Tonight on MLB Network they unveiled the top-50 prospect list while giving out numbers 51-100 online and the Pirates were rewarded with four selections. The Bucs had three prospects in the top-50 and then one more player in the 51-100 category to give them four total prospects. On the MLB Networking breakdown they finished with three top-50 prospects which tied for the second most in all of baseball.
The Pirates prospects included Jameson Taillon (8th), Gerrit Cole (11th), Starling Marte (40th) and Josh Bell (69th).
What was pretty interesting is that MLB.com broke down the list into points. They gave 100 points to the number one prospect, 99 points for the number two prospects and so on and then added up all the points for those positions. The Pirates finished third overall with 276 points which trailed only the Mariners and Royals who finished with five and four prospects, respectively.
To put this list in a little more prospective the Pirates only had one prospect in the 2010 top-50 and only one in the 2009 top-50. I think it is pretty easy to say that the Pirates minor league system has come a long way in the past couple of years.
Here is the MLB.com breakdown of the Pirates prospects:
Jameson Taillon - Taillon uses all of his 6-foot-6-inch frame well on the mound, with a good downward plane, which should allow him to keep the ball down in the zone and continue to generate groundouts. He has a plus fastball that touches the upper 90s that he can maintain deeper into starts. His curve is a plus pitch, and his second breaking ball, a slider, can be as unhittable at times. He has a good feel for the changeup and just needs to throw it more to give him four outstanding offerings, all of which he can throw for strikes. With the gloves coming off in 2012, he should be able to become a more complete pitcher.
Gerrit Cole - With the exception of a rough outing in the Rising Stars Game, Cole avoided overthrowing and opening his front side too much, the pitfalls that caused him to be hittable at times during his junior year at UCLA despite plus stuff across the board. He can reach the upper 90s easily with his fastball, even registering some triple digits, and sits at 95-96 mph deep into starts. He throws a hard slider in the upper 80s and even his changeup is a power pitch. All three are plus offerings, and he can throw all for strikes. He was catching too much of the plate at times last year at UCLA, but when he’s repeating his delivery correctly, he keeps things down in the zone, making him even tougher to hit.
Starling Marte - Marte has always shown an ability to hit for average, and he proved he can do it at a higher level, winning the Double-A Eastern League batting title in 2011. Improved plate discipline will help that even more. He started to grow into his power as well and there could be more as he matures. He has the speed to be a successful basestealer but needs to work on cutting down his caught-stealing rate. With more work, he’ll be a good basestealer, and he is an excellent defensive center fielder with more than enough arm to move to a corner if needed.
Josh Bell - Bell was one of the best high-school bats in the 2011 Draft class but was deemed unsignable until the Pirates took a shot and got an above-slot deal done in the second round. He is a legitimate switch-hitter who has plus hit and power tools from both sides of the plate. He has an advanced approach at the plate and will work counts and draw walks along the way. He played center field in high school, but with average speed, he’ll probably move over to a corner spot, where he should be an above-average defender. He has the arm, and certainly the bat, to profile well in right field.
It was also really interesting to note that when they talked about Gerrit Cole they brought up the comparison with his UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer. I think the breakdown of this was great by the analysts on the show when they said that Cole was drafted as more of the prototypical pitcher with the size and the power and while he needs some work they Pirates would be able to get him in the system and work on those things. They talked about the drafting of Bauer was a win now move because he can come up and pitch immediately. The difference between the two according to Jonathan Mayo was that Cole probably has a much higher ceiling that he can attain, but it would take a year to tweak some things, while Bauer is about as close to his ceiling as he is going to get. So while you are looking at Bauer saying that the Pirates could have had that arm in the majors now the Pirates might have, and probably did, looked at it as they didn't need a pitcher for this year (they weren't going to compete) so they could go with prototypical guy with the higher ceiling rather than going for the right now guy with Bauer. You can agree or not with what the Pirates did but that was a really nice explanation from Mayo as to why the Pirates went with Cole over Bauer.
This has to make you feel good as a Pirates fan. I mean for much of my lifetime they have been starved of any sort of tanagble talent in the minor league system. Sure they had Andrew McCutchen and more recently Pedro Alvarez but they have never had more than two or three really top end talented players that people would look at and give any respectability to. They do now. Bash Neal Huntingon and Frank Coonley all you want but you can't deny that they have did wonders with the sytem. Sure it might be a little top heavy but look at what they had when they took the job, Brian Bixler? I mean if you want to bash them that is fine but give them a little bit of credit for what they have done.
When you watch shows like this it gets me pumped up that outside people are really thinking highly of what the Pirates have and while they might not be players that can come up and get the Pirates in the hunt this year but they will hopefully be ready when the Pirates themselves are ready to compete.
I know this might seem like empty enthusiasm but it is a step in the right direction and it gets me excited about baseball season.