The past 3 seasons have seen former Pittsburgh Pirates prospects Starling Marte, Gerrit Cole, and Gregory Polanco graduate to the majors with varying degrees of success. Marte and Cole have already been huge parts of the team’s recent success, and Polanco figures to be a big part of the team’s future. Each of the them received plenty of hype entering the month of June of the years of their respective call-ups, and each was ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 entering those years (Polanco was 10th in 2014, Cole was 7th in 2013, and Marte was 73rd in 2012).
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Needless to say, many Pirates fans are probably expecting that next big-impact prospect to make his presence immediately felt in 2015. The fact of the matter is, however, that the Pirates may not have a prospect that can make that type of impact this year. Instead, they will have a few prospects that will join the big league club and will be looking to be mainstays on the roster for a long time.
Before last year’s Tommy John surgery, #freeTaillon would have been trending in Pittsburgh throughout the month of June and possibly earlier. Now, many fans and analysts alike are down on the flamethrower, as Jameson Taillon dropped to 29th in Baseball America’s 2015 top 100 prospects. However, more and more pitchers are electing to have Tommy John surgery for even minor ligament damage, and some analysts speculate that pitchers could be even better post-surgery (such as this one about Yu Darvish).
Needless to say, many Pirates fans are probably expecting that next big-impact prospect to make his presence immediately felt in 2015
Taillon was slated to start the 2014 seaon in Triple-A Indianapolis, yet the surgery delayed his development by anywhere from a year to a year-and-a-half. At the earliest, Pirates fans can hope to see Taillon in June, but the team will take it slow with him to ensure he has fully recovered. Taillon is still a power pitcher with a fastball that has touched triple digits and a curveball that was rated the best in the Pirates’ system after the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons. If he is able to debut in June or July, expect him to make an impact similar to the one Gerrit Cole made in 2013.
Nick Kingham isn’t as flashy as Taillon, Cole, or potential future ace Tyler Glasnow, but he may have the highest floor out of the bunch. And that’s exactly the kind of pitcher that a team needs in the middle or back end of its rotation. Ranked 75th by MLB.com entering the 2015 season, Kingham has put up a very solid 3.29 ERA across 5 seasons of minor league ball to go along with a 1.18 WHIP, and has a collection of above average pitches and decent command.
Kingham is slated to begin the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, yet with the rate that Pirates’ starting pitchers have gone down the last two seasons, expect to see him early on in 2015. Starting pitching depth is fleeting for the Pirates this season with the loss of Brandon Cumpton to Tommy John surgery, so Kingham may be relied upon as a depth option this upcoming season.
22-year-old Alen Hanson has already been seen this year in spring training, and was batting .444 in 6 games, yet his average isn’t his selling point. He was rated the fastest baserunner in the Pirates system after the 2011 season, and has stolen at least 20 bases every year he’s been with the organization. He showed his speed this spring in the way of 2 stolen bases and is the 93rd best prospect in all of baseball heading into 2015, according to MLB.com.
While the middle infield for the Pirates’ current roster is set with Neil Walker at second base and Jordy Mercer at shortstop, as well as with Jeong-ho Kang and Sean Rodriguez as utility infielders, Hanson may not see major league action until later in the season. But his .289 average and 134 stolen bases during his minor league career will make him valuable as a September call-up if the Pirates need a pinch runner as the games become more meaningful, or as a depth option if someone goes down to injury.
The Pittsburgh Pirates prospects system has talent coming through the pipeline this season, not just in quality but also in quantity. All three of these players will have a noticeable impact on the major league squad in the upcoming season.