Holy cow, can you stand the excitement? All 7 of you? The Interwebs' most influential list of Top 30 prospects is ready to conclude. Ages are in parentheses, as of July 1, 2013, with their presumed starting levels.
#5. Gregory Polanco, OF (21), A+ -- I could have easily switched Polanco into the 4 spot with Alen Hanson at 5. Polanco is a pure CF, while Hanson is questionable to stay at SS. But Polanco is a year older than Hanson and Hanson is still at SS right now. Polanco's .325/.388/.522 (910 OPS) year was fantastic and came out of nowhere (left field, if you will). His tantalizing 16 HR's and 40 SB's make you daydream about him manning the OF with Marte and McCutchen at the same time. If Polanco can have a season 90% as good in 2013 at High A, there's a chance he could jump up to the top spot next year.
#4. Alen Hanson, SS (20), A+ -- Hanson teamed up with Polanco in 2012 to form one of the most exciting breakout duos in all of Minor League Baseball. Hanson has a touch more pedigree, plays a premium position, and is a year younger than Polanco. But questions remain about his ability to remain at SS, due to his footwork being sub-par. Hanson's slash line of .309/.381/.528 (909 OPS) was virtually identical to Polanco's this year, with his 16 HR/35 SB's even more drool-worthy potentially from the SS position. The Pirates are starved for a SS prospect so Hanson in 2013 will be closely scrutinized.
#3. Luis Heredia, RHP (18), A -- Welcome to the "Potential Future Ace" portion of the list! Luis Heredia is a gigantor Mexican import that is slowly but steadily making his way through the system. In 2012, Heredia pitched at short-season State College and threw 66 innings, allowing only 53 hits while walking 23 and striking out 40. The walks are a touch concerning, but his 92-95 mph fastball is not. Coupled with a nice changeup already and a coming-along curveball, Heredia may have the most overall potential of the top 3 pitchers. Especially since 2013 will be the equivalent of his freshman year in college due to his August birthday.
#2. Jameson Taillon, RHP (21), AA -- It must be a real drag to be 20 years old and people think that you're a disappointment because instead of being "man, this guy is doing really well" they think you should be "MAN, THIS GUY IS AWESOME!!%!^^&!". That's the predicament that Taillon finds himself in after being the 2nd overall pick in 2010 -- behind Bryce Harper and in front of Manny Machado. Taillon had a great 2012 with 142 innings, 120 hits, 38 walks, and 116 strikeouts. Taillon's 6'-6" frame generates easy 96-98 mph fastballs and a curveball that is the best in the Pirates' system -- including the majors. His changeup is average at best at this point. Taillon also needs to keep the ball down in the zone and stay within himself while pitching. Ultimately, I think Taillon will be more of a high-end #2 starter than a true #1 ace.
#1. Gerrit Cole, RHP (22), AAA -- Ta da! Not much suspense in this one. Cole is on track to be a bonafide ace, #1, top of the rotation stalwart, staff leader. His 6'-4" frame powered his 98-100 mph fastball, 90 mph slider (a speed most ML pitchers use as their fastball), and plus changeup to 132 innings, 113 hits allowed, 45 walks, and 136 strikeouts. Cole just has to not try to throw the ball through the backstop every pitch and control his emotions more to avoid big innings. He'll get a tuneup at Indy until probably July 1st. But after that, look out....the Pirates will have their first true ace since...ever?
Can't wait for the minors to start up in April so I can see how right/foolish I've been with these picks.