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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Pre-Season Prospects in Review

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Gerrit Cole
Gerrit Cole
Justin K. Aller

Here is a look at the Pre-Season 2013 Top 20 Prospect List for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Remember, this is a review of the pre-season list! It is NOT a new list! These are the pre-season grades.

This list was originally published November 24, 2012 and updated January 15, 2013.

1) Gerrit Cole, RHP, Grade A: 2.91 ERA with a 47/28 K/BB in 68 innings in Triple-A; promoted to the major leagues and has performed well so far, 4-3 in seven starts, 3.89 ERA, 25/9 K/BB in 42 innings. I think he will strike out more guys in time, but right now he's keeping the ball around the strike zone and holding his own. Can't complain.

2) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Grade A-: 3.76 ERA with 100/36 K/BB in 105 innings for Double-A Altoona. He's had some ups-and-downs but overall it has been a successful campaign, positioning him for a major league trial sometime in 2014. Still a premium prospect.

3) Alen Hanson, SS, Grade B+: Hitting .278/.342/.427 with 24 steals, 33 walks, 66 strikeouts in 342 at-bats for High-A Bradenton. Has cut down on errors this year, other skills holding steady when context is considered, still just 20.

4) Gregory Polanco, OF, Grade B+: Hit .312/.364/.472 in 67 games in High-A, then .269/.350/.375 in 28 games in Double-A, has combined for 28 steals. I still like him but he's a year away from being ready.

5) Luis Heredia, RHP, Grade B+: Borderline B. 4.79 ERA with 16/14 K/BB in 21 innings for Low-A West Virginia after being activated in late June. Too early to tell much yet, needs to get the walks down obviously.

6) Barrett Barnes, OF, Grade B: Hitting .267/.340/.403 in 43 games in Low-A, with nine steals. Missed most of April and May with a hamstring injury, has hit better since his return including .280/.383/.480 in July. I still like his power/speed potential.

7) Josh Bell, OF, Grade B: Borderline B-: Hitting .282/.344/.462 for West Virginia. Killing lefties (.972 OPS); if he can solve right-handers he'll take a leap forward next year. Still just 20, so there is time. I'd say his stock is holding steady.

8) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. 3.00 ERA with 107/25 K/BB in 108 innings between High-A and Double-A, steady performance at both levels, stock continues to rise as secondary pitches continue to improve. Potential mid-rotation starter and not impossible he could be more than that.

9) Dilson Herrera, 2B, Grade B-: Hitting .266/.327/.414 in Low-A, good defender at second base and has some pop in his bat, solid overall at age 19.

10) Wyatt Mathisen, C, Grade B-: Struggled in Low-A, hitting .185/.256/.210 in 32 games before going on the disabled list after being hit by a pitch in May. On hold until he comes back.

11) Clay Holmes, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: 4.69 ERA with 57/55 K/BB in 86 innings in Low-A, 1.75 GO/AO. Good fastball, still working on command and secondary pitches. Ideally he will take a step forward in '14 like Kingham and Tyler Glasnow did this year.

12) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. 2.43 ERA with 116/46 K/BB in 81 innings in Low-A, only 45 hits allowed. Big, throws hard, secondary pitches coming around, needs to get the walks down but his excellent K/IP and H/IP ratios point to huge upside. Now among the better pitching prospects in baseball.

13) Kyle McPherson, RHP, Grade C+: Made two ineffective starts in Triple-A before going down with elbow problems.

14) Bryan Morris, RHP, Grade C+: Effective major league relief pitcher, 2.61 ERA. 26/18 K/BB in 41 innings, just 26 hits allowed, 2.00 GO/AO. No complaints.

15) Victor Black, RHP, Grade C+: 2.12 ERA, 15 saves for Triple-A Indianapolis, 48/12 K/BB in 34 innings, 19 hits. Strong season as Triple-A closer, throws hard, could be valuable trade chit or late-season reinforcement in his own right.

16) Justin Wilson, LHP, Grade C+: Excellent season in major league bullpen, 1.86 ERA, 46/19 K/BB in 53 innings, just 33 hits. Nice rookie bullpen combo with Morris.

17) Phil Irwin, RHP, Grade C+: Turned some eyes in spring training due to sharp command, made one major league start, but has been injured most of the season.

18) Jose Osuna, 1B, Grade C+: Hitting .237/.299/.315 in High-A. Has stolen 14 bases, but power has disappeared in the Florida State League. Still young at 20 but stock has dropped.

19) Adrian Sampson, RHP, Grade C+: 6.04 ERA with 59/16 K/BB in 98 innings in High-A, incredible 136 hits allowed. Avoids walks, but otherwise very disappointing.

20) Andy Oliver, LHP, Grade C+: 3.97 ERA, 107/91 K/BB in 100 innings for Indianapolis, 77 hits allowed. K/IP and H/IP reflect quality stuff, but the Pirates have had no more success than the Tigers did sharpening his command. Lefties who throw hard stick around for awhile.

21) Jin-De Jhang, C, Grade C+: Hitting .284/.358/.432 for Jamestown in the New York-Penn League. Hitting well in 23-game sample thus far and has thrown out 52% of stealers.

22) Alex Dickerson, OF-1B, Grade C+. Hitting .288/.335/.502 in Double-A. Solid producer, but lack of speed limits him to corner outfield or first base, where his bat may not be quite enough.

OTHERS: Colten Brewer, RHP; Brandon Cumpton, RHP; Matt Curry, 1B; Ivan DeJesus, INF; Zack Dodson, LHP; Elvis Escobar, OF; Tyler Gaffney, OF; Dan Gamache, 2B; Willy Garcia, OF; Max Moroff, 2B; Gift Ngoepe, SS: Stolmy Pimentel, RHP; Robbie Rowland, RHP; Casey Sadler, RHP; Tony Sanchez, C; Jon Sandfort, RHP; Adalberto Santos, OF; Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP; Duke Welker, RHP.

The Pirates are in second place, two games behind the Cardinals, and home-grown players are one of the reasons why. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Jordy Mercer are all farm products, Gerrit Cole has slotted into the rotation, Morris, Wilson, Tony Watson, and Jeff Locke have all filled key roles on the pitching staff.

In the minors, young pitchers like Kingham and Glasnow have joined Taillon as future rotation members. Catcher Tony Sanchez has revived his career in Triple-A. Outfielder Andrew Lambo looks like a prospect again in Double-A; ditto Red Sox discard pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel. Failed pitching prospect Stetson Allie has remade himself into a power-hitting first baseman. A young Honduran lefty named Orlando Castro was having a terrific year as an A-ball strike thrower until a recent stint on the DL. And none of that includes 2013 draftees or international signings.

The bottom line is that the Pirates farm system is doing well, providing material for potential trades down the stretch , and/or more reinforcements for the major league team in the coming years. Much of the talent is on the pitching side, which can be volatile. Keep in mind the adage "Five good pitching prospects=one good pitcher." The point, however, is that the Pirates have these prospects. Many teams don't.