Comparing the Different Pirates Top 30 Prospect Lists

The other day I put together a combined ranking of the top 30 prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates, using the average ranks from Pirates Prospects, Baseball America, FanGraphs, and MLB Pipeline. Here is an explanation of the list, along with the combined top 30. I’ve got a few updates to that ranking set that I’ll be rolling out over the weekend.

Today, I’m taking a different look at those rankings. I wanted to focus on the individual outlets and highlight players where the outlet was higher than the rest, and players where they were lower than the rest.

I don’t believe there are any wrong opinions in terms of prospect grades. You just get different personal preferences. In some cases, the opinions of one player can be all over the map. In other cases, there’s a single outlier.

I looked at the rankings for each outlet, and identified their individual player preferences. The point of this isn’t to pit the outlets against each other, nor to say that one is right and another is wrong. It’s just giving a different look at the rankings of the same system from four different outlets that evaluate players in four different ways. I’m also not going to try and speculate too much on why different outlets ranked players where they did, although I’ll give you my insight from working on the Pirates Prospects and Baseball America lists.

Pirates Prospects

HIGHER THAN THE REST

Shalin Polanco – He was a late addition to the system. We felt good enough to put him 13th, based largely on the reports that John Dreker received. FanGraphs had him ranked 42nd, and he wasn’t in the top 30 for either of the other outlets.

Travis MacGregor – FanGraphs didn’t rate him in their top 51 and MLB didn’t have him in their top 30. We had him 32nd, a few spots above where BA slotted him at 35. I originally submitted him higher, but he dropped down in part due to all of the additions to the list above him. I’m mentioning him here because I think he’s fallen through the cracks a bit. He’s missed time with Tommy John, but saw big improvements to his fastball before the injury. He’s worked with a lot of pitchers on developing his slider during his rehab. The pandemic further delayed his return. I can’t wait to see if he can finally build on his 2018 season, as the reports I’ve been getting over the last two years have been positive.

Braxton Ashcraft – We had him 18th, which was the only grade inside the top 20. It’s not an extreme departure, as BA and MLB had him 22 and 23, respectively. Love the frame, the sinking fastball, and the chance for three average or better pitches.

Michael Burrows – We had him 19th, which was five spots ahead of BA at 24th. FanGraphs had him at 28 and MLB had him at 30. We’ve been higher on Ashcraft and Burrows since getting some good looks at them early in their careers, after the draft, and seeing positive changes going forward.

Mason Martin – We had Martin ranked 16th, with BA and FanGraphs at 21st. I submitted him as one of my sleeper picks for Baseball America. He’s got some of the best raw power in the system, good pitch recognition skills, and a good capability to make contact.

LOWER THAN THE REST

Jose Soriano – We had him ranked 50th, while he went anywhere from 18 to 28 in the other rankings. My guess is we’re factoring in the Rule 5 status, rather than treating Soriano in a vacuum.

Luis Oviedo – We had him 42nd, while FanGraphs and MLB had him inside the top 30. Another Rule 5 guy who we’re lower on, although slightly higher on him than Soriano.

Canaan Smith-Njigba – He was one of the last additions to the book, and ended up 40th in our rankings, which was the only rank outside of the top 30. Similarly…

Roansy Contreras – We had Contreras ranked 28th, the only one outside of the top 20. Another last-minute addition to our list that we had lower than the national outlets who were already covering him.

Nick Garcia – Let’s look at Garcia in the next section…

Baseball America

HIGHER THAN THE REST

Nick Garcia – I compiled the Baseball America rankings this year, but they have the final editing say on the list, after checking through with scouts, executives, etc. On our side, we average the individual player grades from John Dreker, Wilbur Miller, and myself, followed by ordering players up and down the list. I then check around for thoughts on individual players, and in some cases, an evaluation on the list. In Garcia’s case, we had him ranked 38th, and Baseball America had him ranked 17th, with FanGraphs and MLB in the 20s. I had Garcia ranked closer to our ranking for BA. He jumped nearly 15 spots in their adjustment.

Alexander Mojica – The BA guys have been high on Mojica for the last two years. He’s 31st in their ranks, 35th for us, and 45th for FanGraphs.

Roansy Contreras – While we had the low rank on Contreras, BA was on the higher end. Their rank of 13th wasn’t too extreme over the #15 spot from FanGraphs.

LOWER THAN THE REST

Sammy Siani – BA had Siani ranked 32nd, making them the only outlet to rank him outside of the top 30. That’s not a huge departure from the 26 ranking from both us and FanGraphs. I had Siani ranked right behind Jared Jones in my original submission. Jones moved up from that spot, while Siani fell about 10 spots.

Jared Oliva – BA had him 26th, which again isn’t a large departure from everyone else. We had him 21st and FanGraphs had him 19th.

Travis Swaggerty – I ranked Swaggerty lower than FanGraphs and MLB, who each had him inside the top ten. I had Swaggerty at 11 in my list to BA, so he dropped a few spots after the trades and their own edits. We ended up dropping him to 12th. We both dropped him one spot for Miguel Yajure, but BA put Hudson Head and Roansy Contreras ahead of Swaggerty. All of those moves came after my rankings were submitted.

FanGraphs

HIGHER THAN THE REST

Austin Roberts – This was probably the most surprising to me. FanGraphs had Roberts as the 33rd best prospect in the system. We have him graded a 30 FV prospect, with the upside of a reliever, and outside of the top 60. BA and MLB didn’t have him in the top 30.

Maikol Escotto – This is another massive difference. Escotto is a young, projectable shortstop, and FanGraphs had him ranked 13th in the system. I can’t argue it. We put Shalin Polanco 13th, and we had discussions about Escotto in one of the final spots where they graded Polanco. I think you could make an argument to dream on either player, but stuff like this on both sides makes me think there’s something with ranking such young, high-beta guys that could be improved upon.

Rodolfo Nolasco – FanGraphs had Nolasco ranked 18th, while he was just outside of the top 30 in our rankings and in BA. He’s one of my sleepers, so I fully support this ranking.

Canaan Smith-Njigba – While we were the low ones, having Smith-Njigba at 40, FanGraphs was the highest, having him at 16. He’s ranked 26/27 from MLB/BA.

Tahnaj Thomas – FanGraphs is typically aggressive with younger, higher upside guys, as seen above. In this case, they’ve got Thomas ranked 4th overall. I previously thought we were the aggressive ones on Thomas, ranking him 7th.

LOWER THAN THE REST

Braxton Ashcraft – Everyone else had Ashcraft ranked 18-23, while FanGraphs had him 44. They also had a much lower grade on him, giving him a 35, which was lower than the 45 from the other three outlets.

Eddy Yean – I was surprised to see they were lowest on Yean, but maybe that’s because he’s one of my favorite sleepers from the new trades. They had him 25th, the only ones outside of the top 20.

Max Kranick – FanGraphs had Kranick ranked 38th, which was the only one outside of the top 30. He was in the 27-30 range everywhere else, so this isn’t a huge drop.

Wil Crowe – Another not-so-huge drop where FanGraphs has Crowe at 30, and everyone else has him 20-24.

Carmen Mlodzinski – He was in the 10-12 range from the other three outlets, and ranked 14th by FanGraphs. Interesting that the players they were lowest on were all right-handed pitchers. Two others who just missed this list: Cody Bolton and Michael Burrows.

MLB Pipeline

HIGHER THAN THE REST

Sammy Siani – Pipeline has Siani ranked 11th, while he’s 26-32 range elsewhere.

Eddy Yean – Yean joined the Pipeline rankings at #8, while going 17-25 elsewhere. I can support this aggressive push, although I think it’s early. It’s a similar situation to what I referenced earlier with Polanco and Escotto.

Jared Oliva – Pipeline has him 12th, while everyone else has him 19-26. They also have the highest grade on Travis Swaggerty, and tied for the highest on Hudson Head.

LOWER THAN THE REST

Tahnaj Thomas – Pipeline has Thomas ranked 18th overall, while he’s in the 4-8 range elsewhere. Looking at our rankings versus theirs, we’re basically switching spots for Thomas and Yean.

Mason Martin – They’ve got Martin ranked 25th, which is slightly lower than the two #21 rankings ahead of him.

Ji-Hwan Bae – Bae was ranked 9-11 by the other three outlets, and 15th by Pipeline.

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