Make Way For The King





BEST PLAYER: Alex Presley would have been easy to overlook entering 2010. For one, he is 5-foot-9, and even that listing might be generous. For another, he was coming off a backward-step season in high Class A at age 24 in a system with several center-field options.

By season's end, Presley was in the big leagues. He had dominated at Double-A Altoona by batting .350/.399/.533, then was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis and barely dropped off in batting .300/.357/.471 and being named that team's rookie of the year. His 165 total hits ranked among the top 15 in all of minor league baseball. Overall he hit .320/.373/.494 with 12 home runs between the two levels.

BEST PITCHER: Lefthander Rudy Owens, 22, went 12-6, 2.46 in his first season of Double-A, with 132 strikeouts and 23 walks in 150 innings. He likely would have seen a late-season promotion to Triple-A, but management preferred to have him compete in playoffs with Altoona, which reached the Eastern League finals.

"Rudy met every challenge," farm director Kyle Stark said. "Even when we cut his innings to five or six late in the summer, his response was to shut teams out with eight or nine Ks."

KEEP AN EYE ON: Lefthander Justin Wilson, 22, also performed well for a strong Altoona staff at 11-8, 3.09, with 134 strikeouts and a .215 opponents' average in 143 innings.
He was Fresno State's winning pitcher in the deciding game of the 2008 College World Series. His standing with management grew over this summer, largely because he was able to maintain his command, stuff and strength.

TREASURE TROVE

• The Pirates assigned all three of the pitchers recently signed to big money—top draft picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, and Mexican signee Luis Heredia—to observe affiliates down the stretch, without pitching.

Rinku Singh, a 22-year-old lefthander signed out of India in November 2008—after he won a reality-TV show contest for pitching—was promoted to State College after posting a 2.61 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 20 innings in rookie ball.