Saturday, December 7, 2013

DBS Top 30 Prospects 2014 - #5 to #1

This is the lonely friend...the end...

Wow, another action packed Top 30 prospects in the books. This was the 5th edition on the ol' DBS blog. By far, this had the most overall talent of the editions. There were years that I was stumped to find a guy I liked enough to put #8 and this time I went an easy 15-16 spots before thinking too hard.

Here's the preceding posts:

For the top 5, I've put some projections on their ceiling and their estimated arrival time to PNC Park.

#5 Austin Meadows, OF (19), A --
Like McGuire, Meadows was a 1st round pick by the Pirates in 2013, as he was the compensation pick for the Pirates inability to sign Mark Appel.  Meadows was very highly rated and considered by many to be the premier HS bat.

Meadows has 5-tool potential in the OF, although many project him to end up more in the Jay Bruce power-hitting corner OF mold, which would be fine too.  Meadows had a very strong debut in the Rookie Gulf Coast League and cameo with Jamestown at the end of the year, hitting .316 AVG/.424 OBP/.554 SLG (997 OPS, 7 HR).

Meadows joins the Pirates enviable collection of OF talent, both in the majors and the minors.  He won’t be rushed, but he’ll probably move along quickly as his talent may eclipse the lower level pitching.
PROJECTION -- Starting corner OF.  ETA -- Mid 2017

#4 Nick Kingham, RHP (22), AAA --
Kingham is perhaps the most overlooked top prospect in the system.  He’s not flashy and gets lost in the shadow of the now-graduated Cole, the soon-to-graduate Taillon, the meteoric rise of Tyler Glasnow, and the international flair of Luis Heredia.

Kingham turned in another exceptional season in 2013 split between High A and AA.  Over 143 IP, he put up a 2.89 ERA, struck out 144, and walked only 44, while giving up just 7 HR all year.  Kingham features a 92-95 mph FB, an excellent 12-6 curveball, and a solid changeup.  Kingham is the kind of pitcher that will be a solid, yet overlooked, presence in the rotation.

His starting assignment is up in the air right now, as he only spent half of a season at AA, but he’ll most assuredly see AAA at some point in 2014 if he doesn’t start there.
PROJECTION -- Low end #2, high end #3 SP.  ETA -- Late 2014, early 2015

#3 Tyler Glasnow, RHP (20), A+ ---
Based on pure upside, Glasnow probably has just as much if not more than #1 prospect Taillon (spoiler alert), but Glasnow is further away on the development chain than Taillon, thus leading him to this spot on the list.

First things first, Glasnow is a giant.  Even among the Pirates’ starting pitching prospects (where the minimum seems to be 6’-4”), he towers over them at 6’-8”.  And he still might be growing.  Glasnow throws a 94-98 mph fastball that just overwhelmed Low A batters this year, paired with a good curveball.  His changeup, like most young pitchers, is still being refined.

Glasnow’s 2013 season produced eye-popping numbers.  In 111 IP, Glasnow had a 2.18 ERA, struck out 164, and allowed only 54 hits all year.  To put that in perspective, if Glasnow’s stats were averaged out to a 9 inning complete game, he would strike out 13 and give up 4 hits per game.  The downside is that he walked 61, but that’s a function more of just getting his gangly body to repeat his mechanics.
PROJECTION -- Low end #1, high end #2 SP.  ETA -- Mid 2016

#2 Gregory Polanco, OF (22), AAA ---
Polanco burst onto the scene in 2012 with a 910 OPS, 16 HR/40 SB season.  He continued his progression this year over two levels, with a 9 game audition in AAA as well, by hitting .285 AVG/.356 OBP/.434 SLG (791 OPS, 12 HR, 38 SB).

I like to describe Polanco as a hybrid of Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.  He has McCutchen’s hit tool and strike zone judgement (52 BB/73 K) and Marte’s pure blazing speed and solid defensive profile.  His upside for HR is probably in the 16-20 range as he continues to fill out his 6’-4” frame.

It will be interesting to see what the Pirates do in the offseason with regards to their RF situation.  If they re-sign Byrd or some other free agent for 1 year, they may keep Polanco in AAA all year.  If they go with Tabata/Lambo/Snider, they think Polanco will be ready to debut mid-2014.
PROJECTION -- Starting OF, can play CF if needed.  ETA -- Mid 2014

#1 Jameson Taillon, RHP (22), AAA --
Talk about following a tough act.  Fellow high-end pitching prospect Gerrit Cole debuted in 2013 and was instant impact.  I’ve always felt that Cole was the better prospect, but now Taillon is going to face inevitable comparison to what Cole did.
The short story is that Cole always had the more developed arsenal of pitches, with two fastballs, a slider, changeup, and curveball.  Taillon has a power 4-seam fastball that sits 94-97, a hard sinking 2-seam fastball at 92-95, and a killer curve that will be one of the best in the majors when he arrives.  His changeup is workable, but not plus, and that may hold him back a little.  In 2013, Taillon pitched 147 IP, issued 52 walks, and struck out 143.

I’ve been comparing Taillon to another FB-CB pitcher in Pittsburgh lately, one A.J. Burnett.  One of the many reasons I would like Burnett back for one more year is for him to tutor Taillon and Cole at the major league level.  Taillon only needs a tune up and to avoid the Super 2 deadline.
PROJECTION -- High end #2, low end #1 if change develops.  ETA -- Mid 2014.

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