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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Jameson Taillon throws a pitch during the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Jameson Taillon throws a pitch during the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Moving forward with our mid-season reviews of our pre-season Top 20 prospect lists, we switch back to the National League with an examination of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Remember, this is the pre-season list. It is not a new list.

This list was originally published December 24th, 2011.

1) Gerrit Cole, RHP, Grade A: 2.55 ERA with 69/21 K/BB in 67 innings for High-A Bradenton, 5.17 ERA with 16/2 K/BB in 16 innings for Double-A Altoona. Still enigmatic, sometimes brilliant, upside remains that of a number one starter.

2) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Grade A-: 4.43 ERA with 75/28 K/BB in 91 innings in High-A, 81 hits. He's pitched better than the ERA indicates, but like Cole, he's erratic and sometimes gets hit harder than he should. Still enormously talented.

3) Josh Bell, OF, Grade B+: Was hitting .274/.288/.403 for Low-A West Virginia with an ugly 2/21 BB/K ratio in 62 at-bats before going down with a knee injury. Obviously we need more data here and there is no need to panic over 15 games, although that BB/K ratio was rather disturbing.

4) Starling Marte, OF, Grade B: Borderline B+. Hitting .285/.346/.499 with 17 doubles, 13 triples, 11 homers, 26 walks, 83 strikeouts in 355 at-bats for Triple-A Indianapolis, 19 steals in 31 attempts. Has shown more power lately, slugging well over .500 in June and July.

5) Robbie Grossman, OF, Grade B: Hitting .258/.369/.401 with 55 walks, 72 strikeouts in 324 at-bats in Double-A. Rebounded after a slow start, .956 OPS in June and .912 in July. Could very well match last year's strong High-A performance when all is said and done.

6) Luis Heredia, RHP, Grade B-: 1.13 ERA with 14/6 K/BB in 24 innings for short-season State College, 20 hits and a 1.70 GO/AO. Small sample but looks great so far, scouting reports very positive. Grade will be much higher entering 2013 barring an August disaster or injury.

7) Kyle McPherson, RHP, Grade B-: 4.40 ERA in five Double-A starts, 23/5 K/BB in 29 innings, 29 hits. Wasn't activated until mid-June due to spring shoulder inflammation.

8) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade B-: 5.63 ERA with 80/27 K/BB in 85 innings in Low-A, 90 hits. Strikeout rate has improved this year but he doesn't have much to show for it. Just 20, still has lots of time.

9) Stetson Allie, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. He was so horrible as a pitcher that they wasted no time converted him to third base, so far hitting .179/.312/.321 with 14 walks but 28 strikeouts in 78 rookie ball at-bats. Good power potential, but very raw. Some scouts are already referring to Allie is a giant bust. It is too soon to conclude that but he's got a lot of work to do.

10) Tony Sanchez, C, Grade C+: .262/.341/.411 combined between Double-A and Triple-A, has thrown out 25% of runners. It's been two years since he last lived up to expectations.

11) Jeff Locke, LHP, Grade C+: 3.07 ERA with 90/26 K/BB in 106 innings in Triple-A, 104 hits. Doesn't have much left to prove at this level.

12) Alex Dickerson, 1B, Grade C+: Hitting .289/.350/.434 with 29 walks, 70 strikeouts in 343 at-bats in High-A. Needs to show more power for this position.

13) Bryan Morris, RHP, Grade C+: 2.57 ERA with 57/12 K/BB in 56 innings, 48 hits allowed, 2.52 GO/AO in Triple-A. I still see him as an effective reliever.

14) Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP, Grade C+: 4.46 ERA with a 29/9 K/BB in 38 innings in Low-A, 42 hits. At least he's pitching after starting season in extended spring training. Throws strikes, but does not dominate and his velocity is not picking up the way scouts hoped it would when he was in high school.

15) Zach Dodson, LHP, Grade C+: 5.36 ERA with 55/32 K/BB in 84 innings for West Virginia, 100 hits. I thought he was a breakthrough candidate but it isn't happening. Live by the high school pitcher, die by the high school pitcher.

16) Rudy Owens, LHP, Grade C+: 3.07 ERA with 81/23 K/BB in 111 innings in Triple-A, 106 hits. Like Locke, he throws strikes and has little left to prove at this level, but needs an opportunity in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

17) Justin Wilson, LHP, Grade C+: 4.06 ERA with 102/48 K/BB in 100 innings for Indianapolis, just 71 hits allowed. When the Pirates need a lefty pitcher, they have intriguing options available.

18) Clay Holmes, RHP, Grade C+: 1.14 ERA with 15/11 K/BB in 24 innings for State College, 12 hits allowed. Needs command refinements, but has upside to be a number three starter (maybe more) if his changeup comes around.

19) Jose Osuna, OF-1B, Grade C+: Hitting .269/.319/.429 with 10 homers, 24 doubles, 24 walks, 58 strikeouts in 338 at-bats for West Virginia. Making jump from rookie ball, age 19, good power potential.

20) Jordy Mercer, SS, Grade C: Hit .287/.357/.421 with 20 walks, 45 strikeouts in 209 at-bats in Triple-A. Now in the majors. I think he can be a good utility player.

There are some disappointments here, particularly with some high school arms that aren't developing as expected, but overall (despite the problem with Mark Appel), it's a good year to be a Pirates fan. The major league club is 10 games over .500, and Gerrit Cole didn't get killed by that line drive. Although the draft failure with Appel and Walker Buehler is disappointing, I do like Barrett Barnes and Wyatt Mathison and those are good additions to the system. Also they drafted "Lance Breedlove." How can you go wrong with a name like that? (the Purdue product has some real sleeper potential as well).

The emergence of two 19-year-old prospects at Low-A West Virginia takes the sting out of some of the failures. Shortstop Alen Hanson has blossomed from rookie ball sleeper into one of the best infield prospects in baseball with a .326/.389/.581 line. He's got rough edges, particularly on defense, but his progress has been remarkable. Outfielder Gregory Polanco hasn't received as much attention as Hanson, but he's hitting .318/.378/.510 with 34 steals in full-season ball at age 20. I like the aggression they've shown in Latin America.