Bob Smizik: Down on the farm (system)

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A look at the Pirates’ top 10 prospects, as rated by to MLB.com:

1. Gregory Polanco, left-handed hitting outfielder, age 22: He has performed spectacularly well at Class AAA Indianapolis and his promotion to the Pirates borders on imminent. His batting line is .350/.411/.548 -- .959 (all stats through Sunday). He is second in the International League in average, slugging and OPS and third in on-base percentage. He leads the league in RBIs (46) and total bases (119). His strikeout rate is low, about 16 percent, and he has 14 stolen bases in 19 attempts. Projected arrival date: This month.

2. Jameson Taillon, RHP, 22: He underwent Tommy John surgery in April and is said to be progressing well in his rehab. Based on the precedent of others, he could be pitching as early as a year from the surgery. First, he will have to show he can handle Class AAA hitters. He was 1-3 with a 3.89 ERA at Indianapolis late last season. Projected arrival date: Next summer

3. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, 20: At 6-feet-8, 220 pounds, he has a tremendous upside with a fastball that can consistently hit in the 95 to 96 mph range. In low Class A last season, batters hit .142 against him. This season, at high Class A Bradenton, that number is .173. His K/9 in 2013 was 13.3. That 2014 number is 10.2. He has control issues. He walked 61 in 111 innings last year. His walk rate this year is 6.1, a bit alarming. Projected arrival date: 2017.

4. Austin Meadows, left-handed hitting outfielder, 19: He has yet to play this season due to a hamstring injury. Projected arrival date: 2019

5. Alen Hanson, switch-hitting shortstop, 21: He did well at high Class A last season -- .281/.339/.444 -- .783 -- but struggled a bit when promoted to Class AA. Those struggles continued for the first month of this season, a .607 OPS. But that number jumped to .804 in May. There are concerns about whether he can handle shortstop on the MLB level. He has 16 errors this season, 32 last. Hanson is projected as a future leadoff batter but 11 walks in 214 at-bats -- a lower rate than Starling Marte has this season -- might indicate otherwise. Projected arrival date: 2016.

6. Josh Bell, switch-hitting outfielder, age 21: After receiving a $5 million bonus as a second-round draft choice in 2011, Bell has progressed well, after a first-season injury, but without the glittering statistics of a Polanco. This is his 2014 batting line: .299/.344/.456 --.800. He is eighth in RBIs in the Florida State League with 33. Only one player in front of him is younger and the others are all a year or two older. He has an excellent 15 percent strikeout rate. Power hasn’t come -- five home runs -- but it should. Projected arrival date: September 2017.

7. Reese McGuire, left-handed hitting catcher, 19: Although he was regarded as the best catcher in last year’s draft, selected 10th, he brings a questionable bat with him. His batting line at low Class A West Virginia is .291/.350/.333 -- .648. That’s not much, but he’s the youngest player on the team, born in 1995 when most of his teammates were born in 1991 and 1992. He has thrown out 50 percent of the runners (20 of 40) who tried to steal. Projected arrival date: 2018.

8. Nick Kingham, RHP, 22: He is 1-6 but with a 2.95 ERA (10th in the Eastern League) and a 1.39 WHIP (25th) at Altoona. Both the ERA and WHIP were slightly better when Kingham finished the 2013 season at Altoona. His K/9 also is down considerably this season -- 8.5 to 6.8. Kingham projects, at best, as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Projected arrival date: 2016.

9. Harold Ramirez, right-handed hitting outfielder, 19: The start of his 2014 season was delayed by injury. In 97 at-bats, this is his line: .278/.351/.371 -- .722. He has yet to post a season with an OPS of .800 but mostly has been competing against older players. Projected arrival date: 2019.

10. Luis Heredia, RHP, 19: After a disappointing season in low Class A in 2013 -- 3.05 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 37 walks in 65 innings -- Heredia threw one ball in his second start of this season, also at low Class A, and was removed with what has been described as shoulder inflammation. He’s yet to pitch again. In his first start, he gave up four runs in five innings. He received a $2.6 million signing bonus in August, 2010. Arrival date: 2019.

• • •

One of the problems with having a farm system as highly rated as the Pirates’ is people expect a continuing flow of prospects at every position. That’s not likely going to happen anywhere. It’s not happening right now with the Pirates. There is not, for example, anything remotely resembling a successor to Pedro Alvarez. The same at first base where no one in the organization has jumped out as a future major-leaguer.


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