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Pittsburgh Pirates Top-10 Fantasy Prospects

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Pittsburgh’s system remains strong, particularly at the top, where a handful of elite prospects stand ready to contribute at the major-league level.

Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Our Basis

With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.

Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.

The Tiers

The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

#1 - Tyler Glasnow (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 23

ETA: 2017

Reports that the Pirates have “worked hard” to acquire White Sox starter Jose Quintana could alter this ranking, as Glasnow almost certainly would be part of the package. Until then, the young righthander sits atop Pittsburgh’s strong system thanks to four-plus seasons of consistent dominance in the minor leagues, not to mention a frontline starter’s arsenal. Glasnow features a double-plus fastball, a plus curveball, and a changeup that shows plus potential. He has thrown exactly 500 innings in the minors, compiling a 36-19 record with a 2.03 ERA and a jaw-dropping 645 strikeouts. The only real knock against him is a high BB/9 ratio that has gotten worse each of the last three seasons. If he can improve his control--a very big “if”--then he should develop into an elite fantasy starter. He could open 2017 as part of the Pittsburgh rotation, though a return to Triple-A Indianapolis for more seasoning would not be out of the question.

#2 - Austin Meadows (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 21

ETA: 2017

With franchise player and current centerfielder Andrew McCutchen the subject of offseason trade discussions, the Pirates appear to be signaling that they believe Meadows is ready to become a big-league regular. Meadows’s talent and minor-league track record would seem to justify Pittsburgh’s confidence in him. A 2013 first-round pick, Meadows has plus tools across the board. He profiles as a future No. 3 hitter with the potential to fill every fantasy category and appear in multiple all-star games. He has lost some time to injury, and he only has 126 at-bats above Double-A, so the Pirates likely will exercise more patience before promoting him. A fast start at Triple-A in 2017, however, could force the issue, particularly if Pittsburgh management finds a package it likes in exchange for McCutchen.

#3 - Josh Bell (1B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 24

ETA: 2017

In 2011 the Pirates selected Bell with the first pick of the second round and then lured him away from a seemingly ironclad University of Texas commitment with a $5 million bonus--a veritable coup that later persuaded MLB to alter draft rules. Injuries and a position switch from outfield to first base have slowed Bell’s development, but in 2016 he finally arrived in Pittsburgh and, in his second at-bat, provided one of the Bucs’ best moments of the year: a pinch-hit grand slam against the Cubs. A switch-hitter, Bell projects to hit for high average and power, though his power to-date has not always shown up in games. He finished the 2016 season as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 hitter, but his future lay in the middle of the order. He’s a top dynasty-league target and is on the re-draft radar for 2017.

Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates

These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.

#4 - Mitch Keller (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2018

A second-round pick in 2014, Keller finally made his full-season debut and enjoyed a breakout campaign. In 2016, most of which he spent at Low-A West Virginia, the young righthander posted an impressive 9-5 record with a 2.35 ERA and a dominant 138:19 K:BB ratio in 130.1 IP. He works with a plus fastball, and his secondary offerings have above-average-to-plus potential. He complements this frontline arsenal with elite control, giving him the profile of a future No. 1 starter and perhaps the highest upside in the Pittsburgh system. In fact, as they contemplate offseason trades, it’s possible that the Pirates would rather part with Glasnow than Keller. Injury concerns sidelined Keller for much of 2015, and he remains a few years away from the majors, but he is a prospect well worth watching as he advances to High-A Bradenton in 2017.

#5 - Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2019

The 32nd overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hayes, son of former major-leaguer Charlie Hayes, has shown a good deal of promise over parts of two seasons. The young third baseman’s 2015 Rookie-league debut went so well that he earned a brief promotion to the short-season New York-Penn League. He opened 2016 at Low-A West Virginia and held his own as a teenager in the rugged South Atlantic League before an injury cut short his season at only 67 games. At his best, Hayes has shown a plus hit-tool and the potential for above-average power. Exactly how much power he develops will go a long way toward dictating his ceiling. Meanwhile, with time and bloodlines on his side, Hayes has given the Pirates every reason for optimism. He might open 2017 back at West Virginia but could reach HIgh-A Bradenton before long.

#6 - Kevin Newman (SS)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 23

ETA: 2018

Newman can hit. More might be said of his overall game, but every profile of Pittsburgh’s young shortstop should begin with an acknowledgement of his elite hit-tool. It helped him win back-to-back Cape Cod League batting titles and carried him as far as Double-A in his first full season with the organization. In 2016, splitting time between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, he slashed .320/.389/.426 and compiled a 43:36 BB:K ratio. While he likely will not hit for much power, he should be an asset on the basepaths, and he has a better-than-average chance to stick at shortstop. In short, he profiles as Pittsburgh’s future No. 2 hitter with the potential to develop into a first-division regular. He should reach Triple-A in 2017 and will be knocking on the door of PNC Park before long.

Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters

These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.

Pittsburgh has no prospects in this tier.

Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays

These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.

#7 - Will Craig (3B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2019

After going the high-school route for a few years, Pittsburgh spent back-to-back first-round picks on advanced college bats: Newman in 2015 and Will Craig a year later. Like Newman, Craig has shown outstanding plate discipline. In 2016 the young third baseman slashed .280/.412/.362 with 41 walks and 37 strikeouts as a member of the short-season West Virginia Black Bears. Though listed at the hot corner, Craig eventually could move across the diamond. Either way, the Pirates expect him to hit for power. His bat will carry him to the majors, where he projects as a middle-of-the-order threat with the potential to produce higher batting averages than a typical slugger. It would be a disappointment if he doesn’t reach High-A Bradenton in 2017.

#8 - Yeudy Garcia (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 24

ETA: 2018

Garcia has always been old for his level, but he has moved through the system about as quickly as the Pirates could have hoped when they signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. His plus fastball borders on double-plus, and he complements it with an above-average slider. He continues to work on developing both a reliable third pitch and better control, both of which will be essential if he hopes to remain a starter. Thus far, at least, he has enjoyed success in that role. In 2016 he finished 6-8 with a 2.76 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 127.1 IP. At the lower levels he has demonstrated both durability and swing-and-miss stuff. He’ll be tested at Double-A Altoona in 2017.

#9 - Cole Tucker (SS)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2019

Pittsburgh’s 2014 first-round pick, Tucker made a promising full-season debut at Low-A West Virginia in 2015 before suffering a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Prior to the injury, he was hitting .293 with 25 SB in only 73 games, most of which he played as an 18-year-old against the older competition of the South Atlantic League. A return to health was the top priority in 2016, and he seems to have accomplished that much. Where he fits in Pittsburgh’s future plans, however, is a matter of conjecture, for he appears to have been passed by fellow shortstop Kevin Newman in the prospect pecking order. Still, if he maintains his speed while filling out his 6’3” frame, Tucker could develop into an above-average middle infielder, a reliable source of steals with some sneaky power potential.

#10 - Kevin Kramer (2B)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 23

ETA: 2018

A 2015 second-round pick, Kramer gives the Pirates another advanced bat in the infeld. Like Newman, Craig, and Tucker, Kramer should hit for high averages and get on base at a good clip. He’s not a burner, and he’s not likely to hit for anything more than average power, but double-digit steals and homers would make him a solid middle-infield option. He’ll head to Double-A Altoona in 2017.