Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects
By John Perrotto
1. J.R. House, c
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 202. Drafted: HSDaytona Beach, Fla., 1999 (5th round) Signed by: Rob Sidwell.
Background: House made more headlines for what he didnt do last summer than for what he did. He flirted with the idea of becoming a two-sport athlete through the first three months of the season, giving heavy consideration to playing quarterback for West Virginia. House finally decided on baseball as a full-time vocation and said he wouldnt change his mind. House is the nations all-time leading prep passer, throwing for 14,457 yards at Nitro (W. Va.) High from 1995-98. Because he had dual residency, House played baseball at Seabreeze High in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Pirates lured House away from football with a $266,000 signing bonus as their fifth-round pick in 1999. He rankled veterans in the major league clubhouse when he received an audience with owner Kevin McClatchy before making his decision to stick with baseball.
Strengths: House has the potential to hit for both power and average, and he showed it in 2000 when he was co-MVP of the South Atlantic League despite missing a month with mononucleosis. He has particularly good power to the opposite field. House made strides defensively last season, particularly with his handling of pitchers. He also has a confident aura about him, something that becomes obvious when you are around him.
Weaknesses: Houses strike-zone judgement regressed as he jumped from low Class A to Double-A Altoona in 2001, though thats not unusual for a young player making that kind of leap. He also still has work to do defensively as his throwing is average at best. House has seen action at first base, but his bat is much more valuable at catcher. Typical of a backstop, House doesnt run well. He had injury problems early in 2001 as he was hampered by hamstring and ribcage strains.
The Future: House struggled to adjust against advanced pitching in 2001 and seemed lost at times. With catcher Jason Kendall staying behind the plate for now, House doesnt need to be rushed. He seemed to be on the fast track prior to 2001. Now its not out of the question that House could go back to Altoona, at least to start the season, to give him a better chance of dominating the competition before moving up to Triple-A Nashville.
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