SOUTH HILLS – Six Pirates made MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list last night and you could argue that’s light as Reese McGuire has a ceiling as a All-Star catcher, who impacts both defensively and offensively, and Nick Kingham has a chance to be durable, No. 3 type starter. I think the Pirates could place eight in Baseball America’s top 100.
Still, six top 100, and four top 50 prospects, is an impressive haul, and a silverish lining to a quiet offseason for the Pirates. Here are the six and their rank:
13. Gregory Polanco
16. Jameson Taillon
27. Tyler Glasnow
45. Austin Meadows
67. Alen Hanson
74. Josh Bell
But I want to focus on Austin Meadows, the compensation pick for not signing Mark Appel (No. 17 prospect) in the 2012 draft.
Meadows was giving Clint Hurdle reason to smile during minicamp
The decision to draft Meadows marked a departure from the Pirates’ previous draft philosophy under Neal Huntington and Greg Smith. From 2008-12 the Pirates had focused on college position players and pitchers - Pedro Alvarez, Tony Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Appel - with premium, first-round draft picks, Taillon being the exception.
The Pirates had not drafted a high school position player in the first round since Andrew McCutchen in 2005. While cherry picking, Eric Hosmer, Mike Trout and Manny Machado were among the prep positional players taken in the first round who were bypassed.
Well, the Pirates turned to a high-upside, high-risk approach in 2013 spending both of their first-round picks on high school positional players with Meadows at No. 9 and McGuire at No. 14. The Pirates shifted to the Hart draft doctrine which I wrote about prior to the 2013 draft here and here
Quite simply high school prospects tend to have higher ceilings – 30 of the MLB’s top 50 prospects were high school picks - and the Pirates’ best chance to obtain All-Star talent is through the draft. Meadows had a high ceiling and he showed he’s also an advanced player in putting up a .316/.424/.554 slash line across two levels in 2013.
Small-market teams should seek All-Stars in the draft and plug holes with marginal talent via free agency.
I spoke with my man John Hart last week and he raved about Meadows, ranking him ahead of Clint Frazier – who was Baseball America’s HS player of the year. Frazier ranked 48th in MLB.com’s top 100.
“I think Meadows might be the steal of the draft where they got him,” Hart said. “This guy has the ability to be a front-line, impact, both-sides-of-the-ball guy. McGuire has a chance to be an All-Star catcher. You have a corner outfielder (In Meadows) who has a chance to be an All-Star type and a catcher has a chance to be an All-Star type. Now they are three to five years away … but they took a BPA approach in taking Meadows and McGuire 1a and 1b.”
Of course it’s easier to go BPA when you’re working with a deeper system and not trying to force-feed talent quickly to the MLB level. The point is patience is often a virtue and to me the Pirates should have a high-school heavy approach going forward. It will yield more misses but it will yield more stars. And as evidenced by the Meadows ranking, the rewards are far greater from the high-upside approach.