Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By John Perrotto
1. J.R. House, c
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS--Daytona Beach, Fla., 1999 (5th round). Signed by: Rob Sidwell.
Background: House had a most intriguing high school athletic career. Not only was he a two-sport standout, but he starred in two different states. In the fall, House was a record-setting quarterback in West Virginia at Nitro High. He then would move to Florida in the spring and catch for Seabreeze High in Ormond Beach. Houses father maintained residences in both West Virginia and Florida, and both states had liberal transfer policies. House passed for more than 14,000 yards in his career at Nitro, a national record. He also set a national mark by throwing 10 touchdown passes in Nitros 69-52 win against Morgantown in a 1998 state championship game. Though House had scholarship offers from major college football programs, he opted to sign with the Pirates for a bonus of $250,000. He moved all the way to a full-season Class A league by the end of his first pro summer. House likely would have won the Class A South Atlantic League triple crown in 2000 if he hadnt missed a month with mononucleosis.
Strengths: An outstanding hitter, House has been called a young Mike Piazza by some for his ability to hit for both average and power as a catcher. His catching skills are still raw but he showed improvement in all areas last season. Houses arm is considered just average, though his accuracy was better in 2000. He also showed more mobility behind the plate and a better idea of calling a game.
Weaknesses: House, like most catchers, doesnt run well. Its unlikely he ever will be a Gold Glove catcher. With Jason Kendall signed through 2007 and holding a no-trade clause, Houses future probably doesnt lie behind the plate with the Pirates. He has played first base, and the Pirates might try him at third base or one of the corner outfield spots.
The Future: Though his path at catcher is blocked, House will force his way into the Pirates plans with his batif he sticks to baseball. He talked about resuming his football career after Rich Rodriguez, noted for his passing attacks, replaced Don Nehlen as coach at West Virginia. House also hinted at asking to be traded in the wake of Kendalls contract. The Pirates believe House will stay with baseball and continue on the fast track. Hell open 2001 in Double-A.
2. Bobby Bradley, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSWellington, Fla., 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Rob Sidwell.
Background: The Pirates gave Bradley a club-record $2.25 million signing bonus as their first-round draft pick in 1999. He got off to a great start at Class A Hickory last year in his first full pro season, but sprained a ligament in his pitching elbow in June and missed two months. Bradley did come back late in the season, then threw well in instructional league.
Strengths: Bradley has extraordinary control, shown by his 149-25 strikeout-walk ratio in 114 pro innings. He has two nasty curveballs thrown from different arm angles, a big bender thats his out pitch and one with a tighter break and more velocity. Bradley, who gets high marks for competitiveness, doesnt light up radar guns but his fastball has good life. His changeup continues to improve.
Weaknesses: Bradleys elbow problems are cause for at least mild concern. There are some who believe his reliance on curves might lead to continued arm trouble. The Pirates say they arent worried about Bradley after seeing him back at 100 percent in instructional league.
The Future: While Bradley has adapted quickly to pro ball, the Pirates will try to avoid rushing him. Yet he could be in the majors by the 2002 season and have the chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter.
3. J.J. Davis, of
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 250. Drafted: HSBaldwin Park, Calif., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Doug Takaragawa.
Background: Davis was a standout pitcher and first baseman in high school, compared to Dave Winfield for his two-way ability. The Pirates, though, used their first-round pick in 1997 to draft him as a right fielder.
Strengths: Davis generates great power with his 6-foot-6 frame and a body he started bulking up two years ago through weight training. He also runs well for a big man, especially once he gets his large body in motion. Davis has an above-average arm in right field.
Weaknesses: Davis strikes out a ton, with 396 whiffs in 1,282 pro at-bats. The strikeouts are a result of his struggles to recognize breaking pitches, which he sees frequently. He also made 18 errors last season, many of them careless mistakes on bobbles or ground balls that snuck through his legs.
The Future: Davis is still unpolished but has as much raw ability as anyone in the system. He likely will get his first taste of Double-A this season and it will be instructive to see how he fares against better pitching. While he may take a while to reach the majors, the Pirates are intrigued by the potential payoff of 40 homers a season.
4. Aron Weston, of
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSSolon, Ohio, 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Duane Gustavson.
Background: The 1999 draft, Mickey Whites first as scouting director, yielded potential superstars in House and Bradley. Weston, a superb high school athlete from suburban Cleveland, hasnt gotten the same hype but also could make it big.
Strengths: Weston is a potential five-tool player. His lanky body is reminiscent of a young Darryl Strawberry and he should generate good power as his body fills out. Weston already showed signs of learning to hit for average last year after batting just .218 in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He also has above-average speed, a good grasp of the art of basestealing and fine range in center field.
Weaknesses: Weston lacks experience and physical maturity. He still is learning the finer points of the game, though he draws raves for his intelligence, and needs to get stronger. Westons arm strength and accuracy also need work, as does his plate discipline.
The Future: Weston is a high-ceiling player who adapted well in going from extended spring training to a full-season club last May. Hes a bit of a project and the Pirates will let him develop at his own pace, both physically and mentally.
5. Jose Castillo, ss
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Signed: Venezuela, 1997. Signed by: Jose Luna.
Background: Castillo burst onto the scene in his first taste of a full-season league. He established himself as one of the better prospects in the South Atlantic League by showing plenty of tools.
Strengths: Castillo showed greatly improved power last season, as he more than tripled his GCL homer output from the previous year. He has a cannon arm, easily making throws from deep in the hole at shortstop, while also showing good range.
Weaknesses: Castillo is erratic in the field and tries to force too many plays. He led the minor leagues with 60 errors last year. However, many slick-fielding shortstops in the major leagues had high error totals in Class A, and Castillo committed just 18 miscues in the second half of the season. His strike-zone judgment isnt good and he needs work on his baserunning.
The Future: A shortstop with above-average power is intriguing, though Castillo must gain defensive consistency to make it to the major leagues at that position. If he doesnt show improvement with the glove, he has the arm and power to shift to third base. He likely will move one step at a time, making 2004 his ETA in Pittsburgh.
6. Jack Wilson, ss
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Oxnard (Calif.) JC, 1998 (9th round). Signed by: Chuck Fick (Cardinals).
Background: The Pirates acquired Wilson last July from St. Louis in a trade for lefthander Jason Christiansen. New Pirates skipper Lloyd McClendon, then the clubs hitting coach, knew Wilson from managing him in the California Fall League in 1999 and highly recommended him.
Strengths: Wilson doesnt have eye-popping tools, but his total package makes him an above-average shortstop. He has solid range, a good arm and soft hands. What makes Wilson stand out are his great instincts and knowledge of the game. He also will take a walk while being a good bat handler and bunter.
Weaknesses: Wilson has no glaring weaknesses. He has only moderate pop in his bat and doesnt look like hell hit for much power in the major leagues. He also is only an average runner, making it doubtful hell steal many bases.
The Future: The Pirates have Pat Meares signed through 2003 but would like to upgrade defensively. Wilson could be their answer by 2002 if he continues to improve in Triple-A this year. In that case, Pittsburgh either could find a taker for Meares or eat his contract.
7. Chris Young, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-10. Wt.: 255. Drafted: Princeton, 2000 (3rd round). Signed by: Mickey White.
Background: Young was an all-Ivy League center at Princeton and appeared to have an NBA future before following his heart to baseball. The Pirates persuaded Young to give up basketball with a $1.65 million signing bonus last August. In between, he starred in the Cape Cod League.
Strengths: Young has outstanding mechanics and coordination for such a big man. Scouts are impressed with how he consistently repeats his delivery, a difficult task for tall pitchers. He also is very graceful and moves well around the mound. Youngs fastball routinely hits 90 mph and has the potential to max out at 95-96 mph because of his large frame.
Weaknesses: Youngs breaking and offspeed pitches need work, which is understandable because he lacks experience. His progress will be slowed this year because hell participate in spring training for only about a week while continuing to take classes at Princeton.
The Future: Comparisons to Randy Johnson are inevitable, and the sky is the limit for Young now that hell concentrate on baseball. He will begin his career in June with short-season Williamsport. The Pirates will give Young plenty of time to get acclimated.
8. Sean Burnett, lhp
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 172. Drafted: HSWellington, Fla., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Rob Sidwell.
Background: Burnett followed in the footsteps of Bobby Bradley, his close friend, as a first-round pick out of Wellington (Fla.) High. Bradley was Pittsburghs first-round choice in 1999 after leading Wellington to the Florida Class 6-A title. Burnett received a $1.65 million signing bonus.
Strengths: Burnett is also like Bradley in that he doesnt have an overpowering fastball but succeeds with outstanding secondary pitches, good command and a great understanding of pitching. Burnett has an advanced changeup for a young pitcher and spots it on the outside corner of the plate, a la Tom Glavine. He also has a fine curveball and plenty of intangibles, with a fierce competitiveness and great poise.
Weaknesses: Burnetts fastball tops out at 87-88 mph, below average in an era when seemingly everyone throws 90-plus. Other than that, he only lacks professional experience.
The Future: The Pirates envision Bradley and Burnett forming a dynamic righty-lefty duo at the top of their rotation. Burnett likely will start off with Hickory this season, putting him on pace to get the major leagues in 2005. He has the potential to get there sooner.
9. John Grabow, lhp
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSSan Gabriel, Calif., 1997 (3rd round). Signed by: Doug Takaragawa.
Background: The Pirates love lefthanders and have been infatuated with Grabow since making him a third-round draft choice in 1997. He led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with seven losses in 1997 and had a 5.78 ERA at Class A Augusta in 1998, but they didnt stop believing in him.
Strengths: Grabow throws harder than the average lefty, as his fastball routinely reaches 91-92 mph and makes him a strikeout pitcher. He also has a curveball, which he sometimes struggles to control, and an above-average changeup that could become an out pitch. He doesnt back down to hitters or rattle easily.
Weaknesses: Grabows control regressed last season at Double-A Altoona after he issued just 32 walks in 156 innings at Hickory in 1999. Making the jump past high Class A had something to do with it, as he had a harder time getting less experienced hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone, particularly his curve.
The Future: Grabow has made rapid progress through the system and likely will go to Triple-A this year. He could be in the Pittsburgh rotation by 2002, eventually settling in as a No. 3 starter.
10. Ryan Doumit, c
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSMoses Lake, Wash., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: James House.
Background: Doumit was the catcher on the powerful Moses Lake (Wash.) High School team in 1999 that produced a first-round draft pick (B.J. Garbe, Twins) and two second-rounders (Doumit and Jason Cooper, who went to Stanford rather than signing with the Phillies). Doumit, along with J.R. House, was one of two catchers selected by the Pirates in the first five rounds of that draft.
Strengths: A rare switch-hitting catcher, Doumit swings the bat well from both sides of the plate. He has shown the ability to hit for average and flashed better gap power last season. Some of his doubles should turn into home runs as he matures. Doumit can stop a running game with his strong arm, and hes agile behind the plate.
Weaknesses: Like Jason Kendall, Doumit is small for a catcher but has a strong body. He still is learning how to a call a game, something that should come with experience because hes bright.
The Future: Like every other catcher in the organization, Doumit faces the specter of Kendall, whos signed through 2007 with a no-trade clause. Considering Doumit is still three or four years away from the major leagues, he has no need to worry at this point.
Rest of the Best:
11. Luis Torres, rhp
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