The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in baseball. At least right now, as I’m typing this, they do. The Bucs are an exciting big league club composed with a seemingly perfect balance of youthful talent and veteran savvy, and they have a legitimate chance at a pennant this year. But if we’re looking ahead to 2014, 2015, and beyond, Pittsburgh has a chance to be frighteningly good. Their system has already graduated top-shelf prospects like Starling Marte and Gerrit Cole, and there’s plenty more on the way. Gregory Polanco — currently at Double-A — is one of the brightest outfield prospects in the game, ranked #10 on my Mid-Season Top 50 Fantasy Baseball Prospects list. One spot ahead of Polanco on that list is the 6-foot-6 RHP, Jameson Taillon. Taillon’s projectable frame and elite stuff have him profiling as a top-of-the-rotation arm, and there are plenty folks around baseball who like his upside just as much as Gerrit Cole’s. The 21-year-old has showed some inconsistency this season at Double-A Altoona (3.67 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), but the Pirates, holding to their development plan, have promoted him to Triple-A. He looks to be exactly one year behind Cole, so it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing Taillon with the big club next summer.
Corey Seager | SS, Dodgers – After drilling 4 homers in his last 6 games, the Dodgers promoted 2012 first rounder Corey Seager (brother of Kyle) to High-A Rancho Cucamonga. The 19-year-old came in at #43 on my mid-season list, but he’s trending upward.
Danny Salazar | RHP, Indians – Salazar is pitching as if he’s eager to return to a rotation role in Cleveland. His last two outings have been quite impressive: 10 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 19 K. Yeesh.
Max Stassi | C, Astros – Max Stassi came to the Astros via Oakland in the Jed Lowrie swap back in February. The 22-year-old catcher is hitting .283/.348/.562 on the year at Double-A Corpus Christi, but he’s been on a tear recently, knocking 5 homers in his last 10 games.
Andrew Heaney | LHP, Marlins – Heaney had been virtually unhittable for quite a while at High-A Jupiter, so it seems fitting that the Marlins promoted him to Double-A Jacksonville this week. In his first upper levels start the 22-year-old tossed 6 shutout frames, allowing 3 hits and 1 walk while whiffing 3. Expect to see Heaney in Miami next season.
Jonathan Gray | RHP, Rockies – The 3rd overall pick this past June, Jonathan Gray is now done messing around in rookie ball. The Rockies skipped Gray over Low-A, promoting him straight to High-A Modesto. The sizable leap didn’t seem to faze the University of Oklahoma product — in his first Cali League start, Gray allowed only 2 baserunners through 5 scoreless IP, whiffing 7 along the way.
Jorge Bonifacio | OF, Royals – Bonifacio is one of Minor League Baseball’s least-hyped impact prospects. He possesses one of the best hit tools in the minors and his approach has always been upper levels-advanced. The 20-year-old brother of Emilio was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas earlier this week, but don’t get too excited just yet — the Royals like to take their time with prospects, and I doubt we see Bonifacio in KC before 2015.
Henry Owens | RHP, Red Sox – Owens’s streak of 19+ IP without allowing a hit came to an end earlier this week. The amazing run was promptly rewarded with a promotion to Double-A Portland. Owens is a prospect on the rise, and definitely a guy to keep an eye on for dynasty league purposes.
Austin Hedges | C, Padres – Hedges is without a doubt the most exciting catcher prospect in baseball, but he’s not exactly a high-impact fantasy guy. Still, the Padres promoted Hedges to Double-A earlier in the week, putting him about a year away from surfacing in San Diego. He’s likely not the type of prospect you’ll want to stash as his arrival nears, but many believe that Hedges will eventually become a solid offensive player, much in the same way that Yadier Molina slowly rose to fantasy relevance.
Marcus Stroman | RHP, Blue Jays – 13 more K’s for Stroman in his last start. That makes 24 strikeouts in his last 13 IP at Double-A New Hampshire. No big deal.
Rougned Odor | 2B, Rangers – After hitting .303/.368/.452 through 99 games at High-A Myrtle Beach, Odor has been promoted to Double-A Frisco. He’s gone 4-for-8 with triple in his first two Double-A ballgames. The 19-year-old was mentioned in several trade rumors over the past few weeks, and Rangers fans should be thrilled that he’s still with the organization.
Anthony Ranaudo | RHP, Red Sox – Ranaudo has been one of this year’s breakout prospects, posting a sub-3 ERA and a K/9 at 8.7 through 109 IP at Double-A Portland. He’ll spend the remainder of the MiLB season at Triple-A Pawtucket, after the Red Sox promoted him earlier this week.