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Pittsburgh Pirates:
1999 Top 10


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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By John Perrotto

1. Chad Hermansen, OF
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 185
Drafted: HS--Henderson, Nev., 1995 (1st round)  Signed by: Roy Smith

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Wes Chamberlain, of
1991 Kurt Miller, rhp
1992 Steve Cooke, lhp
1993 Kevin Young, 1b
1994 Midre Cummings, of
1995 Trey Beamon, of
1996 Jason Kendall, c
1997 Kris Benson, rhp
1998 Kris Benson, rhp
1999 Chad Hermansen, of

Background: Though Hermansen has continually shifted positions, he has been one of the Pirates’ top prospects since being picked 10th overall in the 1995 draft. He was a shortstop in 1995 and 1996, then moved to center field and second base in 1997. Early in ’98, he moved to left field before settling into center field for the entire 1999 season. Once Hermansen was called up to Pittsburgh this September, he landed in yet another spot—right field. Hermansen had 113 minor league home runs, including 60 in two Triple-A seasons, before the age of 22.

Strengths: Hermansen has a good combination of power and speed. He has been able to hit Triple-A pitching hard and seems poised to handle major league pitchers. He is particularly adept at turning on inside fastballs. In his four full minor league seasons, Hermansen has averaged 18 stolen bases. He has the ability to steal even more as he continues to improve his technique and learn pitchers’ pickoff moves. Hermansen is also an intelligent player with an even temperament, which enables him to handle the ups and downs of professional baseball better than most young players.

Weaknesses: Hermansen strikes out a lot and tends to give away at-bats from time to time. Specifically, he must learn to lay off high fastballs and breaking pitches in the dirt. He has struck out at least 121 times in each of his four full professional seasons. Hermansen also is still getting comfortable in the outfield, though he needs to take charge of the fly balls more, especially when he is playing center field.

The Future: On Opening Day 2000, expect Hermansen to be in the Pirates lineup. Where he plays depends on what the Pirates decide to do with Brian Giles. If Giles stays in center field, Hermansen will shift to a corner. If Giles moves, then Hermansen will take over in center. Hermansen has all the makings of a star player with his power and speed. He should easily be a 20-20 player on a consistent basis, maybe even hitting 30-30. If he learns to cut down the strikeouts, he could also emerge as a potential .300 hitter.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Nashville  (AAA)   .270  496  89 134  27   3  32   97  35 119  19
Pittsburgh         .233   60   5  14   3   0   1    1   7  19   2

2. J.J. Davis, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-6  Wt: 230
Drafted: HS--Baldwin Park, Calif., 1997 (1st round)  Signed by: Doug Takaragawa

J.J. Davis

Background: As an amateur, Davis spent more time on the mound and at first base than in the outfield, but he is quickly learning how to play right field. Davis’ 1999 ended early because of elbow surgery, but he is expected to be ready for spring training.

Strengths: Davis is a five-tool player with exceptional power potential, though his swing tends to get long at times. He also has an outstanding arm, but he is still learning to make the over-the-top throw from the outfield.

Weaknesses: Like many burgeoning power hitters, Davis is prone to striking out. He also needs more experience in the outfield. The Pirates are worried that Davis may put on too much weight and lose his above-average speed. Even with that speed, he has stolen just seven bases as a pro.

The Future: Davis, the eighth pick in the 1997 draft, is a talented but raw prospect who is coming off surgery. The Pirates won’t rush him and will likely move him a level a year. That would put him at Class A Salem in 2000 and in Pittsburgh in 2003.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Hickory (A)        .265  317  58  84  26   1  19   65  44  99   2

3. Rico Washington, C/3B
Age: 21  B-T: L-R  Ht: 5-10  Wt: 179
Drafted: HS--Gray, Ga., 1997 (10th round)  Signed by: George Swain

Background: Washington was drafted as a third baseman but was converted to catcher in 1999. He likely will see time at both positions, as well as second base, until the Pirates make a final decision on his future.

Strengths: Washington is a pure line-drive hitter with a smooth stroke. He also has an exceptional eye and will take a walk—a rarity among young Pirates hitters. An above-average third baseman with good range and quick hands, Washington also runs a tick above average.

Weaknesses: He doesn’t have great power—particularly for a third baseman—but is still young enough for it to develop. The Pirates feel he has the athletic ability to catch or play second base, but he has a lot of work to do at either position.

The Future: Washington has the look of a .300 hitter with good on-base percentage at the major league level. He needs at least two more years in the minors to fine-tune those skills.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Hickory (A)        .355  287  70 102  15   1  13   50  48  45   5
Lynchburg (A)      .283  205  31  58   7   0   7   32  30  45   4

4. Humberto Cota, C
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 175
Signed: Mexico, 1997  Signed by: Doug Gassaway (Devil Rays)

Background: Cota first signed with the Braves but was released after having shoulder surgery. The Devil Rays signed him as a free agent and he was ranked as their No. 9 prospect last offseason. The Pirates acquired Cota and major league catcher Joe Oliver in July for righthander Jeff Sparks and outfielder Jose Guillen.

Strengths: Cota handles a pitching staff well, calls a good game and is mobile behind the plate. He doesn’t have a great arm but compensates with a quick release and good accuracy. As a hitter, he has improved and has shown power potential.

Weaknesses: His shoulder will always be a bit of a concern, but it hasn’t bothered him since the Devil Rays signed him. He has no glaring weaknesses.

The Future: If Jason Kendall shows any long-term effects from his dislocated right ankle or prices himself out of the Pirates’ plans, Cota will be waiting in the wings. Kendall’s contract runs out in 2001 and Cota should be ready the next year.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Charleston, SC (A) .280  336  42  94  21   1   9   61  20  51   1
Hickory (A)        .271  133  28  36  11   2   2   20  21  20   3

5. Bobby Bradley, RHP
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 170
Drafted: HS--Wellington, Fla., 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Rob Sidwell

Background: The first draft pick with Mickey White as the scouting director, Bradley received a club-record $2.25 million bonus after waiting a month to sign. Some scouts believe Bradley will be the first high school player from the ’99 draft to make the major leagues.

Strengths: Bradley has been compared to Greg Maddux for his ability to throw four pitches for strikes. His fastball is only in the lower 90s but he compensates with a drop-off-the-table curveball, a tight slider and a developing changeup. Bradley draws raves for his competitiveness and isn’t afraid to come inside with his fastball.

Weaknesses: More than anything, he just needs professional experience. His fastball didn’t have great velocity last season, but Pirates officials say he just wore down from a long year.

The Future: Bradley is a mature pitcher and could move through the organization quickly. He will start the 2000 season at Class A Hickory and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the major league rotation by 2002.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
GCL Pirates (R)   1  1  2.90   6   6   0   0   31  31   4  31

6. Antonio Alvarez, 3B
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 202
Signed: Venezuela, 1995  Signed by: Pablo Cruz

Background: Alvarez spent one season each in the Dominican Summer League and Venezuelan Summer League before debuting in the United States with a nondescript .247-4-29 season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 1998. But he had a breakout year in ’99 as he was MVP in the Pinckney Division of the short-season New York-Penn League.

Strengths: Alvarez has a quick bat with good power potential. He showed he could hit .300 this year and should continue to raise his batting average as he learns to use the whole field. An extremely aggressive player, he had 38 stolen bases despite only average speed.

Weaknesses: Sometimes a little too jumpy at the plate, Alvarez needs to do a better job of recognizing offspeed and breaking pitches. His range is suspect at third base and he likely will have to move to the outfield or first base down the line.

The Future: A virtual unknown until this season, Alvarez will get a chance to prove himself in a full-season league at Hickory in 2000.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Williamsport (A)   .321  196  44  63  14   1   7   45  21  36  38

7. Luis Torres, RHP
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 175
Signed: Venezuela, 1998  Signed by: Jose Luna

Background: Torres dominated the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and made the jump to Hickory by the end of 1999. Just 5-foot-11, he draws comparisons to Indians righthander Bartolo Colon, another short Latin pitcher with a dominating fastball.

Strengths: Torres throws exceptionally hard, his fastball running as high as 98 mph while settling in around 95-96. Woody Huyke, who has been a Rookie league manager for 26 years, claims that Torres could have the best arm he has ever handled. Torres also has a good slider that has the potential to be an outstanding pitch. He also doesn’t get rattled easily and didn’t seem fazed by the advanced competition at Hickory.

Weaknesses: At his size, Torres will always have stamina concerns. At this stage of his career, he isn’t able to carry his velocity late into games. He’ll need to get stronger and develop a changeup if he wants to remain a starter.

The Future: Torres moved quickly in 1999 and handled the jump well. He’ll most likely start off at Hickory in 2000 but could be on the fast track with his heater. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see him in Pittsburgh by 2002.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
GCL Pirates (R)   1  2  1.69   8   8   0   0   43  24   7  33
Hickory (A)       3  2  3.26   7   7   0   0   39  40  20  26

8. Kevin Haverbusch, 3B
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 200
Drafted: Maryland, 1997 (20th round)  Signed by: Steve Fleming

Background: Haverbusch has hit well at each of his minor league stops. Over the past two seasons, though, he has been limited to 188 games because of nagging injuries.

Strengths: Haverbusch has a good bat with the ability to hit for both average and power. He is an outstanding defensive third baseman with a strong arm—his best tool—and good speed.

Weaknesses: Though none of his injuries has been serious enough to require surgery, Haverbusch has missed considerable development time. A quick temper and a tendency to get overly aggressive at the plate may have been what kept him off the club’s 40-man roster this offseason—despite the fact that most in the organization project him as a future major league regular.

The Future: If Haverbusch isn’t taken in the major league Rule 5 draft, he should return to Double-A Altoona to make up for the time he has lost. With Aramis Ramirez ahead on him in the Pirates’ third-base pecking order, Haverbusch may need to change positions.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Altoona (AA)       .286  332  57  95  22   2  14   61  12  60   6

9. Bronson Arroyo, RHP
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-5  Wt: 180
Drafted: HS--Brooksville-Hernando, Fla., 1995 (3rd round)  Signed by: Scott Lovekamp

Background: In Arroyo’s second season in Double-A, he tied for the Eastern League lead in victories. He has been a winner throughout his professional career, compiling a 49-28 record in five minor league seasons.

Strengths: Tall and lanky with a loose arm action, Arroyo has a good frame for a pitcher. He has a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup that are all above-average. He will throw any of his pitches at any point in the count. Arroyo helps himself by being a good hitter, bunter and fielder.

Weaknesses: Arroyo is still a little on the thin side. He needs to fill out his body, partially through maturing and partially through hitting the weights harder. While he has four good pitches, none are exceptional or considered an out pitch.

The Future: Arroyo got roughed up in his first taste of Triple-A, but he will go back to Nashville in 2000. He is a solid prospect who should eventually fit nicely in the middle of a major league rotation.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Altoona (AA)     15  4  3.65  25  25   2   0  153 167  58 100
Nashville (AAA)   0  2 10.38   3   3   0   0   13  22  10  11

10. J.R. House, C/1B
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-2  Wt: 215
Drafted: HS--Ormond Beach, Fla., 1999 (5th round)  Signed by: Rob Sidwell

Background: House was a standout quarterback at Nitro High in West Virginia, setting national single-season records for passing yardage and touchdown passes as a senior in 1998. House played his high school baseball in Florida as his family commuted between the two states.

Strengths: House has a compact swing. He sets up well and puts the barrel of the bat on the ball with consistency. His competitive fire and first-base defense have impressed scouts.

Weaknesses: Despite being a star scholastic quarterback, House has a below-average arm when it comes to baseball. That may cause the Pirates to move him to first base on a permanent basis. House also needs more experience hitting breaking pitches.

The Future: House is already moving quickly and could be in Pittsburgh by 2002. What position he’ll be playing at that point remains to be determined.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
GCL Pirates (R)    .327  113  13  37   9   3   5   23  11  23   1
Williamsport (A)   .300  100  11  30   6   0   1   13   9  21   0
Hickory (A)        .273   11   1   3   0   0   0    0   0   3   0

Rest of the Best:

11. Aron Weston, of
12. Jimmy Anderson, lhp
13. Alex Hernandez, of
14. Tike Redman, of
15. Garrett Long, of/1b

  Copyright 1998-1999 Baseball America. All rights reserved.
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