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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 resolved 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. 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. 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. 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 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. His wife, 23 years his senior, was arrested in Florida last March on charges that she kidnapped a baby, but Tabata was not implicated. 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 aboveaverage arm. He has slightly above-average speed. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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 Futures Game and won the gold-medal game for Team USA at September's World Cup. 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. 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. Though he won six of his 12 starts at Indianapolis, Lincoln needs to return there to add some finishing touches to his game. He was added to the 40-man roster and should be in Pittsburgh by midseason. He will eventually settle in as a No. 3 starter, perhaps even a No. 2.
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. 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. 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 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.
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 Rookielevel 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. 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. 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. Marte has as much raw all-around ability as anybody in the system. He'll advance to high Class A Bradenton and work on refining his talent in 2010.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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 has good depth on his curveball, a deceptive changeup and an uncanny feel for pitching for a teenager. 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. He has yet to physically mature. 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.
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. 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. 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. Owens will likely begin 2010 back at high Class A Bradenton and finish the season in Double-A. How he performs there will provide a clearer picture of his future.
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. 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. Primarily a slap hitter, Hernandez, who was added to the 40-man roster, 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. 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.
Cain would have been taken earlier than the eighth round in the 2009 draft based strictly on talent, but his signability was an issue with most clubs. Some saw him as a sandwich-round talent but few felt they could buy him out of his commitment to Texas. A year after luring Robbie Grossman away from the Longhorns, the Pirates did the same with Cain, giving him an eighth-round record $1.15 million bonus. Some teams liked Cain for his abilities as a power-hitting first baseman, but the Pirates are convinced he can become an above-average majorleague starting pitcher. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and his curveball shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch. Like a lot of high school pitchers, he'll need to become more consistent, develop a changeup and smooth out his delivery now that he's in pro ball. He eats chicken for every pregame meal because he feels it gives him energy. Cain signed too late to make his pro debut last summer but attended instructional league. He'll probably open 2010 in extended spring training, then head to the Gulf Coast League.
Black put himself into first-round contention when he outperformed two top Texas A&M pitching prospects, Brooks Raley and Alex Wilson, in front of several scouts in late April. Though some clubs cooled on Black after he lost his last three starts, the Pirates took him with the supplemental first-round pick they received for failing to sign Tanner Scheppers in 2008. They signed Black for $717,000 and limited his pitch counts at short-season State College. Black's fastball sits at 91-95 mph and registers a tick higher when he reaches back for more. He throws his slider at 84 mph and it completely locks up hitters when he has command of it. His changeup is lacking, which leads some scouts to wonder if his hard stuff would better serve him as a late-inning reliever. He had a poor sophomore season when he lost his delivery and control, and he still needs to throw strikes more consistently. He also could stand to add some upper-body strength to go with his solid lower half. The Pirates want to keep Black in the starting rotation for now, and he could begin his first full season in high Class A.
Pirates fans were up in arms last June when the club traded Nate McLouth, who had played in the All-Star Game and won a Gold Glove the year before, then signed a $15.5 million contract in spring training. In return, the Braves sent Gorkys Hernandez, Locke and Charlie Morton to Pittsburgh. Locke got hit around early in high Class A after the trade, but settled in to go 3-0, 2.75 in his last nine starts and pitch 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the finals as Lynchburg won the Carolina League title. Nicknamed the Redstone Rocket in high school because he lived he lived in the Redstone section of Conway, N.H., Locke is a hard-throwing lefthander. He pitches off a 91-94 mph fastball that has heavy sink and induces grounders. He also has a decent curveball and is making progress with his changeup. He has a herky-jerky delivery that adds deception. Like most high school pitchers from New England, Locke has is relatively inexperienced, and he's trying to make up ground. Locke will begin 2010 in Double-A. Based on how he finished last season, he could be in the major leagues as soon as the second half of the season. He projects as a mid-rotation starter.
Another of the Pirates' several above-slot signings from the last two years, Miller slid to the 20th round of the 2008 because he was strongly committed to North Carolina. He signed for $900,000, a record for his round, and made his pro debut last season. He spent most of 2009 in low Class A, where he struggled early against older competition before going 1-0, 2.13 in his final six starts. Miller's fastball velocity is inconsistent, ranging from 86-94 mph, and he throws with a maximum-effort delivery. However, he made strides in refining his mechanics last year and continued to improve his quality slider. He's still trying to develop his changeup. Miller had shoulder problems in high school, which scared some teams away, but he showed no signs of arm problems in 2009. After his strong finish, he could push for a spot in high Class A with a good spring training. His raw ability makes him a potential No. 2 starter.
Morris was part of a huge three-way deal at the 2008 trading deadline. The Red Sox sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers while receiving Jason Bay from the Pirates, and Pittsburgh got four youngsters: Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss from Boston, and Andy LaRoche and Morris from Los Angeles. The only one of the four who has yet to appear in the majors, Morris could be the jewel of the package for the Pirates--if he can stay healthy. After signing for $1.325 million as the 26th overall pick in the 2006 draft, he missed all of 2007 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He has pitched just 87 innings since joining Pittsburgh. Biceps tendinitis cut short his 2008 season, and he missed the first two months of 2009 following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his foot. On top of that, the Pirates suspended Morris for 10 days in early August when he berated an umpire after being removed from a game. Morris, who was added to the 40-man roster, has the ability to be a frontline starter. When he's physically sound and at his best, he has a 91-93 mph fastball that touches 95 and has good life. He also has a plus curveball with big break and a serviceable changeup. However, he has gone 4-11, 5.48 in 18 starts since the trade. His mechanics lack smoothness, which has contributed to his injuries and detracts from his control. Though he's only 22, Morris needs to start turning his potential into results.
The Pirates made Raynor the second overall pick in the major league Rule 5 draft in December. They'll have to keep him on their big league roster throughout 2010, or else place him on waivers and offer him back to the Marlins for half his $50,000 draft price. He'll compete for a reserve outfield job in spring training. Signed for $17,500 as a college senior in 2006, Raynor won the South Atlantic League MVP award in his first full season. He had no trouble skipping a level to Double-A in 2008, but more experienced pitchers got him out time after time with soft stuff away in Triple-A last year. He couldn't stop from pulling off pitches, and his plate discipline and production declined noticeably. It's possible he developed some bad habits after suffering a hairline fracture in his left hand while at the Arizona Fall League in 2008. Raynor's best tool is his speed, as he regularly runs to first base in 4.1 seconds from the right side of the plate, and he needs to get on base more often to take advantage of his basestealing prowess. He has succeeded in 83 percent of his steal attempts as a pro, though his 19 swipes last year were his lowest total in four seasons. Raynor even struggled somewhat defensively, though he improved as the year went on. His speed gives him the range to play center, but his below-average arm probably will keep him in left.
Aguero was known as Samuel Vasquez during his first two pro seasons in the Dominican Summer League. However, when he tried to get a visa to come to the United States in 2008, it was found that he was using a false birth certificate and was actually 39 months older than the Pirates thought. He was allowed to enter the country, but his baseball future appeared in doubt when he got pounded as a 23-year-old starter at State College. However, Aguero was the most improved Pittsburgh farmhand last season, advancing from low Class A to Double-A after becoming a full-time reliever. The hardest thrower in the system, he routinely sits at 95-97 mph with his fastball. He complements his heater with a changeup that makes him tough on lefthanders. He also has a slider, but it's fringy. Aguero's lack of an effective third pitch and his tendency to lose steam on his fastball after a few innings make him strictly a short reliever. The Pirates placed him on the 40-man roster in November, quite an accomplishment for someone who went 1-10, 6.75 in short-season ball the previous year. Aguero likely will return to Altoona to start 2010 and could make a quick ascent to the big league bullpen because Pittsburgh craves hard-throwing relievers.
After a disappointing senior season, Grossman dropped to the sixth round of the 2008 draft and appeared to be a lock to play college ball at Texas. But the Pirates won that recruiting war after inviting him to PNC Park for a private workout and offering him a $1 million bonus. Pittsburgh aggressively pushed Grossman to low Class A last season, though he had just 16 Rookie-ball at-bats in his pro debut. He did a decent job, with the exception of striking out 164 times. His good eye, patience and slightly above-average speed make him a potential top-ofthe- order hitter if he can make more contact. He also shows flashes of power and could develop more pop as his body matures. Grossman gets into trouble by being too selective at times, especially in two-strike counts. He's an above-average outfielder with a playable arm. While he can play center field, he projects as more of a corner guy in the major leagues. Grossman wins high marks for his baseball IQ and is the type of player who figures to get the most of his ability. He'll move up to high Class A this season and is on track to reach the majors by the end of 2012.
It will be hard for Strickland to top his debut in the Pirates organization. Acquired from the Red Sox along with slick-fielding shortstop Argenis Diaz in a trade for Adam LaRoche last July, Strickland started for low Class A West Virginia five days later and pitched the first six innings of a combined no-hitter with Diego Moreno. Strickland was lifted because his pitch count reached 90. He added velocity to his fastball last season after adding weight to his lanky frame, touching 94 mph and usually sitting at 88-92. Besides his four-seam fastball, he also relies on a two-seamer and a curveball. His changeup is in the rudimentary stages, as he didn't begin throwing it until he began his pro career. Strickland has complex mechanics that include a high leg kick, but he's working on smoothing out his delivery. He does a fine job of throwing strikes but needs to improve his location because he's too hittable. He'll begin this season in high Class A, and if he can develop a swing-and-miss pitch, he'll jump on the fast track to Pittsburgh.
After starring in his pro debut and looking like one of the steals of the 2008 draft, Cunningham missed all of last season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a conditioning drill. He also missed his high school senior year in 2008 with the same issue, but in a medical rarity, the ACL reattached itself without surgery. He couldn't avoid an operation the second time, however. Cunningham's draft stock plunged after the original injury, and the Pirates were able to take him in the 18th round and sign him away from an Arizona State commitment for $300,000. He has a short stroke, makes consistent hard contact and figures to develop at least slightly above-average power. He has a solid approach for a young player, so he should hit for average as well. Cunningham is a good athlete with above-average speed, range and arm strength. Pittsburgh played him mostly at third base in his pro debut to increase his versatility and take stress off his knee, but Cunningham was a shortstop in high school and has the tools to play there if the knee surgery doesn't cost him any quickness. The Pirates will see how he looks in spring training before determining where to send him for 2010.
One of four players acquired from the Yankees in a July 2008 trade for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady, McCutchen failed in his bid to win a big league rotation spot in spring training last year. He responded by leading the International League in wins and earning a September callup. Originally scheduled to pitch for the United States in the World Cup, he made six outings for the Pirates, turning in four quality starts and beating the Reds for his first big league win. McCutchen succeeds by throwing strikes with a three-pitch arsenal. He throws his four-seam fastball at 90-93 mph and also has a hard curveball and a much-improved changeup. An extreme flyball pitcher throughout his pro career, he allowed six homers in 36 major league innings. He's almost around the plate too much and doesn't have a true swing-and-miss pitch. McCutchen is what he is, a 27-year-old who projects as a No. 4 or 5 starter, but he should open 2010 in Pittsburgh's rotation.
Mercer comes from Leedy, Okla., the same small town that produced Monty Fariss, the sixth overall pick in the 1988 draft. Like Fariss, Mercer is a tall shortstop who went on to stardom at Oklahoma State. He made the all-Big 12 Conference team at three different positions during his career: shortstop, utility player and pitcher. He topped the Carolina League with 36 doubles last season while helping Lynchburg win the league title. Mercer is an offense-first shortstop who has good gap power and the size and strength to eventually turn some of those doubles into homers. His biggest weakness as a hitter is his plate discipline, as he has particular trouble with offspeed pitches. Mercer's strong arm enabled him to hit 95 mph and close games in college, and also led the Pirates to experiment with him at third base late last season. His speed and range are average at shortstop, and he'll likely wind up at the hot corner in the long run. Headed to Double-A, he could begin making the full-time transition to third base because Pittsburgh's top shortstop prospect, Chase d'Arnaud, also figures to be with the Curve.
Chambers began his collegiate career at Florida but got just eight at-bats as a freshman in 2008. After hitting seven homers in the summer New England Collegiate League, he transferred to Hillsborough (Fla.) CC, making him eligible for the 2009 draft. The Pirates saw enough in his all-around game to select him in the third round and sign him for $423,900. He's a short, stocky center fielder with good speed and home run potential, so he has drawn inevitable comparisons to Kirby Puckett. While it takes quite the optimist to project Chambers as a future star, he showed good offensive potential late in his first pro season. He has a quick bat, though his swing can get choppy and he struggles with pitch recognition. He works so hard to take pitches and show good discipline that he lets too many hittable offering go by. Chambers has the tools to become an above-average defender with good range and a playable arm. He'll begin his first full season in low Class A and try to push his way through an increasingly deep pool of center-field prospects in the system.
Veal went from being one of baseball's best lefty pitching prospects in 2006, when he led the minors with a .175 opponent average, to unprotected on the Cubs' 40-man roster after the 2008 season, allowing the Pirates to claim him in the major league Rule 5 draft. Pittsburgh held onto him by keeping him on its major league roster in 2009, finding him extra work by sending him to the minors on a couple of rehab assignments for a strained groin and a strained index finger. Veal's control fell apart in his last two years in the Chicago system, and was dreadful while he pitched sparingly last season. But he seemed to turn a corner in the Arizona Fall League, where he issued just seven walks in 21 innings. There's no doubting Veal's pure stuff, as he can carve hitters up with either a low-90s fastball that touches 95 or a hammer curveball. The problem comes when he can't maintain his funky delivery and loses the strike zone. He has yet to develop a feel for the changeup, and he might be best off focusing on two pitches and working in shorter stints out of the bullpen. Veal won points for his work ethic as he threw numerous side sessions in the bullpen under the watch of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan last season. The Pirates haven't given up on Veal as a starter and will use him in their Triple-A rotation this season.
One of the five players the Mariners sent to the Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell last July, Lorin pitched brilliantly for West Virginia following the trade, giving up six earned runs in seven starts. He's less experienced than most college pitchers because he worked just 58 innings in three seasons between Arizona and Long Beach State. He has made up for lost time by logging 175 innings in 1½ pro seasons, posting a 2.77 ERA and 177 strikeouts. A big-bodied righthander who has drawn comparisons to Carl Pavano, Lorin uses his frame to throw downhill with a lively 87-91 mph fastball. He has the potential for three average or better pitches, because both his hard slurve and his changeup have their moments. He improved his control last season, adding more fuel for the belief that he'll eventually pick in the back of a big league rotation. After dominating the lower minors, Lorin will face tougher tests in 2010, when he'll start the year in high Class A with a chance to end it in Double-A.
Walker made his major league debut last September, five years after he was drafted with great fanfare from Pine-Richland High in Pittsburgh's northern suburbs. His father Tom and uncle Chip Lang also played in the big leagues. Picked 11th overall and signed for $1.95 million as a catcher, Walker moved to third base prior to the 2007 season. He seems to have a limited future with the Pirates at the hot corner, because they have Andy LaRoche starting there in the majors and top prospect Pedro Alvarez on the way. After going on the disabled list last June with a broken pinky and sprained knee, Walker hit .291/.319/.517 after returning to earn his callup. Pittsburgh was expecting that kind of power when it drafted him, but he hasn't shown it with any consistency. A switch-hitter, he undermines his offensive potential by lacking plate discipline. A good athlete who was recruited by college football programs as a wide receiver, Walker runs well for his size and has turned into an above-average defender at third base. He has quick reactions, solid range and a strong arm. Walker has expressed a willingness to become a super-utility player who could catch and play both infield and outfielder corners. That may be his ticket to having a big league career of any length.
Holt hit .348 with 12 home runs in 250 at-bats for Rice last spring after spending the first two years of his collegiate career at Navarro (Texas) JC, and the Pirates were pleasantly surprised to find him available in the ninth round. After signing quickly for $125,000, Holt had a fine pro debut, leading State College in hitting (.299), runs (45), homers (six) and steals (nine in as many tries). He has surprising pop for a smaller guy and can hit mistakes out of the park. However, his offensive strength is his ability to make consistent contact and get on base. His instincts allow him to turn his good speed into stolen bases. A shortstop at Navarro, Holt played second base at Rice in deference to potential 2010 first-round pick Rick Hague, then saw most of his time at short in pro ball. Holt is a steady defender with decent range and a solid arm. Pittsburgh could challenge him with an assignment to high Class A if he has a strong spring.
Since a strong 2007 pro debut, Friday has yet to show the same performance, in part because he has had a hard time staying on the field. He missed a significant portion of 2008 with a strained lower back, then sat out nearly a month early last season with an inner-ear infection. The Pirats worried that he might have vertigo, and the infection affected him past his disabled list stay, though he did rebound to earn a selection to the Double-A Eastern League all-star game. Friday profiles as a classic No. 2 hitter. He works counts and takes his walks, and he controls the bat well enough to be an asset in hit-and-run and sacrifice situations. He has modest power and slightly above-average speed. Normally a reliable fielder, he has struggled defensively when he has been less than 100 percent the last two years. He has average range and a strong arm at shortstop. Friday will move up to Triple-A this season, and if he can get back on track, he could get an opportunity to stabilize Pittsburgh's unsettled shortstop situation.
Harrison came to the Pirates along with Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart last July in a trade that sent Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Cubs. Harrison has baseball in his blood, as he's the nephew of former big leaguer and current Orioles first-base coach John Shelby and the brother of former Rays farmhand Vince Harrison. Josh has a track record of performance, sharing Big East Conference player of the year honors in 2008 and batting .323 through low Class A, but scouts still aren't sure what to make of him. Using a simple, repeatable swing, he makes consistent line-drive contact and brings energy to the ballpark. The question is what else he brings to the table. He makes contact so easily that he doesn't draw many walks, and while he has more pop than expected from a little guy, that's not a major part of his game. He has fringy speed out of the box and is better under way, but he won't be a big basestealing threat at higher levels. His defensive position is also uncertain. His range and hands are fringy for second base, his main position in college, and his arm and power are substandard for third base. He saw most of his time last season in left field, but doesn't profile well there either. Harrison hit just .275/.310/.374 once he got to high Class A in 2009, and he needs to get his bat going again in Double-A this year.
The eminently likeable Moskos is the prospect frustrated Pirates fans love to hate, through no fault of his own. The fans haven't forgotten that former general manager Dave Littlefield chose Moskos with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 draft, when Matt Wieters was still on the board. Littlefield feared that Wieters wouldn't sign for less than $12 million (though he ultimately took $6 million), and Pittsburgh landed Moskos for $2.475 million. While Wieters was establishing himself in the major leagues last season, Moskos was in the rotation at Double-A Altoona. He had a solid season, but his strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) shows how much his stuff has diminished since his days at Clemson. His formerly 95 mph fastball is down to the high 80s, and the wipeout slider no longer has the same bite. Instead, he gets by on moving the ball around the strike zone and pitching to contact. He also throws a curveball and changeup, though neither is anything special. The Pirates were encouraged that Moskos showed up to spring training in top shape last season after struggling with his conditioning in 2008. He'll begin this season in the Indianapolis rotation, but his role in the majors more likely will be as a reliever.
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