Note: This article was started the morning of Sunday, May 19, so all stats are current after all games played Saturday, May 18.
Well, unfortunately the big league squad is sucking enough to make a prospect stock watch perhaps more exciting than seeing the guys in black and gold take the field. We're about one-third of the way through the minor league regular season for full season squads, so there is a good enough sample size for most of the Pirates farmhands to rate if their prospects are up or down. Note that non-full season squads, which should have plenty of interesting players lead by Michael De La Cruz, Jon Sandfort, and Blake Taylor, have yet to begin games.
The list prospects is an educated guess at my top Pirates prospects pre-season (I can't find my actual list right now).
1. Gregory Polanco - Stock Up
The above words form a candidate for understatement of the year. Someone interested in nitpicking could point to his fairly high strikeout rate, at least compared to last season, but a 1.076 OPS at the moment just really doesn't care.
2. Jameson Taillon - Stock Down
Taillon hasn't even seen the mound as he underwent Tommy John Surgery before the season began. Being optimistic, Taillon could easily be as good as everyone expects him to be by June of 2015. Considering how this season has went, that may not be the worst thing ever.
3. Tyler Glasnow - Stock Down
The high walk rate and non-otherworldly strikeout rate - the very reason Glasnow to make headlines last year - have to be concerning, but note two positives. Glasnow won't turn 21 until August and he's followed up his trend from last year of not giving up hits. He's only allowed 13 baseknocks in 23 innings this year, a testament to his amazing stuff.
4. Alen Hanson - Stock Up
A big night last night boosted Hanson to a .273/.309/.448 line, anchored by a .328/.357/.608 line so far in May. The lack of walks is somewhat concerning, but Hanson won't turn 22 until October, has a reasonable strikeout rate, and still looks like a legitimate candidate to play shortstop defensively long term.
5. Austin Meadows - Stock Down
Meadows hasn't seen the field yet due to a hamstring injury. It's hard to knock him since it's not like he's playing poorly, but lost development time certainly doesn't help his stock.
6. Nick Kingham - Stock Down
After a fairly successful 73.1 innings last year in Double-A, a jump to Triple-A wouldn't have been too surprising. Instead, Kingham returned to Altoona, where he has struggled so far. The 3.35 ERA isn't bad and the 35 strikeouts in 43 innings isn't super alarming either. However, 21 walks in 43 innings from a pitcher supposedly lauded for his control and command certainly raises some eyebrows.
7. Josh Bell - Stock Up
Josh Bell is finally starting to earn that 5 million dollar signing bonus. He's done everything well in Bradenton so far this year. He's hit for average and power, he's limited strikeouts well, and he's drawn his fair share of free passes. If Bell keeps playing like he has to start the year, a mid-season promotion could be in order
8. Luis Heredia - Stock Down
A shoulder injury that has kept him out over a month coupled with the fact that Heredia's prospect stock has always been about youth and potential more than performance. Still, to his credit he's only 19 and could return to the rotation at any moment, finish the season strong, and recapture plenty of prospect momentum.
9. Reese McGuire - Stock Up
As a prep catcher, McGuire is in a demographic where there will be no rush to see him make the major leagues. In fact, he could spend 5 full years in the minor leagues including this season and still make the major leagues months after his 24th birthday. McGuire's reputation is built on his defensive prowess and so far this year, scouting reports are still in love with his defense. At the plate, McGuire has shown little power, but he's controlled the strike zone very well for a young hitter.
10. Harold Ramirez - Stock Neutral
A leg injury has limited Ramirez to only 45 AB's this year, but he's healthy now, so he'll be able to play over a half season moving forward, allowing him to showcase his talent.
Clay Holmes - Stock Down
Holmes is a second victim - although the first temporally - of Tommy John Surgery.
Max Moroff - Stock Down
Moroff continues to sport good plate discipline numbers, but despite that, he hasn't managed to hit for average or power. He also moved from shortstop to second base which hurts his value.
Gift Ngoepe - Stock Up
After being unbelievably overmatched in Double-A last year, Gift has cut down his strikeouts to a respectable amount. He's also walked a ton and shown good power. Overall his hitting has been acceptable, which bodes well for an elite defensive shortstop such as Gift. He's also only 24, which isn't that old considering his background.
Barrett Barnes - Stock Down
Barnes has tons of talent, but he's been unable to stay on the field, just like last year. That's a huge disappointment as he could easily be up there with Austin Meadows and Josh Bell in terms of the Pirates outfield prospect pecking order.
Adrian Sampson - Stock Up
After pitching poorly in Bradenton in 2013, Sampson has taken a surprise promotion to Altoona and ran with it. After starting off really hot, Sampson faltered a bit in 3 straight starts after another strong outing the last time he pitched. Sampson has turned himself into a sleeper after being a non-prospect to start the year.
Elvis Escobar - Stock Down
Harold Ramirez's "twin" has really struggled for the Power so far this year. The plus side is that he's still talented and only 19, but he's really been overmatched - 18 strikeouts to 1 walk - thus far in 2014.
JaCoby Jones - Stock Up
A poor last 6 games have helped temper the enthusiasm about Jones somewhat anyway. Even before that, it needs to be noted that Jones was merely doing well as a 22 year-old college draftee in Low-A. In addition, the strikeout rate has been poor. Still, Jones hasn't been totally overwhelmed and he's walking and hitting for power, which is nice from a prospect as toolsy as he is.
Wyatt Mathisen - Stock Up
A repeat trip to Low-A, this time at third base, has done the former second round pick a world of good. Mathisen is still only twenty and he's shown fantastic plate discipline, he's hit for some average, and has shown some glimpses of power.
Buddy Bordon - Stock Up
The good is the 34 strikeouts in just over 36.1 innings. The less good is the 16 walks that accompany. To offset the poor walk rate, Bordon has managed to only give up 23 hits. Being pessimistic again, he is already 22, but it's a fairly solid start for a live arm and a later round pick.
Cody Dickson - Stock Down
Dickson hasn't really done much well. He's walked a fair amount of batters, given up more than a hit an inning, and posted a middling strikeout rate. 2014 definitely hasn't been the breakout year for Dickson many were hoping for it to be.
Jin-De Jhang - Stock Down
A popular breakout candidate for this season, Jhang simply hasn't hit the ball at all. A very small plus is that he hasn't been overmatched in terms of plate discipline and he did just turn 21 literally this past week. He also skipped Low-A to his credit, but a .466 OPS is just putrid regardless.
All and all, it's been a less than stellar year so far. Injuries are largely to blame. Still, I would strongly disagree with any suggestions (if people are suggesting that) that the Pirates farm system sky is falling. It would be almost impossible for the Pirates to top the 2013 their farm had, and the Pirates are on pace to have plenty of super interesting prospects heading into 2015. I also feel confident that even with the graduation of Polanco, the Pirates should safely have a top 10 farm system at the end of the season, with a very good shot at top 5.