What about the Pittsburg Pirates in 2017?

2017 Pirates prospects outlook: Players to watch and why by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Website

The prospects atop the Pirates’ farm system split two ways this season. Some have reached the majors, or will soon. Josh Bell is the Pirates’ first baseman. Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault both have major league experience and spent all spring working for a rotation spot, while Austin Meadows and Elias Diaz are close. Others, such as Mitch Keller, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Cole Tucker and Will Craig, still have some climbing to do. Baseball America ranked Meadows, a 21-year-old center fielder,

as the Pirates’ top prospect and No. 6 overall in Major League Baseball. He will open the season with Class AAA Indianapolis, where he finished 2016. His promotion depends somewhat on his performance but also on what the Pirates do with Andrew McCutchen, whom they could trade before the deadline in the final guaranteed year of his contract.“I really don’t think about it too much,” Meadows said. “I try to go out there and play my game and leave the decision in the front office’s hands.”

Keller, the No. 2 prospect in the system, spent last season with low-A West Virginia before starting one game with high-A Bradenton. He struck out 138 batters in 1301⁄3 innings with a 2.35 ERA. “He has so much potential, but there is so much to accomplish between now and the time he’s ready for the big leagues,” general manager Neal Huntington said. The Pirates took Keller in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Xavier High School in Iowa. The 20-year-old righty walked only 1.3 batters per nine innings last year, his first ful l season as a professional, but like all 20-year-olds, he needs improvement. “The continued refinement of his mechanics, so they become second nature, and then he can make an adjustment from pitch to pitch,” Huntington said. “The continued refinement of the quality of the stuff, the ability to hammer his fastball down to both halves and elevate when he wants to. The refinement of the breaking ball, both for strikes and for a chase pitch.”

Glasnow, 23, debuted last season and posted a 4.24 ERA in seven games, four starts. His changeup needs work, as do his control and his ability to control opposing baserunners. He added a longer rock step to his windup and a slide step with runners on base in an effort to better repeat his delivery — which should help control — and make life harder on runners. “There were times when he would rush through his balance point,” Huntington said. “This allows him to feel more in control, it allows him to make sure he’s staying on balance better. The slide step should allow him to control the running game a little bit more.” “This year especially, I feel different than my last couple years,” Glasnow said. “I feel like I’m pitching and I’m not throwing.”

Shortstop Kevin Newman, the No. 5 prospect in the system, has done nothing but get on base since the Pirates drafted him out of Arizona in the first round in 2015. He had a .428 OBP in Bradenton before his promotion to Class AA Altoona, where he reached base 37.8 percent of the time. He hit .320 last year and walked more than he struck out. “My swing’s always been really simplistic,” Newman said. “That’s kind of what we work on, continued to work on, just staying short to the ball, low line drives. From that, had some pretty good success.” The 20-year-old Hayes, a third baseman, hit .308 with a .408 OBP in 2015, his first year in pro ball. Last season, in low A, he hit .263 with a .319 OBP before an upper-back injury ended his season. “He’s coming along fine,” Huntington said. “The last report on him was that he’s going through baseball activity. We’ve been cautious with him.”

The Pirates’ Top 10 prospects According to Baseball America

1. Austin Meadows • CF • Age: 21 • B/T: L/L • H/W: 6-3/200 Skinny: Had a .536 slugging percentage in 2016.

2. Mitch Keller • RHP • Age: 20 • B/T: R/R • Ht/Wt: 6-3/195 Skinny: Struck out seven in six scoreless innings in lone high-A start.

3. Tyler Glasnow • RHP • Age: 23 • B/T: L/R • Ht/Wt: 6-8/220 Skinny: Walked 13 batters in 23⅓ innings last year.

4. Josh Bell • 1B • Age: 24 • B/T: S/R • Ht/Wt: 6-2/240 Skinny: Had 21 BB and 19 K in 152 PAs last year.

5. Kevin Newman • SS • Age: 23 • B/T: R/R • Ht/Wt: 6-1/180 Skinny: Had a .922 OPS in Bradenton before promotion.

6. Ke’Bryan Hayes • 3B • Age: 20 • B/T: R/R • Ht/Wt: 6-1/210 Skinny: Played only two games after July 10 due to back injury.

7. Steven Brault • LHP • Age: 24 • B/T: L/L • Ht/Wt: 6-0/200 Skinny: 4.86 ERA in 8 games (7 starts) last season.

8. Cole Tucker • SS • Age: 20 • B/T: S/R • Ht/Wt: 6-3/185 Skinny: OPS dropped to .613 after promotion to Bradenton.

9. Will Craig • 3B • Age: 22 • B/T: R/R • Ht/Wt: 6-3/212 Skinny: Craig somehow had a .412 OBP but a .362 SLG last season.

10. Elias Diaz • C • Age: 26 • B/T: R/R • Ht/Wt: 6-0, 210 Skinny: Had only 133 PAs due to injury.


Bill Brink: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @BrinkPG.