With any small market team such as the Pirates, stocking its farm system with quality prospects and developing them into future major league players is key to being able to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox of the world.
I believe the Pirates have done a great job in replenishing their once barren minor league system, but who are their top 5 prospects as we sit here today?
Below, I will give you my top 5 Pirates prospects for 2012.
Number 5: Bryan Morris, right handed starting pitcher
Morris was considered the key acquisition in the 2008 trade that sent Jason Bay to the Boston Red Sox. Since then, Morris has been fast-tracking it to the big leagues, and last year, he was in double A Altoona pitching for the Curve. I don't think Neal Huntington would have acquired Morris if he didn't think he had the talent to lead a Major League staff someday, and to me, it's just a matter of time before Morris is pitching as the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Number 4: Brad Lincoln, right handed starting pitcher
Lincoln was picked fourth overall by Pittsburgh in the 2006 draft, and he's already shown flashes of out-and-out brilliance. He reminds me of a right-handed Tom Glavine, and I think he has the four-pitch stuff of a Kip Wells, only better. The thing I love about Lincoln more than anything, however, is that he hails from the great state of Texas. Many legendary pitchers have come from that state, such as Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, and I believe Lincoln will follow in their footsteps and be a legendary force for the Pirates for years to come.
Number 3: Josh Harrison, third baseman
Harrison made his debut with the Pirates in 2011 and quickly emerged as one of the best young talents in the entire organization. Harrison's WAR was only 0.9 last year, but I believe you can't always quantify a player's WAR based on performance. Sometimes, it's the WAR of a player's heart that counts more than anything, and I believe Harrison showed enough guts, determination, and will to more than triple his WAR in the coming years. I believe he has the intangibles of a Terry Pendleton and will someday lead the team to a pennant. Harrison is your 3rd baseman of the next decade.
Number 2: Chase d'Arnaud, shortstop
I really love what d'arnaud brought to the mix last year after making his debut with the club. Chase has the raw ability to be molded into one of the great shortstops of the next decade. He has the range of a Jack Wilson and the speed of an Andrew Mccutchen. d'arnaud's greatest asset, however, is his pure athleticism, and I believe he can be the Jose Lind of shortstops if allowed time to develop. Chase is a buried treasure worth holding onto, and unless Huntington is simply blown away by an offer, the Pirates would be foolish to trade this man.
Number 1: Gorkys Hernandez, center fielder
After Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, Gorkys was the key acquisition in the Pirates' 2009 trade of Nate Mclouth to the Atlanta Braves. Hernandez has the raw ability to be a 5-tool star in MLB for the next 15 years or so, and I believe he will be the Pirates center fielder of the future. A couple of years ago, Bob Walk said that Jason Heyward of the Braves was one of the best young talents to come around in years. Beings that Hernandez is also a product of the Braves minor league system, it's just a matter of time before we're all saying that about him, too. I believe Gorkys is ready right now. The only thing that's blocking his promotion to the big leagues is a log-jam in the outfield. However, I believe that can be remedied pretty easily. One of the gravest mistakes the front office has made in many years was passing on catcher Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft. If the Pirates can package together, say, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alavrez, and offer them to the Orioles in exchange for Wieters, not only would they have their catcher of the future, but they would clear a path to the big leagues for Gorkys. Beings that Cutch is due to be a free agent in four years, the time to act is now. And, as I said earlier, Josh Harrison is my number three prospect. He's your 3rd baseman for the next decade. No use in keeping Pedro around if you can get something for him. If they have to throw in a Heredia to sweeten the deal for Wieters, that's fine. In Morris and Lincoln, the Pirates already have 40% of their future starting rotation just months away from thriving. Heredia would be expendable. Whatever they have to do in-order to get Wieters back to where he should have been all along is more than worth it as far as I'm concerned.
Ok, there you have it. My Pirates top 5 prospects heading into 2012.
Let's Go Bucs!