Top Baseball Prospects for 2013 and Beyond
Now updated for 2013's Top Prospects
Scouting Book's Top Prospects list is a Combined List, a calculated summary of the overall valuations of the entire prospect universe.
Remember: this page is the result of an automatic process that re-sorts and re-ranks players often.
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Top Pirates Prospects for 2013
Current Overall SB ranking shown in grid below.
Spending $8M to sign number one pick Gerrit Cole might have seemed extravagant for a 'small market' team like the Pittsburgh Pirates, but when you keep finishing in last place year after year, you need to get something out of it, right? The net result is that the Pirates look very wise indeed: the righthanded Cole joins Jameson Taillon in what might be the best 1-2 punch on any prospect roster in the majors, and giving Cole such a high bonus kept him from demanding a major league contract, which increases the Pirates' flexibility and future control over his career path. Mr. Boras will spin it otherwise, but the Pirates definitely won the first round of Cole's Career Management Battle.
Away from the table and on the field, Cole was one of the best starters in UCLA history. He left the school firmly entrenched on pretty much every record and leader board, and he'll bring his 98mph cannon to bear in 2013 after blowing through the minors last season. Some will pressure Pittsburgh to start the season with him on the big league club, but unless the team is desperate, a June promotion would be smarter, fiscally-speaking.
Full Scouting Report for Gerrit Cole
SB 5 BA 7 SC 4 BP 3 SN ES 8 ML 9
Like a taller twin to Gerrit Cole, righty James Taillon is a geniune monster power arm from Texas (via Quebec), a very high-ceiling pitcher who has already cracked 100mph on many radar guns. If that's not enough to get your attention, note that while his slider and change are below average, his curveball has already been rated a plus pitch. If he can hold his arm together under increasing workloads and develop his command and control to pro levels, he could be a viable #2 or #3 starter by 2014 or so, with a shot at being a genuine ace somewhere down the road. If Pittsburgh can keep Taillon, Cole and Allie together and healthy, they could have a rotation that evokes 1990s-era Atlanta only a couple of years from now.
Full Scouting Report for Jameson Taillon
SB 10 BA 19 SC 7 BP 11 SN ES 20 ML 15
A slappy, scrappy, switch-hitting wheels player, Pirate prospect Alen Hanson was a low-visibility 2011 IFA signing from the Dominican, but one that earn more kudos for htose ever-impressive Pittsburgh scouts. Hanson would probably get more attention if his name included an Alvarez or Concepcion in there, something that looked more Latin and less Nordic. (At least 'Alexi'. Something. Make an effort, kid!)
Alexi is said to have the quick hands and feet necessary to stick at shortstop, but he also has a quick everything-else: plus speed is clearly his main offensive weapon. Power may never come, depending on how his slender frame fills out, but he's already showing superior on-base skill, and the Pirates should already be delighted with his development, no matter when he finds the ceiling.
Full Scouting Report for Alen Hanson
SB 65 BA 61 SC 54 BP 66 SN ES 34 ML 54
A lithe, athletic outfielder with enough speed to cover big terrain, Pirate outfield prospect Gregory Polanco really took a step into national attention in 2012, showing off a .325/.389/.516 slash line during his first taste of A-ball, a line that included 25 doubles and 15 homers.
At the plate, Polanco is still a bit of a raw swinger, but he makes enough contact to get away with it most of the time, and his natural ability helps him put balls in play that others might foul off or miss altogether. As his skills improve, his talent could propel him into the upper tier of young hitters. His defense is very sloppy but should come along with the rest of his game, with good raw speed that should help him cover mistakes in the mean time. His arm is not special, but should be enough to handle a corner outfield assignment.
Full Scouting Report for Gregory Polanco
SB 85 BA 51 SC BP 44 SN ES ML 65
The Pirates swear he's only eighteen years old, but young Luis Heredia sure looks a lot older than that, both physically and when you take a look at what he can do with a baseball. The big (6-6, 210) kid from Sinaloa throws hard: he touched 96mph in rookie ball as a sixteen-year old (!?), and he looks like as he grows into his body, he'll be able to increase number in the future, too.
Even as-is, though, that fastball will be enough if he can complement it with any decent secondary pitches. Good news for his mother and the fan club: Heredia's already packing a changeup that looks better than anything most 20-year olds can throw, and his work-in-progress curve is showing great movement, even if he can't really control it yet. He's only due to sample A-ball in 2013, which means he's still go a long way to go before he's wowing them in MLB, and we'll probably be hearing about all those other great Pirate pitching prospects first, but if his body holds together, the H-Bomb could be something special a few years down the road. Felix Hernandez comparisons are not completely outrageous here.
Full Scouting Report for Luis Heredia
SB 99 BA 78 SC 70 BP 53 SN ES 84 ML
Nobody expected young Josh Bell to sign in 2011, which is probably why he fell to the Pirates in round two of the draft. But one should never underestimate the allure of five million shiny dollars, and young Bell shocked other managers by inking with the Pirates and passing on the University of Texas. Bell immediately became the biggest bat in a Pirate system that's very lacking in offensive muscle, but his primo status doesn't only come from relative dearth: he's a valid top prospect all on his own merit.
Full Scouting Report for Josh Bell
SB 140 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A polished prep pitcher who should provide some 'veteran' balance to the very very young core that Pittsburgh is building, the University of Mobile's Kyle McPherson is not surprisingly closer to the majors than most of that deservedly-hyped talent. The burly righthander sliced his way up to the majors last year, and should stick there in 2013, even if he doesn't break camp with the team. In three and a half seasons of minor league ball, he's now racked up 528 K's versus only 109 walks, pretty impressive numbers that should provide a long big league career.
Full Scouting Report for Kyle McPherson
SB 272 BA SC BP SN ES ML
The Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year for 2008, DeJesus doesn't have much left to prove in the minors, especially after idling with a bubbling .304/.343/.416 during another full year of AAA parking-lot ball in 2012. When he makes contact, he's a hitter in the Howie Kendrick style: gap to gap line drives with excellent bat control. In the field, he has soft hands and excellent (inherited?) baseball instincts.
Traded to the suddenly-rebuilding Red Sox in the August shocker of 2012 that sent Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to L.A., and then to Pittsburgh for the acquisition of Joel Hanrahan, De Jesus provides high-upside infield potential on a team that doesn't have much left. He looks like he'll be playing in Pittsburgh very soon.
Full Scouting Report for Ivan De Jesus
SB 314 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A third round pick by the always-clever Pirates in the 2011 draft, and signed despite concerns about his future plans, ex-Hoosier Alex Dickerson is a slugger of the first order. He should help the Pirates offset a pitching-heavy talent pool in the near future. While dropping to the third round helped him fade from some writers' memories, his first-year pro line at low-A State College (.313/.393/.493) propelled him back into the top ranks.
A prototypical slugger, Dickerson is big, wide and strong. He's the kind of friend you'd call to help you move, or maybe to stand behind you while you visit someone who owes you money. Dickerson's left-handed swing is a bit long, but his bat speed seems more than adequate to cover that right now. He's not getting fooled by breaking balls yet, either, though he hasn't seen many truly great ones. We're dying to see him in Altoona. Until then, he's a couple of years away from the majors (let's say... mid-to-late 2014?), but if he continues to chew through pitching the way he has so far, he'll be a great asset by that time.
Full Scouting Report for Alex Dickerson
SB 325 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A raw hitter with good upside, Texas Tech's Barrett Barnes was drafted in 2012's Compensation Round by the offensively-challenged Pirates. Even if he reaches his potential, he won't be enough to power the Pirate offense all on his own, but he won't hurt the team, either. In the field, he's average to above-average, with a good arm and reliable glove. We're anxious to see what he does with higher-level pitching this season: if he finds his floor in AA, he'll be in Pittsburgh in 2014.
Full Scouting Report for Barrett Barnes
SB 326 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A powerful righthander with genuinely filthy stuff, Pirate prospect Victor Black looks like a future closer, as long as he can throw his prime stuff with consistency. At AA Altoona in 2012, Black struck out an ungodly 85 batters in only 60 innings of work, wrapping up 38 games for the Curve and earning respect as one of the league's nastiest relievers. He's a fascinating option for the Pirates in 2014... and maybe even sooner than that.
Full Scouting Report for Victor Black
SB 332 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A California boy grinding away in the Midwest, Pirate pitcher Justin Wilson is easy to miss, thanks to all the brighter young arms starring in that system already. He's always struggled with control, even in his college days at Fresno State, walking far too many hitters, but his blazing heat helped him get away with it. At least until 2011, when he stumbled hard after being pushed to AAA. He did re-find himself in 2012, however, and once again looks like a quality part of the Pirate future. He's always been a starter, but with so many hotter prospects in the system, the Pirates might end up thinking about converting him to bullpen work instead. We'll find out this year.
Full Scouting Report for Justin Wilson
SB 334 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A huge righthander in the Pirate system, Nicholas Kingham (not Kingman) is another young power arm in a system that's busting at the seams with them. Drafted fresh out of high school in 2010, he's busy going through the traditional 'fastball, fastball, fastball' period of his ongoing development with the Pirates, so it's difficult to judge how much more than that he'll be able to offer when the time comes. He did show off a quality change back in high school, as well as a very rough curve, so there's potential.
We haven't seen enough of him in pro ball to feel confident about his chances yet, but that 117:36 strikeout to walk ratio in the low-A NY-Penn League is encouraging.
Full Scouting Report for Nicholas Kingham
SB 351 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A native of Miami, Jorge 'Tony' Sanchez is an offensive-minded catcher in the style of Matt Wieters (though with less power) or Buster Posey (but with less defensive prowess). He does show enough skill to stick at catcher, though, and his bat is legitimate. He's pretty much major league ready today, and we'll certainly see him in Pittsburgh this year.
Full Scouting Report for Tony Sanchez
SB 357 BA SC BP SN ES ML
An all-around athelete who could probably play any position (he's even pitched), Pittsburgh prospect Wyatt Mathisen will probably be groomed as a catcher in order to maximize his baseball smarts and cannon arm. Of course, there's nothing stopping the Pirates from developing him otherwise, so nothing will be certain here for another year or two. Whatever they do, they'll be getting a plus contact hitter who's shown more than a glimmer of power, too.
Full Scouting Report for Wyatt Mathisen
SB 364 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A strike thrower with excellent command of his limited stuff, Pirate prospect Phil Irwin is a pitching artist who's shown enough cleverness and guile to consistently outperform the expectations of scouting experts across baseball. Rising three levels of ball in 2012, Irwin posted a composite WHIP of 1.097 and struck out 117 hitters in 130 innings, while walking only 24. Twenty four. That's impressive. Irwin accomplishes all this with a fastball that barely scrapes 90, though he throws it so well that he gave up only eight home runs all year. He mixes in decent but unspectacular breaking balls (slider, curve) and a changeup that works well enough to confuse batters. Some say he can't succeed with such mediocre stuff at higher levels, but he's been proving doubters wrong his whole career. We like him as a dark horse to possibly break out and catch MLB's attention in 2013.
Full Scouting Report for Phil Irwin
SB 368 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A big lefthander who looks destined for the bullpen unless Pittsburgh can fix him, Andy Oliver came to the team via a 2012 trade.
Oliver works with a 96mph fastball that blows away lesser hitters, with an above-average change to keep them honest, though he struggles to locate it successfully, leading to an unacceptably high number of walks. His breaking pitches aren't quite ready for prime time yet, either. Time and patience is needed here.
Full Scouting Report for Andy Oliver
SB 376 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A towering righthander who's as good at intimidating hitters as he is at actually throwing baseballs, Pirate prospect Tyler Glasnow might not be as well-known as some of Pittsburgh's other pitching prospects, but his ceiling is just as high. He doesn't command it perfectly, but isn't afraid to use it inside as well as outside, which is enough to keep hitters skittish. Glasnow shows a big curve on occasion that's impressive when it works, and a changeup that's rough but promising. He's firmly a prospect of the 'good stuff, needs to master it' type. Another couple of years of easy repetition is all that's needed here. Give him 500 more innings.
Full Scouting Report for Tyler Glasnow
SB 387 BA SC BP SN ES ML
A massive righthander in the Pirate system, Alabama slammer Clay Holmes is a strike thrower who's skilled at pounding the lower half of the plate, even when he can't be more accurate than that, inducing more than his share of weak contact and grounders. Holmes zipped to everyone's attention late last season as he polished up a 2.28 ERA, 1.08 WHIP season across thirteen starts for the Pirate's low-A club in State College. Holmes throws mid-90's and mixes in a dirty curve that could be a plus pitch one day. He's rough, and has some learning to do on the finer arts of pitching, but on raw stuff alone, he's one of the Pirates' most promising arms.
Full Scouting Report for Clay Holmes
SB 393 BA SC BP SN ES ML
Alex Dickerson gets a lot of press in Piratelandia, but it could be another first base masher, the smaller but just as potent Matthew Curry, who ends up launching dingers in Pittsburgh first. Curry, a 16th round (!) selection back in 2010, looked awfully good in AA last year, slashing a .285/352/.480 line at Altoona. He'll probably start 2013 back in Altoona, but as long as he maintains the same level of performance, he'll end the year with the big club.
Full Scouting Report for Matt Curry
SB 407 BA SC BP SN ES ML