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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Tyler Glasnow, rhp|
|2. Jameson Taillon, rhp|
|3. Austin Meadows, of|
|4. Josh Bell, of/1b|
|5. Reese McGuire, c|
|6. Nick Kingham, rhp|
|7. Alen Hanson, ss/2b|
|8. Cole Tucker, ss|
|9. Mitch Keller, rhp|
|10. Harold Ramirez, of|
General manager Neal Huntington's primary goal since taking over a mess of a franchise late in the 2007 season was to turn the Pirates into perennial contenders.
Qualifying for the postseason in back-to-back years as the first National League wild card means the Pirates have certainly taken a major step toward reaching that status. However, after consecutive playoff appearances following 20 consecutive losing seasons—the longest streak in major North American professional team sports history—the Pirates are hungry for more than being a wild card.
“We need to start winning our division," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose team has finished second to the Cardinals in each of the last two seasons. “It's too risky being in the wild card game, a one-and-done situation. We need to win our division, give ourselves a little room to breathe, give ourselves a better chance of getting to the World Series."
The Pirates haven't been to the World Series since 1979 when they beat the Orioles in seven games. The 35-year Fall Classic drought is the longest in franchise history—there was a 33-year gap between 1927 and '60.
A core group of players should keep the Pirates competitive for the next few years, including a potentially star-studded outfield of center fielder Andrew McCutchen, a perennial MVP candidate, flanked by Starling Marte in left field and Gregory Polanco in right field.
Second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Pedro Alvarez are under club control through 2016, Jordy Mercer emerged as a viable long-term answer at shortstop in 2014 and righthander Gerrit Cole, the top overall pick in the 2011 draft, has the talent, demeanor and smarts to become a No. 1 starter. And the Pirates re-signed free agent lefthander Francisco Liriano for three years.
Despite graduating a number of players to the major leagues in the last two seasons, the Pirates' farm system remains strong and includes a trio of premium pitching prospects in righthanders Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham.
Switch-hitting outfielder Josh Bell had a breakout season in 2014, winning the MVP award in the high Class A Florida State League after finally being healthy for the first time since having knee surgery in 2012. He shifted to first base in instructional league because of the organization's outfield depth that includes Austin Meadows, the first of two first-round picks in 2013, who struggled with a hamstring issue for most of the 2014 season.
Reese McGuire was the other first-rounder in 2013 and he is already considered one of the best defensive catching prospects in the minors.
The Pirates will need to continue to be strong in the areas of scouting and player development. They play in one of the sport's smallest markets and have an owner in Bob Nutting who keeps a close watch on the bottom line.