Cole among four Bucs prospects in Top 100
Taillon, Hanson, Polanco also ranked in MLB.com's list of developing talent
The list of MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, as revealed on Tuesday night, includes 37 right-handed pitchers, by far the biggest slice of the talent lode.
Among them, Gerrit Cole is fifth and Jameson Taillon sixth. No other team has a comparable representation near the top of the list, furthering the Pirates pair's reputation as the best pitching tandem on the horizon.
In the overall Top 100, Cole ranks No. 9 and Taillon is No. 15.
The Bucs are notably represented among position players, too. Shortstop Alen Hanson is No. 54 and outfielder Gregory Polanco is No. 65.
In a point system devised to rate organizations according to their prospects' placement on the list, the Pirates rank sixth among the 30 Major League clubs.
"It's a reflection of progress being made," said Kyle Stark, Pittsburgh's assistant general manager, "of the quality work all our guys do, from the scouts who find the talent to bring into the organization to the guys who help develop them once they're here.
"External objective opinion is always welcome as confirmation of what you're doing. That ranking is an external evaluation of our system. But, ultimately, our goal isn't to develop a good farm system -- but to develop a championship organization."
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2013.
The "immediate impact" element adds intrigue to Cole's imminent presence in the Bucs' Spring Training camp. Taillon also will be there as a non-roster invitee, but he will be merely given his first experience in a big league camp.
Cole already got that last spring, even before embarking on his first, very successful professional season. Progressing through the Pirates' farm system, the power righty went 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA in Class A, 3-6 with a 2.90 ERA in Double-A and finished off striking out seven in the six innings of his only, victorious, start in Triple-A.
Next stop, Pittsburgh? The Pirates proclaim no chance of that, but even if he doesn't prove to be irresistible in Spring Training, a very good chance exists he'll drop into PNC Park at some point in the coming season.
Having signed out of high school, Taillon has already paid more dues. After a stint as Cole's staffmate in Bradenton, Fla., that was marred by inconsistency, Taillon really turned it on in a late-season shift at Double-A Altoona, winning all three of his starts while allowing three runs in 17 innings with an 18-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
"They continue to work toward making a definite impact in Pittsburgh. [The rankings] confirm how we feel about them," Stark said of Taillon and Cole, the club's top Draft picks in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
In his first full season of organized baseball, Hanson leapfrogged over other Pirates shortstop prospects such as Jordy Mercer and Chase d'Arnaud. In 124 games with Class A West Virginia last season, the 20-year-old Dominican batted .309, with 62 extra-base hits (33 doubles, 13 triples, 16 homers) and compiled an OPS of .909.
Polanco, also a native of the Dominican Republic and a year older, made an indelible mark in West Virginia last season, with 16 homers and 40 steals while batting .325. He produced more in 2012 than he had in his first three Minor League seasons combined.
As such, both Hanson and Polanco can be considered breakthrough prospects on the list. But their most recent performances merely confirmed projections.
"They were getting into the discussion in the middle of last season, so we had good indications they were Top 100 guys," Stark said. "We've always liked them, and they've begun to perform. The rankings reflect the hard work both have put into their developments, and give them more motivation to keep improving."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.