When I compile lists and aggregate peoples’ opinions, I very rarely relish the opportunity to write an introduction. Thankfully, I got an unsolicited one from Kurt Hackimer of winitforus.com and our newest writer at The Point of Pittsburgh. Here are his thoughts which I generally couldn’t agree more with:
There was a time when all that Pirates fans had to root for was the future. I would pore
over prospects list because there wasn’t much on the 25-man roster worth caring about.
Obviously, that’s not the case anymore. After three consecutive playoff seasons, the
Pirates are plenty exciting.
But that doesn’t mean we should stop looking toward the future. Neil Walker and Pedro
Alvarez aren’t Pirates anymore. While that will likely have a real effect on the starting
lineup, it’s perhaps more significant symbolically. Those two were pillars of Pittsburgh’s
first winning team in 20 years and seeing them leave town is a reminder that for a low-
budget team like the Pirates to succeed in the long term, they’ll have to make tough
2016 will be an important season for the Pirates’ farm system. Pittsburgh essentially
decided to sit out the free agent market this offseason, which means that there will be
added pressure on the farm system to pick up the slack. Fortunately for the Buccos, they
have a pretty good one with several players that should be able to help the big club
sooner rather than later.
To expand on Kurt’s thoughts, the players currently in the system represent the third wave of prospects to arrive at the majors under Neil Huntington. The first wave were drafted by his predecessor, Dave Littlefield, with the final touches of development under his regimes watch. The second are the players signed, or traded for, by Littlefield and his staff in their first couple of years. When we hear the front office talking about keeping the window open, the third wave is who they’re talking about.
In order to look ahead to the future, I brought in our other two Pirates writers, Kevin Creagh (KC) and Michael Bradley (MB) along with myself (SD) and Kurt (KH), and asked them to give me their top 30 prospect list and a quick blurb about that player. Four minds are likely better than one, so I aggregated our lists for your consumption.
With the exception of a few players, 31-40 probably is looking a lot more like fourth wave than third wave however. Some are mired in the low minors with upside to dream on. Others are on the door step with limited upside who may be more of a bench or bullpen option. The number in parentheses is their 2016 season age, as per July 1st, the standard cutoff.
40. Jhondaniel Medina (RHP, 23)
KC – Reliever had solid year at AA, will move up to AAA, probably 6th/7th inning type of reliever
39. Luis Escobar (RHP, 20)
MB – A guy who I’m buying the Keith Law hype as Law rated him at #11 in his Pirates’ top 20 prospects. He’ll start the season at 19 so Charleston would make him a legit starting prospect.
38. Tito Polo (OF, 21)
SD – Didn’t show up in a big way in his first full season but he wasn’t completely overmatched either. 2016 is probably a make or break year for him.
37. Michael De La Cruz (OF, 19)
MB – I’m still keeping MDLC on my radar because he’s still so young. He’ll probably be the opening day CF in Charleston at the age of 19. He plays a plus CF, is LH, has good patience and has a frame to add more weight. When he fills in from 6’1”/165 to 6’1”/185 and is 22 versus 19 I think he could be a gem.
36. Gift Ngoepe (SS/2B, 26)
MB – A plus glove SS who has pop in his bat and is supposedly a tremendous person. He’ll have multiple cups of coffee in the show.
35. Adrian Valerio (SS, 19)
MB – Valerio is super young still and has a glove at SS that could play in the show right now. He’s a switch hitter that hasn’t had much success with the bat yet, but his youth and glove will allow the Bucs to have patience.
SD – I’m buying in a little on Valerio’s upside. He has a long way to go, but he could be in the minors and age appropriate at level for the next 5 years.
34. Jesse Biddle (LHP, 24)
SD – If the Pirates can fix Biddle after his TJ, I wouldn’t sleep on him. His upside is Nick Kingham, but his floor is lower.
33. Jason Creasy (RHP, 24)
KC – Looks like a future #5/middle reliever due to low K/9 rate.
SD – The Pirates have been developing so many guys like Creasy that they’re taken for granted. He may not have a future in Pittsburgh, but he could be used in a trade a la Adrian Sampson.
32. Tyler Eppler (RHP, 23)
MB – Eppler is another of the legit starting pitching prospects who will start the year in AA with Clay Holmes, Trevor Williams and Cody Dickson. The Pirates have Eppler on the fast track and if he gets his offspeed pitch to click he could be a late inning reliever or back end starter.
SD – Guys like Eppler and Creasy are a dime a dozen in the Pirates system. Eppler is a 2014 pick and is really flying through the system.
31. Brandon Waddell (LHP, 22)
KC – 2015 pick will look to establish himself,prob at Low A, in 2016 unless Pirates give him the skip-Low-A treatment and fast track him.
SD – The Pirates’ fifth round feels like it’s reserved for college lefties.