Any MLB observer could tell you that the Pittsburgh Pirates have advanced far beyond their former doldrums in the realm of player development. What was once a barren minor-league system has blossomed due to increased resources and revamped philosophies.
Prospects are uncertain by definition, but the consensus across the baseball world is that the Bucs are doing things correctly. According to a Monday report, Pittsburgh’s improved methods are about to be recognized by a respected authority on cultivating hardball talent.
Baseball America editor John Manuel confirmed to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review‘s Travis Sawchik that the Pirates will ascend to the top spot in the publication’s annual prospect handbook. The Bucs were ranked seventh in Baseball America‘s evaluations last winter, when 2013 National League Rookie of the Year candidate Gerrit Cole headed Pittsburgh’s prospect pile.
Now, with outfielder Gregory Polanco and pitcher Jameson Taillon atop the Pirates’ considerable collection of minor-league talent, the Pirates have demonstrated just how far they’ve come since general manager Neal Huntington took over in 2007. While current Bucs Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Starling Marte were all acquired under former GM Dave Littlefield, there was little else behind them.
The depth of the Pirates’ organization has improved dramatically in the past few years, as principal owner Bob Nutting has committed to spending more in the draft and a more coherent management strategy has taken hold under Huntington. Last month, Baseball America and MLB.com said Pittsburgh had MLB’s best 2013 draft haul, which added to a system that already included high-end prospects like Nick Kingham, Tyler Glasnow, Alen Hanson, Luis Heredia and Josh Bell.
Pittsburgh is hoping the likes of Polanco and Taillon can contribute to their major-league team in 2014, as the franchise aims to follow up on its first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992. Last year’s Pirates won 94 regular-season games, then advanced past the Reds in the NL wild card game before taking the eventual league champion Cardinals to the limit in the division series.
While the No. 1 ranking from Baseball America is promising, the true test of the Pirates’ development acumen will arrive in the next few years, when the current top prospects will be handed the keys in Pittsburgh – or get traded to supplement future contending teams.