By Jason Shetler
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has just released his 2013 preseason Top 100 prospects list. He has four Pirates prospects listed, along with a scouting report for each.
Gerrit Cole (#9): Pitchers who are No.1 overall picks are supposed to have frontline starter potential, and Cole definitely has that. The UCLA product is big and strong with the frame to be a power pitcher who tops a rotation. His fastball is plus plus, up to 98 mph with ease, with a ton of life. His slider is also a plus, a hard breaking ball that gets swings and misses. His curve and changeup, also thrown hard, aren’t quite as good as the fastball-slider combination, but both might be above-average pitches. The only time he gets in trouble is when he leaves pitches up in the zone a bit, but he has the weapons to escape trouble. Cole reached Triple-A in his first full season of pro ball and seeing him in Pittsburgh in 2013 seems completely reasonable to expect.
Jameson Taillon (#15): Pirates fans who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the one-two punch of Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. The big right-hander who came from the Texas high school ranks finished the season in Double-A, with three outstanding starts to finish the year. His fastball is a plus pitch and he’ll touch 96-97 mph with it. His secondary stuff is still developing, but both his breaking ball and offspeed offering have the chance to be above-average offerings. He gained more confidence in his curve as the year went on and he showed better feel for his changeup as well. He’s still growing into his body and tweaking his delivery, leading to some overall command issues, though that shouldn’t be a long-term concern. Another year of experience under his belt might be all he needs to be ready for Pittsburgh.
Alen Hanson (#54): Hanson had put up solid numbers in rookie ball, then surprised some when he made the full-season West Virginia Power out of Spring Training in 2012. All he did there was lead the circuit in total bases while finishing in the top 10 in a host of offensive categories. He makes consistent contact and can drive the ball to all fields and will use an inside-out swing a well. An outstanding bunter, he also has the strength to show occasional home run power. He has very good speed and is still learning how to use it to his benefit on the basepaths. Defensively, he has the range and the hands to stay at shortstop, but his arm has been erratic. He’ll stay at shortstop for now, and more people believe he can stay there than they did before his full-season debut, but some feel he’ll eventually move over to second base.
Gregory Polanco (#65): There were few prospects in all of the Minor Leagues who broke out more than Polanco did in 2012. The speedy center fielder topped the system in stolen bases and finished second in a host of other offensive categories. He has the chance to be a true five-tooler on the field. With a long, lean frame, he’s an aggressive swinger who started to learn the values of plate discipline, making him a much more dangerous hitter. He should hit for average and at least a little power. His plus speed will make him a long-term basestealing threat and an outstanding defensive outfielder.
My assessment: Cole staying in the Top 10 isn’t a shock at all based on his stuff and the year he had in his first pro season. Taillon missing the Top 10 doesn’t surprise me, when you consider that he didn’t have that strong of a 2012 season with Bradenton, but at least he made the Top 15. Hanson not making the Top 50 isn’t a real surprise, despite the outstanding 2012 season he had at the plate. What hurts his stock right now is his below average defense. Polanco’s spot on the list surprises me, when you consider he also had a breakout season like Hanson, but played very good defense at his position, unlike Hanson. So I thought his 2012 would at least make him Top 50 worthy. The one notable who didn’t make the Top 100 was Luis Heredia. I’m really not all that shocked that Heredia didn’t crack the list since he isn’t a dominant pitcher yet, and because he’s yet to pitch full season ball. Overall, I find the list to be pretty accurate for the most part.