KATOH Projects: Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects

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Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In this companion piece, I look at that same Pittsburgh farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Pirates have the 10th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 9.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 65 FV

Glasnow was nothing short of dominant between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He struck out a whopping 30% of batters faced across 121 innings, resulting in a minuscule 2.68 FIP. The biggest knock on Glasnow has always been his command, but his walk rate dipped from 13% to 10% from 2014 and 2015, which suggests he’s making the right adjustments.

Tyler Glasnow’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Scott Elarton 12.1 5.6
2 Aaron Sele 7.7 11.6
3 Chris Carpenter 5.9 9.3
4 Jason Schmidt 8.3 12.9
5 Pat Mahomes 9.2 0.7
6 Tommy Hanson 6.0 9.5
7 Paul Wilson 10.1 4.2
8 Todd Van Poppel 6.0 2.6
9 Colby Lewis 6.6 0.2
10 CC Sabathia 9.1 40.6

2. Alen Hanson, 2B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 7.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Hanson began his pro career way back in 2010 after he signed out of the Dominican, but he’s just now approaching the big leagues. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, but his prospect stock has tumbled the past few years as he’s failed to replicate that performance. However, he still managed to hit .263/.313/.387 with 35 steals at Triple-A last year at the tender age of 22. Hanson doesn’t hit for much power, but he makes a decent amount of contact, runs well and plays in the middle of the infield. He also just turned 23, so it’s entirely conceivable that he could still improve offensively.

Alen Hanson’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Quilvio Veras 6.2 11.4
2 Adam Kennedy 6.6 14.7
3 Joe Thurston 8.5 0.0
4 Eric Young 4.3 4.0
5 Ronnie Belliard 6.0 10.7
6 Amaury Garcia 5.0 0.0
7 Wilton Guerrero 7.7 0.5
8 Eric Patterson 4.2 0.3
9 Willie Harris 3.5 5.9
10 Chone Figgins 3.6 15.7

3. Cole Tucker, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 6.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

The 24th-overall pick in 2014’s amateur draft, Tucker’s gotten off to a strong start to his big-league career. He spent last season at the Low-A level, where he slashed .293/.322/.377 as a 19-year-old shortstop. Tucker hasn’t shown much power yet, but his speedy, high-contact approach should be enough to get by at shortstop.

Cole Tucker’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Jolbert Cabrera 3.0 0.0
2 Gookie Dawkins 7.4 0.0
3 Hector Made 5.7 0.0
4 Angel Sanchez 3.1 0.4
5 Ozzie Chavez 5.8 0.0
6 Cristian Guzman 4.6 8.1
7 Jay Woolf 5.7 0.0
8 Lou Montanez 3.3 0.0
9 Guillermo Mercedes 3.5 0.0
10 Matt Tuiasosopo 4.3 0.9

4. Reese McGuire, C (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 6.6 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55+ FV

McGuire hasn’t shown a lick of power since the Pirates took him in the first round back in 2013; however, his other skills suggest he’ll make for a fine big leaguer. McGuire makes loads of contact, which helps outweigh the complete lack of power. He runs better than your typical catcher, as evidenced by his 14 steals in 98 High-A games last year. Not much offense is required to stick as a big-league catcher, and KATOH thinks McGuire’s shown enough in the low minors to make it work.

Reese McGuire’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Michael Barrett 5.7 6.9
2 Ramon Castro 4.1 1.2
3 Pee Wee Lopez 2.9 0.0
4 Josh Thole 3.4 2.1
5 Ryan Christianson 5.6 0.0
6 Brook Fordyce 4.6 0.7
7 Mike Collins 2.3 0.0
8 Yorvit Torrealba 8.5 3.9
9 Jeff Mathis 7.5 0.8
10 Ronny Paulino 3.7 4.2

5. Austin Meadows, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 5.1 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 65 FV

Meadows did a bang-up job in High-A last year, slashing .307/.357/.407 with 20 steals. He then capped things off with a dominant week in Double-A. Meadows has yet to show a ton of power in the minors, but he made enough contact last year to suggest he’ll hit enough to provide value in the outfield. Unfortunately, he’ll be on the shelf for the next couple of months recovering from a fractured orbital bone.

Austin Meadows’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Midre Cummings 5.2 1.9
2 Rich Butler 6.2 0.0
3 Alex Fernandez 3.4 0.0
4 Melky Cabrera 3.4 12.1
5 Sherman Obando 3.3 0.0
6 Ryan Sweeney 4.7 8.6
7 Andrew McCutchen 4.1 40.3
8 Rondell White 3.8 19.8
9 Mike Darr 3.4 3.2
10 Duane Singleton 4.0 0.0

6. Josh Bell, 1B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 4.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55+ FV

Bell enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, when he slashed .320/.396/.450 between Double-A and Triple-A. He lacks the power of a prototypical first baseman — he hit just seven homers last year — but he makes up for it by making loads of contact. As a first baseman, Bell’s future rides on his bat, and .347/.441/.504 showing after a promotion to Triple-A suggests his bat is just about ready.

Josh Bell’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Casey Kotchman 3.1 6.7
2 Daric Barton 6.1 7.3
3 Steve Cox 2.3 1.4
4 Calvin Pickering 1.8 0.4
5 Todd Helton 2.6 33.4
6 J.T. Snow 2.2 4.1
7 Tino Martinez 6.2 11.5
8 Chris Richard 1.8 2.2
9 Ryan McGuire 2.8 0.5
10 Jordan Brown 4.9 0.0

7. Elias Diaz, C (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Diaz spent last year in Triple-A, where he hit .271/.330/.382. As a slap-hitting 25-year-old, Diaz’s profile isn’t particularly exciting; however, he managed an encouraging 13% strikeout rate with a respectable amount of power last year. It appears he’ll make a quality backup catcher at the very least.

8. Jin-De Jhang, C (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: Unranked

Jhang had a terrible 2014 campaign at the High-A level, but fared significantly better last year when he repeated the level. He slashed an excellent .292/.332/.381 on the strength of a superb 11% strikeout rate. Jhang doesn’t have much power, nor does he draw walks, but his contact rate suggests he’ll ultimately hit enough to get by at catcher.

9. Harold Ramirez, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Ramirez crushed it at High-A last year, hitting .337/.399/.458 with 22 steals. KATOH doesn’t completely buy the high BABIPs and would like to see a bit more power. Even so, Ramirez is a singles machine who also runs well. He’ll likely have some sort of future in the big leagues.


1-2 WAR Prospects
Rank Player Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
10 Taylor Gushue C 1.7 Unranked
11 Adam Frazier SS 1.7 40
12 Steven Brault LHP 1.7 45
13 Max Moroff 2B 1.6 40
14 Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B 1.5 45
15 Trevor Williams RHP 1.2 45
16 Mitchell Tolman 3B 1.2 Unranked
17 Jose Osuna OF 1.1 Unranked
18 Adrian Valerio SS 1.0 Unranked
19 Willy Garcia OF 1.0 40

Taylor Gushue hit just .231/.288/.342 in Low-A, but showed more promise in 2014. Seventh-rounder Mitchell Tolman closed out his draft year by hitting .304/.407/.411 in short-season A-ball with a strong 14% strikeout rate. Prior to signing, Tollman led the Pac-12 in OBP, so he has a track record of performing. Jose Osuna’s .280/.322/.423 performance between High-A and Double-A suggests he may hit enough to carve out a niche in the show. Although he just turned 19, Adrian Valerio already has nearly 500 pro plate appearances under his belt. His .231/.278/.322 batting line is terrible, but looks less terrible when you consider that he’s a shortstop.


Remaining 45+ FV Players
Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
Stephen Tarpley P 0.8 45
Kevin Newman SS 0.7 45+
Yeudy Garcia P 0.6 45

As a high-contact shortstop, Kevin Newman is the type of player KATOH usually loves. That said, he managed only a .255/.318/.345 showing last year as a 21-year-old against mostly younger competition. However, small sample size caveats apply, and I anticipate a better showing in 2016. Stephen Tarpley and Yeudy Garcia both pitched well, but did so as 22-year-olds in Low-A.

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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6 years ago

Oh man, that McCutchen comp for Meadows. I know to take those with a grain of salt, but a boy can dream.

6 years ago
Reply to  Chris Mitchell

McCutchen broke out after he redid his stance and swing mechanics. Pitch recognition, patience and bat speed remained intact. He then became the hitter we know him to be.