Originally posted on WHYGAVS?  |  Last updated 4/9/12

Gerrit Cole makes his first start for the Bradenton Marauders tonight at 6:35, which is one of those moments that you hope we can look back at in five years and say it was meaningful for the Pirates and all of us Pirate fans. I'm not sure who/if anyone will be at the game, in terms of Pirate writers and bloggers and scouting types, but I'll do my best to look for some first-hand accounts and post them up later tonight. 

I haven't written much (or at all) about the minor league affiliates in quite some time, which is partially a function of my own limited time to blog this semester. This seems as good a time as any to mention some of the things that I'm interested in/excited about in the Pirates' system this year.

There are a few obvious waypoints in the system to be keeping an eye on this year: Cole and Taillon in Bradenton, Grossman and Sanchez in Altoona, Marte in Indianapolis. How does Taillon pitch as he's slowly let off of his leash? How does Cole adjust to pro ball? Can Sanchez get back on track? Can Grossman turn all those walks into something a little more robust? Can Marte keep his power and lose his strikeouts? I'm excited about all of these guys (except Sanchez, I guess, who is still talented enough to merit watching), because they're guys that all Pirate fans should be excited about. 

The team that really has me geeked out is West Virginia, though. With the exception of Josh Bell, none of the guys on the team are super-high on anyone's prospect radar right now, but the whole roster is packed to the gills with some of the higher-profile signings made by Rene Gayo and his Latin American scouting squad over the last couple of years. From that group, there's Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, Willy Garcia, Jose Ozuna, and Jodaneli Carvajal all making their full-season debuts with West Virginia this year at or around the age of 20. As a group, they're all very raw and very far from the Majors and it's unlikely that more than one or two of them will turn into real prospects, but it's really exciting to me to see the effort that the Pirates have put into rebuilding their Latin American scouting program start to bear some fruit in the form of real players starting the climb the ladder in America. The Power will be in Greensboro twice this summer and I've already got those weekends circled on my calendar. 

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