Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top 15 Prospects

Sep 19, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez (59) runs to first base after hitting a single against the San Diego Padres during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to have a phenomenal minor league system with several players that are projected to be impact major leaguers. Not only that, but the system is extremely young with only one player older than 22 making this list. The organization is deep behind the plate with one player set to take over in the major leagues in 2015, one premium prospect who’s still just 19 years old and one more catching prospect hanging around the list.

This is another of my consensus lists. I looked at five different top prospects list (unfortunately, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus haven’t released their 2014 lists yet) and ranked players. Only 11 players different players were named in the top 10 on the five different lists showing that there’s an incredible amount of agreement at the top of this system. For the last four players, I looked at who was named in the Top 15 of different lists and those players earning their way onto more Top 15s were ranked higher.

Some of the “where will they end up in 2014” projections may be a bit off. The Pirates are adding a minor league team for 2014 — the Advanced-Rookie Bristol Pirates in the Appalachian League — and that may affect the club’s decisions as to where to send players.

Triple A: Indianapolis Indians (International League)
Double-A: Altoona Curve (Eastern League)
High-A: Bradenton Marauders (Florida State League
Class-A: West Virginia Power (South Atlantic League)
Short-Season A: Jamestown Jammers (New York-Penn League)
Advanced-Rookie: Bristol Pirates (Appalachian League)
Complex-Rookie: GCL Pirates (Gulf Coast League)
Foreign-Rookie: DSL Pirates (Dominican Summer League)


Willy Garcia – OF
Date of Birth:
September 4, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’3″/180 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010; $280,000 signing bonus

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Willy Garcia, a big outfielder from the Dominican Republic has some extremely good-looking tools. Scouts love his arm and his raw power but he’s still figuring out how to hit better pitching. He played in Bradenton in 2013 and pretty much had the same type of season he had the year before: Good power, mediocre batting average, low walk rate but tons of strikeouts. He also shows decent speed with 13 stolen bases in 19 tries. His arm continues to rack up assists, gunning down 20 runners in 2013.

2014 Prognosis: Garcia has just turned 21 but still has plus power to go along with his cannon of an arm. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates have him repeat the level in Bradenton or promote him to Double-A Altoona.


Wyatt Mathisen – C
Date of Birth:
December 30, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’1″/210 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Despite not catching much in high school, scouts love Mathisen’s arm but the 20 year old still needs to polish some other aspects of his defensive game as runners ran rampant on him in his time in West Virginia. that might have been an aggressive assignment for a young catcher in his second pro season as a 19 year old. It’s hard to tell how his bat is developing; Mathisen really struggled in Class-A ball in West Virginia but looked like he was doing better against a lower caliber of opposition. His potential is to be a major league average hitter with good defense and athleticism behind the plate.

2014 Prognosis: Mathisen could return to West Virginia to give him more reps but Reese McGuire may be the starting catcher there next year. Hopefully Mathisen has learned from his first trial under fire and is more prepared to face better quality pitching.


Tony Sanchez – C
Date of Birth:
May 20, 1988
Height/Weight: 5’11″/230 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (4th overall) of the 2009 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: After a solid minor league season in which he spent most of his time in Triple-A Indianapolis, Sanchez got his first taste of the major leagues in 2013, playing in 22 games for the pirates and holding his own and showing some pop with the bat. Scouts aren’t thrilled with his throwing accuracy at times and they think that he can get lost a bit mentally when he makes errors.

2014 Prognosis: With one more year on Russell Martin‘s contract and with Chris Stewart added in the offseason, Sanchez is likely to head back to Indianapolis this season. He’ll be Martin’s heir apparent, at least until Reese McGuire makes it through to the top of the system.


Clay Holmes – RHP
Date of Birth:
March 27, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’5″/230 lbs
Acquired: 9th round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Coming later in the same 2011 draft that brought Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell into the Pirates’ system, Holmes is still trying to figure out some things after a solid but unspectacular first attempt at full-season ball. Still, getting through 119 innings in A-ball as a 20 year old is an excellent feat and Holmes looks like a big, durable righty who was able to make some adjustments throughout the season, finishing very strongly. His fastball sits in the low-90s and touches 94 or 95 mph at times and he is still working on his secondary pitches, as can be seen by his pedestrian strikeout totals for the season. Holmes keeps the ball on the ground very well, using his height and downward plane to induce ground balls.

2014 Prognosis: Holmes will head to Bradenton to pitch in the friendlier Florida State League. If his breaking stuff comes around, he could finish the season with Altoona.


Barrett Barnes – OF
Date of Birth:
July 29, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’1″/195 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (45th overall) of the 2012 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: With a lot of upside, Barnes has been getting hurt too much to really increase his prospect stock. In 2012 it was a leg injury that only allowed him to play in 38 games and in 2013 it was a recurring hamstring injury that let him get just 206 plate appearances for West Virginia. With solid raw power and good speed, Barnes acquitted himself well when he managed to get on the field, hitting 14 extra-base hits and stealing 10 bases. His strikeouts are a bit high and he definitely needs to start catching up by getting a full season of at bats.

2014 Prognosis: He could easily return to West Virginia for a full season although Bradenton wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Most importantly, Barnes needs to stay on the field and off the trainer’s table.

Jul 13, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first round pick Reese McGuire watches batting practice before the game against the New York Mets at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


Harold Ramirez – OF
Date of Birth:
September 6, 1994
Height/Weight: 5’11″/175 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Columbia in 2011; $1.05 million signing bonus

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Despite his short, stocky build, Ramirez is a very good runner and had an excellent season in Short-Season A ball as an 18 year old and earned Baseball America’s Top Prospect nomination for the New York-Penn League. Ramirez shows an excellent combination of contact ability, patience at the plate, gap power and speed and played all three outfield positions. His arm is said to be fringey at best but he has the speed to stay in center if need be.

2014 Prognosis: A full-season assignment is likely in the cards for Ramirez and fans in the South Atlantic League should see him regularly as a member of the West Virginia Power.


Luis Heredia – RHP
Date of Birth:
August 10, 1994
Height/Weight: 6’6″/205 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of Mexico in 2010; $2.6 million signing bonus

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Heredia has ranked as high as #5 on some lists but was generally in the #9 or #10 slot. Challenged with advanced assignments throughout his minor league career, Heredia turned 19 in August of his first full season where he posted some very solid numbers in limited innings. It was reported that Heredia came into camp out of shape and with his velocity down. By the time he got to West Virginia in late June (two months later than expected), Heredia’s velocity was back up to about 90-92 and touching 93 but that was still down from his previous highs in the upper 90s. Focusing on command and his new breaking ball (a slider), Heredia still walked a lot of hitters (5.1/9 IP) but struck out more than he had before (7.6/9 IP).

2014 Prognosis: The Pirates are hoping for a full season out of Heredia in 2014. Whether he starts in West Virginia or moves up to Bradenton, it probably doesn’t matter to the club that wants to see him in shape and taking on a bigger workload.


Reese McGuire – C
Date of Birth:
March 2, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’/181 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (14th overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: McGuire was the top catcher in the 2013 draft class and the Pirates grabbed him at #14. Scouts are enamored by his overall game that includes his good bat, solid power and excellent defense. Despite being a first-year player and only 18 in 2013, he made the MLB.com Top Catching Prospects list at #8. Reports I received from Baseball Prospectus’s Chris King throughout the season were very complimentary of McGuire’s abilties overall and he looks like he could be a future stud if it all pans out.

2014 Prognosis: Could the Pirates send a 19-year-old catcher to West Virginia? Probably. Look for an aggressive assignment for the young receiver.


Josh Bell – OF
Date of Birth:
August 14, 1992
Height/Weight: 6’3″/213 lbs
Acquired: 2nd round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: The Pirates really wanted Bell, paying him $5 million to forgo a very strong commitment to the University of Texas. He debuted with West Virginia in 2012 but lost most of the season due to a knee injury but manged to stay on the field for the entire 2013 season. That said, Bell was starting to make good on the potential for both power and plate discipline, hitting over 50 extra-base hits and walking over 50 times. He’s not a burner on the bases and his arm might not be much better than average but he certainly could have the bat to carry him in either corner outfield position.

2014 Prognosis: Look for Bell in Bradenton in 2014.


Nick Kingham – RHP
Date of Birth:
November 8, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’5″/220 lbs
Acquired: 4th round of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: A big, 6’5″ righty, Kingham is one of the more advanced players in the Pirates’ system, having reached Double-A in 2013. His fastball is sitting the 92-95 mph range and hits as high as 98 mph, showing an excellent increase since he was drafted out of high school. Scouts also like the movement and command that he has with the fastball and he’s able to get a good downward plane due to his size. He combines that fastball with a hard curve and a good changeup, both of which are projected to be plus pitches.

2014 Prognosis: After a very strong season split between High-A and Double-A, Kingham is still only 22 and could start the season back with Altoona before he gets a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis with a possible major league debut this season.


Alen Hanson – SS
Date of Birth:
October 22, 1992
Height/Weight: 5’11″/152 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009; $90,000 signing bonus

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Dominican shortstop Alen Hanson has been getting some outstanding press this year. MLB.com writer Bernie Pleskoff thinks that Hanson’s below average arm and excellent hitting skills would make him an “ideal second baseman.” Most of his difficulty in the field comes from mental errors on routine plays but there are no questions about his bat, despite a slow start in High-A Bradenton. He still shows excellent contact ability as well as excellent gap power and he should be a very good all around hitter.

2014 Prognosis: Hanson will likely return to Double-A Altoona for his Age-21 season.


Austin Meadows – OF
Date of Birth:
May 3, 1995
Height/Weight: 6’3″/200 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (9th overall) of the 2013 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: The quality of the Pirates’ system can be seen in these top players and how many they landed in Top 100 lists. Meadows, the 9th overall draft pick in 2013, has a smooth left-handed swing and an advanced approach at the plate that was on display in the 18-year-old’s time in the Gulf Coast League, hitting for a .519 slugging percentage before blasting away at NY-Penn League pitchers in five games in Jamestown. In addition to plus power, plus speed and a great approach at the plate, Meadows also plays solid defense with great range but a fringey arm.

2014 Prognosis: The Pirates like to have their high school draftees play a full season in West Virginia and we can probably anticipate seeing Meadows there in 2014. Meadows could be on the fast track for the majors if all goes well in the Sally League.


Tyler Glasnow – RHP
Date of Birth:
August 23, 1993
Height/Weight: 6’7″/195 lbs
Acquired: 5th round of the 2011 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Glasnow, a behemoth of a right-handed pitcher, already has two potential plus pitches with his mid-90s fastball (that can touch 99) and developing curveball. His changeup is a bit behind the other two but if it becomes an average pitch, it’s going to be give him an outstanding arsenal. Despite being only 19 years old for much of the 2013 season, Glasnow dominated in full-season ball, striking out 164 batters in just 111 1/3 innings. His control issues mainly come from his size and bigger pitchers tend to take longer to develop his control but Glasnow did see improvements in his walk rates, particularly from June onwards.

2014 Prognosis: Glasnow will start in Bradenton and work on his control and his changeup. He could easily be seen in Double-A Altoona at mid-season.


Jameson Taillon – RHP
Date of Birth:
November 18, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’6″/235 lbs
Acquired: 1st round (2nd overall) of the 2010 draft

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Another big right-hander, Taillon has been showing that he belongs at every level he’s pitched at. While his Double-A and Triple-A numbers weren’t mind blowing, they are consistent with what he’s done at every level moving up the ladder despite a jump in his walk rate in his 37 Triple-A innings. Taillon’s fastball is his calling card, sitting between 94-97 mph but he also has a two-seam fastball that he’s been using, a plus curveball and a changeup that should at least be average. Taillon pitched in the World Baseball Classic with Canada in 2013 and put on a good show, particularly with his use of his outstanding curveball, against a strong US team.

2014 Prognosis: With the upside of an ace and with Gerrit Cole already in the big leagues, Taillon could join him in Pittsburgh by the All-Star Game. The future is definitely bright for the Pirates pitching staff in 2014 and beyond.


Gregory Polanco – OF
Date of Birth:
September 14, 1991
Height/Weight: 6’4″/170 lbs
Acquired: International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009; $150,000 signing bonus

2013 Stats:

Analysis: Once again, the depth of the Pirates’ system is on display when you consider that most prospect writers believe that Gregory Polanco has an even higher ceiling than Jameson Taillon. Scouts believe him to be a true five-tool player and, while his power is still coming, he gets on base a lot to be able to take advantage of his outstanding speed. With the potential to be an impact player in the majors, the Pirates could soon field one of the best outfields in the major leagues.

2014 Prognosis: Polanco still needs a bit of polish and there’s no real hurry to get him to the majors. He’ll likely start 2014 in Indianapolis and stay there until at least June or unless injuries necessitate a call up.