $950,000 as a 16-year-old. He now has grown to 6-foot-6. The extra length forced him to move from shortstop to third base, but it also helped him add power, which was a big reason why the Pirates were intrigued by him and took him as part of the trade that sent reliever Tony Watson to the Dodgers in July 2017. Cruz hit a combined 10 home runs in his first season in the U.S., but he also struck out 132 times. He remains a fairly raw player but has two eye-opening tools--his power and throwing arm. His frame is still long and lean, but he shows power to all fields and can hit moonshots when he pulls the ball. He has a plus arm, good range at third base and good athleticism overall. He's still clearly growing into his body, and he isn't advanced as a hitter, but he shows signs of aptitude at the plate and can shorten his swing when needed. Cruz will play the entire 2018 season as a 19-year-old and figures to center his effort at low Class A West Virginia.
Santana didn't play much baseball growing up in the Dominican Republic, and he didn't start pitching until age 19 or sign until age 22. But just three years after signing, he found himself in the major leagues. He shot through the Pirates' system quickly, going from high Class A to Triple-A in 2016, then earning a callup in June 2017 after a dominant start at Triple-A Indianapolis. Santana's fastball sits around 95 mph and is effective when it has downward plane, but he sometimes runs into trouble when it's flat. His slider is his go-to pitch, however. It has a lot of sharp, side-to-side break, but he can get it over for a strike just as easily as he can use it for a chase pitch. Much like Dovydas Neverauskas, Santana has a chance to find his way to the Pirates' bullpen, but he also has the arm endurance to be used in multi-inning relief. The versatility should allow him much more opportunity to be part of the major league staff in some way in 2018.
Craig was taken in the 37th round by the Royals out of high school, but he improved his draft stock drastically at Wake Forest. He hit 37 career home runs with the Demon Deacons and also served as closer in his junior year. The Pirates took him with the No. 22 overall pick in 2016 and paid him just over $2.2 million, but they haven't seen the power show up yet in pro ball. Craig hit 26 doubles in 2017 at high Class A Bradenton, but he has hit just eight home runs in 676 pro at-bats so far. He moved from third base to first base after committing 16 errors in 46 games at third in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2016. Craig had some issues with his hitting approach early in 2017, which led to 31 strikeouts in May, and he seemed to correct those, by hitting .354 in June, but then hit .198 in August. He showed good footwork around first base, and still has his arm as an above-average tool, but not much in the way of athleticism. Craig likely will start 2018 at Double-A Altoona and will have a chance to get a jumpstart there.
Burdi was drafted in the 24th round by the Twins after a stellar Illinois prep career, then was taken again by Minnesota with the 46th overall pick in 2014 after a dominant career as Louisville's closer. The Pirates acquired the rights to Burdi at the 2017 Rule 5 draft by trading $500,000 in international bonus pool money to the Phillies, who had selected the reliever third overall. The Twins left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, possibly because he has pitched just 20 innings in the past two seasons and faces a long rehab. Thanks to a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and can touch 100 mph--as well as a devastating slider in the 87-90 mph range and a decent changeup--Burdi continued to post high strikeout rates during his time with the Twins. He averaged more than 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings in each of his first two seasons. He missed most of the 2016 season with a bruised right humerus, however, pitching just three innings. In 2017, he drastically improved his control at Double-A Chattanooga by walking just four batters in 17 innings while striking out 20 and allowing only one run, but he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and needed Tommy John surgery in May. Burdi will begin the season on the disabled list and likely won't be available until the second half. However, if he can return to form, the Pirates hope he can become a go-to high-leverage reliever.
Garcia was a late sign for a player from the Dominican Republic, not signing until he was 20. He moved quickly to high Class A Bradenton three years after he was signed, recording ERAs under 3.00 as a starter in 2015 at low Class A West Virginia and in 2016 with the Marauders. Garcia's progress hit a speed bump early in 2017. He started 11 games and didn't make it through the sixth inning in any of them. However, he moved to the bullpen in late June and flourished. The change in roles had been expected at some point. After posting a 6.50 ERA as a starter, Garcia had a 3.25 ERA as a reliever. He still had well below-average control. The move allowed him to get more out of his fastball, which he was throwing at 92-93 mph as a starter. As a reliever, he typically sat 97 mph and hit 99 on occasion. He combined that with a wipeout power slider and a changeup that came in around 82 mph. Garcia's move to the bullpen could put him on a much quicker path to the major leagues, and there's a chance he could start 2018 at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Hinsz was hard to scout because Montana doesn't have high school baseball, but the Pirates signed him based on what they saw from him playing American Legion baseball and with the Langley Blaze, a youth travel team based in British Columbia. Hinsz's 2017 season at high Class A Bradenton provided the most obvious evidence so far that he's a project, as opponents hit just south of .300 against him. He continues to show flashes of elite stuff, including a fastball that can touch 97 mph and sits at 94-95, a sharp breaking ball with a three-quarters type break and a developing changeup. However, the Pirates minor league coaching staff is constantly working with Hinsz's mechanics, and he has issues with command. He doesn't have a problem throwing strikes, but he too often leaves pitches in problematic parts of the zone, which is a big part of the reason why his WHIP has been over 1.50 in three of his four minor league seasons. The Pirates hope Hinsz can begin 2018 at Double-A Altoona, but he might have to stay behind in the Florida State League for more seasoning.
Alemais' stock dropped in his junior year at Tulane despite the fact that his numbers were no different than they were his sophomore year. The former high school point guard's game has translated well to pro baseball, because he remains a very good defender and bat handler. Alemais may be the smoothest, most fluid shortstop in the Pirates' system, with good hands and excellent footwork. His range and arm are both solid to above-average and he has the ability to make the position look easy. His offensive game is less reliable, but he hit .317 in 30 games at high Class A Bradenton in 2017 after missing extensive time with a hand injury. His hit tool is average and his well below-aveage power is occasional at best, but he rarely strikes out. Alemais likely will have to start 2018 at Bradenton again, with Cole Tucker at Double-A Altoona and Kevin Newman at Triple-A Indianapolis, but he has a chance to move up if there's movement at the higher levels.
The Pirates took Eppler in the sixth round in 2014 after he spent only one season at the Division I level and two years in junior college. Pittsburgh was intrigued by his big frame and decent velocity. Eppler has moved up the minor league ladder steadily but not without difficulty. Opponents hit over .280 against him in 2016 and 2017, and he has allowed a combined 38 home runs in two-plus seasons at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. Eppler's fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range, and he has a slider, cutter and curveball, but none of those secondary pitches are wipeout offerings and are generally used to draw contact. His changeup may be his best secondary pitch. He generally stays close to the zone with all of his pitches, but the Pirates are hoping he develops more ability to throw effective balls and get hitters to chase out of the zone. Eppler will most likely begin 2018 at Triple-A and be on call if the major league staff has any problems.
Agrazal has put on substantial size since being signed out of Panama in 2012, which has allowed him to add more velocity. Though he missed much of the 2017 season with a right pectoral strain, he was still named a midseason all-star for the second time in three years, thanks to excellent work at high Class A Bradenton. Agrazal's fastball is a four-seamer, but it has constant downhill angle and comes in around 96 mph, which leads to consistent ground balls. He also has an average slider and an average changeup with sinking action. All of those pitches usually lead to the ball staying on the ground, and he recorded nearly two ground out for every air out during his time in Bradenton. Agrazal also has excellent control and has never walked more than 18 batters in a season, striking out 65 against 12 walks in 2017. Agrazal moved up to Double-A Altoona before his injury, so he'll likely start the 2018 season there.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up