The most telling thing about any 2009 prospect list you see for the Pirates is easily the amount of players on the list who have been acquired since Dave Littlefield left. Nothing speaks more as to why we’re in the situation we are in than looking at the poor draft history of this team, and imagining the weak farm system before 2008 that didn’t include half of the prospects on my list.
My list includes pretty much the same prospects that have been featured elsewhere since, and let’s be honest, there’s not many options to choose from outside of this group. The order is a bit different than the consensus of top prospects, for obvious reasons: I like certain players more than other sites.
First, let’s take a look at my rankings, then we’ll compare them to the Top Prospects Consensus.
The top five prospects are pretty much the same everywhere. After that we start seeing changes. The changes I made:
-Neil Walker is #6 on the consensus, but #14 on my list. I think that (even without LaRoche and Alvarez in the system) Walker is not an answer at third base. He had a lot of value as a catcher, but as a third baseman he has good defense, but not enough power and hasn’t shown the ability to hit for average at AAA.
-Jarek Cunningham is #11 on the consensus, and #7 on my list. He had a strong start after signing with us last year, and looks like our best shortstop option in the lower levels. Unfortunately he’s out for the year, which will delay his path to the majors.
-Evan Meek is #16 on the consensus, and #11 on my list. I think Meek showed a lot last year after being demoted, and I predict he will emerge as the best arm in our bullpen by the end of the season.
-Wesley Freeman is #22 on the consensus, and #12 on my list. Freeman signed as a 16th round pick last year, and while he’s a project, he’s a potential five tool outfielder. I could see him making it up by 2013, which coincidentally is when Nate McLouth is set to be a free agent.
-I have Daniel Moskos ranked as the top reliever outside of Evan Meek. Moskos gets a bad rap for the whole Wieters situation, and for his struggles last year. He’s not a bad prospect, Wieters was just much better. As for his struggles, I’d point out that Sues had a 7.18 ERA as a starter, before switching to being a reliever and having success. I could see Moskos in the pen next year replacing Grabow. That being said, he’s still a relief pitcher, which is why I agree with the consensus of him being a 15-20 prospect.
-Jimmy Barthmaier is #10 on the consensus, and #16 on my list. I like Barthmaier, and agree with the consensus that he’s right behind McCutchen as far as starting pitchers go. We haven’t seen major league success, but he’s shown strong numbers in the minors. I have him lower because of elevations to guys like Freeman and Meek.
-Donald Veal is #24 on the consensus, and #19 on my list. I’m hoping the Pirates can hold on to Veal. He was one of the Cubs top pitching prospects a few years ago, compared to Dontrelle Willis. Maybe the Pirates can improve his control, so that he’s like the old Dontrelle Willis, and not like the current version.
-Justin Wilson, Nelson Pereira, and Anthony Watson: I don’t think any of these guys are aces, but the Pirates are short on pitchers, and all three of these guys have the potential to be major league starters, which is why I bumped them up.
-Chase D’Arnaud, Brian Friday, Matt Hague, Jordy Mercer: I’ve got these guys ranked a little lower mostly because I gave preference to guys who were closer to the majors. I’m not counting any of these guys out, it’s just that I like other players better at these positions (Cunningham at SS, Alvarez at 3B), and see these guys a few years off.
-Jim Negrych, Jason Jaramillo, Brian Bixler, Steve Lerud: I view all of these guys as bench players. In the case of Jaramillo and Lerud: backup catchers. In the case of Negrych and Bixler: backup infielders.
Next in the 2009 Pirates Preview: 17 Things to watch for in 2009 (Besides the losing streak)