On Wednesday, MLB.com released its Top 100 Prospects, and four Pirates farmhands cracked the list. The prospects that appear are Jameson Taillon (8th), Gerrit Cole (11th), Starling Marte (40th), and Josh Bell (69th).
The first Pirate that appears is Jameson Taillon, coming in at #8. Taillon was selected 2nd overall in the 2010 MLB Draft out of high school. He made 23 starts at Low A West Virginia last season. The Pirates limited his pitch count, so he averaged just four innings per start. Still, Taillon struck out 97 batters while walking 22, finishing with a 3.98 ERA. He’s likely to start the year with High A Bradenton. He still has a long way to go until he reaches Pittsburgh, but he’s certainly looking like a future ace for years to come.
Gerrit Cole, the 1st overall pick in last year’s draft, is the next Pirate to appear on the list. The UCLA product comes in at #11. Although he struggled a bit in college ball last season, he is still a power pitcher that’s expected to rapidly move through the Pirates system. Of the Pirates top pitching prospects, Cole is likely to get to Pittsburgh the quickest. He pitched 15 innings for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, surrendering five earned runs on 10 hits, while striking out 16 and walking four. Since he pitched three seasons at UCLA, Cole is expected to jump over Low A ball and start the year at Bradenton. The Marauders rotation is looking absolutely filthy with both Cole and Taillon, and it could be a preview of the Pirates future.
The next Pirates farmhand that appears is outfielder Starling Marte. Marte had a spectacular 2011 season with Double-A Altoona, leading the league with a .332 batting average. He finished with 178 hits, 91 runs, 38 doubles, and 24 stolen bases. He needs to improve his discipline at the plate, but other than that, he’s looking like a future star. Marte is expected to start at Triple-A Indianapolis. It has also been said that he has a chance to make it to Pittsburgh as a September call-up in 2012.
The fourth and final prospect to appear on the list is outfielder Josh Bell. The Pirates selected Bell in the 2nd round of 2011 Draft and were able to sign him in August. The signing came as a surprise to the baseball world, as Bell told teams that he was going to the University of Texas. He didn’t have time to play in the minors last season, so he’ll likely start the season at Low A West Virginia. Hopefully Bell will develop to his maximum potential in his journey through the minors and can provide an impact in Pittsburgh in a few years.
The Pirates have drastically upgraded their farm system. Not only have they stockpiled these four players, but they’ve also begun to develop guys like Luis Heredia, Robbie Grossman, and Tony Sanchez. Despite criticism of not producing a winning team, Neal Huntington has done a pretty good job. It’s not easy producing a winner in a small market like Pittsburgh, especially after nearly two decades of losing seasons. Many big league free agents aren’t willing to play in Pittsburgh, so the front office has done what they can to turn it around. Although the new CBA will limit spending, the Pirates have effectively used the draft and international signings in recent years. Although criticism will continue to rain down on Neal Huntington and his staff, the future is looking bright in Pittsburgh.