After compiling the second-best record in the majors in 2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates finished five games below .500 for third place in the NL Central as they snapped a streak of three straight playoff appearances. But turning things around should require more of a retooling rather than a rebuild, with a handful of 25-and-younger players who are making significant big-league contributions or project to in short order.
Outfielder Gregory Polanco found his power stroke in his third major-league season, hitting 22 home runs on his way to a 108 wRC+ despite a balky shoulder and knee that negatively impacted his performance after the All-Star break. On the other side of the ball, right-hander Jameson Taillon was a notable bright spot last season after Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the prior two years, making his major-league debut in June and pitching well across 18 starts.
The Pirates used their first-round pick this year on Will Craig, a first baseman out of Wake Forest who received a $2.25 million bonus and could move quickly on account of his advanced sense for the strike zone. The club selected California prep lefty Nick Lodolo with its supplemental first-round pick, but couldn’t come to terms with the TCU commit and will receive the No. 42 overall pick in this year’s draft as a result. The second- and third-largest bonuses in the Pirates’ draft class went to second-rounder Travis MacGregor and fourth-rounder Braeden Ogle, two high school pitchers with starter traits.
Here’s a brief intro to the series that explains how these lists are made and includes some thoughts about my personal approach to ranking prospects.