Pittsburgh Pirates Top 30 Prospects: Ranking from 18-13
#16, Right-Handed Pitcher, Luis Escobar
Luis Escobar is an intriguing prospect who is on the rise in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Escobar first became notable when MLB Pipeline ranked him as a top 25 prospect entering the 2016 season. Signed by Rene Gayo, Escobar hails from Colombia. Originally a middle infielder, Gayo saw his plus arm and frame and felt he could develop into a solid pitching prospect. So far this seems to be the case.
Escobar has yet to pitch with a full season minor league team. Last season he pitched for the Short-Season A team, the West Virginia Black Bears. This team plays in the New York-Penn League, and it is typically made up of college draftees (Newman and Kramer started there in 2015). Escobar threw 67.2 innings and collected a 2.93 earned run average. He did a great job of working out of innings by stranding 76 percent of runners on base. This is around average, but Escobar should still regress some, but 76 percent can be sustainable. One area that could be a concern is the 9.9 percent walk rate, which helped cause his FIP to be at 3.84, well north of his ERA. However, Escobar does miss some bats, striking out 21.6 percent of hitters last season.
Still, he is only 20 years of age and has a fastball that sits around 95 miles per hour. Obviously, being he is inexperienced, he still has ways to go on developing his secondary pitches, but he does throw a curveball and changeup. His curveball is considered to show enough to be a plus pitch, and it should only continue to improve with experience. With a power arm, Escobar could settle into the bullpen by the time it is all said and done. However, this will be a big year as he makes the jump to full season ball to Low-A West Virginia Power. If he shows improvement on his secondary pitches, then Escobar could very well be a future starting pitching prospect to keep an eye on.
#15, Right-Handed Pitcher, Travis MacGregor
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted and signed three interesting prep arms with their top 12 picks in the 2016 draft class. Braeden Ogle was one who we have ranked as the Pittsburgh Pirates 20th best prospect. The second one of the three ranked is Travis MacGregor, who had his name called during the second round. The right hander did have a college commitment to Clemson, but he saw his name fly up draft boards after an impressive Spring. Although he was ranked by Baseball America as the 186th best player on the draft board, the Bucs made him the 68th overall pick. This speaks of how high the Pittsburgh Pirates organization was on him.
MacGregor signed for a bonus of $900,000, which was considered below slot, but much more than he probably thought he was going to receive. The righty immediately showed why the Pittsburgh Pirates took the rising prep arm in the second round. The Florida native made nine starts in the Gulf Coast League and totaled 31.2 innings. In those innings, he had a 3.13 earned run average. MacGregor also proved that he could induce groundballs, as he averaged 1.70 groundouts for every air out, a number that is considered above average.
MacGregor has a three pitch mix that already looks to be above average. His fastball sat between 91-94 last year in starts, and according to some reports hit as high as 95. The big thing about his fastball is that it has good sinking action on it already, something that the Pittsburgh Pirates love their pitchers to do. The fact that he already is throwing an effective sinker at such a young age is great news. In addition to his sinking fastball, MacGregor also possesses a changeup that he is comfortable throwing, something else that is rare in a pitching prospect of his age. His worst pitch is his curveball, he struggles to throw it consistently for a strike, but it does have good movement to it. As he continues to gain experience he should get more consistent with it.