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Monday Mop-Up Duty: Pirates’ top 10 prospects and Under 25 talents

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SOUTH HILLS – Sorry I’m a little tardy with this today, folks. But better late than never, right? Before we get to the early holiday gifts that are the Pirates’ top 10 prospect  list  and 25U talent rankings from Baseball America, which were published online today, I thought I’d share this piece on Rene Gayo I wrote for Baseball America.

 

Teams are always looking for edges in the market place and Gayo has given the Pirates a competitive advantage in Latin America.

 

While teams like the Cubs and Rangers have recently spent millions on signing bonuses for teenage Latin America prospects, Gayo has been one of the best at finding value in the Latin America market. Consider this: he signed Gregory Polanco – Baseball America’s No. 1 Pirates prospect – Starling Marte, and Alen Hanson for a combined $300,000.

For $300,000, less than the major league minimum, Gayo signed three of the Pirates’ top eight Under 25 talents, according to Baseball America. That’s incredible value.

 

polanco

Polanco is the second most valuable u25 asset in the system

 

BASEBALL AMERICA’S TOP TEN UNDER 25 TALENTS IN PIRATES’ SYSTEM

1. Gerrit Cole, 23

2. Gregory Polanco, 22

3. Starling Marte, 25

4. Jameson Taillon, 22

5. Tyler Glasnow, 20

6. Austin Meadows, 18

7. Nick Kingham, 22

8. Alen Hanson, 21

9. Josh Bell, 21

10. Reese McGuire, 19

 

 

How does Gayo do it? In part it’s an eye for projection. In part it’s because he has developed a prototype over his 20 years of experience : he wants athletes who are competitive and can barrel up pitches.

 

But Gayo told me he’s also simply willing to outwork teams and added that only seven or eight major league clubs have competent Latin American operations.

 

“He’ll go in the hood if he has to,” Nationals international scouting director Johnny DiPuglia said. “A lot of guys won’t do that. They won’t stay at hotels with no cable, no TV, dirty running water. I’ve done it. I try to avoid it now. I’ve done it plenty of times. I got tired of getting bacteria in my stomach.”

 

Gayo has made a key impact on the Pirates’  rich farm system and because of his value signings the Pirates might not be as affected as much by the international spending cap. For instance, the Rangers singed Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara for $9.5 combined two years ago. Gayo has never spent more than $3 million in a year on prospects.

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS … 

 

9.  I agree with much of Baseball America’s top 10 prospect list:

1. Polanco

2. Taillon

3. Glasnow

4. Meadows

5. Kingham

6. Hanson

7. Bell

8. McGuire

9. Ramirez

10. Heredia

 

8. I  like Polanco as the No. 1 prospect. Polanco is a potential five-tool talent who is the best outfielder defender and is best pure hitter in the system. He also has above-average speed, an above-average arm and the potential for above-average power.

 

I also agree that Polanco is the second most valuable U25 talent in the system. Yes, ahead of Marte. What’s the separator? Polanco has a much better control of the strike zone. He could be a potential lead-off hitter for the Pirates.

 

7. The Taillon-Glasnow debate is a lot closer than anyone could have imagined back in the spring.

 

It’s not so much a knock against Taillon as it’s a testament to the amazing season by Glasnow as the 6-foot-7 projectable righty posted unreal H/9 and K/9 rates. He has a mid 90s fastball and the potential for three plus pitches. The question is will the command come.

 

At the end of May, I sat with scouts watching Cole’s final Triple-A start. One NL scout said  he liked Taillon better than Cole so there’s still plenty to be excited about regarding Taillon. His offspeed development is ahead of Cole’s at the same age and keep in mind Taillon did not have very good defenses behind him this year.

 

The Pirates went pitching heavy in the 2009-10 draft.

 

6. Meadows and McGuire, the Pirates’ two first-round picks in June, each had encouraging beginnings to their pro careers. I might bump up McGuire a notch or two as he projects as an above-average to elite defender and he showed a smooth lefty swing and excellent command of the strike zone.

 

5. Don’t forget that Meadows was once projected as a top 3 pick in the June draft. But after a down spring as a prep senior, he could be a draft steal.

 

 

4. I think the player with the most helium potential is Josh Bell. There are not many switch-hitters with his power and athleticism. While the Pirates are light on close-to-the-majors impact infielders, they are loaded with outfield talent.

 

And there is so little power in the game right now, a player like Bell could become incredibly valuable

 

3. One prospect who saw his stock drop was Luis Heredia. He didn’t show up in great shape last year, according to reports, and saw his performance drop. Still, the $2.6 million intl signee is loaded with size and projection but he’s got to miss more bats.

 

2. Because there’s such a premium on power, my favorite prospect not ranked in the top 10 is Stetson Allie. While he struggled in his promotion to High-A, I thought his transition from pitcher to hitter went extremely well and he has impressive power. Maybe he’ll never have bat-to-ball contact ability but it seemed his walk rate was decent given his inexperience against high-level pitching.

 

1. While we can debate moving prospects up or down a few spots, at the end of the day there few systems with the depth of impact talent that the Pirates posses. It’s a combination of value finds in the Latin American market and from over-slow signings and a strong first round in the 2014 draft.

 

Yes there’s going to be attrition, but this list should allow the Pirate to have a lengthy competitive window.

 

HE SAID IT 

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: $29 million

Carlos Ruiz signed a three-year, $29 million deal on Monday. And it’s not a bad value signing for the Phillies. Free agency prices are soaring, there’s so much cash in the game.

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK

I’ve been looking for a good value pizza joint and I think I might have found it in Slice on Broadway. If you have any other suggestions in the South Hills I’d love to hear them.

 

– TS

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