INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time in its 33-year publication history, Baseball America has rated the Pittsburgh Pirates as the top system in overall "organizational talent."
The flagship publication of baseball prospect rankings bestowed its prestigious No. 1 ranking to the Pirates based on the organization's "combination of potential impact talent, depth and big league-ready prospects, plus a strong 2013 draft class." Also citing its annual list of Top 10 Organizational Prospects released in early December, Baseball America further described Pittsburgh's farmhands as some of the best talent in all of the Majors.
"They have several players we felt would contend to be No. 1 in a lot of different organizations," Baseball America editor John Manuel said. "They have several players who fit the profile to be starters on championship-caliber teams. They have more of those than other teams."
Baseball America's announcement comes on the tail-end of a season in which the Pirates leaned on a strong supply of young players as they earned their first postseason berth in over 20 years. Pittsburgh's roster featured seven of Baseball America's 2013 Top 30 Organizational Prospects during its playoff run, and despite the promotion of last year's top prospect Gerrit Cole, the Bucs advanced from the No. 8 ranked system to the top-rated spot.
"The other part that is impressive for me is this (rating) comes after graduating Cole," Manuel said. "Usually teams that graduate players like that fall back in the rankings."
The continual influx of prospects from Pittsburgh has helped field a competitive team in Indianapolis throughout affiliation. Tribe fans have been treated to the development of standouts like Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, and could now potentially see the return of the Bucs top two prospects next season in outfielder Gregory Polanco (No. 1) and right-hander Jameson Taillon (No. 2).
Polanco split the majority of last season between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona before concluding the campaign at the Triple-A level with the Indians. The Pirates No. 1 overall farmhand batted a combined .285 (134-for-470) with 44 extra-base hits, 71 RBI and 38 stolen bases between all three Clubs, and capped off his breakout year with his first career Triple-A hit, stolen base and run scored in the final game of the regular season.
Taillon, the Pirates top pitching prospect, went a combined 5-10 with a 3.73 ERA (61 ER in 147.1 IP) and 143 strikeouts between the Curve and Tribe. The righty received his highly-anticipated Triple-A promotion on Aug. 5 and later picked up his first career Triple-A win with just one earned run through 6.0 innings of work on Aug. 22 at Rochester. Taillon concluded his impressive 2013 campaign with four straight quality starts for Indianapolis.
With a talented pool of prospects (including Polanco and Taillon) leading five of Pittsburgh's Minor League affiliates to postseason play, including the Indianapolis Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington acknowledged that Baseball America's rankings serve to reinforce the team's plan for continued success at all levels of the system.
"We have said all along that maintaining success is harder than achieving it, and sustainability is what we strive for," Huntington said. "Such recognition for having a lot of talent in the system testifies to the success of that approach."