Pirates Notebook: Five Big Surprises

Ever since the new management group took over, the theme has been re-building the minor league system. We’ve seen this process through trades, such as the Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Nate McLouth deals. We’ve seen it through the draft, especially when we went over slot to get guys like Robbie Grossman. We’ve also seen a few free agent additions, like Tyler Herron, and some minor moves, like trading Andy Phillips for 23 year old reliever Michael Dubee.

In order to be successful at building a solid farm system, we’re also going to need to see some surprises. By surprise, I don’t mean Robbie Grossman hitting .285/.375/.385 in his first year at A ball. I also don’t mean Brad Lincoln returning to top pitching prospect status with a 2.43 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP between AA and AAA.

What I’m talking about is guys who we hadn’t heard of before this season, who could now be a part of our future. If we did hear of them, it wasn’t in the context of “this player could be a part of our future”.

Here are five surprises (in no specific order) that we’ve seen in the 2009 season:

1. Rudy Owens

Owens entered the season with a less than impressive start to his minor league career, posting a 4.97 ERA at State College last season, and a 5.32 ERA in the GCL the year before. No one could have seen what was coming: a 10-1 record with a 1.79 ERA at West Virginia.

Owens has been absolutely dominant. In his last five starts, Owens has not allowed a run, spanning 31 innings. His one walk in his most recent start was the only walk he’s allowed in his last seven outings, dating back to May 25th.

Owens doesn’t seem like a top of the rotation pitcher. He throws in the high 80s, topping out at 93 MPH. Even so, the Pirates are extremely low on pitching prospects, and Owens’ 2009 season is very welcome. Considering he hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 6th, I think he’s long overdue to be moved up to Lynchburg.

2. Jorge Bishop

When it comes to international signings, spending big money on a guy like Miguel Angel Sano isn’t the only way to guarantee success. The Pirates ended up in the top ten in international spending last year, although they didn’t have any of the top individual bonuses. Bishop signed for $35,000, which is probably less than one percent of what Sano will sign for. ESPN’s Jorge Arangure Tweeted this about Bishop:

Bishop real prospect. 6.55 60 yard dash. Above average power and arm. Built like Ray Durham or bigger Jimmy Rollins. Signed for 35k

Saying a guy is “built like” someone isn’t saying Bishop is the next Jimmy Rollins. However, his stats so far are saying that.

Bishop is batting .349/.404/.560 in the VSL, with 8 homers in 166 at-bats. Bishop has also flashed the speed, with 17 stolen bases. Granted this is only in the VSL, but it’s encouraging. Bishop plays shortstop, a position we are very thin at. Bishop is only 18, so no need to rush him, but I’d imagine we will see him at least in the GCL by the end of the season.

3. Starling Marte

Marte was expected to be good. He was our top international prospect coming in to the season, signed in 2006 for $85,000. Considering our history with international prospects, being the top guy doesn’t guarantee success.

Marte hasn’t had a lot of playing time this season, but is already in West Virginia, and off to a solid start there. Marte has a hit in all eight games he’s played in, with a .406/.457/.438 line so far. He also has flashed some speed, with five stolen bases, and is good enough in center field to move Robbie Grossman over to left field.

Marte is 20 years old, turning 21 in October. He adds more depth to our outfield, a rare area in our system that is loaded.

4. Chase D’Arnaud

D’Arnaud was taken in the fourth round of the MLB draft last year after posting a .309/.382/.464 line in three years at college. D’Arnaud was taken 114th overall, but wasn’t ranked in the 2008 top 200 by Baseball America. So far he’s shown that the Pirates were right on their scouting report.

D’Arnaud posted a .286/.333/.423 line at State College last year with 14 steals in 168 at-bats. He opened the season at West Virginia, where he hit .291/.394/.427 with 17 stolen bases in 213 at-bats. He was promoted to Lynchburg, where he’s posted a .300/.383/.550 line in 40 at-bats over ten games.

Our shortstop depth is very weak at the top. Brian Bixler has been horrible in his major league appearances. Brian Friday has horrible defense, and isn’t exactly lighting it up at the plate. Jordy Mercer, also at Lynchburg, is in a similar situation as Friday. Chase may not be the best option in the system, but he’s certainly the closest good option. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him finish the season at AA, especially if he continues to hit in Lynchburg.

5. Ronald Uviedo

Uviedo was added to the 40-man roster in the off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. That move came as a surprise, especially since it left Kyle Bloom, the 2008 minor league pitcher of the year, exposed to be taken by the Detroit Tigers (although the Pirates got Bloom back).

Uviedo has shown why the Pirates protected him. He currently has a 3.18 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, with a 7.7 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, and an 0.8 HR/9 ratio as a starter. That performance is better than top prospects Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke so far.

Uviedo has an overpowering fastball, consistently in the mid-90s. His out pitch is a slider, but he has been developing his changeup this year, which has been a big factor to his success. He may end up as a reliever in the majors, but it’s nice to see him having such success as a starter.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 7/4 loss. Here are the big impacts for the 7/5 loss:

1. Ross Ohlendorf: -.224 WPA
2. Brandon Moss: -.088
3. Adam LaRoche: -.075
4. Andy LaRoche: -.051
5. Ramon Vazquez: -.048

Other Stuff

-Freddy Sanchez was selected as the lone representative for the Pirates in the 2009 All-Star Game. Earlier today I talked about the impact this has on his 2010 option.

-The Prospect Watch for 7/5 is up, including details on the latest gem by Rudy Owens.

-As you can see, I also uploaded a new site design today, which I’ve been working on over the last week. I also added a store, where you can buy B.U.C.C.O. Fans gear, including BUCCO Fannies for that special lady B.U.C.C.O. Fan in your life:

I also like this Chicago shirt:

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://twitter.com/RandyLinville Randy Linville

    I loved AO when he played in KC. He played very hard – that entire Royals team from the 70s  ran the bases with abandon – McRae, Brett, they all were threats to take an extra base. When the Bucs released Otis, he had fewer hits than Rick Rhoden.