Hanson Starred For Pirates In 2012

BEST PLAYER: Shortstop Alen Hanson showed plenty of potential during his two seasons in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He turned that potential into production during his first year of full-season ball, as he became the system's breakout star.

Hanson, 19, hit .313/.385/.537 with 33 doubles, 13 triples, 16 home runs and 34 stolen bases at low Class A West Virginia. He began driving the ball this season, and that newfound ability coupled with his plus-plus speed helped him earn the label of most exciting player in the South Atlantic League.

Hanson, a Dominican Republic native who signed with Pittsburgh in 2009, has rough edges, especially defensively. But the Pirates don't have any shortstop prospects ahead of him and believe he can stay at the position.

BEST PITCHER: Righthander Gerrit Cole went just 8-7 in his first professional season, split between high Class A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, before being promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis for the International League playoffs. However, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft out of UCLA pitched well enough to put himself in consideration for a spot in the major league rotation next spring. Cole, 21, had 129 strikeouts and 44 walks in 126 innings while posting a fine 1.96 ground ball/fly ball ratio.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Outfielder Gregory Polanco was not considered among the organization's top prospects entering this season, after batting .202/.245/.287 and .237/.333/.361 in consecutive seasons in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

However, Polanco took a major step forward this season at West Virginia. The 20-year-old Dominican batted .324/.387/.517 with 16 homers and 39 steals.

South Atlantic League managers voted Polanco, a lefthanded hitter, as the best outfield arm in the league, and he has a chance to develop into a five-tool player. He was part of the reason West Virginia was one of the more prospect-laden teams in the minors this year.


• Bradenton shortstop Gift Ngoepe, trying to become the first South African to play in the major leagues, will participate in the Arizona Fall League along with Altoona righthanders Brandon Cumpton and Tyler Waldron, first baseman Matt Curry and outfielder Adalberto Santos. The Pirates still had two pitching slots to fill.

• The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates won their first league championship by sweeping the Red Sox in the best-of-three championship series. Right fielder Luis Urena hit a three-run home run in a 5-2 victory in the decisive game.