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The Big 3

It may not be in the next 60 days, but the time is nearly at hand for the Pirates top pitching prospects to make their way to the major leagues.

With A.J. Burnett retired and JA Happ off to Toronto, the Pirates were left filling holes in their starting pitching rotation this offseason. Gerritt Cole and Francisco Liriano are locked in as the one and two, with newly-acquired Jonathan Neise settling in as the No. 3. Lefty Jeff Locke and veteran Juan Nicasio are currently filling the bottom two spots, with Ryan Vogelsong in the bullpen as the swing man.

The development of three players, none of who are with the big club right now, could drastically change the look of the rotation as the season goes along. Highly-touted prospect Tyler Glasnow, former No. 1 pick Jameson Taillon and quickly developing Nick Kingham are the team’s top three pitching prospects, but Taillon and Kingham missed most of the 2015 season, and Glasnow entered the season with just eight starts above Class AA.

The 22-year-old Glasnow was recently ranked by Baseball America as the Pirates’ No. 1 prospect. The 6-8 right-hander has dominated at every level in his minor league career, posting a 2.43 ERA and 0.952 WHIP at Double-A Altoona last summer, striking out 82 in 63 innings before getting promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis.

He finished 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 41 innings at Triple-A.

Glasnow, a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 out of William S. Hart High School in Santa Clarita, CA, had a good outing in his 2016 debut at triple-A Indianapolis, allowing just three hits and one run in five innings. His fastball and curve are considered major league ready right now, but his command needs work. Provided his progress continues, he’ll be in line to join the Pirates’ starting rotation in the middle of the season.

Jameson Taillon was the team’s first-round pick, and the second overall, in 2010.  The 24-year-old was on track to make his major league debut in 2014 but was derailed by Tommy John surgery that April. His rehab suffered a setback last July when he was forced to have hernia surgery. He missed the entire season and has not pitched since 2013.

Taillon made it through Instructional League healthy and should is ready to turn it loose in Bradenton.

“Rehabbing the past two years was tough on Jameson,” said Pirates director of minor league operations Larry Broadway. “Now he can take a deep breath and clear his head. We’re hoping he can come in strong.”

Taillon had no physical issues in spring training, appearing in two Grapefruit League games. He allowed six hits and two runs in four innings of work and will make his 2016 triple-A debut later this month.

Nick Kingham entered 2015 in a similar spot as Glasnow this year and Taillon two seasons ago: seemingly ready to make his major league debut around mid-season.

The team’s fourth-round pick in 2010, Kingham had a strong 2014 as he made the jump from Altoona to Indianapolis, posting a 5-4 record, 3.38 ERA and 1.102 WHIP at Triple-A.

After making six starts for Indianapolis last spring, however, Kingham left a game with discomfort in his right elbow. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in May and will be out until at least the second half of the 2016 season. The hope is that Kingham will pitch for Indianapolis later this summer.

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