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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Tyler Glasnow, rhp|
|2. Austin Meadows, of|
|3. Josh Bell, of/1b|
|4. Jameson Taillon, rhp|
|5. Harold Ramirez, of|
|6. Reese McGuire, c|
|7. Cole Tucker, ss|
|8. Kevin Newman, ss|
|9. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3b|
|10. Elias Diaz, c|
The Pirates went 98-64 in 2015, finished with the second-best record in the major leagues and qualified for the postseason for a third consecutive year.
On the farm, four of the organization’s seven domestic affiliates made the playoffs.
It was a seemingly a great year for a franchise that not all that long ago endured 20 consecutive losing seasons at the major league level from 1993 to 2012. That remains the record for sustained futility in major North American professional team sports.
Yet the Pirates walked away from 2015 feeling empty. Despite the 98 wins—their most since the 1991 team won the same number—they lost in the National League Wild Card Game for the second straight year, this time to the Cubs and Jake Arrieta, who threw a four-hit shutout.
While the Pirates had a marvelous season, they had the misfortune of playing in the NL Central, which also housed the Cardinals, who had the best record in the majors at 100-62, and the 97-win Cubs, who had the third-best record.
Despite their resurgence, the Pirates have not won a division title since 1992. So the organization’s goal for 2016 is to figure out a way to win the Central outright and avoid the winner-take-all play-in game, which won’t be an easy task with their division rivals also well-positioned for the future (and also more well-heeled).
However, the Pirates will remain competitive with a solid core of players led by star center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who is under contract through 2018 and flanked by a pair of potential stars in left fielder Starling Marte, who is signed through 2021 and right fielder Gregory Polanco, who is under club control through 2020.
Righthander Gerrit Cole has established himself as a No. 1 starter and, though the Scott Boras client will eventually become too expensive for the Pirates, cannot become a free agent until following the 2019 season.
General manager Neal Huntington also continues to show creativity in acquiring talent.
No one knew for sure what to expect when the Pirates signed 28-year-old shortstop Jung Ho Kang, a star in the Korean major league, to a four-year, $11 million contract in January.
However, Kang shined as the first native South Korean position player to make the jump directly from Korea Baseball Organization. He hit .287/.355/.461 with 15 home runs in 126 games while splitting time between third base and shortstop. Unfortunately, the Pirates lost him for the season on Sept. 17, when he suffered a devastating knee injury on a double-play pivot.
The Pirates have also been able to build playoff teams without sacrificing any of their premium prospects in trade. A strong farm system is headlined by righthander Tyler Glasnow and first baseman Josh Bell—who both figure to make their big league debuts in 2016—and 2013 first-round center fielder Austin Meadows, who will begin the season at Double-A Altoona as a 20-year-old.