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McCutchen was such a prodigy that he led Polk County, Fla., high schoolers in hitting with a .507 average as an eighth-grader. As a senior, he won state player of the year and national All-America honors after hitting a mind-boggling .709 with 16 homers. The Pirates drafted him 11th overall and signed him for $1.9 million. McCutchen ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast and low Class A South Atlantic leagues in his first two pro seasons, and reached Double-A Altoona at age 19 at the end of 2006. He struggled for the first time as a pro in 2007, getting off to a poor start while fighting cold early-season weather when he returned to the Eastern League. But he recovered and produced as he had in the past during the second half, which included a late-season promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. McCutchen is a multi-talented individual who writes poetry and freestyle rap and is an outstanding singer and artist. He comes from athletic bloodlines, as his father was a running back at small-college power Carson Newman (Tenn.) and his mother was a standout volleyball player at Polk County Community College. McCutchen is an outstanding athlete with a quick bat, speed, instincts and intelligence. He sprays the ball from gap to gap and also has enough power to hit home runs. He has first-step quickness that helps him both in the field and on the bases, where he has succeeded in 81 percent of his pro steal attempts. he has above-average range in center field and he gets to balls that few other outfielders can reach. His arm strength is average, which makes it better than most center fielders'. After hitting .184 in April, he didn't panic, raising his batting average in each subsequent month and thriving in his first taste of Triple-A. McCutchen's power potential may already be topping out. He has good bat speed but lacks the size of most power hitters. He can be made to chase breaking balls off the plate, particularly from righthanders. The plate discipline he showed when he first came into pro ball is eroding as he moves higher in the farm system. He projects more as No. 1 or 2 hitter than someone who'll bat in the middle of a major league order, so he'll need to show more patience and draw more walks. With his speed, he could steal more bases than the 61 he has swiped in 327 pro games. He also can improve his outfield instincts, as his quickness allows him to make up for a relative lack of savvy. Despite his subpar 2007, McCutchen remains on the fast track as the Pirates' one true impact prospect. He'll be given a chance to win the starting job in center field despite being 21 and having just 17 games of experience above Double-A. If he doesn't win it, he still should make his big league debut later in the year.
In 2004, the Pirates made Walker their first-ever first-round pick from the Pittsburgh area. He moved from catcher to third base on the first day of spring training in 2007 because the Bucs wanted to get his bat to the big leagues quickly. Walker has worked hard to become productive from both sides of the plate. He has good power and should hit more home runs as he matures. He also improved his plate discipline greatly. His makeup is off the charts and he is a popular figure in the clubhouse. His arm strength plays well at third base. A college football prospect as a wide receiver, he's a good athlete and has average speed. Walker still is getting the hang of playing third base and has some trouble with difficult plays such as slow rollers and balls to his backhand side. He also seems to have lost a bit of pop in his bat since tearing a ligament in his left wrist while in the Arizona Fall League in 2005. The Pirates could use help at third base, and Walker has an outside chance to make the club in spring training. He'll more likely work on his defense in Triple-A before a midseason callup to Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh drafted Pearce as a college senior after he hit 42 homers in two years at South Carolina and turned down the Red Sox as a 10th-rounder in 2004. He has 64 longballs as a pro, including 31 in a breakout 2007 season in which he also hit .333 with 113 RBIs in the minors and made his big league debut. Pearce is an aggressive hitter with power to all fields. He always looks fastball first but has learned to adjust to breaking and offspeed pitches. He's a solid defensive first baseman with decent range, good hands and rare arm strength for the position. He has slightly below-average speed but good baserunning instincts and stole 16 bases last season. With Adam LaRoche at first base, the Pirates started to deploy Pearce in right field once he reached Triple-A. He's a little shaky in chasing fly balls, but he did show considerable improvement. Pearce's bat is ready for the major leagues. He just needs to show he can handle right field to open the season with Pittsburgh.
The Pirates were happy to get Lincoln with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft, but after he signed for $2.75 million, he worked just 24 innings in his pro debut because of an oblique injury. The medical news got worse in 2007, as he followed in the footsteps of recent Pirates first-round pitchers in needing major arm surgery. He had Tommy John surgery in April. Before he got hurt, Lincoln had a four-seam fastball that routinely sat at 92-94 mph and topped out at 98, as well as a two-seamer with plus sink. He also had a hard curveball that many scouts graded as his best pitch. He's aggressive and willing to challenge hitters. A two-way star in college, he is a better athlete and hitter than most pitchers. Lincoln's changeup has good sink, but he has trouble commanding it at times. Though the track record of Tommy John survivors is encouraging, he won't arrive in Pittsburgh as fast as the team hoped. The Pirates projected Lincoln as a possible No. 1 starter before he got hurt, and they'll be cautious with his comeback. He was throwing at distances of up to 150 feet by the end of instructional league and was on course to begin working off a mound in January.
Pittsburgh created quite a stir by selecting Moskos with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft, passing up Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters because of his price tag. Then- GM Dave Littlefield caused more outrage when he announced Moskos, who signed for $2.475 million, would be a reliever. Clemson moved him into its rotation during the spring and several clubs believed he has the pitches to start as a pro. Moskos has a live arm with a fastball that touched 97 mph in college and was consistently in the 91-95 range. He has a wipeout slider that reaches 87 mph, along with a decent curveball and a changeup with good fade. He wins high marks for his competitiveness. In his pro debut, Moskos' fastball rarely hit 90 mph until his last few outings. The Pirates insist the loss of velocity was a matter of fatigue and not something more serious. His curveball and changeup need polish, though that's less of an issue if he's not a starter. His fastball and slider are major league pitches, so Moskos will ride the fast track if he remains a reliever. He'll likely open at high Class A Lynchburg and should reach the majors by no later than 2009.
Ford was a three-time all-state selection as the son of a high school coach in Fort Worth, then stayed home to begin his college career at Texas Christian before transferring to Oklahoma State. He put together a strong first full pro season in 2007 before missing the final month with a strained muscle in his lower back. Ford has good pop for a middle infielder and the ability to hit for power to the opposite field. While he has a slightly better swing lefthanded, there's virtually no dropoff when he bats from the right side. He's a good second baseman with decent range and an above-average arm. If he winds up as a utilityman, he already has experience at shortstop from high school and third base from TCU. His speed is average. Ford can be made to chase pitches out of the strike zone, though he showed better plate discipline last season. His footwork is a bit shaky on the double-play pivot, though he has improved in pro ball. Ford will begin 2008 in Double-A, and he's advanced enough that he could make his major league debut at some point in 2009. However, he's blocked by all-star second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who has two more years before he can become a free agent.
Romak had the lowest profile among the players in the January 2007 trade that brought him and Adam LaRoche from the Braves for Mike Gonzalez and shortstop prospect Brent Lillibridge. Despite missing three weeks with a bruised left hand after getting hit by a pitch, Romak increased his home run production for the fourth straight season. Romak has outstanding raw power and can hit the ball out of the park to all fields. He also has an exceptionally strong arm, which makes him a prototypical right fielder. He's willing to work counts and take a walk. Romak has holes in his swing and can be fooled by offspeed and breaking pitches off the plate. He's too passive at the plate at times and will take hittable pitches. Romak offers little speed or range. Though he's still rather raw, Romak is one of the few power-hitting prospects in the system. He'll spend 2008 in Double-A, and his ability to make adjustments when he doesn't get fastballs will tell the tale of his long-term chances in the majors.
Bixler was slated to begin 2007 in Double-A but jumped to Triple-A after an impressive showing during his first major league spring training. The International League named him to its postseason all-star team, and he played for Team USA in the World Cup in November. He has shown the ability to hit for average since nearly winning the NCAA Division I batting title with a .453 average in 2004, and Bixler is developing gap power as he gets older. He's an above-average runner and a high-percentage basestealer with good awareness on the basepaths. He has outstanding instincts and makeup, understands the nuances of the game and is a hard worker. Bixler strikes out too much, especially for someone with only modest power. He also can be inconsistent in the field, especially with his throws. His range and arm are fringy, so he'll likely wind up at second base in the long run. There are a number of different scenarios for Bixler in 2008. He could be the Pirates' starting shortstop if Jack Wilson is traded, their utility infielder or their Triple-A shortstop.
Welker missed most of his senior high school season in Washington with back problems, then had his freshman season at Seminole State (Okla.) Junior College shortened by arthroscopic shoulder surgery. He blossomed after transferring to Arkansas in 2007, then signed with the Pirates for $477,000. Pittsburgh shut him down in mid-August with elbow soreness. Welker has a projectable pitcher's body with a long, loose frame. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph and he uses his height to get a good downward plane. He can dial the heater up to 95 mph on occasion, giving hope he could add velocity. He made progress with his secondary pitches during the spring. He has a reputation for being soft, but the Pirates say Welker has a bad rap and that his mound presence is fine. His curveball and changeup still need work. His curve tends to get loopy and his changeup sometimes lacks deception. He has been healthy for just one of the last four years, though Pittsburgh isn't worried about his elbow. Welker will begin the season in low Class A with a chance for a midseason promotion. He projects as a possible No. 3 starter with a major league ETA of 2010.
Corley was Kentucky's high school player of the year in 2002 and a first-team All- American as a sophomore two years later at Mississippi State. His statistics slipped as a junior while he recovered from a broken thumb, yet the Pirates took him in the second round. He has registered 193 RBIs in his two full pro seasons. Corley can pull inside pitches over the fence and has good gap power to the opposite field. He has shortened his swing since turning pro. He also has a strong arm, fitting for a guy who was used as a closer in college. He owns solid speed and right-field range. He believes his aggressiveness helps him be a run producer, but swinging at everything is going to hurt Corley as he moves up the ladder. He has drawn just 32 walks while striking out 214 times in full-season leagues. He's a sucker for high fastballs. Corley will begin 2008 in Double-A after finishing there last season. His career could stall if he doesn't exhibit some semblance of plate discipline against more advanced pitchers.
Watson posted a microscopic 0.10 ERA and won the Bob Feller Award as the top prep pitcher in Iowa as a high school senior. But he also tore the labrum in his shoulder, so he turned down the Marlins as a 23rd-round pick and headed to Nebraska, where he redshirted in 2004. Draft-eligible as a sophomore in 2006, he turned down a six-figure offer from the Orioles in the 17th round and then regressed last spring, signing for $85,000 as a ninth-rounder. Watson has a good feel for pitching, and he knows how to work both sides of the plate and mix his pitches. His fastball sat at 86-88 mph in 2007, a tick or two down from the previous year, and he has lost some velocity since having his labrum repaired. But it plays up because of a changeup that drops off the table. He also has a slurvy breaking ball that has its moments. Watson has to be fine with his control in order to succeed and may run into problems when he faces more advanced hitters. He'll begin this season in low Class A, where he ended 2007 on a good note, and a promotion could be on the docket at some point during the summer.
After hitting just .256 with one home run as a freshman at Rice, Friday blossomed into one of the best shortstops in college baseball. A third-round pick last June, he signed for $355,500. He has outstanding instincts and exceptional leadership skills, making up for his lack of size. He plays the little man's game well, as he's an outstanding directional bunter who's a threat to lay one down for a hit any time the bases are empty. He showed outstanding plate discipline in college, but pro pitchers got him to chase more pitches out of the strike zone and he'll have to prove that won't be a long-term problem. He has plus speed and an aggressive mentality on the bases. Friday has good range in the field to go with a strong arm and reliable hands. He needs to get stronger, though, or risk being overpowered by hard throwers as moves up the ladder. Friday should begin his first full season in low Class A.
Once a trailblazer in the region, the Pirates have had a woeful track record of signing players from Latin America in recent seasons. They're slowly reversing the trend under the auspices of Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo. In the meantime, they made quite a find in Sanchez, whom they signed after he was released by the Dodgers in spring training in 2004 after pitching two years in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League. Sanchez promptly threw a no-hitter with 12 strikeouts for the Pirates' VSL team that summer. He's a big, hard thrower who can run his fastball up to 96 mph and routinely hits 92-93 mph. If he can keep improving his curveball, Sanchez could be a dominant late-inning reliever. He held his own in his first taste of the major leagues last season and showed good mound presence. Though he finished the season in the majors after making the jump from Double-A, he could use a little time in Triple-A to tighten up his curveball and add polish to his game.
Bullington has been a disappointment since the Pirates made him the first overall pick in the 2002 draft, as seven pitchers drafted after him beat him to the major leagues, including four from the high school ranks. Bullington got to Pittsburgh at the end of the 2005 season, then tore the labrum in his shoulder during his debut and missed all of 2006 after undergoing surgery. He had an up-and-down season at Indianapolis last year, though he did get the win in the Triple-A all-star game. He also created some optimism at the end of the season with two solid major league starts. Bullington's fastball now usually tops out at 90 mph, a far cry from the 95 mph scouts clocked him at in college. He does have a good slider, decent changeup and a solid feel for pitching to make up for a lack of a great heater. It's clear now that he won't be a star, but Bullington has shown great resiliency and can still carve out a major league career as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He'll likely start the 2008 season back in Triple-A
Morgan played four years of junior hockey in Alberta before turning his focus to baseball. He had a slow and injury-filled climb through the system, after shoulder surgery cost him much of the 2005 season and a torn thumb ligament limited him to 44 games in Triple-A in 2007. However, he did enough in his limited minor league time in 2007 to get a September callup to the major leagues and make an impression. Former manager Jim Tracy played Morgan regularly in center field and the leadoff spot, and he responded by getting on base at a .359 clip and making highlight-reel plays. His strength is game-changing speed that he uses both on the bases and in the field. While he does not always get the best jumps on balls, Morgan's wheels allow him to close quickly and make catches like the jaw-dropping over-the-shoulder grab he made while running into the wall in right-center at Houston's Minute Maid Park. While he can be overeager on the bases at times, he's an excellent bunter who uses that skill as a means to get on base. On the downside, he offers little power and his arm is just playable in center field. More important, he's already 27. Nevertheless, Morgan will be the favorite to win Pittsburgh's starting center-field job when spring training begins.
The Pirates signed Astacio off the scrap heap in March 2006, after he had been released by the Cubs two months earlier. Chicago had acquired him from the Red Sox for Mike Remlinger in 2005, when he missed the entire season for violating a team rule. Now that he's healthy again, Astacio is a prototypical power reliever with a large frame, a live fastball and a big breaking pitch. He can routinely dial his fastball up to 96 mph and it has decent movement. His curveball is an out pitch, a hammer that falls off the table. His changeup is also serviceable, though he doesn't need it much working in short relief. Astacio's biggest problem is control, as he has averaged 5.4 walks per nine innings as a pro. He also lacks experience against quality hitters, as he didn't pitch in a full-season league until 2007 and made just one appearance in Double-A before falling in the shower and breaking his pitching hand. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Astacio will return to Double-A in 2008 and could see his first major league action later in the year if he throws more strikes.
Barthmaier had ranked as one of the Astros' top pitching prospects since turning down offers to play quarterback at major programs to sign for a 13th-round record $750,000 in 2003. But he came down with a nerve problem in his elbow toward the end of spring training and pitched only sparingly until mid-May, after which he was so inconsistent that Houston removed him from its 40-man roster. His 9.69 ERA in the Arizona Fall League cemented that decision but didn't deter the Pirates from claiming Barthmaier on waivers. At his best, he'll show a low-90s sinker, a four-seam fastball that can touch 96 mph and a big-breaking curveball. But his stuff was down for most of 2007, as his fastball was mostly average and his curve was flat. His changeup, command and consistency never developed as the Astros hoped, leaving some in that organization to question his aptitude and desire. He'll pitch backward at times and doesn't trust his fastball-curve combo as much as he should. Barthmaier still has a big, strong body and the potential for a live arm, and he may benefit from a move to the bullpen, where he could narrow his focus. The Pirates will try to get him back on track this year in Double-A.
Former Pirates scout and baseball-operations direction Jon Mercurio discovered Sharpless as local college senior playing at the NCAA Division III level in the North Coast Athletic Conference. He pitched just 19 innings as a senior while battling mononucleosis, and Mercurio signed him for $1,500 as a 24th-rounder. Sharpless ascended through the system and was nearly unhittable in his first four pro years by using a big-breaking slider and a 90-mph fastball that got on hitters quickly because of his straight overhand delivery. That earned him a promotion to the major leagues, and he pitched well for the Pirates in the final two months of the 2006 season. However, he struggled with mechanical changes former pitching coach Jim Colborn made with his delivery last spring, lost the release point on his slider and struggled to throw strikes throughout 2007 as he lost confidence. A change in regimes in Pittsburgh should help as Sharpless tries to regain his old form, though he will likely begin 2008 in Triple-A after not getting a September callup.
The Pirates took Meek with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 major league Rule 5 draft, making them his fourth organization in four years since he signed with the Twins as a draft-and-follow in 2003. Minnesota released him in mid-2005 after his control and attitude deteriorated, and the Padres signed him. San Diego then sent him to the Devil Rays in a deal for Russell Branyan in August 2006. Now Pittsburgh will see if he can crack their big league bullpen in 2008. If not, they have to place him on waivers and offer him back to the Devil Rays for half his $50,000 draft price before they can send him to the minors. Using a low-90s fastball that has good sink and run, Meek picks up strikeouts and groundballs. He has been clocked as high as 97 mph, but he loses command and life when he overthrows. His splitter complements his fastball well, and he'll also mix in some sliders. He has made some progress with his control and command but still suffers through bouts of wildness. Bothered by shoulder stiffness early, Meek finished strong with a 1.45 ERA in the season's final month and a 0.93 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.
Walker had a fine career at Texas Christian, earning Freshman All-America honors in 2005 and all- Conference USA accolades in his last two seasons. After setting career highs with a .328 average and 12 homers last spring, he signed for $147,600 as a fifth-round pick. Walker has good power potential, especially for a catcher, and the ability to hit for a decent average. He gets high marks for his knowledge of the game and take-charge attitude behind the plate, and he won the 10th Man Award in the Cape Cod League in 2006 for his blend of talent and intangibles. Walker's receiving and throwing skills went backward in his final college season, but he appeared to get back on track by the end of his first pro season. However, he threw out just 25 percent of basestealers in pro debut. Walker will start the season in low Class A but has a clear shot to the major leagues by 2010 as the Pirates have no prime catching prospects ahead of him after converting Neil Walker (no relation) to a third baseman last season.
McClune was the MVP of the Oklahoma state American Legion tournament in 2005 and also starred as a cornerback in football. Yet he was overshadowed in both sports by Santa Fe High (Edmond, Okla.) teammate Ty Weeden, now a catching prospect in the Red Sox system. McClune has plenty of raw tools, chief among them plus speed and an outstanding arm that already make him an above-average outfielder who has a chance to be a top-of-the-order hitter. Like many young hitters, McClune struggles to stay back on offspeed and breaking pitches, so he has yet to hit the ball with much authority. He needs to tighten his strike zone as well as his routes on fly balls. Though he has the range and offensive profile to play center field, the Pirates used him primarily in right field last season to take advantage of his strong arm. McClune has plenty of upside and Pittsburgh will decide in spring training whether he's ready for his first exposure to a full-season league.
The Pirates drafted more than their share of low-ceiling college players in the early rounds of the final two drafts of the Dave Littlefield regime. They did use their fourth-round pick on a toolsy high school outfielder in 2007, however, taking Latimore and then signing him for $220,000 to persuade him to pass on a scholarship to North Carolina State. Latimore had a solid pro debut, showing above-average speed both on the bases and while tracking down balls in both gaps in center field. He also has power potential, which should manifest itself as he gains more experience and his body continues to fill out. The biggest concern is whether Latimore will lose some of his speed as he puts on more muscle. If he can maintain his wheels and develop a good hitting approach, then he has a chance to become an above-average player with the potential to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases per season. Like most young players, Latimore needs to add polish to his game, particularly when it comes to handling breaking pitches and running clean routes in the outfield. Spring training will determine his assignment to begin 2008, as he will either be sent to low Class A or stay in extended spring training before reporting to short-season State College.
A 10th-rounder in 2002, Davidson is the highest-drafted Canadian ever taken by the Pirates. He logged just 62 innings in his first three pro seasons because of a variety of injuries and a shoulder operation. Finally healthy in 2006, he had a breakout season and posted a combined 2.01 ERA at three levels, earning him a spot on the 40-man roster at the end of that year. He maintained that status and made his big league debut in 2007. Davidson's fastball usually tops out at 90 mph, but he has an outstanding curveball that's particularly effective against lefthanders. He has had trouble consistently throwing strikes throughout his career, and that could limit him to being a situational reliever in the major leagues. He was overmatched in his first taste of the majors but followed that up with a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. Davidson has a great love for the game and owns a baseball training facility with former Pirates outfielder Scott Bullett in Welland, Ontario. He likely will begin the season in Triple-A but is close to a finished product despite his lack of experience.
A high school standout in Massachusetts, Bresnehan turned down the Royals as a 23rd-rounder to attend Arizona State. He had an inconsistent three years with the Sun Devils, going 10-9, 5.01. The Pirates initially used Bresnehan as a starter during his 2006 pro debut, but he took off after he moved to the bullpen, finishing the summer with 34 consecutive scoreless innings. Working in relief allows Bresnehan to concentrate on throwing just two pitches: a low-90s fastball and a sharp-breaking slider. He closed games last season in high Class A, but his long-term future appears as a set-up man because of his stuff and because he's capable of working multiple innings thanks to his background as a starter. He needs to refine his control and command as he climbs the ladder. Bresnehan will return to Double-A after finishing 2007 there. He's moving quickly and could see Triple-A before the end of the year.
The Pirates gave Herrera a three-year, $1.92 million major league contract that included a $750,000 bonus after the 2006 season, their first foray into the Cuban market since Fidel Castro rose to power more than four decades earlier. Herrera defected because he was left off Cuba's 2004 Olympic team because of injury. Though he had performed well with the powerful Cuban national team, Herrera didn't show that same kind of ability in his pro debut last season. His fastball sat at 84-86 mph, six mph slower than his heyday in Cuba, and his curveball and splitter lacked sharpness. He also lost confidence in his fastball and kept throwing his curve early in the count instead of trying to establish his heater. The Pirates attributed Herrera's poor season to having not pitched competitively since defecting in 2004, then getting caught up in political red tape in Dominican Republic while awaiting a work visa. Herrera is already 26 and needs to move fast. Unless he shows marked improvement in spring training, he's likely headed back to Double-A to start this season.
Davis dominated as a college player in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, where he was an all-conference pick in each of his two seasons at Alcorn State, but he lasted until the 18th round of the 2007 draft because scouts were skeptical of his level of competition. Signed for a mere $2,000, he showed plenty to like in his pro debut, flashing five-tool potential and earning some Andre Dawson comps from the Pirates. Davis' best tools are his outstanding raw power (he led the SWAC with 16 homers in 2007), above-average speed and strong throwing arm. He threw 94 mph as a closer at East Central (Miss.) CC, prompting the Marlins to draft him in the 21st round as a freshman in 2004. Davis understands his skills are still raw but is a willing learner and wants to get better. He has a tendency to swing at bad pitches, especially breaking balls outside the strike zone, but he did show a foundation to build plate discipline last season. Davis has the tools to be a good defensive outfielder but doesn't take good routes to the ball and needs to harness his arm. He'll start this season in low Class A.
Redmond was taken in the 40th round of the 2003 draft as a draft-and-follow by the Royals out of high school, but he didn't sign after his freshman year at St. Petersburg (Fla.) JC. The Pirates took him in 2004, again as a draft-and-follow, and Redmond led St. Petersburg to a second-place finish in its first appearance in the Junior College World Series in 2005. He was the Suncoast Conference pitcher of the year in both of his junior college seasons, and the Pirates signed him before the 2005 draft. Redmond was dominant during his first two pro seasons but struggled against high Class A hitters at Lynchburg last season. He has outstanding control and needs to have pinpoint command in order to succeed because he lacks an overpowering pitch. His best pitches are a 90-mph fastball and a curveball, though his changeup is improving. The Pirates want Redmond to be more aggressive with his fastball and use it more often to get ahead early in the count. Better hitters showed they could punish him if he's too fine. While Redmond may lack dominant pure stuff, he wins high marks for his competitiveness. He'll return to Double-A, where he made a three-game cameo last season. In the long run, he's likely more of a middle reliever than a starter.
The Pirates drafted Byler in the 33rd round out of an Ohio high school in 2004, then again three rounds later after his freshman season at Gulf Coast (Fla.) CC in 2005, signing him as a draft-and-follow before the 2006 draft. Byler played catcher, third base and the outfield in junior college but has been primarily a first baseman as a pro. His best tool is above-average power, as he's strong enough to hit the ball out to all fields and finished last season with six home runs in the final month at State College. Like many power hitters, Byler has a big swing with holes that need to be closed up. He runs OK for a big man but is subpar defensively, as all the changing of positions suggests. He does show the potential to at least become an adequate first baseman. Byler is ready for low Class A in 2008.
Delaney earned his degree in finance at Boston College and aspires to be a general manager or perhaps even a club president when his playing days are over. He also stood out on the field with the Eagles, winning all-Big East Conference honors twice and setting a school record with 256 career hits. Delaney's strength is his ability to put the bat on the ball. Following a disappointing pro debut, he has batted .302 the past two seasons, using a level stroke to spray the ball to all fields. He also developed some power last season, which he'll need to continue developing as he moves up through the farm system as a first baseman or left fielder. Delaney is adequate at both positions, though his lack of speed and arm strength hurts him in the outfield. He'll likely return to Double-A after spending the second half of 2007 there.
Munoz began his career under the name Renaldo Reyes in 2000 but his true identity and age were revealed when the U.S. government began cracking down on fake passports and birth certificates in 2002. Though Munoz was found to be more than two years older than the Pirates originally thought, they decided to keep him and he has made a slow climb through the system. Pittsburgh finally may see a payoff on its patience now, as he pitched well enough last season to be placed on the 40-man roster. Munoz is a sinker/slider pitcher who tops out in the low 90s, but he has learned to hit his spots and showed enough last year at the higher levels to make the Pirates think he's a legitimate major league prospect. He was particularly impressive in three spot starts in Triple-A. Munoz will go back to Indianapolis to start this season and has a chance to see major league action at some point during the year in an organization short on starting pitching depth. Though he led the system with 14 wins in 2007, he projects more a middle reliever than a starter in the long term.
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