Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.
Dejan Kovacevic will answer your Pirates questions beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to
Baseball America's chat about the Pirates' top 10 prospects, which were
released on the site today. There also will be a top-30 list for the
This was my first year of writing this for BA, and it was a bear but
also a blast. Looking forward to continuing it in the future, as I've
always had a passion for the prospect aspect of this great game.
Let's get started ...
Ben (Leland Grove): Any early indications on
who the Pirates will likely be going after at #1 in this year's draft?
Is Anthony Rendon their official frontrunner?
The Pirates are playing this close to
the vest, as I'm sure they want to check — as everyone else will —
that Rendon is healthy. Indications now are that Rendon will be ready to
open the season for Rice.
From my own viewpoint, I'd be surprised if the Pirates took someone
Blake (Pittsburgh): I can understand wanting to
take it slow with Taillon's timetable, but what is the Pirates'
rationale for wanting to limit his innings in his first taste of full
season ball? Us Bucs faithful want to see as much of this kid as
I can understand that, Blake. I'm
eager to see him, too. But neither of us is more important than the
kid's long-term development. He's going to be young for the Sally
League, and he has a lot to learn.
JAYPERS (IL): Seeing how you have Allie in the
closer's role on your 2014 lineup card, does this mean you (or the
Pirates) have doubts about him becoming a true SP? If the answer is no,
what does he best project as?
Thought someone might ask about that.
The Pirates are adamant that they will give Allie every chance to be a
starter, as they see him as having top-of-the-rotation potential. So,
that's the default mode. At the same time, the scouts with whom I spoke
will project him only for relief. Hence, the choice.
Dan (Augusta, ME): Jarek Cunningham seemed to
have a somewhat disappointing 2010. How much of that do you think was
due to his recovery from 2009's major injury? Also does he still profile
as a possible starter at either 2B or 3B or is he destined to be a
Cunningham actually is one of my picks
to bounce back big in 2011, as he was coming off a major knee surgery.
He performed well in flashes, and he has promising power for a
middle-infield slot, but I'd say the idea that he can play shortstop is
Morris (NJ): What did scouts have to say about Colton Cain this season? Is he in your 11-20 range?
He had a lower-back issue that cost
him significant time, but the Pirates were delighted with his work ethic
in rehabbing and with his stuff once he returned. Yes, Cain will end up
in 11-20, largely because he's a lefty who still can throw into the
95-96 range (though not yet too consistently).
Ben (Leland Grove): How much has Andrew Lambo's stock fallen since last year? What does he need to prove this season?
Lambo was a very strong candidate for
the top 10, and that surely was bolstered by his faring well in the AFL
while I was researching and writing. No, his stock absolutely has not
fallen. If anything, I'd imagine it's risen, if only because he has been
— by all accounts — a more solid citizen with the Pirates than while
with the Dodgers. I've spoken to Lambo at length about this, and his
view is that this is a turning point for him. We'll see.
Jake (OH): Could you give us a brief rundown of Mel Rojas Jr., and how close he came to the top 10?
He did not come close, but he is a
top-30 guy. Rojas has some tools, but he also is pretty rough at the
plate. There is no standout trait there, which makes him hard to pin
down. He will be something of a project for the Pirates, but they sound
excited about the potential.
Jasen (FLL): How high are you on Heredia? Could he potentially break into the majors as a teenager?
I probably will be higher on Heredia
than most, as I had the chance to go to Mexico just before his signing
and watch him pitch and get to know him and his family. I came away
immensely impressed on all fronts. He is 6 feet 5, still growing,
super-coordinated, was throwing an effortless 92-93 mph at age 15, and
has poise and maturity well beyond his years. I'd be surprised if the
Pirates didn't give him some time in the GCL this year.
Betty (West Palm Beach, FL): What in the world happened to Tim Alderson this past season? Is he still on your overall Top 30 list?
Wow. In a live chat? I'll never be
able to condense an answer like that! Alderson's 2010 was a huge
struggle in every way, except that he showed some mildly encouraging
signs a while after being demoted. Suffice it to say he has a long way
to go to reconstruct his repertoire — fastball included — into
prospect status. No, he is not in the top 30. Not sure he would have
been in the top 35, based on some guys left off.
Frank (Fairfield, CT): Is Dan Moskos still a viable prospect in your opinion?
He's at least technically in the
running for a spot in the bullpen for 2011, though he'll have to fare
way, way better in Class AAA than his yip-fest last summer. Yes, he is
still a prospect, still in the top 30. He did pitch very well for
Altoona as a closer and, even with that max-effort deliver, he still can
bring some heat and a decent slider.
Dave (Altoona): How do the Pirates see Lambo? I
doubt he'll have the bat for 1B, but does he have a shot to be an above
average LF or does he project as more of a quality 4th OF? Thanks.
Lambo will tell them that. At the moment, he looks like a fourth outfielder, but the bat plays and all that.
rjg24 (Internets): Dejan - does the new
Dominican facility give the Pirates the street cred to attract all the
top Latin signees? Who are the young LA breakout stars from the VSL/DSL
coming over this year?
It's a wonderful place — visited it
myself two years ago — but this idea that it's a recruiting tool is not
born out by the facts. It does help, but these players in the Dominican
get signed on sandlots at tryouts across the country, and probably 95
percent of them do so before they ever see the Pirates' place. It's not
close to anything other than other teams' facilities, out past the
airport in Santo Domingo. That said, again, it's important to have it
once the player is signed. You don't want to be the one team with a
rundown facility because word gets out.
scorp632 (VA): Quincy Latimore - can the terrible K/BB rate allow him to succeed this year in AA?
Latimore represented another of my
struggles in this process. He hit 19 home runs, but he played home games
at McKechnie Field, a homer paradise, and he does have the terrible
136/30 rate that you cite. At the same time, man, this kid has his fans
in the Pirates' organization. They like his swing, his makeup, and they
sound confident he can become at least respectable in K-zone discipline.
John (C.R.E.A.M. Ridge): Will Eric Avila jump to WV to start the year? What about Cayonez and Bishop?
The Pirates have not yet made level
assignments, though they have let out a handful for prospects such as
Taillon and the like. Specifically regarding Cayonez, he is a good
candidate for that. Showed promising flashes in GCL last summer,
including that 7-hit doubleheader.
Justin (Chicago): Quinton Miller had an up and
down season in 2010. Does he repeat loA or does he jump up to high A
this season? Is he still a legit prospect?
The Pirates wanted to see health and
innings out of Miller more than anything after he had some arm trouble,
and he at least gave them that. His stature has fallen off a bit, but he
still has the build and the stuff for prospect status.
TNBucs (Tennessee): Does the difference in
scouts opinions about the system's pitching have to do with the
"fastball command" program in the lower levels? It doesn't preclude
flashy K totals the first year or two for a player.
Ten scouts can be watching the same
player and come up with 10 wholly different views, which was part of my
learning experience in the research. I'd hear that one guy had a great
sinker, while someone else thought it was nothing special. No, I don't
think the Pirates' program had much to do with that, especially since
you saw that they allowed sinkerballers Aaron Pribanic and Nate Adcock
to use it.
Travis (San Diego, CA): I heard rumors of Trent
Stevenson throwing upwards of 96mph. Are these true? Also, what is his
projection as he moves along in the system?
I've not heard 96 attached to Stevenson, but he's a big kid who can bring it.
Chris (Pittsburgh): If we play let's pretend
for the 2011 Draft, would Anthony Rendon rank behind Taillon on a
Pirates' Top 10 because of the importance of a true ace on a pitching
staff, or would he rank ahead of Taillon given that he would be more of a
Based on BA naming Rendon its college
player of the year — a first for a player with his level of collegiate
experience — I'd say Rendon is probably something special. Maybe
Taillon's showing in 2011 will influence this otherwise, but I'd say
Rendon would probably be No. 1 in that scenario.
Chris (Pittsburgh): Of the myriad Pirate
prospect injuries in 2010, is the general concensus that they indicate
long-term problems for the players other than lost development time, or
are the considered to be more of the "freak accident" type or injuries?
I'm glad someone asked this, as it
might have been THE story of the year in the Pirates' system. The
Pirates will say that most of the injuries were of the freak variety,
such as high-Class A shortstop Brock Holt getting tangled with a runner
and blowing out his knee. Or Tony Sanchez getting beaned twice. But
there also were pitching/arm injuries, the kind every organization tries
hard to prevent. Too many of those, and red flags get raised.
Bryce (Tampa, FL): Can you give us a couple of sleepers in the org who you think will take off this year?
I already mentioned Cunningham, so let
me add Jeremy Farrell, another of those shut down by a knee injury. He
was batting .298/.369/.487 when he went down after 75 games, and the
Pirates mention him in the same breath as some of their better guys.
Adam (Raleigh, NC): Matt Curry put up some
solid numbers in his debut after a solid career at TCU. Do you see him
as having a chance at being a major league regular or is he more of an
I asked a lot of questions about Curry
because of his numbers but never got too many excited responses. His
power is there, for sure, and he had a .421 OBP, but no one really went
to bat for the kid.
MJ (Valpo): How is Robbie Grossman progressing?
Seems he's got a nice set of tools to offer, but hasn't quite put it all
together yet...is he someone who could bust out this season and become a
Grossman did kind of OK for playing at
high Class A at his age, especially in drawing 66 walks. But he also
had 118 Ks in 470 ABs, and the Pirates were not at all satisfied with
the way he swung through hittable pitches. They see this as a pivotal
year for him to turn that around.
Nick (Snowed In): Where did Exicardo Cayonez
wind up on the Pirates list? He had a decent season, but made the
"Helium watch" and has a lot of potential, what can we expect out of him
for the future?
He was one of those fringe guys for
the top 30, and the Pirates do like his potential, but he still looks
pretty raw. Not sure I agree with "a lot of potential," but there is
Jake (Lockerbee): Any chance Tim Alderson turns
things around and becomes the kind of pitcher the Giants enviosioned
when they selected him #22 overall back in 2007?
That would represent a dramatic — and commendable — transformation from where he is now.
Steve (Boston): Any hope for Gorkys Hernandez
in Pittsburgh? People rave about his defense, but does he have enough to
be a starter in the majors?
They do rave about Hernandez's
defense, to the point that one scout told me he simply glides to the
ball and is under it so effortlessly that you don't think you saw
anything special. He also is terrific in breaking off the bat and has a
good arm. What hurt Hernandez, obviously, was that his season ended just
as he finally seemed to be getting going at the plate. From a tools
standpoint? Yes, he can play in the majors. But I'm told a little
humility will help, too. I know he made a rather rotten impression on
some of the major-leaguers last spring.
Freddie (Steeltown, USA!): Do the Pirates
finally have some pieces in place at the MLB level, and enough elite P
prospects (Taillon, Allie) to make a serious playoff run in say the next
5-7 years? The NL Central is nothing to really write home about, so
can they realistically be competitive in that division once Taillon and
Oh, Freddie, I stopped trying to predict success for the Pirates a long, long time ago.
DH (PA): Given the 2014 projected lineup, what
should the Pirates hope for with the first pick in this June's draft? Is
it better for them if the best player in the country is a great
position player (Rendon) or a great arm (Purke, Cole)?
If they take Rendon, Pedro Alvarez can
move across the diamond to first base, and all the long-term infield is
missing then is a reliable shortstop. You'd be fairly set at catcher
and two of the three outfield spots, too.
Mark (Fargo, ND): Who in the pirates top 30 has the best chance to end up being a closer?
Stetson Allie. But the Pirates also
like Victor Black, who will move into a relief role this year. Black
will be an 11-20 guy on the list.
Pigs (Fargo, ND): Sanchez and Tallion the only guys with a chance to make the top 100?
The BA editors would know that far better than I would. I'd think Allie has a chance, too.
Kevin Joseph (Durham, NC): Congrats on the new
Did young VSL prospects Jose Ozuna, Orlando Castro, and Manuel Moreno
get any consideration for the Top 10? Same question for DSL SS Jodaneli
Carvajal and C Sammy Gonzalez.
Thanks, Kevin, but I'll still be
writing lots of baseball both in my day job and for BA. Of your list
there, Carvajal got the most consideration, with one team official
calling him maybe the most natural shortstop in the system. (That's not
saying all that much, but hey ...) In general, these types of players
need to do something in North America before anyone takes them too
seriously, so keep that in mind, too.
William (Salt Lake City, UT): What 2010 draftee is most likely to make his MLB debut first ?
Taillon has outstanding potential and looks refined enough already that it probably will not take him long.
DH (PA): How likely is it that Alvarez is still playing 3B in 2014?
I'm a little surprised he's playing it
in 2011, to be honest, especially if the Pirates have any serious
design on taking Rendon.
Mel (Eugene, OR): When looking at Rudy Owen's numbers, they grade very well. Where do you think his ceiling is at?
Owens was among the most challenging
players for me to evaluate, as I had to be careful to ask scouts whether
they saw him early in the season or late. For reasons no one seems to
understand, Owens' velocity took a nice jump at midseason, and that made
him look — finally — like something more than the next
pitch-to-contact Zach Duke type. It might just be that Owens had his
innings curtailed, but whatever it was, it was seen internally and
externally as a new level for him.
Craig (Pittsburgh): Do the Pirates have the depth or willingness to trade for MLB talent like the Brewers have done?
Not unless they moved guys among their
top three. It's not a deep system, as you'll see in the top-30 list. In
fact, one of my most powerful impressions from this project was that,
for as comfortable as we all get in hearing some of the same names and
thinking of their potential, the system really is not too deep,
especially in terms of position players. There are possibilities for
Andy (Sarver, PA): Pirate fans don't you think
are being misled on Starling Marte? His plate disipline seems to get
worse with each level. What are your thoughts about him missing so many
Not sure where anyone would be misled
regarding Marte. I know that I've consistently portrayed him as having
significant potential with his tools but also as being plenty raw,
especially in the area of plate discipline. The Pirates are adamant that
he has the ability to address that. On top of that, Marte's move
between levels was accompanied by a hand surgery.
Kyle27 (Vermont): Marte's turning 22, and while
not old, we should have seen some power by now, shouldn't we? 15-20hrs
is average to average-plus power are you still on board with this?
I am, but the removal of the hook of
the hamate bone — the process Marte had done — saps a hitter's power
for several months. Alvarez had the same procedure and now is looking
just fine from the power standpoint. Marte is not seen as some great
power type by anyone, but he should be able to have some.
Jon (Peoria): What do you think of Josh Harrison as a 2b prospect?
With Harrison, we get to the last of
my angst-ridden choices. Given his hitting — so consistent — I wanted
so badly to get him into the top 30, even though he lacks the size,
power, speed or defense that you want to see in a prospect. You'll find
out in the book if I succeeded.
Wilbur Miller (Silver Spring, MD): Taillon over Harper? Do you think maybe the scouts were telling the front office what it wanted to hear?
I don't know, Wilbur. What I do know
is that I was writing months in advance of the draft that the Pirates
didn't like Harper. They sounded like they meant it, but only they can
know whether or not it was manufactured. They still ended up paying
Taillon $6.5 million, so it's not like they got off scot-free.
Fernando (Whitby, On): It really seems the top
10 is heavy in recent draft picks, meanwhile Diego Moreno put up
dominant numbers in A and was named the #16 prospect in the FSL in '10.
Is he not top 10 worthy?
Moreno was close, like Lambo, but he will have to come up with something more than a blazing fastball.
Brendan (Colorado): How would Taillon's pitches rate on the 20-80 scale? What about Allie?
All of that will be in the BA publication, and I really don't want to take that away from the editors.
Matt (NY): how far off is D'Arnaud from pushing
Walker from 2nd or do you see either walker moving to 3rd and Alverez
at 1st or D'Arnaud being a utility player?
We'll take one more after this one.
D'Arnaud's inability to hang onto the shortstop position — Jordy Mercer
bumped him to second in Altoona at midseason — was a concern of mine
in getting him into the top 10, but I'm hearing he still will get
another chance to play there. For now, yes, d'Arnaud looks like a
CA Pirate (Santa Clara): How do you rate the
quality of the top 30 prospects overall? Are all legitimate prospects or
the last ones added just to fill out the list?
Overall, it's better than in years
past. In doing this project, I created a set of index cards for about 50
players, and I had a surprisingly easy time getting to that number. I
can guess that it was much more difficult in years past, such as when
Jamie Romak was No. 7 not that long ago. It's a better system, and it's
deeper. But it's neither great, nor terribly deep in the context of the
industry. ... Thanks for everything today. This was cool.