Tired of prospect countdowns to fill the space between the winter meetings and Spring Training? So were we, so we decided to try something different this year. In years past we used to break down the system into a composite top 40 with our Pirates’ writers commenting on each one. You know just like everyone else does. Here at TPOP we pride ourselves for being weird and we’re happy to give a new spin on the matter.
Every prospect has a range of potential outcomes for their career, some being wider than others. We decided to break the break the system down into tiers this year grouping players based on their ceiling and floor. For the sake of this conversation a player with a ‘high ceiling’ would be an average or better position player or a #3 or better in a rotation. A ‘low ceiling’ would be like a bench or non-closer type bullpen role. Meanwhile a player with a ‘high floor’ is someone who we felt pretty good will stick in some capacity on a major league team for multiple seasons. Meanwhile a ‘low floor’ would include your AAAA, cup of coffee or career minor leaguers.
For today, we’re looking at guys with a low ceiling and a low floor (LC/LF). The vast majority of prospects fit this mold, some are just more interesting than others. For me, these players may have more upside, but they’re either too far away from the majors to put much certainty into the floor or are too raw to show any potential. This is the category the sleeper or even the deep sleeper comes from. The odds are long, but you should still keep an eye on these guys.
Keep in mind there isn’t perfect agreement on where we thought these players fit, but I tried to fit them in as best I could. These are the players that had some consensus among the TPOP staff, as virtually every other player in the system could be categorized as LC/LF.
Stephen Alemais, SS
Kurt Hackimer (KH) – A 2016 third rounder, Alemais has the athleticism necessary to stick at shortstop but doesn’t have a good feel for hitting.
Steve DiMiceli (SD) – Puts the ball in play, but doesn’t do much else at the plate. The Pirates picked him early and pushed him as far as the SAL in his first year. That has to mean something, right?
Barrett Barnes, OF
Alex Stumpf (AS) – Barnes was finally healthy all of 2016, and with a good offseason workout plan, he hit .306 for Altoona. It may be too little/too late, though, now that he’s 25.
Michael Bradley (MB) – John Sickels loved him out of Texas Tech and he destroyed the ball last year.
KH – Barnes was a borderline prospect for the past couple of years, but recurring bouts with injuries have cost him speed and tons of development time. At 25, he’ll likely have to tear the cover off of the ball in Double-A to remain on next season’s top prospects lists.
Kevin Creagh (KC) — At this point, Barnes’ best hope is to have a solid year in the minors and get drafted in the Rule 5 draft in December. He’s a fourth outfielder, at best, and is too injury-prone for my liking.
Frank Duncan, RHP
KH – Duncan is a Triple-A innings eater who should eventually at least get a cup of coffee in the big leagues. His best weapon is a sinker that sits in the high 80’s, so it’s unlikely that he’ll stick in the majors for very long.
MB – Might not have stuff for majors but destroyed AAA last year.
AS – Duncan dominated in AAA, posting a 2.33 ERA in 20 starts. He could be a guy to watch if he proves that it was not a fluke. May get called up for an emergency start this year. Potential future September call-up.
SD – He wouldn’t be the first RHP to make it without a 90 MPH fastball, but he won’t be the last like him to post big minor league numbers and miss.
Tyler Eppler, RHP
MB – Transition to bullpen might suit him well.
AS – Eppler’s progress with his changeup last year gives him potential of being a major league starter with a three pitch mix. Need to see him continue to grow to get too attached to him, though.
Jin-De Jhang, C
SD – Every so often Jhang will hit six homers in a week and a half and that’s all I can think about, even when he goes a year and a half before he hits his next.
KH – Jhang speaks three languages and has a good glove behind the plate, but he lacks mobility and will probably just hang around as minor league depth.
Kevin Kramer, 2B
MB – Has some pop and could be a SS if not for Newman.
AS – Kramer initially struggled making the jump to high A, but rebounded to post a .277/.352/.378 line. His range is lacking, but when he is at second, he has been consistent if he gets to the ball.
Jordan Luplow, 3B
SD – There is something about Luplow that screams late bloomer. There is some pop and he gets on base. His BABIP and K rates aren’t helping matters, but his hit tool will need to take some strides before I upgrade him.
AS – He has a great walk rate and raw power, homering 10 times with 23 doubles in 354 at-bats. If he can iron out some kinks in his swing, he could be a bench player.
Jose Osuna, 1B-OF
AS – A recent addition to the 40-man roster, but partially due to necessity. An .815 OPS in AAA is intriguing though.
MB – Good defensive 1B and capable in corner. Could do well going oppo in PNC.
Brandon Waddell, LHP
AS – Waddle does not have an out pitch, but he does have slightly above average offspeed stuff. Projects better as a starter than a reliever, but he probably won’t get that chance. Potential September call-up.
SD – Waddell got an aggressive push this season to A+, killed it and then lost his control in AA. He’s kind of a wait and see at this point. He closed the season well.
KC – I hang my hat on the “Pirates Push A Pitcher To High A” theory. The crux of it is…Pirates draft a college guy, next year they skip the guy over Low A to High A (after he spent it in short-season ball during his draft year), then…success? The Pirates have done it with Justin Wilson, Adrian Sampson, Chad Kuhl, Frank Duncan, and now Brandon Waddell. Doesn’t mean he’s going to be a star, but when the Pirates see something in a pitcher and skip him over Low A, it usually portends that he’s going to make the Majors.
Eric Wood, 3B
AS – I don’t think Wood will ever play for the Pirates. He’s either going to fizzle out after a breakout 2016 in AA where he hit 16 homers and had a .194 ISO, or he’s going to have another good year and be taken in the Rule 5 draft or traded.
SD – Do you believe in late bloomers? You should. I don’t know if Wood will amount to anything but he’s grown considerably more interesting.