By Jason Shetler
Earlier this month, ESPN.com’s Keith Law still had the Pirates as a Top 10 farm system by ranking them eighth best. Every year, a different organization affiliate will have more prospects than others, so which full season Pirates affiliate will have most of that talent to begin 2016?
AAA Indianapolis Indians: The Indianapolis Indians are going to boast without question their best rotation since being affiliated with the Pirates in 2005. The staff will be led by the Bucs #1 prospect Tyler Glasnow. The rest of the rotation will include fellow prospects Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams, who was acquired this offseason from the Miami Marlins. Pirates #3 prospect Josh Bell is going to man first base. Alen Hanson will be mostly at second base, and should play shortstop and third base as well for versatility purposes. Willy Garcia is in right field while Elias Diaz will be behind the plate to catch the very talented Indians pitching staff.
AA Altoona Curve: The Pirates #2 prospect Austin Meadows will be the center fielder in his first full season with Altoona. Rounding out the outfield is going to be Harold Ramirez and Barrett Barnes. 2015 Pirates Minor League Player of the Year Max Moroff will be the second baseman. Behind the plate will be Reese McGuire. From the pitching side, Steven Brault and Cody Dickson are the notables in the Curve rotation.
High A Bradenton Marauders: The Bradenton Marauders will have themselves a pretty solid 1-2 punch in their rotation with Stephen Tarpley and 2015 Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year Yeudy Garcia. The middle of the infield will consist of Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer, the Pirates first and second round draft selections from a year ago. After a breakout campaign last year, Jordan Luplow will be the Marauders third baseman this season.
Low A West Virginia Power: Last year, the Pirates had Cole Tucker play his first full season with the West Virginia Power rather than start out in short season ball during the summer. The same situation should apply to Ke’Bryan Hayes this year after he was very impressive in the Gulf Coast League in 2015. The rotation will feature a couple of high upside arms from the 2014 draft in Mitch Keller and Gage Hinsz.
Entering 2016, most of the Pirates top tier prospects will be at the upper level of the minors with Indianapolis. Altoona and Bradenton are both going to have a decent amount. West Virginia won’t have many to begin the season, but they should have Ke’Bryan Hayes, who’s a Top 10 prospect in the system right now.