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Taillon entered 2010 as the highest-upside pitching prospect in the draft and cemented that status with a dominating season at The Woodlands (Texas) High. He went 8-1, 1.78 with 114 strikeouts in 62 innings, including a 19-strikeout nohitter and a 13-strikeout playoff win in his final start. The Pirates took Taillon with the No. 2 overall pick, and their scouts liked him better than No. 1 choice Bryce Harper. After a long but amicable negotiation, he agreed to a $6.5 million bonus--the second-largest in draft history--on the evening of the Aug. 16 deadline. Pittsburgh sent him and second-rounder Stetson Allie, another high school righthander with electric stuff, to short-season State College to observe the Spikes. Taillon's first pro work off a mound came during instructional league in October, Scouts compare Taillon to Josh Beckett at the same stage of his career. The two Texans had similar stuff, but Taillon has a classic pitcher's body and is markedly bigger, with room to fill out. His fastball, which is heavy and comes with explosive movement, sits at 93-97 mph and touches 99. His mid-80s hammer curveball is just as devastating, and the consensus among scouts was that he had the two best pitches in the draft (with Allie not far behind). Taillon's curve opens on the same plane as his fastball, making it that much tougher to hit. He also has a hard slider that looked nearly as good as his curve during instructional league. Both breaking balls have late bite and depth, with the curve being a little bigger and the slider shorter with more tilt. He'll need to develop a changeup. He has flashed a decent one in the past, but the rest of his repertoire rendered it moot at the amateur level. Taillon's delivery, mostly from a three-quarters arm slot, is a work in progress. He throws his fastball with the ease of someone playing catch, but good command of all pitches will come only after he consistently trusts his natural strength rather than trying to do too much. He also has plenty of moving parts, including a trademark dip in his back shoulder, though he also has the athleticism to make it all work. Any mechanical issues are minor--Pittsburgh simply wants to allow him to locate the ball down in the zone with plane--and he should develop into a solid strikethrower. The Pirates quickly have become enamored with Taillon's intangibles. Though he still could be a little meaner on the mound--think, again, of a young Beckett--he has exemplary makeup. He had no trouble assimilating into pro ball and soaking up teaching in instructional league. Taillon is projected as the franchise's first ace since Doug Drabek in the early 1990s, but Pittsburgh pledges to bring him along slowly. Then again, he's so gifted that his talent may dictate otherwise. He'll likely make his pro debut at low Class A West Virginia, where he'll pitch out of the rotation with a highly conservative inning count. His focus will be almost entirely on building up his durability and learning the professional game, so a midseason promotion appears unlikely.
Sanchez was a surprise pick at No. 4 overall in the 2009 draft, but he has demonstrated advanced defense and surprisingly consistent offense since signing for $2.5 million. His first full pro season ended in late June when a fastball from the Mets' Brad Holt struck him in the face. Sanchez's jaw was broken and he lost 20 pounds while recovering, but he returned for a full, productive Arizona Fall League showing. Sanchez is exceptional at blocking pitches, thanks to quick reflexes and sound technique. His arm strength grades as a 55-60 on the 20-80 scouting scale and he has a quick exchange. He threw out only 15 percent of basestealers in 2010, but that owed to a sore shoulder early in the season. He's still learning to call games, something he didn't do in high school or at Boston College. At the plate, Sanchez has shown mature recognition of the strike zone and how pitchers are trying to work him. He has some gap power and should be able to reach double digits in homers, though his strength will remain hitting to all fields for good average. His running is below-average, as with most catchers. His leadership traits are universally lauded. Sanchez will open this season with Double-A Altoona and remains on target for a big league arrival in 2012. He has the potential to become Pittsburgh's first Gold Glove catcher since Mike LaValliere in 1987.
The Pirates were pleasantly surprised Allie lasted 52 picks in the 2010 draft despite having a live arm to rival Jameson Taillon's. They went well above slot to sign him for $2.25 million in the second round. He didn't pitch last summer after signing but looked good during instructional league. His father Dan is a former scout who was his coach at St. Edward High (Lakewood, Ohio). Some teams were scared off by Allie's lack of command, but his pure stuff is undeniable. He threw 98-99 mph fastballs as the draft approached, and also displayed an 88-89 mph slider. The source of his power is his big, strong, physical frame, as well as an aggressive mentality that leads to explosiveness in the delivery. He'll need something to slow down opponents' bats, which is why Pittsburgh began stressing a changeup in instructional league. While his stuff is in Taillon's class, Allie doesn't have the same polish. He also was a prospect as a third baseman with plus power and a strong arm, but he realized in 2010 that his future was on the mound. Though it's easier to project Allie as a closer, the Pirates hope he can become a starter and he'll begin 2011 in the West Virginia rotation. That role will give him the innings to work on his changeup and make the transition from thrower to pitcher.
Signed for a relatively low $85,000, Marte has shown five-tool potential since coming to the United States in 2009, becoming the franchise's most anticipated Latin American prospect since Jose Guillen. Marte was in a 1-for-18 slump last May when he was diagnosed with a broken hamate bone in his left hand. Surgery cost him two months but he quickly returned to form afterward. One club official unflinchingly calls Marte the best player in the system. He stands out most with his plus-plus speed, particularly in center field, where he also has an above-average arm. Some scouts believe he could play defensively in Pittsburgh right now. His basestealing isn't polished, but he'll be dangerous once he masters reads and jumps. At the plate, Marte drives the ball from gap to gap. He has hit just five homers in two seasons in the United States, but he has the strength and swing path to hit 15-20 annually. The Pirates want him to focus on his on-base skills, because he doesn't control the strike zone or square up many breaking balls. Marte's advanced defense will accelerate his rise, as will his intelligence and ambition. But his strike-zone discipline will have to keep pace. Ticketed for Double-A in 2011, he could push Andrew McCutchen to an outfield corner when he arrives in Pittsburgh within a couple of years.
Signing Heredia for a $2.6 million bonus in August was a landmark deal for the Pirates, who never had spent more than $400,000 on an international amateur. It also was the culmination of years of intense scouting by Rene Gayo and Jesus Valdez, who forged a close relationship with Heredia and fended off more than a dozen other interested teams. Heredia doesn't have one singularly superb trait, aside from doing so much so well with such size at his age. His frame, coordination and delivery are highly advanced, and he has excelled against older competition all his life. That makes his ceiling hard to define. Heredia's fastball sits at 92-93 mph, peaking at 95 mph with some cut inward on righthanders. Moreover, the velocity comes with minimal effort, as the ball appears to explode from his hand. He has a plus curveball on which he leans heavily, perhaps too much. He also demonstrates good velocity, if precious little polish, on a slider and changeup. Because Heredia was limited to pitching in weekly exhibitions for most of the past year, Pittsburgh kept him off the mound until instructional league in October, then sent him to its Dominican academy for more work. He impressed management enough with his poise that he may pitch in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2011.
A Dodgers first-round pick in 2006, Morris had the highest ceiling of the four prospects the Pirates acquired in the otherwise disastrous Jason Bay trade two years later. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007, biceps tendinitis in 2008, then foot surgery and a week-long suspension for berating an umpire in 2009. He rebounded in a big way last year, pitching in the Futures Game and helping Altoona win the Eastern League championship. Morris has the stuff of a frontline starter. He has a 92-94 mph fastball that has hit 96 mph when he has worked in relief. His curveball has a powerful downward arc, and he mixes it well with his fastball, which has some cutting life. He throws an average slider with late downward break. He has a changeup, too, but he shows little feel for it. Scouts love Morris' intensity, especially given his injury history, though some want to see him tone down his delivery a bit before fully believing he can hold up as a starter. Pittsburgh moved him to the bullpen late in the summer, primarily to limit his innings but also to address minor mechanical issues. Morris will start 2011 at Triple-A Indianapolis with the chance to make his big league debut later in the season. If he can stay healthy, he still might salvage something out of the Bay deal.
Signed for $390,000 as a draft-and-follow, Owens posted a 5.06 ERA in his first two pro seasons but has been named Pirates minor league pitcher of the year in each of the last two. In 2010, he led the Eastern League in ERA (2.46) and fewest baserunners per nine innings (9.1). He grew stronger as the season progressed, giving up just six runs and four walks in his final eight starts. Owens grew stronger as the season progressed in another way, too, as his fastball went from 87-90 to 90-93 mph down the stretch. The extra velocity highly encouraged the Pirates, who proclaimed that his soft-tossing-lefty tag no longer applied. His fastball command is solid--occasionally, it's excellent--and the pitch has some late run. His secondary offerings, a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup, are no better than average pitches but he locates them well. Owens' pinpoint control comes from easily repeating his delivery, and the way he uses it to pick apart hitters' weaknesses is reminiscent of a young Zach Duke. How well Owens retains his added velocity will determine if he's a mid-rotation starter or more of a back-end option. He'll begin 2011 in Triple-A and could reach Pittsburgh by the end of the season.
Locke looks like he'll be the best of the three players acquired in the 2009 Nate McLouth trade with the Braves, surpassing Charlie Morton and outfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez. After getting hit hard upon his arrival, Locke has settled down to become one of the system's most consistent starters. He easily handled a midseason promotion to Double-A last year, and he recorded a 1.54 ERA in two playoff starts for Eastern League champion Altoona. Locke came from Atlanta with a 91-94 mph fastball, but he now mostly sits at 90 mph and peaks at 92. His fastball is still effective, however, because it has running life and comes with some deception. Filling out his skinny frame could restore some velocity, though his narrow shoulders suggest that he won't add much more strength. Locke also uses a slurvy curveball and a changeup, both of which are average. He has a slight build and a herky-jerky delivery with good finish out front. He may not have a plus pitch, but he consistently throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone. Unless he regains his former fastball, Locke may not be more than a No. 4 starter. He'll return to Altoona in 2011, with the chance for another midseason promotion.
Von Rosenberg won four state championship games in four years at two Louisiana high schools, showing top-two-rounds talent. But his commitment to Louisiana State caused him to slide until the sixth round of the 2009 draft, and it cost the Pirates a $1.2 million bonus. After signing late and pitching just one pro inning that summer, he opened 2010 in extended spring training before reporting to State College. Kept on tight pitch counts, he recovered from a slow start to post a 0.96 ERA in his final six outings. Von Rosenberg offers an advanced feel for pitching and a wiry, projectable frame that portends improved stuff in the future. His fastball currently ranges from 87-91 mph and he's able to locate it to both sides of the plate. His changeup took a big step forward last summer, showing nice spin and deception. His curveball has 11-to-5 break at times, though it also can get loopy. A good athlete who was an all-state pitcher in high school, he has a loose, easy arm action. Pittsburgh will continue to handle Von Rosenberg with care, though he'll make his full-season debut at West Virginia in 2011. If he can get stronger and add some more power to his pitches, he could become a No. 3 starter and possibly more.
After cruising through his first two pro seasons, d'Arnaud hit the wall hard in Double- A last year. He batted .209 in the first two months and some dubious defense got him moved from shortstop to second base in August. Still, he showed some flashes, including a 19-game on-base streak in June, a grand slam in the Eastern League all-star game and three homers in the playoffs. His brother Travis plays in the Blue Jays system and is one of the game's top catching prospects. D'Arnaud's best tools are his plus speed and arm strength, and he covers a good amount of ground at shortstop. But he made 28 errors in 115 games at short last year, in part because he didn't maintain his focus. His offensive ceiling is as a No. 2 hitter, but he'll have to make adjustments to reach it. D'Arnaud guesses and strikes out too often. He's most effective when he doesn't try to do too much, keeps his hands inside the ball and uses the opposite field. He has some strength but below-average power, mostly because he hasn't learned to turn on pitches. Despite his struggles, the Pirates still believe d'Arnaud can be an everyday shortstop. He'll have to rebound in 2011, or a utility role will be in his future. He could return to Double-A to start the season.
It was another head-scratcher of a year for Lambo, who only two years ago was regarded as the Dodgers' top prospect. He continued to show promise at the plate, but he also was suspended for 50 games on May 1 for a second positive test of a "drug of abuse" under the minor league drug treatment and prevention program. As a high school sophomore he was caught smoking marijuana, and this instance also involved a recreational drug. The Pirates acquired Lambo and James McDonald at last year's trade deadline in the deal that sent Octavio Dotel to the Dodgers, adamant they had done due diligence on Lambo's makeup. Some scouts are put off by what they see as a cocky attitude, but the Pirates' view is that it is a simple case of immaturity and that Lambo has shown progress in growing out of it. Lambo is a pure hitter, and the ball jumps off his bat. He squares the ball and can hit to all fields. He remains a gap-to-gap hitter at this point, but more power is there. A reduced leg lift implemented by the Pirates has led to better swings and selectivity, and he's already got a good eye for pitches and the strike zone. Good fastballs can beat him over the inner half. He is a below-average athlete and runner but shows good anticipation in the outfield, so he should be fine in left field. His arm is slightly below-average. Lambo's season was disrupted by a sprained right shoulder in mid-August, but he came back strong in the Arizona Fall League, so he could move up to Triple-A in 2011.
Moreno missed a month of games with a strained right rotator cuff, beginning in late May, and then on July 18 the Pirates suspended him for unprofessional conduct after an incident during a game in Altoona. Team officials never offered specifics, but all concerned were adamant that it was not a reflection on Moreno's general character. Moreno was the hardest thrower of anyone who played in the system in 2010, averaging 95 mph on the fastball and peaking at 98. The heater is mostly true but comes with a little natural sink. He uses a wipeout slider at 87-88 mph to keep hitters from sitting on the fastball. He also has a changeup used solely for balance. Command always has come easily, but the delivery is maximum-effort. Despite a stocky build, he shows good athleticism. His most striking physical trait is the exceptional length of his arms. Moreno dominated hitters in high Class A, but Double-A opponents took advantage of inconsistent velocity and fastballs left up in the zone. Scouts see him as a back-end bullpen type in the majors, though not a shutdown closer because he lacks a dominant second pitch.
Signed to an eighth-round record $1.15 million bonus in 2009, Cain had back surgery last winter and spent much of 2010 rehabilitating what the Pirates called a minor issue. He did get back on the field by the end of June, and management was impressed with his intense work ethic and delighted that his stuff bounced back to near-peak form. His ERA is deceiving because he limited opponents to a .197 average, including .163 against lefthanded hitters. Cain's fastball tops out at 93 mph, with expected room for improvement there, and sits at 88-91. It plays up thanks to deception in his delivery and his ability to command it down in the zone. Hitters seldom had clean swings on it. The secondary pitches are a work in progress but show enough that they could be legitimate weapons. The first is a slurvy 2-to-8 breaking ball, and the other a fringy changeup. His command of the fastball is good, but he'll clearly need to improve the secondary pitches. Cain makes the most of a workhorse frame, but scouts see him as too upright in his delivery. He needs to get more comfortable with his mechanics and polish his repertoire in order to remain a starter. He should start 2011 in West Virginia's rotation.
Hernandez ranked as one of the top prospects in the Tigers organization when he went to the Braves in a trade for Edgar Renteria in October 2007, and he moved again when Pittsburgh traded Nate McLouth to Atlanta in June 2009. He has not shown the form with the Pirates that helped him capture a Gulf Coast League batting title in his first season and a low Class A Midwest League MVP title in his next. His best attributes are his speed and defense, and even scouts who have soured on Hernandez concede that he has few flaws in center field. He covers enough ground to play shallow, makes catches over his head look easy, glides from gap to gap and has a strong, accurate arm. He has plus speed and stole 17 bases in 20 attempts last year. A modest surge at the plate--.291 in June, .325 in July--raised hopes, but only 12 of those 57 hits were for extra bases. He broke his right ring finger in a bunt attempt on July 25, ending his season. Although he added about 10 pounds to his frame, Hernandez still lacks strength at the plate and often is late to the ball. He often looks hesitant to swing. Many of his hits never left the infield, and he offers little power. Scouts see him as young enough to improve, but he needs to get going. Depending on his spring, he could return for a third tour in Double-A.
Wilson was drafted with the reputation as a big-game pitcher, having won the decisive game of the 2008 College World Series for Fresno State. He added to that in 2010 by being named MVP of the Eastern League playoffs as Altoona won the title. He went 2-0, 0.00 in starting Game Three in each of the Curve's series victories and threw a total of 13 shutout innings. Wilson's fastball peaks at 95 mph and fluctuates from 87-93, and it comes with a sneakiness that brings swings and misses. He has a long way to go to improve fastball command, and needs to work on the consistency of his velocity. His delivery is a little rough, with a slight hook in the back, and he has a tendency to shift on the rubber depending whether the batter is lefthanded or righthanded. He has a big-breaking curve and a changeup that comes with some life and promise. Although Wilson's strikeout total and opponent average ranked second in the EL last season, the Pirates might send him back to Altoona to work on his command, rather than have him get beat up by Triple-A hitters.
When the Pirates paid Black $717,000 as a supplemental pick in 2009, the view was that his hard stuff might translate best to late-inning relief. Organization officials feel even more strongly about it after he was set back significantly by missing almost all of 2010 due to various issues with his right shoulder and biceps, and he is expected to move from starting to relief in 2011. His big frame and big arm could allow him to move quickly through the system out of the bullpen. When healthy, Black's fastball tops out at 96 mph and sits at 92-94. It comes from his big, powerful frame and is delivered from a high three-quarters slot, keeping it somewhat straight. His only other fully developed pitch is a dynamic slider, one with good tilt. He abandoned his curveball in 2008, and his changeup will require more work, which will require more innings. Black did not pitch competitively after May 22, but he was healthy for instructional league activity in October, so the Pirates expect him to handle a full workload this season. Keeping him in the bullpen will also allow them to more tightly control his workload, and he'll probably go to high Class A Bradenton to begin working in his new role.
Baker's father Tim was drafted by the Red Sox, and his grandfather, Chuck Daniel, played for the Tigers. He worked mostly in relief at Mississippi, and the knock against him was that the fastball was fine, but the secondary stuff lagged. He turned that around in his first full season, ramping up the fastball to 90-92 mph, as well as dramatically improving his slider and changeup. His overhand delivery gives him a downhill plane, and he gets some sink on the ball. His slider still projects as no better than an average pitch, and the changeup remains too firm, but both have come a long way in a short period, and that has Pirates officials encouraged. Baker has displayed good control, thanks in part to a tight delivery, and he goes right after hitters. He has not gotten many strikeouts or groundouts, and one of those two factors likely will need to improve for him to find his way through the higher levels. He began the year with West Virginia and held opponents to a .210 average, then fared well once promoted to high Class A, though his opponent average and walk rate both went up. He probably will start 2011 back in Bradenton.
Dodson was Baylor's top recruit in 2009, and many scouts expected him to get to school because of his reported seven-figure asking price. He likely would have been a two-way player in college and is a good athlete who swings a lefthanded bat, but the Pirates took him in the fourth round and were able to sign him for $600,000. Not much about his numbers jumped out in his first real action, particularly given the contact he gave up and occasional lack of control. But his stuff shows signs of being able to grow into much more. He throws a consistent 88-92 mph fastball, and it comes out of his hand easily enough that scouts think more is there. Hitters seldom squared up on his heat. His delivery, arm action and athleticism also contribute to his projection, through he does need some effort to generate velocity with his three-quarters delivery. The timing and compact nature of the delivery need occasional maintenance, but that is to be expected of someone so young. Dodson also shows a promising curveball with 12-to-6 movement, as well as a fringy changeup. He will remain in a starting role and will move into full-season ball at West Virginia.
When the Pirates signed Aguero, he was known as Samuel Vasquez and was 39 months younger. But when he came to the United States in 2008, officials discovered that he used a false birth certificate. He was on thin ice after a poor 2008 season, but he bounced back after moving into a full-time relief role. Aguero has the stuff, notably a fastball that peaks at 98 mph with some sink, to make a quick ascent to Pittsburgh. He raised significant questions about his health--and toughness--in 2010, when he was twice shut down with elbow ailments that proved to be false alarms and was limited to 25 appearances for the season. Doctors didn't find ligament damage in either case, including an arthrogram in early September. That is not the progress the Pirates hoped for when they added Aguero to the 40-man in the winter of 2009. The stuff is too good to ignore, though. His fastball sits consistently at 95-97 mph, but he has a hard time maintaining velocity. He has an average changeup to keep lefthanders honest, and his slider is still a work in progress but has potential. Aguero probably will have to prove himself anew in Altoona, and he'll be old for Double-A.
Presley was no more than an organizational afterthought following a 2009 when he repeated high Class A and didn't show much improvement, but he astoundingly ended up the Pirates' minor league player of the year for 2010 and spent the final month of the season in Pittsburgh. He opened with Altoona and led the Eastern League with a .350 average before being promoted to Triple-A on June 25. His total of 166 hits between the two stops ranked 15th in the minors, and was the fifth-highest mark in the Pirates system since 1995. Presley showed occasional pop, but his sudden success came because he has made the transition to more of a little-man's game, going to a shorter swing and shooting the ball the other way. His fielding is a tick below-average, with a raw feel to his break on fly balls, and he has a below-average arm. He has plus speed, which brought many infield singles, and his baserunning is as raw as the defense, and not just in the area of stolen bases. The Pirates liked what they saw during his month in Pittsburgh, and one evaluator said he looked overmatched in only one of his 23 at-bats. Presley will come to spring training under consideration for reserve outfield duty in the big leagues.
Latimore has been a favorite of some in the Pirates front office since his draft year, partly because of a fiery competitiveness but mostly because of what they see as legitimate power. He lacks the size for huge home run numbers, but his quick wrists and aggressive swing--bordering on violent--on a Ron Gant frame could translate to 20 home runs a season, according to some scouts. But he'll need to get more consistent with the bat for that to count at higher levels. His walk total has remained consistently too low, and he often hacks at offspeed pitches well outside the zone. Instructors have urged him to slow the game down, as he did when posting a .942 OPS during a sizzling August. That prompted optimism because he more than held his own in high Class A at age 21. He loves to hit and covers the plate well, hitting to all fields, so if he gets more selective he should hit for a decent average. Latimore has average speed, though not enough to mature into a basestealing threat. His arm is slightly above-average, but his overall defense is suspect and will force him to remain in left field. He could move up to Double-A this season, but the Pirates might also prefer to see him work on patience by repeating high Class A.
If not for Alex Presley, Mercer might have been the most pleasant surprise in the organizaiton in 2010, wrestling the starting shortstop job from more touted prospect Chase d'Arnaud at Altoona and later belting three playoff home runs--matching his regular season total--for the Eastern League champions. He was an all-Big 12 Conference player at three different positions during his college career: shortstop, utility and pitcher. So it's not surprising that he has played some third base and second base, as well as shortstop. He has peformed better at short, in large part because of slow reaction time at other positions. He has a strong arm, smooth actions and catches what comes to him, making up for limited range. Offensively, Mercer has improved steadily but will never be a spectacular run producer. His pitch recognition has gotten better, and he can drive the ball gap to gap, but the better arms in the minors continue to eat him up inside. He has the ingredients to adjust but must find consistency. His speed is slightly above-average, as are his overall instincts for the game. Depending on how things shake out above him, Mercer could open the season back at Altoona, though he'll likely see Triple-A at some point.
Rojas was the only player the Pirates picked in the first 10 rounds of the 2010 draft who was not a righthanded pitcher, and he came not only with the potential to be an everyday center fielder but also with major league lineage. He is the son of the former reliever of the same name. He turned down offers to sign out of the Dominican Republic to attend Wabash Valley (Ill.) CC, redshirting his freshman year. After he led all national juco players with 61 steals in 64 attempts last spring, Pittsburgh drafted him in the third round and signed him for $423,900. Rojas has slightly above-average speed and good arm strength, and the Pirates are confident that he can stay in center. The bat is a much harder read. He has a fairly flat swing, which could help him keep the ball on the ground, though it does not bode well for power or even line-drive contact. He does not barrel balls consistently and often looks defensive at the plate, but a generally sound approach brought respectable strikeout/ walk numbers. The swing will take work, but the Pirates appreciate the raw tools enough that the pieces could add up. Some see him as having five-tool potential, though with no true plus tool, but others see him as a tweener who won't be able to remain in center and may not hit enough for a corner. He should be able to open 2011 in the West Virginia outfield.
The Indians made Rodriguez a fifth-round pick coming out of Rice in 2006, when current Pirates general manager Neal Huntington was still with Cleveland. Some scouts saw 2010 as his breakthrough year, as he maintained his Double-A production into Triple-A and helped Columbus win the International League title. He was old for starting the season in Double-A, but that came after missing half of 2009 with a strained right hamstring. When the Indians did not protect Rodriguez on their 40-man roster, the Pirates made him the first pick in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings. Rodriguez shows good patience at the plate, and he has a chance to be a solid bat for a middle infielder. He has a tendency to hit the ball in the air but offers little more than gap power, and good fastballs occasionally overmatch him. The Pirates will try him at shortstop, but his .947 career fielding percentage there should bring skepticism. His arm is slightly above-average, and his range and glove are adequate, but consistency is lacking and he gets inconsistent reads off the bat. In general, his upside appears to be as a utility player, and that's how the Pirates plan to use him on their major league roster, including possible outfield duty. If he doesn't stick in the big leagues, he'll have to pass through waivers and be offered back to Cleveland.
Was Grossman's second full season a disappointment or not? That's the question the Pirates were asking themselves, and there were no easy answers. On one hand, he survived what the team felt was an aggressive placement in high Class A at age 20, and he was a mainstay for a Bradenton team that made the playoffs despite a rash of injuries. On the other, he struck out too often, stole only 15 of 23 bases and showed little offensive versatility when other things failed, notably bunting for a hit. Pittsburgh signed Grossman away from a Texas scholarship in 2008, giving him a $1 million bonus and viewing him as a top-of-the-order threat. But he has not produced enough with the bat so far. He's a switch-hitter who makes better contact from the right side and swings and misses a lot from the left. He has raw power, including gap to gap, from both sides of the plate. But his selectivity needs to improve, as he often dug two-strike holes for himself. He has enough speed to play center field at least on occasion, but the Pirates have used him mostly in left, which is a better fit not only for his above-average speed (PNC Park's left field is huge) but also for a below-average arm. Some scouts think he should rework or scrap his lefthanded swing, and worry that he has no premium tool that can carry him to the big leagues. Grossman will probably repeat high Class A in an effort to get his bat going.
Moskos likely never will live down the controversy that surrounded his selection as the fourth overall pick in 2007, just ahead of Matt Wieters going to Baltimore, or live up to his $2.475 million bonus. He appeared to be carving his own path in 2010 until hitting a wall with his midseason promotion to Triple-A. Moskos dominated Double-A batters, allowing a .179 opponent average, and nailed down 21 of 22 saves, plus a 5-for-5 showing in the playoffs for Eastern League champion Altoona. His June 25 promotion to Triple-A went poorly, though, with a 10.38 ERA and .351 opponent average. Some scouts thought he developed a case of the yips, and when he was sent back to Double-A in August he immediately found his footing again. Moskos has a plus slider that he can throw for strikes consistently, and a sinking splitter that he uses as a changeup. His delivery comes with excruciating effort, including an extra hip turn, and he is not a very flexible athlete. His command has improved and should be average. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Moskos' next step will be a second try in the Indianapolis bullpen.
Ciriaco was acquired in a trade with Arizona last July that also brought in Chris Snyder and $3 million for D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby. Ciriaco finally reached the majors in his eighth pro season when Pittsburgh made him a September callup. He showed enough in his brief time in the Pirates' hands to convince management that he could push everyday shortstop Ronny Cedeno at some point in 2011, after more time in Triple-A. Ciriaco long had tools ranked among the best in the Diamondbacks system, most notably his plus speed, smooth glove and strong arm. But just as with Arizona, he will need to prove himself with the bat in order to become a starter. He has shown poor pitch selection--two walks in 129 plate appearances after the trade--and his spindly frame offers little hope for power. There is occasional lively contact, and the Pirates were stressing for him to find a way to make that more consistent. The primary adjustments were creating a smooth, consistent load, and getting his head in position to see the ball better. Ciriaco has the defensive tools to contribute in the big leagues, and if he can hit he could find an everyday role. He'll open 2011 at Indianapolis and try to prove he's ready.
The Pirates got Pribanic as part of the five-player package they received in the 2009 trade-deadline deal that sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Mariners. The organization is generally reluctant to allow sinkerballers to lean on their best pitch at the lower levels, insisting that all prospects first demonstrate superior four-seam command. Pribanic's sinker was too good to stifle, though, and he was allowed to strut it. He has consistently maintained at least a two-to-one groundout-to-airout ratio in the minors. His pure stuff is fairly ordinary. His fastball sits at 87-92 mph, peaks at 94 and comes with solid command. His "old-school" sinker, as one scout described it, comes from a fluid delivery, and it arrives with a heavy sink. To continue advancing, however, Pribanic will have to get his secondary pitches into better shape. He has used both a curveball and slider, and both are sloppy, and he has shown little feel for a changeup and struggles to throw it for strikes. His delivery also makes the ball easy for hitters to see. He pitched in relief in the Arizona League, but he will remain a starter for now, likely with Altoona in 2011.
Hague, an inexpensive senior selection who signed for $25,000 in 2008, spent three seasons at Washington and was an 11th-round pick of the Indians in 2007. But he planned to transfer to Clemson before ending up at Oklahoma State in 2008. He was old for Double-A last season, but he showed enough genuine upside with the bat to retain prospect status. His strikeouts and walks nearly matched, and nine of his 15 home runs came in the final two months. The bat path is short, he stays inside the ball, and he's big and strong enough to produce consistent power. He is not a one-dimensional hitter, and he has the ability to go gap-to-gap and to find a way to make contact even when it appears he might be beaten. He struck out just once every 9.27, plate appearances, the fourth-best figure in the Eastern League. His other tools are unremarkable. He has decent hands at first base but below-average range, as well as a strong arm that mostly goes unnoticed at his position. His speed is below-average. Hague probably will open 2011 as the first baseman at Indianapolis, and he'll need to keep hitting, given his age.
It can be tempting for evaluators to write off Harrison, who is too small to hit for power, too slow to play a small man's game, too limited defensively to play shortstop, too impatient to draw walks. But all he does is hit, hit and hit. He batted .300 last year in Double-A, was the toughest player in the Eastern League to strike out (once per 11.3 plate appearances) and owns a career .306 average as a pro. During Altoona's run to the EL championship, he homered three times to nearly match his regular season total. Harrison has thickened his frame since the Pirates acquired him, Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart from the Cubs as part of the disastrous Tom Gorzelanny/John Grabow trade in 2009. He has a balanced approach, fine control of the strike zone and makes good adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. The question with Harrison is what he can contribute beyond batting average and where he can play on the diamond. His defensive tools are fringy, leaving second base and the outfield corners as his best options. Scouts are mostly confounded by Harrison, seeing him as capable of hitting .270-.280 in the big leagues--no small feat--but limited in so many other areas. He continued to hit in the Arizona Fall League after the season, batting .330, and will try to prove himself at the Triple-A level in 2011.
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