Pirates Top 11 Prospects. Kevin Goldstein Baseball Prospectus

Kevin Goldstein puts together his top eleven Pittsburgh Pirate prospects for 2010. It’s always an excellent read.

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KG was with Rocco on his Extra Innings Show this December.  Here is our story on Goldstein talking Pirates, he was very high on Ronny Cedeno.   Follow Kevin on Twitter here.  [a sample of what you can get from his twitter feed:   'As strange as this might sound, Bryce Harper is the most talented player in the 2010 draft class, and at the same time, the most overrated.']

The 2010  Top 11 Pirate prospects:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
2. Tony Sanchez, C
3. Jose Tabata, OF
Three-Star Prospects
4. Starling Marte, OF
5. Chase D’Arnaud, SS
6. Brad Lincoln, RHP
7. Gorkys Hernandez, OF
8. Colton Cain, LHP
9. Rudy Owens, LHP
10. Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Victor Black, RHP

On Sanchez:  Sanchez is likely less than 200 minor-league games away from the big leagues, possibly much less.

On Lincoln:  While Lincoln’s fastball has above-average velocity, it also has well below-average movement, with one scout classifying the pitch as “straight as an arrow.” He can get inconsistent with his changeup, either overthrowing it and losing movement, or under-throwing it and telegraphing the pitch with slow arm action.

KG’s list from 2009 is here.  Proof that he is really solid on his picks. 

Five-Star Prospects
1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
2. Andrew McCutchen, CF
Four-Star Prospects
3. Jose Tabata, OF
Three-Star Prospects
4. Bryan Morris, RHP
5. Robbie Grossman, CF
6. Quinton Miller, RHP
7. Brad Lincoln, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
8. Neil Walker, 3B
9. Jim Negrych, 2B
10. Brian Friday, SS
11. Donald Veal, LHP

Just Missed: Chase D’Arnaud, SS; Daniel McCutchen, RHP; Jaime Romak, 1B/OF

Ranking Challenges: The moment that he signed (or signed again, depending on how you look at it), Alvarez instantly became the top prospect in the system. Morris’ youth and his performance after Tommy John surgery gives him an advantage over Lincoln, who is coming back from the same procedure, while the two over-slot 2008 draftees fit in between. Walker was a rather easy (albeit uninspiring) choice to follow at number eight, and the number nine through 11 slots could be occupied by any of the next 10 players.

1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Year in Review: The top college player in the country maintained that status despite losing much of the season to a broken hand, and missed an opportunity to make his pro debut due to negotiation shenanigans.
The Good: Scouts are nearly universal in their praise for Alvarez’ offensive skills. He has a very professional approach at the plate, combining excellent bat control with plus-plus power, and projects for many as a number three hitter on a championship-level club. He’s a heady player with good defensive fundamentals, average speed, and a solid arm.
The Bad: Alvarez does have some swing-and-miss in his game, and he’s apt to press in search of power instead of allowing his natural strength work for him. His range at third is no more than average, and some fear that his thick frame will eventually limit him to playing first base. The missed time during this summer’s legal mess did little to dispel those concerns, as he showed up for the fall instructional league significantly out of shape.
Fun Fact: Alvarez’ college nicknames were El Toro (“The Bull”) and El Matatan, which translates loosely as, “the big man.”
Perfect World Projection: A consistent All-Star and an occasional MVP candidate at the hot corner.
Glass Half Empty: Not as valuable at first base, but still a special batsman.

2. Andrew McCutchen, CF

… he made solid progress at Triple-A, but not without creating some questions about his ultimate ceiling.
The Good: McCutchen easily possesses the best overall set of tools in the system. He’s a strong, wiry athlete who showed a much improved approach in 2008, and he has the bat speed and the wrists to hit for average power down the road. His plus-plus speed makes him dangerous both in the field and on the basepaths, and his arm is at least average.
The Bad: While McCutchen has cut his strikeout rate dramatically, it’s come at the expense of his power; after hitting 17 home runs in his full-season debut, he managed only nine at Triple-A. He covers plenty of ground in center, but often needs to compensate with speed to make up for his poor jumps.
Fun Fact: On the rare occasion when McCutchen played in an outfield corner, McCutchen hit just .213 (10-for-47).
Perfect World Projection: He’s not the 30-30 player he was once projected as, but he could become a 20/40 type.
Glass Half Empty: If the power doesn’t come, his on-base skills will make him a good player, but not an impact one.
Path To The Big Leagues: Nate McClouth had a breakout campaign, but he’s a little short in center defensively, so the door is still open.
Timetable: For now, McCutchen is a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but he should get a second-half call-up in anticipation of taking over as a starter in 2010.

3. Jose Tabata, OF
DOB: 8/12/88
2008 Stats: Yankees: .248/.320/.310, .213 EqA at Double-A (79 G); Pirates: .455/.538/1.091 at Rookie-level (4 G); .348/.402/.562, .305 EqA at Double-A (22 G)
Last Year’s Ranking: 4 (Yankees)

Fun Fact: Tabata is from the Venezuelan state of Anzoategui, the center for the country’s oil production. The name is taken from Jose Antonio Anzoategui, a general in the Venezuelan War of Independence of the 1820s.
Perfect World Projection: A consistent high-average hitter with 15-18 home runs and 60 walks per year.
Glass Half Empty: If he intends to stick as an everyday player he’ll need to become a solid .300 hitter. If not, he could end up as more of a bench player.
Path To The Big Leagues: The Pirates have a number of young outfielders in the majors, but Tabata’s ceiling is high enough that they may have to step aside.
Timetable: Still just 20 years old, the Pirates might return him to Double-A, where he’d still be among the league’s youngest players. The hope is that he can dominate and continue to build confidence before moving to Triple-A.

4. Bryan Morris, RHP

Year in Review: This first-round pick made a successful return from Tommy John surgery, and was a key component in the three-way deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.
The Good: Morris became the highest-ceiling pitcher in the system when he was acquired. His velocity is all the way back to its pre-surgery level, with his fastball sitting at 91-94 mph and touching 96. While he limited the use of his curveball upon his return, it’s a plus-power breaking pitch than he can throw for strikes or bury as a chase pitch. Scouts praise his competitiveness and aggressiveness on the mound.
The Bad: Morris’ changeup rates well below his other offerings, though he does show some feel for the pitch. Like many TJ survivors in their first year back, his command came and went throughout the year. While his arm action is fairly clean, the injury background will remain a concern for a few more years.
Perfect World Projection: A solid mid-rotation starter.
Glass Half Empty: If the changeup fails to develop or there are concerns about his workload, he still has enough stuff to become a late-inning reliever.
Path To The Big Leagues: A healthy, full year with the Pirates will help to clarify this.
Timetable: Morris will return to High-A to begin 2009 with hopes of reaching Double-A by the end of the season. Many believe that he could be the best player acquired by the Pirates at the trade deadline, despite being the furthest away.

5. Robbie Grossman, CF

Year in Review: The Pirates shocked the industry by paying an over-slot bonus of $1 million for this sixth-round pick—roughly the money that Grossman was in line for before a disappointing senior year.
The Bad: Grossman fell into some bad habits last spring; a serious case of draft-itis had him trying too hard to impress the scouts, and he began to get away from the strengths in his game. His swing is not especially smooth, leaving some to question his ability to hit for average, and his thick body has many believing that it will be difficult for him to maintain his speed.
Perfect World Projection: He could have a dangerous combination power and speed.
Glass Half Empty: There are too many red flags from last season, and he may never develop as expected.

6. Quinton Miller, RHP
Year in Review: Another indication of the new era in Pittsburgh, Miller fell in the draft and was expected to go to North Carolina, but $900,000 at the deadline convinced him to turn pro.
7. Brad Lincoln, RHP
2008 Stats: 4.65 ERA at Low-A (62-72-6-46), 7.83 DERA; 4.75 ERA at High-A (41.2-42-11-29), 6.87 DERA
Last Year’s Ranking: 5

Year in Review: This 2006 first-round pick returned from Tommy John surgery and was merely adequate at both A-level stops.
The Good: While Lincoln’s velocity is not all the way back yet, his low-90s fastball plays up due to outstanding location and natural sink. His curveball is also a plus offering, and he has a serviceable changeup. He’s an outstanding athlete who fields his position well and who won’t be an automatic out when taking at-bats for a National League team.
The Bad: Lincoln needs to make adjustments in order to see better results from his less powerful arsenal. He throws too many strikes at times, giving hitters far too much to hit in each at-bat, and when he misses with his location, it’s usually up in the zone. Scouts would like to see him pitch inside more often and become more aggressive.
Fun Fact: He’s one of two players in University of Houston history to both hit a home run and earn the win in the same game twice in one season. The other is Woody Williams, who has also pulled off the feat twice in the majors.
Perfect World Projection: Once seen as a potential All-Star, the best hope now for Lincoln is probably as a number four starter.

8. Neil Walker, 3B
Last Year’s Ranking: 3

Year in Review: The former first-rounder led Triple-A Indy in home runs and RBI, but overall his season was a disappointment.
The Good: Walker still possesses an intriguing combination of size and athleticism. He has at least average power from both sides of the plate, and ha made tremendous progress in his second year as a third baseman, showing excellent instincts, soft hands, and a plus-plus arm.
The Bad: Issues with pitch recognition continue to hamper Walker’s development. He’s prone to chasing pitches both low and away, and when he becomes aware of it, he ends up guessing on pitches and freezing up.
Fun Fact: He was at his best with the bases loaded in 2008, going 6-for-13 with a triple, a home run, and 17 RBI.
Perfect World Projection: A solid third baseman with offensive and defensive value.
Glass Half Empty: Those .280 on-base percentages don’t get you very far.
Path To The Big Leagues: For now, Walker is behind Andy LaRoche at third base.
Timetable: He still needs everyday at-bats, so he’ll return to Triple-A to work on refining his approach at the plate.

9. Jim Negrych, 2B
10. Brian Friday, SS
Perfect World Projection: A grinding, everyday player in the mold of David Eckstein.
Glass Half Empty: He may be more of a solid bench player.
Path To The Big Leagues: Once Jack Wilson departs… there is no one currently holding the title of Pittsburgh Shortstop of the Future.
Timetable: Depending on his health and his spring training performance, Friday will either return to Lynchburg or move up to Double-A.

11. Donald Veal, LHP
Last Year’s Ranking: 3 (Cubs)

The Bad: Veal’s mechanics are long, pronounced, and inconsistent, and along with his size they are the primary reasons for his continued control problems. His curveball can flatten out when he gets around on it. A slew of personal issues seem to have taken their toll on Veal, who tends to lose focus; he has often had his effort questioned.
Fun Fact: Of the 19 home runs that Veal gave up in 2008, every one of them was to a right-handed batter; lefties were homerless in 116 at-bats against him.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
2. Andrew McCutchen, CF
3. Andy Laroche, 3B
4. Jose Tabata, OF
5. Bryan Morris, RHP
6. Matt Capps, RHP
7. Robbie Grossman, CF
8. Steven Pearce, OF
9. Brandon Moss, OF
10. Quinton Miller, RHP

The Pirates have some young players, but they don’t have many good young players. Andy LaRoche is an enigma who I refuse to give up on. His stat line looks like that of a Quad-A player, but his skill set— specifically his combination of power and good contact—does not. Matt Capps is a set-up man impersonating a closer, but he’s a very nice reliever who combines good stuff with great command. Pearce and Moss are both guys with ceilings of second-division starters or bench players; I give Pearce the slight edge based on power. Zach Duke would rank 11th on this list; it’s hard to see what he’s capable of right now other than eating up innings and generally getting torched while doing it. And before you ask, yes, I’m writing off Craig Hansen, and for some reason, I agree with the Pirates in Evan Meek being a bit of a sleeper.

Summary: The new administration in Pittsburgh inherited a mess, but they addressed it with the most aggressive draft in franchise history. There was nowhere to go but up, and things definitely seem to be heading in that direction.

Tags: Kevin Goldstein Top 11 Pirates Prospects

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