2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.

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1. Gerrit Cole, rhp
2. Jameson Taillon, rhp
3. Luis Heredia, rhp
4. Gregory Polanco, of
5. Alen Hanson, ss
6. Josh Bell, of
7. Kyle McPherson, rhp
8. Justin Wilson, lhp
9. Barrett Barnes, of
10. Clay Holmes, rhp
Best Hitter for Average Gregory Polanco
Best Power Hitter Josh Bell
Best Strike Zone Discipline Clint Robinson
Fastest Baserunner Harold Ramirez
Best Athlete Gregory Polanco
Best Fastball Gerrit Cole
Best Curveball Jameson Taillon
Best Slider Gerrit Cole
Best Changeup Nate Baker
Best Control Kyle McPherson
Best Defensive Catcher Tony Sanchez
Best Defensive Infielder Gift Ngoepe
Best Infield Arm Kirk Singer
Best Defensive OF Gregory Polanco
Best Outfield Arm Willy Garcia
Catcher Russell Martin
First Base Alex Dickerson
Second Base Neil Walker
Third Base Pedro Alvarez
Shortstop Alen Hanson
Left Field Josh Bell
Center Field Andrew McCutchen
Right Field Gregory Polanco
No. 1 Starter Gerrit Cole
No. 2 Starter Jameson Taillon
No. 3 Starter Luis Heredia
No. 4 Starter James McDonald
No. 5 Starter Kyle McPherson
Closer Justin Wilson
Year Player, Pos 2012 Org
2003 John Van Benschoten, rhp Out of baseball
2004 John Van Benschoten, rhp Out of baseball
2005 Zach Duke, lhp Nationals
2006 Neil Walker, c Pirates
2007 Andrew McCutchen, of Pirates
2008 Andrew McCutchen, of Pirates
2009 Pedro Alvarez, 3b Pirates
2010 Pedro Alvarez, 3b Pirates
2011 Jameson Taillon, rhp Pirates
2012 Gerrit Cole, rhp Pirates
Year Player, Pos 2012 Org
2003 Paul Maholm, LHP Braves
2004 Neil Walker, C Pirates
2005 Andrew McCutchen, OF Pirates
2006 Brad Lincoln, RHP Blue Jays
2007 Daniel Moskos, LHP White Sox
2008 Pedro Alvarez, 3B Pirates
2009 Tony Sanchez, C Pirates
2010 Jameson Taillon, RHP Pirates
2011 Gerrit Cole, RHP Pirates
2012 *Mark Appel, RHP Stanford
Gerrit Cole, 2011
Jameson Taillon, 2010
Pedro Alvarez, 2008
Josh Bell, 2011
Bryan Bullington, 2002
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Pittsburgh Pirates

Halfway through the 2012 season, things were finally looking up for the Pirates. They went into the all-star break in first place in the National League Central and 11 games above .500, and it finally appeared that the longest streak of futility in North American professional sports history would end.

Little went right after that, however.

Pittsburgh beat the Diamondbacks on Aug. 8 to improve to 63-47 and peak at 16 games above .500. But it went just 16-36 the rest of the way to finish at 79-83, its 20th straight losing season. It was a second straight collapse for the Pirates, who have gone a combined 38-77 during the final two months of the last two seasons.

The news wasn't any better on the scouting and player-development fronts, where the organization says it must be strong to be successful. In the draft, Pittsburgh gambled on Stanford righthander Mark Appel, a candidate for the No. 1 pick who slid because of questions about his asking price.

The Pirates took Appel at No. 8 without gauging exactly what his price tag would be. They offered $3.8 million—the most they could without losing future first-round picks under the new draft rules—but never came close to signing him. Pittsburgh will get the ninth overall pick this year as compensation, but the failure to sign Appel was a big hit to the 2012 draft class.

The organization also found itself scorned for its player-development approach. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Yahoo! Sports ran a series of articles revealing that the Pirates were using Navy SEAL training techniques for players during extended spring training and instructional league. Most disturbing were reports that two of their best prospects, righthander Jameson Taillon (knee) and outfielder Gregory Polanco (ankle), sustained minor injuries while participating in the drills.

An e-mail from assistant GM Kyle Stark to members of Pittsburgh's player-development staff also got leaked to the media, featuring statements that could generously be called unconventional. In it, Stark said he wanted to develop players who had the creativity of hippies and the brotherhood of Hell's Angels, and he concluded the e-mail with the phrase, "Hoka Hey," a battle cry used by Sitting Bull. While the spirit of the statement is that if you give a complete effort you can be satisfied no matter the outcome, the literal translation of the phrase is, "It's a good day to die."

The collapse and controversy prompted usually reclusive Pirates owner Bob Nutting to conduct his own inquiry into the state of the baseball operation after the season.

In the end, he decided the team was on the right course and kept the staff in place, though he ordered Stark's military-style training methods to stop.

The news in the minor leagues wasn't all bad, however. Blue-chip pitching prospects Gerrit Cole, Taillon and Luis Heredia took steps forward in their development, while Polanco and shortstop Alen Hanson had breakout seasons in low Class A. The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team won its first-ever league title in its 42nd year of existence after going 36-24, and Triple-A Indianapolis captured a division title and had the International League's best record at 89-55.

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