MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Even if some MLB organizations don’t pay attention to prospect rankings, fans like to link a number to a stat line and then watch their progression from draft day to a player’s MLB debut and beyond.
Much has been said this year about the development of some Pirates players, and the ones who read Triple-A Indianapolis are under constant scrutiny — from themselves, by fans and likely those who make the call-ups.
So, as the season winds down, let’s take a look at where players in Indianapolis ranked at the end of the 2018 season and where they’re at now.
For context, I’m using the MLB.com prospect rankings, which has this to say about the rankings: “To be eligible for a list, a player must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.
“Eligibility guidelines are further determined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, in terms of who falls under the international pool money rules: Players who are at least 25 years old and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
“Players are graded on a 20-80 scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average.”
This will eliminate a few 2018 prospects — like Cole Tucker — from being on the 2019 list.
So, here’s what we’ve got:
Mitch Keller — This right-handed, hard-throwing pitcher ended 2018 as the Pirates’ top prospect and currently sits in that same spot now. During the 2019 season, he’s 7-5 over 19 starts with a 3.56 ERA at the Triple-A level. He’s fanned 123 batters while walking just 35. Triple-A hitters are hitting .243 against him, and he’s got a 1.24 WHIP. Keller’s also been back in forth enough for four starts with the Pirates, going 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA before Sunday night's start against the Cubs. He pitched somewhat of a gem in his first MLB win, going 5.0 innings while striking out four and allowing a single run on five hits.
Ke’Bryan Hayes — Hayes also stayed in the same spot for the year, consistently ranked as the Pirates’ No. 2 prospect. Hayes’ defense is what’s kept him in that position, though his bat has been coming along following a broken finger earlier this year. Hayes is hitting .247 over 381 at-bats in 97 games at the Triple-A level this year. He’s got 27 doubles, nine home runs and 48 RBIs with the Indians this year. He’s had just two errors this year, which would stand as his best defensive season and should likely lead to his third Gold Glove award.
Will Craig — Craig ended 2018 ranked as the squad’s No. 16 prospect and is now currently ranked as No. 10. It helps that Cole Tucker, Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds were all ahead of him in 2018 and two of the three spent the majority of the season with the MLB club and don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Still, Craig’s power was evident this year, even if his career average dropped (which, if you’ll remember back to Indy Watch No. 1, he mentioned that he knew it would). Craig has hit 21 home runs this year through 116 games while driving in 67 runs in the process. The 21 long balls are a new career high for the slugger but his 67 RBIs are well below last year’s Double-A total of 102. Defensively, Craig played 101 games at first base and the rest in right field, trying to add a little versatility to his game.
Dario Agrazal —Agrazal has made his way onto the Top 30 list this season, coming in at No. 26 after being left off a year ago. Agrazal carries a 4-4 record in 12 games at the Triple-A level to go with a 4.78 ERA after going 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA at Double-A. He's also 2-3 in eight starts with the Pirates with a 4.29 ERA this season.
Several players went down on the list, including Kevin Kramer (No. 7 to No. 9), Luis Escobar (No. 11 to No. 14) and Jason Martin (No. 13 to No. 16). All seemed to have decent seasons at the Triple-A level, and all three were called up at least once this season. You could maybe contribute Escobar’s fall to an injury this season, but I was sort of surprised to see both Kramer and Martin move down two and three spots, respectively.
Last year’s No. 5 through 8 consisted of, in order, Tucker, Newman, Kramer and Reynolds. This year’s consists of 2017 second-round outfielder Cal Mitchell, 2019 first-round pitcher Quinn Priester, 2019 CBA pick and outfielder Sammy Siani and South Korean import infielder Ji-Hwan Bae. Mitchell ranked No. 9 on last year’s list and played all year in the Florida State League with Bradenton.
Kramer had a short slump in the middle of the season, but he’s hitting .255 with 10 home runs, 27 doubles and 52 RBIs this season. Martin, meanwhile, has a .263 average with eight home runs, 21 doubles and 40 RBIs.
TRIBE'S TOP HITTERS
Here’s who I’ve identified as the Indians’ top hitters over the past week:
Jake Elmore, UTIL — 9 for 25 (.360) with three doubles and two RBIs.
Trayvon Robinson, OF — 7 for 20 (.350) with a home run, a double and three RBIs
Eric Wood, OF — 7 for 20 (.350) with a home run, a double and an RBI
TRIBE’S TOP PITCHERS
Top starting performance: Brandon Waddell picked up his second win at the Triple-A level after going 6.0 innings against Rochester. He surrendered just one run on four hits and struck out six. He didn’t walk any.
Top reliever performance: Parker Markel was in a strikeout groove this week as he struck out eight batters over 3.0 innings of work while surrendering no hits or runs.
8/18: RHP Montana DuRapau recalled by Pittsburgh.
INF Cole Tucker optioned to Indianapolis; recalled as the 26th man by Pittsburgh.
RHP Geoff Hartlieb optioned (8/16) and active in Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 50.
8/16: INF Cole Tucker recalled by Pittsburgh.
INF Mitchell Tolman transferred from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 7.
UTIL Darnell Sweeney transferred from Altoona to Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 39.
LHP Jake Brentz released by Pittsburgh.
8/15: INF Kevin Kramer placed on 7-day injured list (R knee contusion).
RHP Rookie Davis ends MLB rehab assignment, reinstated from 60-day injured list by Pittsburgh, optioned (8/13) and active in Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 23.
8/13: C Francisco Cervelli has MLB rehab assignment transferred from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis. He is wearing No. 3.
RHP Cody Ponce transferred from Double-A Altoona to Indi and is wearing No. 32.
The Indians went 3-4 over the past seven days, taking two of three from Rochester but dropping three of four to Lehigh Valley. Indianapolis is now 61-64. The Tribe goes on the road for a four-game tilt with Toledo before hosting Louisville for two games.
INDY FUN THING
Sure, he’s with Pittsburgh right now, but this is still darn cool:
Little League Classic. One of the best days ever. pic.twitter.com/W8iQgOeS1U
— Cole Tucker (@cotuck) August 18, 2019
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