Pittsburgh Pirates: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Pittsburgh Pirates: Scouting Report

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, 2009.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

After Neal Huntington became Pirates general manager late in the 2007 season, it didn't take him long to understand what the organization needed: young talent and lots of it. Pittsburgh not only had a bad major league team, but it also had little talent in the farm system. It made for a deadly mix that appeared to sentence the franchise to losing into perpetuity.

While the Pirates have become the only major North American pro sports team to endure 17 straight losing seasons after finishing 62-99 (the second-worst record in baseball) in 2009, their talent base has improved. Huntington has almost completely stripped the major league roster, trading away as many parts as he could in an effort to acquire prospects. He made seven trades last June and July alone, sending away eight players and getting 15 in return.

By the time the season ended, just five players remained on the major league roster who were on the major league club when Huntington was hired: Matt Capps, Ryan Doumit, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Steve Pearce. On the minor league side, just six of the players in the Pirates' top 30 were in the organization when Huntington took over.

Owner Bob Nutting, noted for his penny-pinching ways in his other business holdings, which include newspapers and a ski resort, has held the line on major league salaries. After all the trades, Pittsburgh's payroll was approximately $25 million by the end of last season. However, Nutting has given Huntington expanded budgets in the areas of scouting and player development.

The Pirates have spent more money ($18.7 million) on the last two drafts than any team. They gave out their first major league contract to a draftee, a $6.335 million deal to land No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez in 2008. While they stuck to Major League Baseball's slot recommendation for their first-round pick, catcher Tony Sanchez, they gave seven-figure bonuses to sixth-round pick Zack Von Rosenberg and eighth-rounder Colton Cain. In fact, the Pirates have continually exceeded MLB's bonus recommendations under their new administration, ironic considering that club president Frank Coonelly helped to enforce the slotting system when he worked for MLB.

Pittsburgh also opened a $5 million academy in the Dominican Republic last April and has further expanded its international horizons by signing amateurs from Africa, Asia and Europe since Huntington arrived.

Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh became the first natives of India to play professional baseball when they made their debuts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer. South African infielder Gift Ngoepe became a sensation when he hit two triples off veteran big leaguer Elmer Dessens in the World Baseball Classic, then later was featured in a lengthy Sports Illustrated profile.

With Baseball America Rookie of the Year Andrew McCutchen emerging in 2009, the Pirates believe they're starting to get the franchise turned around as they try to regain their status in a city where they have been lapped by the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers and defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Pittsburgh drew just 1.58 million fans last season, the lowest mark since PNC Park opened in 2001. An angry fan base has waited a long time to have a wining team to cheer, but they're going to have to wait a little longer for the moves below the major league surface to pay off.

1.  Pedro Alvarez, 3b   Born: Feb. 6, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 234
 Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Trevor Haley
Pedro AlvarezBackground: Alvarez starred for three seasons at Vanderbilt, winning Baseball America's Freshman of the Year award in 2006 and tying a school record with 49 career homers. The consensus top bat available in a hitter-rich 2008 draft, he went second overall and became the first Pirates draftee ever signed to a major league contract. Following contentious negotiations between club president Frank Coonelly and agent Scott Boras, Alvarez agreed to a club-record $6 million bonus—two minutes after the Aug. 15 signing deadline expired. The MLB Players Association filed a grievance on Alvarez's behalf, and it was about a month later, with Alvarez getting the same bonus as part of a $6.335 million deal. The best hitter drafted by the Pirates since they took Barry Bonds sixth overall in 1985, he didn't disappoint in his much-anticipated pro debut last season. Despite a slow start that saw him hitting just .200 five weeks into his career, Alvarez batted a combined .288/.378/.535 with a system-best 27 homers between high Class A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona and was chosen as the Pirates' minor league player of the year. He finished the season by hitting five homers at the World Cup for the gold medal-winning United States team.

Strengths: Alvarez has tremendous raw power to all fields. He opened eyes during the first days of spring training last year when he hit a batting-practice homer to dead center field that was estimated at 550 feet. He has good pitch-recognition skills and is usually willing to take a walk. He has a very strong arm and good hands at third base. The son of a livery cab driver in New York City, Alvarez has a blue-collar work ethic and is one of the first players at the ballpark and one of the last to leave. He is also an intelligent player, not surprising given his Vanderbilt pedigree.

Weaknesses: Alvarez can be caught off balance by breaking balls from lefthanders, though he improved against them over the course of the season. He needs to get into better shape to stay at third base, as he has a thick body and was instructed by the Pirates to lose 10 pounds during the offseason. They hope the weight loss will improve his below-average quickness and range at third base. Many scouts don't think he'll be able to stay at the hot corner. He's a well-below-average runner, though smart enough not to take unnecessary risks.

The Future: Alvarez was playing so well by the end of the season that some scouts believe he's ready to step into Pittsburgh's Opening Day lineup for 2010. However, he'll begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis and stay there until at least June to keep his arbitration and free agency clocks from starting. He should make an immediate impact and appears destined to become a big-time slugger for a franchise that hasn't had a 40-homer hitter since Willie Stargell in 1973. The only long-term question is what position Alvarez will play. If he keeps his weight in check, he'll be able to stay at third base. If not, he'll need to move across the diamond to first.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Lynchburg (Hi A) .247 .342 .486 243 38 60 14 1 14 55 37 70 1
Altoona (AA) .333 .419 .590 222 42 74 18 0 13 40 34 59 1
2.  Jose Tabata, of   Born: Aug. 12, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 215
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004Signed by: Ricardo Finol (Yankees)
Jose TabataBackground: The Pirates acquired Tabata (and Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf) in a July 2008 trade that sent Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady to the Yankees. After stalling in Double-A before the deal, Tabata regained his hitting form since. His wife, 23 years his senior, was arrested in Florida last March on charges that she kidnapped a baby, but Tabata was not implicated.

Strengths: Tabata has a compact stroke and hits line drives to all fields. He has sound strike-zone judgment for a young hitter. He has enough range to play a passable center field but is better suited for right, where he can show off his above-average arm. He has slightly above-average speed.

Weaknesses: Tabata has yet to learn to put backspin on balls and hit them for power, though the Pirates are convinced he will. He has a thick lower half and will likely be a below-average runner once he's done filling out. The Yankees tired of his immature behavior, but he always has been one of the youngest players in his league and hasn't caused any problems for Pittsburgh.

The Future: Tabata will begin 2010 back in Triple-A but figures to be in the majors at some point during the season. He has the potential to be an all-star right fielder if his power develops.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Altoona (AA) .303 .370 .404 228 31 69 15 1 2 25 20 25 7
Indianapolis (AAA) .276 .333 .410 134 21 37 7 1 3 10 10 18 4
3.  Tony Sanchez, c   Born: May 20, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 220
 Drafted: Boston College, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Chris Kline
Tony SanchezBackground: The Pirates took heat for overdrafting and overpaying Sanchez with the fourth overall pick in June, but he silenced critics who questioned his bat by hitting a combined .309/.439/.539 at three levels after signing for $2.5 million. He lost 30 pounds during his three seasons at Boston College and led the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament berth in 42 years last spring.

Strengths: Sanchez is an outstanding defensive catcher with soft hands, a strong arm and good ball-blocking skills. He threw out 33 percent of basestealers in his pro debut. Once he switched to wood bats in pro ball, he did a better job of keeping his swing under control and hitting the ball to the middle of the field. He should have solid-average power. He has good baseball instincts, a great deal of charisma and leadership skills.

Weaknesses: Sanchez can tighten up his footwork behind the plate and is still learning how to call games. He's a well-below-average runner, though that's typical for a catcher.

The Future: Sanchez figures to reach Double-A at some point in 2010, though he may return to high Class A to start the season. A potential Gold Glover, he has a big league ETA of 2011.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
State College (SS) .308 .357 .385 13 2 4 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
West Virginia (Lo A) .316 .415 .561 155 29 49 15 1 7 46 21 34 1
Lynchburg (Hi A) .200 .385 .400 10 2 2 2 0 0 1 1 4 0
4.  Brad Lincoln, rhp   Born: May 25, 1985B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 215
 Drafted: Houston, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Everett Russell
Brad LincolnBackground: After signing for $2.75 million as the fourth overall pick in 2006, Lincoln became yet another Pirates first-rounder who has been derailed by arm problems. But after losing 2007 to Tommy John surgery and using 2008 to rebuild his arm strength, he came back strong last season. Lincoln exceeded his previous career total by working 136 innings while reaching Triple-A, pitched in the Future Game and won the gold-medal game for Team USA at September's World Cup.

Strengths: Lincoln has two plus  pitches, a 90-93 mph fastball that reaches 95 with good late life and a curveball that breaks big and late. He's a fierce competitor who aggressively attacks both sides of the plate and wants the ball in big situations. A two-way star in college, he batted .308 last season.

Weaknesses: Lincoln's changeup is improving but still needs work. He challenges hitters too much at times, which made him prone to extra-base hits once he reached Triple-A, and he can be susceptible to home runs as well.

The Future: Though he won six of his 12 starts at Indianapolis, Lincoln needs to return there to add some finishing touches to his game. He should be in Pittsburgh by midseason and eventually settle in as a No. 3 starter, perhaps even a No. 2.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Altoona (AA) 1 5 2.28 13 13 1 0 75 63 4 18 65 .228
Indianapolis (AAA) 6 2 4.70 12 12 0 0 61 72 7 10 42 .300
5.  Chase d'Arnaud, ss   Born: Jan. 21, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 175
 Drafted: Pepperdine, 2008 (4th round)Signed by: Rick Allen
Chase d'ArnaudBackground: D'Arnaud played his first two seasons at Pepperdine as a third baseman, but he's on the fast track with the Pirates as a shortstop. He split his first full pro season between two Class A clubs and then played in the Arizona Fall League. He faced his younger brother Travis, a prime catching prospect in the Phillies system, in the South Atlantic League all-star game.

Strengths: With his good eye and slightly above-average speed, d'Arnaud fits well at the top of a batting order. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the high Class A Carolina League after he displayed solid range and a strong arm. He possesses outstanding baseball savvy and a strong work ethic, which helps him perform above his tools.

Weaknesses: D'Arnaud doesn't have a standout tool to carry him. He has below-average power and strikes out a bit much for a hitter whose offensive strength is his on-base ability. Some scouts question whether d'Arnaud will have enough range to play shortstop in the major leagues.

The Future: The Pirates will send d'Arnaud to Double-A to start 2010. He might not wow people with his physical gifts, but he has the look of a big league middle infielder who would be effective batting second in a lineup.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
West Virginia (Lo A) .291 .394 .427 213 32 62 14 3 3 31 30 31 17
Lynchburg (Hi A) .295 .402 .481 210 45 62 19 4 4 26 30 41 14
6.  Starling Marte, of   Born: Oct. 9, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 170
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007Signed by: Rene Gayo/Josue Herrera
Starling MarteBackground: Marte is the first tangible result of the Pirates' renewed commitment to scouting Latin America. Signed for $85,000 in January 2007, he was the MVP of Pittsburgh's Rookie-level Dominican Summer League affiliate the following year. He made his U.S. debut in 2009, jumping from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to low Class A West Virginia after just two games.

Strengths: Marte is a potential five-tool talent. He stands out most with his plus-plus speed, which makes him a basestealing threat and a good defender in center and right field. He's a line-drive machine who should hit for power once he gets stronger. He also has an above-average arm.

Weaknesses: To be a threat at higher levels, Marte will need to get stronger and improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline. He seemed hesitant to turn on pitches in 2009, though that was partly a function of the Pirates asking him to concentrate on making contact. He makes tremendous plays in the outfield, but he also botches more than his share and made seven errors in 58 games last season.

The Future: Marte has as much raw all-around ability as anybody in the system. He'll advance to high Class A and work on refining his talent in 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Pirates (R) .000 .000 .000 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
West Virginia (Lo A) .312 .377 .439 221 41 69 9 5 3 34 12 55 24
Lynchburg (Hi A) 1.000 1.000 1.000 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
7.  Tim Alderson, rhp   Born: Nov. 3, 1988.B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 217
 Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Lee Carballo (Giants)
Tim AldersonBackground: The 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, Alderson signed with the Giants for $1.29 million. San Francisco included him in a trade for Freddie Sanchez last July. Some analysts wondered if Giants GM Brian Sabean overpaid because Alderson entered the season ranked at No. 45 on BA's Top 100 Prospects list, but his stuff and stock slipped during the year.

Strengths: Alderson is known for his control and command, though both deserted him at times after the trade. He throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs down in the strike zone. His curveball is an outstanding pitch at times, dropping off the table and tying up hitters.

Weaknesses: He didn't have any indications of arm trouble, but Alderson's fastball  dipped from 88-92 mph to the high 80s last year, and his curveball wasn't as sharp. He still had success because he has a deceptive delivery, though the Pirates would like to smooth his mechanics out. He's reluctant to do so because he has had success throughout his career.

The Future: At 21, Alderson will be one of the youngest pitchers in the Triple-A International League in 2010. The Pirates believe his post-trade struggles were a blip. If they're right, he should see Pittsburgh late in the season and eventually develop into a No. 3 starter.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
San Jose (Hi A) 1 1 4.15 5 5 0 0 26 31 4 3 20 .292
Connecticut (AA) 6 1 3.47 13 13 0 0 73 76 5 14 46 .265
Altoona (AA) 3 1 4.66 7 7 0 0 39 39 4 13 18 .257
8.  Zack Von Rosenberg, rhp   Born: Sept. 24, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Zachary, La., 2009 (6th round)Signed by: Jerome Cochran
Zack Von RosenbergBackground: Von Rosenberg became a high school hero in Louisiana after winning four state championship baseball games in four years as well as earning all-state honors as a punter. His talent dictated selection in the first two rounds of the 2009 draft, but teams shied away because of what was perceived as an airtight commitment to Louisiana State. However, the Pirates lured him into pro ball with a $1.2 million bonus.

Strengths: Von Rosenberg has good command of a three-pitch arsenal. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and the velocity could increase as his body matures and he focuses on pitching after also playing shortstop in high school. He also good depth on his curveball, a deceptive changeup and an uncanny feel for pitching for a teenager.

Weaknesses: Von Rosenberg has no glaring weak points, other than the fact he has pitched only one pro inning. He'll need to learn how to adjust to pitching every fifth day and to the grind of a full pro season. His has yet to physically mature.

The Future: Von Rosenberg is so advanced that the Pirates will push him to low Class A if he performs well in spring training. Despite his youth, he could reach the major leagues quickly, and he projects as a solid No. 3 starter.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Pirates (R) 0 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 .000
9.  Rudy Owens, lhp   Born: Dec. 18, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 215
 Drafted: Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC, D/F 2006 (28th round)Signed by: Ted Williams
Rudy OwensBackground: One of the last draft-and-follows left in the system, Owens was undoubtedly the Pirates' breakout player of 2009. After going 4-10, 5.06 in his first two pro seasons, he went 11-2, 2.10 with a 113-17 K-BB ratio in 124 innings. He was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year and most outstanding pitcher in the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he had a 32-inning scoreless streak.

Strengths: Thanks to a simple delivery that he repeats easily, Owens has pinpoint command. He can spot each of his pitches on both sides of the plate and in all four quadrants of the strike zone. He's aggressive with his four-seam fastball, which sits at 87-90 mph. His changeup grades out as his best pitch, and he has made improvements with his slurvy curveball.

Weaknesses: Owens' stuff is far from overpowering, and high Class A hitters batted .305 against him in his short stint there. He's a classic crafty lefthander, but he has much to prove against more advanced competition.

The Future: Owens will likely begin 2010 back at high Class A Lynchburg and finish the season in Double-A. How he performs there will provide a clearer picture of his future.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Virginia (Lo A) 10 1 1.70 19 19 0 0 101 71 8 15 91 .197
Lynchburg (Hi A) 1 1 3.86 6 6 0 0 23 29 3 2 22 .305
10.  Gorkys Hernandez, of   Born: Sept. 7, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 175
Signed: Venezuela, 2005 • Signed by: Ramon Pena (Tigers)
Gorkys HernandezBackground: After winning the Gulf Coast League batting title and the low Class A Midwest League MVP award in his first two seasons in the United States, Hernandez was traded twice in 20 months. The Tigers sent him to the Braves in a trade for Edgar Renteria in October 2007, and Atlanta shipped him to the Pirates in a deal for Nate McLouth last June.

Strengths: Hernandez is an outstanding defensive center fielder. He plays  shallow and covers a lot of ground with his exceptional first-step quickness. His plus speed also makes him a threat on the bases. His line-drive swing has enabled him to hit .284 as pro.

Weaknesses: Primarily a slap hitter, Hernandez needs to get stronger or risk having major league pitchers knock the bat out of his hands. His control of the strike zone has slipped, and he needs to do a better job of getting on base. He also needs to improve his jumps and reads after getting caught in 16 of his 35 steal attempts in 2009. Twice after the trade last summer, he was removed from games for disciplinary reasons.

The Future: His defensive prowess and speed are enticing, but Hernandez needs to show more with the bat in Triple-A in 2010. Andrew McCutchen blocks his path to Pittsburgh's center-field job, so Hernandez could get traded again.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Mississippi (AA) .316 .361 .387 212 33 67 11 2 0 19 15 54 10
Altoona (AA) .262 .312 .340 344 45 90 14 2 3 31 24 76 9

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