The Pittsburgh Pirates are starting to see results from their long rebuilding plan, and the growth of the farm system is a big reason for these results. Players like Starling Marte, Jeff Locke, Bryan Morris and Jordy Mercer have all played key roles in the Bucs' strong start.
The future of the Pirates farm system continues to look bright, even as key pieces begin to graduate to the major leagues. In particular, the Bucs sport an impressive number of high-ceiling prospects.
Some of these players are much riskier than others, but all have the potential to be future All-Stars.
10. Stetson Allie (1B, West Virginia)
Allie, a former high-ceiling pitching prospect who didn't pan out, has looked tremendous in his first stint as a full-time hitter. He clearly has a long, long way to go, but any prospect with his power potential is somebody to keep an eye on.
9. Wyatt Mathisen (C, West Virginia)
Mathisen has struggled early this season, and Mike Newman of FanGraphs recently noted that he is very raw as a fielder, in particular. But a catching prospect with Mathisen's hitting tools and athleticism is a pretty rare asset.
8. Nick Kingham (SP, Bradenton)
Kingham, the senior statesman of the Neal Huntington "projectable right-hander" club, has all the tools the Pirates seem to seek in their young pitchers. Kingham, is 6'5" and has a strong fastball that he can pitch off of. That, at the age of 21, he has struck out 47 batters in 39 innings for Bradenton is a nice bonus.
7. Tyler Glasnow (SP, West Virginia)
Glasnow is very similar to Kingham, only even younger (19 years old) and taller (6'7"). He has less minor league history, but has also looked very good early in the season, with 33 strikeouts in 25 innings for West Virginia.
6. Gregory Polanco (OF, Bradenton)
The Pirates' top six prospects also have the highest ceilings of anyone in the organization, and Polanco could easily be higher on this list. The 21-year-old outfielder can do it all, and he ends up in this slot by virtue of position and the fact that he is more of a "very good at everything" type than someone with one or two elite skills.
5. Josh Bell (OF, West Virginia)
Bell, who missed most of his first professional season due to a knee injury, is clearly at least one step behind Polanco in his development right now. He is also the Pirate prospect who is most likely to become a perennial 35-40 home run hitter.
4. Luis Heredia (SP, Unassigned)
Heredia remains very far from the majors, as evidenced by the fact that he does not even have a minor league assignment this year. He was also born in 1994. By all accounts, he remains a pitcher with legitimate ace potential as he literally continues to grow.
3. Alen Hanson (SS, Bradenton)
Between Hanson and Polanco, it's hard to tell who is the better prospect (especially given Polanco's hot start to this season). But despite Hanson's flaws, he has the higher ceiling simply by virtue of being a shortstop. If he can stick at the position while maintaining hitting anywhere close to his 2012 performance, he will be one of the best position players in baseball.
2. Jameson Taillon (SP, Altoona)
Taillon, the definitive No. 1b prospect in the Pirates' system, occupies the same position on this list. He has all the tools to be a future ace, and there continues to be no reason to expect much less from him. But he is not the only player in the Bucs' organization who fits that description.
1. Gerrit Cole, (SP, Indianapolis)
It is always a good sign when your top prospect also has the highest ceiling, and the Pirates have a lot to look forward to in Cole. There remains no reason to project anything below excellence for him. Cole should be in Pittsburgh within the next few months, and while there will be growing pains, it is certainly something to look forward to.