*MLB Prospect Watch will be recapping each farm system as a whole, focusing on particular players who did something noteworthy this season. For the next 30 (business) days, we will be featuring one organization per day.
The Pirates farm system doesn't boast the collection of impact talent it once was, partly due to injuries but mainly due to major league graduations. Still, there is more talent on the way that will allow the Pirates to make smart financial decisions at the major league level without sacrificing on-field production.
Biggest Step Forward: Josh Bell, OF: I debated putting Tyler Glasnow here, but to be honest, Glasnow didn't take a step forward. He continued to do what he did last year, just against a better level of competition, leaving us with the same questions about his control. He had a great year, but he didn't take the step forward we were hoping for.
Bell, on the other hand, showed that he might be more than just the power hitter we had thought he would become. In fact, that power still hasn't manifested itself in games just yet, but his ability to put the barrel on the baseball has. He showed off good gap power and hit .335 in the Florida State League with an impressively low strike out rate, warranting a mid-season promotion to Double-A. He showed almost no power there, but he still held his own at the plate despite the aggressive assignment. He's playing first base in the Arizona Fall League this October and could see some time there next season when he returns to Altoona.
Take a Step Back: Jameson Taillon, RHP: Tommy John surgery will make you step back real quick. Nothing about Taillon's talent has changed, though he's developed more into a mid-rotation starter than the ace some thought he could become, but having missed the whole season due to surgery, his development has taken a step back. His command was already below average, and that's typically the last thing to come back from TJ surgery, so it could be a little while before Taillon is ready to contribute in the majors. Still, he'll be just 23 this fall. Plenty of time.
Ready for the Majors: Nick Kingham, RHP: Slow and steady wins the race, and that's going to be how Kingham beats players like Taillon to the majors. There's nothing flashy about what Kingham does on the mound, but he does have the stuff to slide into a rotation spot when the Pirates need him. That could be as soon as next June, which will have given him a full calendar year in Triple-A.
Statistical King: Jhondaniel Medina, RHP: As though a 0.72 ERA on the season wasn't enough to be the statistical king, it should be pointed out that Medina allowed a run in only two appearances, back to back stints in April. He was perfect in his 33 other appearances. That's pitching over your head, and Medina managed to do it all season, but he doesn't project as much more than a potential middle reliever. He throws primarily fastballs, but they do sit between 94-95 mph with cutting action, which makes it a darn good pitch. He needs to throw a lot more strikes and will still never have a season like this one again, but he is an intriguing arm.
Newest Addition: Cole Tucker, SS: Tucker, selected 24th overall this past June, was perhaps the most divisive pick of the first round. Some scouts loved him, others thought it was a reach. It was assumed that it was a below-slot pick until Tucker signed for the full draft slot. He's tall for shortstop and some beleive he'll outgrow the position, but he's there for now. His development will be an important one to watch.