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New No. 1 Keller leads Pirates Top 30 Prospects list

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

There was always the chance the window might close on the Pirates' run of success. That it happened in 2017 might have caught some by surprise.

Pirates Top 30 Prospects list

There was always the chance the window might close on the Pirates' run of success. That it happened in 2017 might have caught some by surprise.

Pirates Top 30 Prospects list

After back-to-back losing seasons, the Pirates' front office decided it was time to hit the reset button and they did it by trading the two biggest names on the big league roster: Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen. While Pirates fans may have lamented their departure, particularly McCutchen's, the deals did bring in four new members of the Top 30 and two other young big leaguers.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

There's a distinct possibility that the team's starting third baseman (Colin Moran), a member of the rotation (Joe Musgrove) and a pair of hard-throwing relievers (Kyle Crick and Michael Feliz) will all come from those two trades.

For the Pirates to turn things around, they will once again have to rely on a farm system that helped them get where they were in the first place. It's not quite as robust as it was, but there are signs that things are headed in the right direction. A healthy 2018 from Austin Meadows would be a huge gain, especially with the Cutch-sized hole in PNC Park's outfield.

New No. 1 prospect Mitch Keller has established himself as one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in baseball and after reaching Double-A in 2017, dominating in the playoffs there and then in the Arizona Fall League, he may not be too far from joining a young rotation in Pittsburgh. There are others ready to contribute if called upon this season, although with slightly less ceiling and potential impact, but this could be an all hands on deck kind of year.

The real optimism lies just a step beyond those at the highest level, even though Altoona did win the Double-A Eastern League title in 2017. Former first-rounders Cole Tucker and Ke'Bryan Hayes should help form a nucleus to make Altoona a very strong contender again, with an eye on Pittsburgh in 2019.

And there's some good stuff brewing at the lower levels. The Pirates had done some of their best drafting going after high-end high school talent, but got away from that with college-heavy Drafts, at least at the top, in 2015 and '16. The organization went back to the prep ranks in 2017 in a big way, taking very interesting high school players -- two pitchers and two hitters -- all of whom landed in the new top 20.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Lolo Sanchez, OF (2017: NR | 2018: 10)
Fall: Yeudy Garcia, RHP (2017: 14 | 2018: NR)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.

Hit: 60 - Austin Meadows
Power: 55 - Oneil Cruz (Conner Uselton)
Run: 60 - Cole Tucker (Meadows, Lolo Sanchez)
Arm: 65 - Uselton
Defense: 60 - Ke'Bryan Hayes
Fastball: 80 - Nick Burdi
Curveball: 55 - Mitch Keller (Shane Baz, Luis Escobar)
Slider: 65 - Burdi
Changeup: 55 - Nick Kingham (Taylor Hearn)
Control: 60 - Keller

How they were built
Draft: 20
International: 3
Trade: 6
Rule 5: 1

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 11
2019: 8
2020: 3
2021: 8

Breakdown by position
1B: 2
2B: 1
3B: 3
SS: 3
OF: 7
RHP: 11
LHP: 3

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates