2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospect With Scouting Reports





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.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have committed to building from within and spending generously on scouting and player development ever since Bob Nutting ousted Kevin McClatchy as the franchise's chairman prior to the 2007 season.

Pittsburgh has spent $47.6 million in the draft during Neal Huntington's four years as general manager, including a major league-record $17 million last year in a haul that included No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole ($8 million) and second-rounder Josh Bell ($5 million), and reportedly drew a rebuke from commissioner Bud Selig at the owners' meetings in August. The Pirates have also been as aggressive as they have been in Latin America—they signed Mexican righthander Luis Heredia for $2.6 million in 2010—since legendary scout Howie Haak became a pioneer in that part of the world in the late 1950s.

However, all of that bonus money has yet to make an impact at the major league level. Pittsburgh's run of consecutive losing seasons now stands at 19, a record for a North American sports franchise, after it surprisingly occupied first place in the National League Central in late July only to lose 43 of its final 62 games. Of the club-record 52 players who saw action for the Pirates last season, just Pedro Alvarez and Chase d'Arnaud were signed as amateurs during the Huntington regime.

Pittsburgh counted on Alvarez as a major building block when they drafted him with the second overall pick in 2008 and gave him a $6.3 million major league contract. Now he's a question mark after batting .191/.272/.289 with four homers in 262 plate appearances last year. D'Arnaud looked overmatched in his big league debut, hitting .217/.242/.287.

The Pirates have used the strategy of exceeding MLB's bonus recommendations in the later rounds to sign pitchers away from solid college commitments. While that has stocked the lower levels of the system with live arms, none is close to being ready to help the major league club. The heavy concentration on pitchers also has left Pittsburgh with few impact hitting prospects beyond Bell, who has a chance to be special but has yet to play in a professional game, and fellow outfielder Starling Marte.

Nutting and club president Frank Coonelly are happy with the progress the organization is making and, to be fair, Huntington stepped into quite a mess when he replaced Dave Littlefield in September 2007. Huntington received a three-year contract extension in September that takes him through the 2014 season with a club option for 2015. Afterward, he did some rearranging in the front office.

Farm director Kyle Stark and scouting director Greg Smith both were promoted to assistant GM. Stark will oversee all elements of medical, physical, mental, personnel and player development at the major and minor league levels, while Smith will be in charge of all elements of the scouting operation at the amateur, professional and international levels.

Tyrone Brooks went from baseball operations director to player personnel director and will now lead the professional and international (non-Latin America) scouting efforts. Area scout Larry Broadway took over as farm director and Joe DelliCarri moves up from assistant scouting director to amateur scouting director and will run Pittsburgh's drafts.

1. Gerrit Cole, RHP Born: Sep 08, 1990 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220
Drafted: UCLA, 2011 (1st round).  Signed by: Rick Allen.
Background: Cole had as good an arm as any pitcher in the 2008 draft, and the Yankees made him the 28th overall pick out of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High, one of just two prep pitchers picked in the first round. Though he grew up as a huge Yankees fan, he never entered into negotiations with the team and instead opted to attend UCLA because he and his parents felt the college experience would help him gain maturity. Cole believes the three years he spent in Westwood did indeed help him grow as a pitcher and a person. He helped the Bruins reach the finals of the 2010 College World Series, ranking third in the nation in strikeouts. Despite dominant stuff, he had just one winning season in three years at UCLA, going 6-8, 3.31 with a 119-24 K-BB ratio in 114 innings last spring. The Pirates made him the No. 1 overall choice in the 2011 draft and gave him a draft-record $8 million bonus at the Aug. 15 signing deadline. An example of how well regarded he is as a person came when one of the first text messages he received after being drafted came from Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees scouting director he had spurned three years earlier. Cole should represent an upgrade on Pittsburgh's checkered history with the No. 1 overall pick: Jeff King (1986), Kris Benson (1996) and Bryan Bullington (2002).

Scouting Report: Cole signed too late to play in the minors but did participate in the Arizona Fall League. He got touched for two home runs and did not make it out of the first inning of the Rising Stars Game, but still lit up radar guns with a fastball that reached as high as 102 mph. That velocity wasn't a fluke because he throws as hard as any starter in pro ball. He usually worked at 93-98 mph at UCLA, with better command when he stayed at the low end of that range. As he gains experience, he could throw harder while doing a better job of locating his fastball. Cole also has a wipeout slider that drops off the table just as it reaches home plate. It's a true swing-and-miss pitch that earns plus-plus grades at times. So too does his changeup, though it's less reliable than his slider. Cole's biggest challenge is to become more consistent with his delivery. Though he has enviable mechanics when he is right, he has spells where he begins flying open with his front shoulder and loses command of his pitches. He also has a tendency to drive too much off his back leg, which causes his front foot to land hard and also affects his ability to put his pitches where he wants. Cole has the athleticism that will allow him to repeat his delivery, and the physical frame and present strength to be a workhorse at the top of a rotation. He's an intelligent young man with the reputation of being extremely coachable.

The Future: Cole is advanced enough to make his pro debut at Double-A Altoona, though the Pirates may send him to high Class A Bradenton until the weather warms up. He could push his way to Triple-A Indianapolis before the end of 2012 and shouldn't need much more than a year in the minors before he can help the Pirates at the major league level. He's one of the few pitching prospects in baseball with legitimate ace potential. In a worst-case scenario, his power repertoire could make him a dominant closer.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play

2. Jameson Taillon, RHP Born: Nov 18, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 225
Drafted: The Woodlands (Texas) HS, 2010 (1st round).  Signed by: Trevor Haley.
Background: The Pirates took Taillon with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft and insist they would have selected him over No. 1 choice Bryce Harper. After signing him for $6.5 million, then the second-highest bonus in draft history, they kept him on a tight leash in his 2011 pro debut. He was removed from each game after five innings or 75 pitches, whichever came first.

Scouting Report: Taillon's size gives him outstanding leverage on his pitches and causes his fastball, which sits at 95-97 mph and reaches 99 mph, to get on hitters quickly. He also has a 12-to-6 curveball that can be unhittable as well as a slider that's both his third-best pitch and a plus offering. Taillon's changeup is still a work in progress and he didn't get a chance to work on it much in 2011. Pittsburgh had him throw approximately 80 percent fastballs to gain better command of his heater to both sides of the plate. He gets high marks for his competiveness and intelligence.

The Future: Taillon will begin 2012 in high Class A, and the Pirates will allow him to work deeper into games and use his secondary pitches more often. They won't rush him, but he's talented enough to knock on the door to Pittburgh late in 2013 and eventually become a No. 1 starter.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 West Virginia (LoA) 2 3 3.98 23 23 0 93 89 45 41 9 22 97 .243
Minor League Totals 2 3 3.97 23 23 0 93 89 89 41 9 22 97 .242

3. Josh Bell, OF Born: Aug 14, 1992 B-T: - Ht.: 0-0 Wt.:
Drafted: Dallas Jesuit HS, 2011 (2nd round).  Signed by: Mike Leuzinger.
Background: The Pirates rated Bell as the sixth-best prospect in the 2011 draft, but he was considered virtually unsignable because his mother is a professor at Texas-Arlington and wanted him to attend Texas. Pittsburgh took him with the first pick in the second round and shocked the industry by signing him for $5 million, the biggest draft bonus ever outside of the first round.

Scouting Report: A switch-hitter since he was 5, Bell has quick hands, wiry strength and outstanding power potential. He'll be a huge home run threat once he adds more balance and incorporates his legs more into his swing. With his mature approach and ability to make consistent hard contact, he should hit for average as well. He's an intelligent player who should learn to work counts and post high on-base percentages. Bell is still refining his defense and baserunning. A high school center fielder, he has average speed and a solid arm, which figure to land him in right field.

The Future: Bell likely will start his pro career at low Class A West Virginia. The Pirates are careful not to rush players, but Bell's advanced hitting skills and raw power may cause him to force the issue. Bell profiles as a No. 3 hitter and could see the major leagues before the end of 2014.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
Did Not Play

4. Starling Marte, OF Born: Oct 09, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 170
Signed:Dominican Republic, '07. Rene Gayo/Chino Valdez.
Background: The Pirates signed Marte for $85,000 in 2007 and his stock has risen dramatically since he arrived in the United States in 2009. A career .309/.366/.453 hitter, he led the Double-A Eastern League in batting (.332), hits (178) and doubles (38) in 2011 while drawing comparisons to Austin Jackson.

Scouting Report: Marte shows four strong tools and Pittsburgh is optimistic that there's more power in his bat. He uses his well above-average speed to beat out hits, though he's still learning to maximize it on the bases, where he can get too aggressive. He chases fewer breaking balls than he used to, but he needs to improve his plate discipline. If Marte gets more selective and starts using his lower half more, he could show more pop. He's good enough right now to be an above-average defensive center fielder in the major leagues with outstanding range and a strong arm. His passion for the game and flair for the dramatic are evident.

The Future: Marte will begin 2012 in Triple-A Indianapolis and almost certainly will make his major league debut at some point later in the season. He's so good defensively in center field that he eventually could push all-star Andrew McCutchen to left. If Marte continues to add power, he could be an all-star.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'07 Pirates (R) 132 27 29 4 1 1 11 10 29 16 2 .220 .307 .288
'08 Pirates (R) 257 53 76 10 2 9 44 16 53 20 8 .296 .367 .455
'09 Pirates (R) 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000
'09 West Virginia (LoA) 221 41 69 9 5 3 34 12 55 24 7 .312 .377 .439
'09 Lynchburg (HiA) 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000
'10 Pirates (R) 26 6 9 3 0 2 5 1 6 4 1 .346 .393 .692
'10 Bradenton (HiA) 222 41 70 16 5 0 33 12 59 22 8 .315 .386 .432
'11 Altoona (AA) 536 91 178 38 8 12 50 22 100 24 12 .332 .370 .500
Minor League Totals 1403 260 433 80 21 27 178 73 303 110 38 .309 .366 .453

5. Luis Heredia, RHP Born: Aug 10, 1994 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 205
Signed:Mexico, '10. Signed by: Rene Gayo/Chino Valdez/Kyle Stark.
Background: The top Latin American pitcher on the amateur market in 2010, Heredia signed out of Mexico for $2.6 million, the most Pittsburgh has given an international free agent. The Pirates took the extraordinary step of beginning his career in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League as a 16-year-old because they considered him too advanced for the Dominican Summer League. They monitored Heredia's workload by giving him at least five days off between starts and not allowing him to pitch more than three innings in a game.

Scouting Report: Heredia added fastball velocity in his first pro season, settling at 92-93 mph and topping out at 96. His curveball can be a swing-and-miss pitch but lacks consistency, and his changeup also shows flashes of becoming a plus offering. For such a young, tall pitcher, he repeats his mechanics on a surprisingly consistent basis. Extremely mature for a teenager, he quickly learned to speak fairly fluent English and bought a house in Bradenton, Fla., to be near Pittsburgh's training base.

The Future: Heredia remains very raw and will likely stay behind in extended spring training again in 2012 before reporting to short-season State College in June. He has the upside of a frontline starter, though pinning down his ETA in the big leagues is difficult because he's still just 17.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 Pirates (R) 1 2 4.75 12 11 0 30 28 16 16 3 19 23 .235
Minor League Totals 1 2 4.80 12 11 0 30 28 28 16 3 19 23 .237

6. Kyle McPherson, RHP Born: Nov 11, 1987 B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 215
Drafted: Mobile (Ala.), 2007 (14th round).  Signed by: Darren Mazerowski.
Background: McPherson has come a long way since going 1-7, 6.02 in 2007 at Mobile (Ala.), an NAIA program where he primarily played the infield before getting drafted in the 14th round that June. He pitched his way onto the 40-man roster after the 2010 season and won the Pirates' minor league pitcher of the year award in 2011, when he ranked first in the system in strikeouts (142) and second in wins (12) and ERA (2.96).

Scouting Report: McPherson knows how to pitch, racking up strikeouts by changing speeds and commanding his entire repertoire. He has gotten stronger since coming into pro ball and his fastball now sits in the low 90s and reaches 95 mph. He can spot it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. McPherson has very good arm action on his changeup that allows him to get a number of swings and misses. He also has a 10-to-4 curveball that has its moments, but he tends to overthrow it, which causes it to flatten out. He has a clean delivery that he repeats easily, allowing him to pinpoint his pitches.

The Future: McPherson handled the jump to Double-A easily in 2011 and could break camp with Indianapolis in 2012. Projected as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, he may reach Pittsburgh by the end of the season.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'07 Pirates (R) 4 2 2.61 12 10 0 52 47 22 15 3 10 35 .233
'07 State College (SS) 0 1 6.28 3 3 0 14 20 13 10 1 3 6 .317
'08 State College (SS) 1 3 4.37 15 7 1 56 52 29 27 10 5 41 .237
'09 West Virginia (LoA) 5 2 4.94 13 8 0 51 53 32 28 3 6 32 .257
'09 State College (SS) 4 3 2.99 13 13 0 75 70 27 25 5 11 57 .236
'10 West Virginia (LoA) 9 9 3.59 26 21 0 118 96 58 47 14 31 124 .214
'10 Bradenton (HiA) 0 0 0.00 2 0 0 4 2 0 0 0 0 7 .143
'11 Bradenton (HiA) 4 1 2.89 12 12 0 72 62 25 23 4 6 60 .224
'11 Altoona (AA) 8 5 3.02 16 16 0 89 75 34 30 7 21 82 .219
Minor League Totals 35 26 3.47 112 90 1 531 477 477 205 47 93 444 .230

7. Tony Sanchez, C Born: May 20, 1988 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 215
Drafted: Boston College, 2009 (1st round).  Signed by: Chris Kline.
Background: The Pirates stunned most draft analysts by selecting Sanchez with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft, a decision made in part because he'd sign quickly for $2.5 million. Regarded as a quality defender behind the plate but with a questionable bat, he surprisingly hit .312/.413/.494 in his first two pro seasons before struggling in Double-A in 2011. He also was benched for three games after criticizing Eastern League umpires on Twitter.

Scouting Report: With his strong arm, receiving skills and feel for working with pitchers, Sanchez has Gold Glove ability. However, his defense slipped in 2011 as he got sloppy with his footwork and lost some accuracy on his throws. He erased just 22 percent of basestealers. Sanchez also regressed offensively, as his swing got long and he got too pull-conscious. He projects as an average hitter with moderate power and the willingness to draw walks.

The Future: Sanchez's defensive ability gives him a chance to be a frontline major league catcher. Pittsburgh once hoped he would be ready to take over in 2012 with Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder leaving as free agents, but that isn't going to happen. Instead, Sanchez almost certainly will start the season back at Altoona, and he may not arrive in the majors before mid-2013.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'09 State College (SS) 13 2 4 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 .308 .357 .385
'09 West Virginia (LoA) 155 29 49 15 1 7 46 21 34 1 0 .316 .415 .561
'09 Lynchburg (HiA) 10 2 2 2 0 0 1 1 4 0 0 .200 .385 .400
'10 Bradenton (HiA) 207 31 65 17 0 4 35 28 41 2 1 .314 .416 .454
'11 Altoona (AA) 402 46 97 14 1 5 44 47 76 5 5 .241 .340 .318
Minor League Totals 787 110 217 49 2 16 127 98 157 8 6 .276 .376 .404

8. Robbie Grossman, OF Born: Sep 16, 1989 B-T: B-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190
Drafted: Cypress-Fairbanks HS, Cypress, Texas, 2008 (6th round).  Signed by: Mike Leuzinger.
Background: Grossman appeared headed to the University of Texas until the Pirates enticed him to sign for $1 million as a sixth-round pick in 2008. He had only sporadic success before 2011, when he repeated high Class A and led the minors with 104 walks and 127 runs. He was the first minor leaguer to reach triple digits in both categories in the same season since Nick Swisher in 2004.

Scouting Report: Grossman took off after he improved his selectivity at the plate, putting him in hitter's counts where he can do damage. He hit 13 homers after totaling just nine in his first two full pro seasons, and 11 of those came from the left side of the plate—from which he didn't start hitting until he was a high school senior. He has slightly above-average speed and even better instincts on the bases. Though he has played some center field in the minors, he spent most of 2011 in right field, where he showed average range and arm strength.

The Future: Grossman still has to prove his breakout wasn't the result of repeating a level, and many scouts see him as more of a tweener than an everyday big leaguer in center or right field. He did tear up the Arizona Fall League, however, and the picture should become clearer when he moves to Double-A in 2012.

 
Year Team AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
'08 Pirates (R) 16 3 3 1 0 0 1 4 7 1 0 .188 .381 .250
'09 West Virginia (LoA) 451 83 120 21 2 5 42 75 164 35 12 .266 .373 .355
'10 Bradenton (HiA) 470 84 115 29 3 4 50 66 118 15 8 .245 .344 .345
'11 Bradenton (HiA) 490 127 144 34 2 13 56 104 111 24 10 .294 .418 .451
Minor League Totals 1427 297 382 85 7 22 149 249 400 75 30 .268 .380 .383

9. Stetson Allie, RHP Born: Mar 13, 1991 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 220
Drafted: St. Edward HS, Lakewood, Ohio, 2010 (2nd round).  Signed by: Brian Tracy.
Background: The two livest arms in the 2010 draft belonged to Jameson Taillon and Allie, and the Pirates landed them both. Signed for $2.25 million as a second-rounder, Allie lacks Taillon's polish and it showed when he had problems finding the strike zone in his pro debut last summer. 

Scouting Report: Allie can reach triple digits with his fastball, though it usually sits at 93-97 mph. His best pitch is a mid-80s slider with sharp, late break that makes it difficult for hitters to read. Allie has yet to prove he can throw strikes with either pitch, however. He had serious bouts of wildness in extended spring training and walked more than a batter an inning at State College. Pittsburgh eventually shifted Allie from the rotation to the bullpen in an attempt to take some pressure off him, but it didn't help in terms of his performance. After Aug. 1, he got 19 outs in seven appearances, walking 12, hitting two batters, striking out seven and allowing no hits. If he's going to remain a starter, he'll also have to refine a changeup.

The Future: Allie is a real wild card at this point. He has the stuff to be a frontline starter or a lockdown closer, and he prefers the latter role. Yet his career will be stuck in neutral or worse until he gains some semblance of command. He figures to remain in extended spring training at the outset of 2012 before returning to State College.

 
Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'11 State College (SS) 0 2 6.58 15 7 0 26 20 20 19 1 29 28 .204
Minor League Totals 0 2 6.58 15 7 0 26 20 20 19 1 29 28 .204

10. Jeff Locke, LHP Born: Nov 20, 1987 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 215
Drafted: Kennett HS Conway, N.H., 2006 (2nd round).  Signed by: Lonnie Goldberg (Braves).
Background: Locke is trying to follow in the footsteps of such New Hampshire-born pitchers as Mike Flanagan, Bob Tewksbury, Chris Carpenter and Brian Wilson. Acquired with Charlie Morton and outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez in the 2009 Nate McLouth trade with the Braves, Locke was the player the Pirates coveted the most. He finished the 2012 season in their rotation.

Scouting Report: Locke doesn't overpower hitters, with his fastball sitting at 89-90 mph and topping out at 92. He gets outs with it, though, because he commands it to both sides of the plate. He backs up his fastball with a solid curveball that he can throw behind in the count, and a changeup that keeps getting better. Locke has good aptitude for pitching and solid mound presence. Some scouts have questioned his durability because he's not big, but he hasn't missed a start in four full pro seasons and worked 170 innings in 2011.

The Future: Considering he has made just five starts at the Triple-A level, Locke likely will spend the majority of 2012 at Indianapolis and contend for a full-time job in the Pittsburgh rotation the following year. He projects as an eventual No. 3 or 4 starter.

Year Team W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
'06 Braves (R) 4 3 4.22 10 5 0 32 38 18 15 4 5 38 .284
'07 Danville (R) 7 1 2.66 13 11 1 61 48 23 18 2 8 74 .208
'08 Rome (LoA) 5 12 4.06 25 24 0 140 150 75 63 6 38 113 .264
'09 Myrtle Beach (HiA) 1 4 5.52 10 10 0 46 47 31 28 1 26 43 .255
'09 Lynchburg (HiA) 4 4 4.08 17 17 0 82 98 44 37 4 18 56 .286
'10 Bradenton (HiA) 9 3 3.54 17 17 0 86 82 42 34 6 14 83 .240
'10 Altoona (AA) 3 2 3.59 10 10 0 58 57 24 23 5 12 56 .248
'11 Altoona (AA) 7 8 4.03 23 22 0 125 118 68 56 9 46 114 .239
'11 Indianapolis (AAA) 1 2 2.22 5 5 0 28 25 8 7 1 9 25 .227
'11 Pittsburgh (MAJ) 0 3 6.48 4 4 0 17 21 12 12 3 10 5 .296
Major League Totals 0 3 6.35 4 4 0 17 21 21 12 3 10 5 .292
Minor League Totals 41 39 3.84 130 121 1 658 663 663 281 38 176 602 .251