Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Pittsburgh Pirates

This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshman contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.

In a Nutshell: The Pirates have pretty solid depth on the field, although the catcher and shortstop positions feature fringe-average starters. The pitching staff has a couple of question marks.

The Top 5 Freshman for 2015

1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP: The Pirates should open 2015 with a solid starting rotation featuring a mix of young power and veteran guile. Glasnow is the future of the Pittsburgh staff, although he spent the 2014 in A-ball. The right-hander struck out 157 batters in just 124.1 innings of work and held his opponents to a .174 batting average. He’ll open 2015 in Double-A and has the talent to reach the Majors in the second half of the year despite his inexperience.

2. Alen Hanson, SS/2B: Hanson has spent much of his time in the minors at the shortstop position but his best position is likely second base. However, his clearest path to a job in Pittsburgh is probably at shortstop where modest Jordy Mercer is the incumbent. The recent acquisition of Sean Rodriguez, a jack of many trades, also muddies the waters for the young prospect. If he gets an opportunity in 2015, Hanson has a chance to provide both gap pop and some speed (15-20 steals with regular playing time).

3. Josh Bell, OF/1B: The outfield depth in the Pirates system has pushed Bell into consideration for the long-term first base gig in Pittsburgh. However, the move across the diamond for Pedro Alvarez puts up a bit of a roadblock for the young player. Bell’s most intriguing asset is his raw power but he has yet to tap into it consistently with just nine home runs in 108 games last season. With that said, he’s not a one-dimensional slugger, though, and can swing the bat (.325 average in 2014). He’ll likely open the 2015 season with a return to Double-A.

4. Nick Kingham, RHP: Kingham’s strikeout rate took a noticeable dive in 2014 but he continued to work around the strike zone and take the ball every fifth day, allowing him to compile close to 160 innings. He split the season between A-ball and Double-A, which gives him a solid shot at opening 2015 in Triple-A. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.

5. Jameson Taillon, RHP: Taillon has a higher ceiling than Kingham but the 2014 Tommy John surgery has significantly slowed his timetable, meaning his questionable for a big league appearance in 2015. With that said, he was fairly advanced at the time of the injury and could make a surprise appearance in The Show during the latter half of the season — especially if the Pirates are in the playoff hunt.

We hoped you liked reading Top 5 Prospects for 2015: Pittsburgh Pirates by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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CabreraDeath
Member
CabreraDeath

I’m sorry, Marc, but you really know nothing about the Pirates system and/or their ETAs. If it was just this article – and not all the other attempts you’ve unsuccessfully made over the years – I wouldn’t be typing this. Most of this info is just flat-out wrong. There is little chance, based on Pirates historic handling of SPs, that Glasnow sees more than a handful of starts at AAA, let alone the Majors. Jordy Mercer was a 2-win player last year, even considering that he didn’t hit for the first 45 games of the season – at all. His defense improved and his bat returned to the semi-breakout status of 2013. He’s not a fringe-starter; he’s an asset. Josh Bell’s hit-tool is well advanced past his ‘raw power’ and Pedro Alvarez – who is gone after next year, won’t serve as a roadblock, but more of a bridge to Bell.

Placing Alen Hanson – who actually does have a road-block in the form of Neil Walker, particularly if the rumored extension comes to fruition – as the #2 guy to have an impact at the Major League level this year is rather comical. If you polled the Pirates, he wouldn’t make the top 8 in terms of 2015 impact, surely not in front of Kingham or Taillon.

It just reeks of ignorance. And, it’s constant. No wonder they brought Kiley McDaniel on board, jeez.

Honus
Guest
Honus

Agreed. This is so off-base it’s not really worth discussing any further.

Name
Guest
Name

Neither of you seem to understand the point of the article. Glasnow is very unlikely to make the show in 2015, sure, but it is possible. And of the possible 2015 Pittsburgh call-ups, he would be the best. That’s the angle this article is taking.

I could quibble with some of the list, but its pretty good. I’m higher than most on Alen Hanson, and it seems Marc is too.

Andrew Kaufman
Guest
Andrew Kaufman

Except that Taillon is much more likely to see time in the majors than Glasnow this year despite how the article is structured.

Andrew Kaufman
Guest
Andrew Kaufman

Except that Taillon is much more likely to see time in the majors than Glasnow this year despite how the article is structured.

hmmm
Guest
hmmm

You don’t have to be a dick about it.

eckmuhl
Member
eckmuhl

Okay, a simple “wrong” would’ve done just fine.

Clock
Guest
Clock

Perhaps it’s possible that he just knows more than you about the inner workings of the organization?

John Stamos
Guest
John Stamos

So, a little late here, but BP just published their Pirates team preview and they are also very well respected with their fantasy prospect analysis. The exact 5 players listed here were 5 of the 7 listed in BP’s article ($):

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=25240

Instead of just lighting the torch, take a step back and let the man do his job.

The Big Wiggle
Guest
The Big Wiggle

The major difference is order and context, not names. I don’t think the names listed are too big of an argument. Most of these guys show up on collective Pirates top 10 lists and the other ones in the mix on those lists are in low-A ball.

But on BP, for example, Kingham is listed first and he’s the big discrepency between the two articles and fan outcry. They note he has a shot to make the rotation out of spring (highly optimistic; Pirates loathe waiving guys out of options and Locke/Worley are exactly that). He’s not listed fourth. He’s a guy with some projection and AAA seasoning. This front office has been painfully patient with young arms. Yet, out of every person on this list, Kingham’s gotta be the most likely to see MLB time the first half of the year. Easy.

And that doesn’t mean BP is flawless either.

BP lists Mercer as a threat to get supplanted by Hansen, as does FG. With the Kang signing, there’s a different context here, but Mercer was a two-win player last year even after an awful start and Hansen had a REALLY down year, especially in the organization’s eyes. That doesn’t make Mercer untouchable, but he’s not looked at as a glaring hole in this lineup that a guy with major questions who’s never gone more than a half-season at AA is going to upgrade on a playoff team. Perhaps that’s an indictment of BP’s author, Cromer, as well. But that’s not as big of a focus when his piece covers more prospects and the whole MLB roster as well.

But, also consider, Cromer’s skeptical in the comments that the Pirates even sign Kang after posting and that $5-6 million a season, at this point, is a little rich for the Pirates. After the way this offseaon’s gone? Really?