This year's Minor League Best Tools poll from Baseball America had a decidedly black-and-gold feel. Derived from interviews with minor league managers, coaches, and scouts, the poll names the best player in each full-season minor league in a number of different categories. The piece is for subscribers only, but I think it's OK to give a few Pirates-specific results with some commentary.
Starling Marte's name is all over the International League list. He took home the trophies as that league's "Best Hitting Prospect", "Best Defensive OF", and "Most Exciting Player", the three of which sound like a pretty good capsule summary of his skill set. According to a companion piece to the list of winners, which was also published today, the "Most Exciting Player" vote was unanimous, which is a pretty nice testament to Marte's skills. Tim Wood won "Best Reliever", and it'll be interesting to see whether he earns a call-up after the roster expansion. He's not on the 40-man anymore, so someone would need to go in order to make room for him. Fans may also be interested to note that ex-Buc Pedro Ciriaco won the league's award as "Best Defensive 2B".
Moving on to AA, the only Eastern League result of note belongs to the recently traded Robbie Grossman, who earned "Best Strike-Zone Judgment" for his work with the Curve. Former Pirates Andy Barkett and Steve Buechele were honored as the "Best Managerial Prospects" for the Southern and Texas Leagues, respectively. That may only be of interest to me, but it's my post and I'm the guy with a game-worn Barkett jersey in my closet, so I'm going to mention it anyway.
If AA was somewhat barren, A+ offered an embarrassment of riches. Jameson Taillon earned "Best Pitching Prospect" and "Best Breaking Pitch", while Gerrit Cole took home "Best Fastball" in a close vote. It's tough to split the difference between two arms like theirs. Three Marauders also garnered glove awards: Alex Dickerson as "Best Defensive 1B", Gift Ngoepe as "Best Defensive SS", and Mel Rojas Jr. as "Best Defensive OF". The Ngoepe win is particularly encouraging. J.J. Cooper wrote a nice piece about the growth in Ngoepe's all-around game, and in it Cooper notes that Gift also received considerable support for the league's "Most Exciting Player" award. He's made a nice transition from an inspirational story to a legitimate prospect, and he'll certainly earn consideration for the roster this fall.
The results closed out with two awards for members of the Power. Gregory Polanco received "Best Outfield Arm", while someone named 'Alan Hansen' is apparently the league's "Most Exciting Player". Congratulations to all the winners, and to the front office for bringing them into the system. It's a nice change from the way things used to be during the Dark Ages of the early '00s.