LAKELAND, Fla. – Greetings from Florida, folks. Looking forward to bringing you sights, sounds and observations from camp over the next couple of weeks. But to begin, I wanted to share with you what I think are the most important sort of organizational rankings in baseball, those of Under-25 talent.
Not only do such rankings talent into account farm-system talent but they also include Under-25 players on major league rosters. These rankings are important because young players get better, young players are typically in pre-arbitration service periods, and the game is shifting more and more toward younger players as the game further distances itself from the PED era (or so we hope).
Baseball Prospectus released its rankings of Under 25 talent on Monday. The good news? (OK, the really good news for the Pirates). The Pirates rank fourth in baseball:
1. Gerrit Cole (23)
2. Starling Marte (25)
3. Jameson Taillon (22)
4. Gregory Polanco (22)
5. Tyler Glasnow (20)
6. Reese McGuire (19)
7. Josh Bell (21)
8. Nick Kingham (22)
9. Austin Meadows (18)
10. Jose Tabata (25)
Made MLB Debut? 3
Farm System Ranking: 3
Top 10 Prospects: Link
Prospects on the BP 101: 7
Top Prospect: Jameson Taillon
Summary: Pittsburgh’s 2013 playoff run was the culmination of a long rebuilding process driven largely by young talent the franchise signed and developed. While many members of the big-league club have aged out of this list, still qualified are budding stars in Gerrit Cole and Starling Marte, seven top 101 prospects, and starting right fielder Jose Tabata. The club has prospects at every level, from high-minors players ready to debut this year to 2013 picks making their full-season debuts. –Steffan Segui
Tabata’s still only 25? Hard to believe.
The other good news for the Pirates is the Brewers rank 30th and the Reds rank 23rd. These teams might contend in 2014, but these small-market clubs are on the precipice of decline. The bad news is the Cardinals rank 1st and the Cubs are 10th, having greatly improve their system the last several years. Kris Bryant and Javier Baez look legit thus far this spring. What’s clear is there is an awful lot of young talent in the NL Central.
KEY OBSERVATION FROM LAKELAND, Fla.
We know spring training stats are pretty meaningless and so, too, can be batting practice displays. But Pedro Alvarez put on a serious power display today in batting practice at Joker Marchant Stadium. The Tigers’ spring training home has deep dimensions. It’s 340 feet down the lines and 420 feet to center. But Alvarez easily left the park to the opposite field in batting practice multiple times and was completely focused on using the opposite field.
If Alvarez can do a better job of using the whole field, an approach that will perhaps allow him to better combat soft stuff, then perhaps a Chris Davis-like breakout is possible. Alvarez enters with five hits in his last nine at bats. It might not mean anything. But Alvarez has been squaring up everything from lefties and righties alike. The Pirates’ best chance to take a step forward offensively I believe is for Alvarez to take a leap forward.