The Pirates' breakthrough success at the very top has filtered down through the organization, with three more of the team's prospects having cracked MLB.com's revised list of the Top 100.
Taking their places among the elite blue-chippers are infielder Alen Hanson (at No. 54), right-hander Luis Heredia (No. 73) and outfielder Gregory Polanco (No. 95).Along with the incumbents: right-handers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, and outfielder Starling Marte, this gives the Bucs a total of six spots in the Top 100. Among National League organizations, only the Padres can match that half-dozen, and the Toronto Blue Jays, with seven, are the only Major League club with more. The organization's leading cover boys flip-flopped at the top. Crowning a season of ascendancy which saw him stepping-stone from Class A Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis, Cole takes over as the Pirates' No. 1 prospect (No. 8 in the Top 100), while Taillon slips to No. 2 (and drops eight spots on the Top 100 list, to No. 16). "We've had Gerrit Cole at the top of our list internally," said Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh's director of Minor League operations. "He belongs. He's moving faster, and his confidence is a little better. His delivery is more together at this point. Taillon has a longer body with more moving parts, and he has to get control of that." Assessing all the moving parts in the rankings, Broadway said, "We've enjoyed a great season of development and progress, and the rankings reflect that." Claiming six of the Top 100 is even more impressive given that one of the preseason choices, No. 69 Josh Bell, fell off the list after the outfielder missed all but the first month of the season following April surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Bell's recovery has been longer than expected, but the club didn't want to rush the rehab of one of the organization's highest-profile young players. "It's taken longer than we anticipated, but he still isn't outside the normal recovery period," said Broadway, who indicated Bell won't participate in any of the offseason leagues, either. "We're not going to push him to play this offseason. We're looking to get him back healthy, strong and ready to go in Spring Training."
pirates' top prospects
Among the Pirates' Top 20, Bell slipped only three spots, from No. 4 to No. 7. Of the three prospects who fell out of the list (excluding the trio that went to Houston in the July trade for left-hander Wandy Rodriguez -- Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens), the steepest drop was by Stetson Allie, who in the preseason was ranked No. 5 as a right-handed power pitcher.Allie's late-spring conversion to a power-hitting third baseman justifies that demotion. He started all over again with the Rookie Gulf Coast Pirates, hitting .213 in 150 at-bats. "He made some strides. He can definitely impact the ball," Broadway said of Allie, a 6-foot-2, 227-pounder who was the club's second-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. "He definitely has the power. For having taken a couple years off from hitting, he showed pretty good pitch recognition. But he's still a ways away. He needs for Instructional League to go well for him, then we'll see in Spring Training where we're at." Also dropping out of the club Top 20: right-hander Clay Holmes (from No. 19) and infielder Jarek Cunningham (No. 20). Checking in as Top 20 prospects are Polanco (at No. 6), outfielder Barrett Barnes (No. 11), catcher Wyatt Mathisen (No. 15), right-hander Victor Black (No. 17), outfielder Willy Garcia (No. 18) and infielder Brock Holt (No. 19). Barnes (supplemental pick at No. 45 overall) and Mathisen (second round) both came out of June's Draft. Polanco, a 20-year-old Dominican, hit .325 with 16 homers and 85 RBIs in his first season at Class A West Virgina and "is a real bright spot for the organization," Broadway said. "He is so long and lanky [6-foot-4, 170 pounds] it's taken a while for him to grow into his body, but in his first full season under the lights, he excelled, and not only stats-wise, but how he handled himself." Garcia, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Tuesday, had a statistically unimpressive season at West Virginia, but Broadway singled him out for having "a really high ceiling. He's just scratching the surface of what he can do. He's got great power, and his other tools make us excited about what he can do." Broadway did take exception to catcher Tony Sanchez's decline in the Pirates' Top 20 from No. 7 to No. 16. The 2009 first-round pick had a statistically-challenging midseason Triple-A introduction, but pitchers who have shuttled from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh have all lauded his maturation as a field leader. "He's made a lot of strides this year," Broadway said. "From an intangibles standpoint, he's grown up and taken control of a pitching staff and made great strides in game-calling -- things you don't see in a box score. He's moved forward tremendously, and he's got a future as an everyday catcher."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.