Pittsburgh Pirates Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2011.

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Dejan Kovacevic
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1. Jameson Taillon, rhp
2. Tony Sanchez, c
3. Stetson Allie, rhp
4. Starling Marte, of
5. Luis Heredia, rhp
6. Bryan Morris, rhp
7. Rudy Owens, lhp
8. Jeff Locke, lhp
9. Zack Von Rosenberg, rhp
10. Chase d'Arnaud, ss/2b
Best Hitter for Average Tony Sanchez
Best Power Hitter Quincy Lattimore
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Matt Hague
Fastest Baserunner Justin Bencsko
Best Athlete Starling Marte
Best Fastball Jameson Taillon
Best Curveball Jameson Taillon
Best Slider Stetson Allie
Best Changeup Jeff Locke
Best Control Rudy Owens
Best Defensive Catcher Tony Sanchez
Best Defensive Infielder Pedro Ciriaco
Best Infield Arm Jordy Mercer
Best Defensive Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez
Best Outfield Arm Starling Marte
Catcher Tony Sanchez
First Base Andrew Lambo
Second Base Neil Walker
Third Base Pedro Alvarez
Shortstop Chase d'Arnaud
Left Field Andrew McCutchen
Center Field Starling Marte
Right Field Jose Tabata
No. 1 Starter Jameson Taillon
No. 2 Starter James McDonald
No. 3 Starter Luis Heredia
No. 4 Starter Bryan Morris
No. 5 Starter Rudy Owens
Closer Stetson Allie
Year Player, Position 2010
2001 J.R. House, c Mets
2002 J.R. House, c Mets
2003 John
Van Benschoten, rhp
2004 John
Van Benschoten, rhp
2005 Zach Duke, lhp Pirates
2006 Neil Walker, c Pirates
2007 Andrew McCutchen, of Pirates
2008 Andrew McCutchen, of Pirates
2009 Pedro Alvarez, 3b Pirates
2010 Pedro Alvarez, 3b Pirates
Year Player, Position 2010
2001 John
Van Benschoten, rhp
2002 Bryan Bullington, rhp Royals
2003 Paul Maholm, lhp Pirates
2004 Neil Walker, c Pirates
2005 Andrew McCutchen, of Pirates
2006 Brad Lincoln, rhp Pirates
2007 Daniel Moskos, lhp Pirates
2008 Pedro Alvarez, 3b Pirates
2009 Tony Sanchez, c Pirates
2010 Jameson Taillon, rhp Pirates
Jameson Taillon, 2010 $6,500,000
Pedro Alvarez, 2008 $6,000,000
Bryan Bullington, 2002 $4,000,000
Brad Lincoln, 2006 $2,750,000
Luis Heredia, 2010 $2,600,000
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Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates' management team is aiming for a "flood" of talent in the system, to borrow general manager Neal Huntington's oft-used term. The organization currently has a wave of hitting that has just crested over the top, a wave of pitching coming from the bottom and a whole lot of question marks in between.

Pittsburgh went 57-105 in 2010, the third-highest loss total in the franchise's 124 years and one described by team president Frank Coonelly as an "embarrassment to the city." Few who witnessed the franchise's 18th straight losing season would argue, given that the Pirates ranked last or next-to-last in the majors in scoring, runs allowed and defensive efficiency.

Manager John Russell was fired despite having another year left on his contract—he was replaced by Clint Hurdle—while Huntington was allowed to stay for the same term. Coonelly explained retaining Huntington by saying that while there have been misses among the team's many veteran-for-prospect trades, he remained supportive of his broader work in building up the system.

In Pittsburgh last year, those efforts were reflected in the promising rookie showings of third baseman Pedro Alvarez (No. 2 overall pick in 2008), outfielder Jose Tabata (trade acquisition) and second baseman Neil Walker (first-round pick in 2004). With Andrew McCutchen continuing to shine after a strong rookie performance in 2009, the Pirates have the most promising top four in their lineup in a generation. All four players are 25 or younger.

While Pittsburgh's 2010 Opening Day payroll of $35 million was the lowest in the majors, the club once again spent significant money at the amateur level. Coonelly helped enforce the informal slotting system when he worked for MLB, but in his three years as president, the Pirates have led all of baseball by spending $30.7 million on draft bonuses.

That includes $11.9 million in 2010, a franchise record and just $27,000 shy of the all-time draft mark the Nationals set last summer. Pittsburgh gave No. 2 overall pick Jameson Taillon $6.5 million, the second-largest bonus in draft history, and paid second-rounder Stetson Allie $2.25 million, nearly as much as it gave No. 4 overall choice Tony Sanchez a year earlier. The Pirates also signed Mexican righthander Luis Heredia for $2.6 million, shattering the team's previous international record of $400,000 given to Venezuelan outfielder Exicardo Cayonez in 2008.

Those three pitchers offer Pittsburgh its best hope for a legitimate ace since Doug Drabek in the early 1990s, adding top-end quality to an already-encouraging quantity of pitching in the system. Double-A Altoona won the Eastern League championship largely because of a prospect-filled rotation of Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson, and Pirates minor league starters ranked 10th in baseball with a collective 4.18 ERA.

However, scouts outside the organization aren't nearly as excited about the collection of arms as those on the inside. Some say it isn't as talented as the group that brought Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm to Pittsburgh a few years ago.

Of greater concern was a spate of injuries in 2010. The top position prospects in the system, catcher Tony Sanchez and center fielder Starling Marte, missed two months each. Several other players missed long stretches, including center fielder Gorkys Hernandez and pitchers Victor Black, Colton Cain and Quinton Miller.

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