Pittsburgh Pirates Top 30 Prospects Mid-Season Update

There were a lot of questions I had to ask myself when creating this list. How much impact should the 2009 season have? Where should I rank the GCL and VSL guys? Do I add Singh and Patel to the list, and if so, do they combine as one prospect, or get counted separately?

I decided to make this a true prospects list, as in, no previous major league time allowed. This means no Lastings Milledge, even thought he’s currently at AAA. It means no Brian Bixler, although I don’t think I’d put him in even if he did qualify.

I’ll also admit that I didn’t get too obsessed with the rankings. I spent a lot of time on it, looking over stats, scouting reports, and cutting a list of about 60-70 players down to what you see. However, I didn’t fine tune the ratings too much. That’s mostly because I anticipate a new list at the end of August, after all of the trades are made, and all of the 2009 draft picks and international signings are complete.

With that said, here is the rundown of my top 30 prospects. I want to keep this short, so I’m going with Twitter style analysis for each player. No more than 140 characters can be used. Also, you can see the list from the start of the season here.

30. Brooks Pounders

Pounders is only 18 and has a lot of potential. He hasn’t pitched much, and is in a low level, so this is based on scouting reports/size.

29. Victor Black

Black has the potential to be a solid major league reliever at the back end of the bullpen. Only 6 IP so far, but good K numbers.

28. Nelson Pereira

Bad control this season with the Spikes, but great stuff. State College did well last season teaching control. He’s young w/room to improve.

27. Jordy Mercer

Defense is bad from what I’ve seen, and hasn’t lived up to the offensive minded label, even with Alvarez hitting behind him.

26. Kyle Bloom

Control problems as a starter. Great splits against lefties. Will likely be a LOOGY in the majors, maybe as soon as next season.

25. Calvin Anderson

Good power so far, and a strong OBP, but has had trouble with strikeouts. Not elite power, but he’s 6’7″, so that could come later.

24. Shelby Ford

Has really struggled at AAA this year with a .167 BA. Only 24, so he still has time. I see him as a .280 hitter with limited power at best.

23. Daniel Moskos

Struggling as a starter for the 2nd year in a row, and not getting LHB out. That looks like a one year fluke. Will likely end up as a LH RP.

22. Daniel McCutchen

Very good control keeps the WHIP low. Has the potential to be a #3 starter at best, and is probably another Ohlendorf type pitcher.

21. Matt Hague

A good hitter at first base, but not a lot of power. Low strikeout rate, and good OBP. Could be a Casey Kotchman type player.

20. Jonathan Barrios

Was the top international signing last year, and has started off with a strong average. Only 17, so a lot of time to develop.

19. Exicardo Cayonez

Line drive hitter with good speed. Has shown great plate patience, walking 15% of the time for a .405 OBP.

18. Neil Walker

Good power and defense this year, but the average is hurting. He’s only 23, so I’m not counting him out. Still has time to fix the average.

17. Ramon Cabrera

Good hitting catching prospect, signed last year in the international signing period. Has shown power and a good average in the VSL and GCL.

16. Ronald Uviedo

Was projected as a future reliever, but has done well as a starter in A+. Great control, with a 7.68 K/9 and a 1.72 BB/9 this year.

15. Jorge Bishop

Has drawn comparisons to Jimmy Rollins because of his size. Great power for a 17 year old shortstop, with a homer every 23 at-bats.

14. Wes Freeman

Five tool OF. A lot of potential, but mostly a project. Has shown some power in his limited time in the GCL, but a bad K rate so far.

13. Jarek Cunningham

Out for the season, but could be the best SS prospect in our system. Still young, so the lost season shouldn’t hurt his development.

12. Starling Marte

Five tool guy with great power and a strong arm. Decent K ratio for a hitter with power. Has a hit in 14 of 15 games with West Virginia.

11. Rudy Owens

Amazing stats, but not top of the rotation stuff. A Zach Duke type SP. I’d rank him higher if he was doing this at a higher level.

10. Quinton Miller

Could be the best arm we have in the system. He’d be a freshman at UNC this year, so I don’t weigh his 09 stats that heavily.

9. Bryan Morris

Injured to start the year, and I feel he’s had limited innings since his return. Only 22, so can still live up to #2-3 starter potential.

8. Jeff Locke

Great breaking ball, but needs to control his fastball to make it an effective pitch. Only 21, so plenty of time to work on that control.

7. Chase D’Arnaud

Has done well at two levels this year. Great at the plate, with good defense. Could play second or short in the majors, maybe in 2011.

6. Tony Sanchez

Said to have great defense that is major league ready. His hitting has been impressive so far. Could be on the fast track to the majors.

5. Robbie Grossman

I think he’ll be another McCutchen

. Very bad K ratio, but he’s shown power, and a good ability to get on base, with speed on the bases.

4. Gorkys Hernandez

Has drawn comparisons to Kenny Lofton. Solid defense, and a good hitter, despite his average struggling in Altoona. Good speed on the bases.

3. Jose Tabata

Hasn’t shown the power to justify his Manny Ramirez comparisons, but he’s only 20 and at AA. Five tool player with great plate patience.

2. Brad Lincoln

Strong comeback this year, and could be our best starter since Drabek. I expect him in the majors by June 2010.

1. Pedro Alvarez

His average has struggled, with a ton of strikeouts, but very good power and a good OBP. Poor defense means his future is at 1B.

Here is the list, with some details on each player, and a comparison to the list at the start of the season:

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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.

Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Watch 7/14/09

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  • Jim Rosati

    I have Rudy Owens in the exact spot you do.

  • Anonymous


    Great write-up.

    One question for you, though: Where's Brian Friday?

  • Tim Williams

    I had Owens higher at first, but I was basing that too much on 09 stats, and not on potential.

    I had Owens above Miller, Morris, and Locke, but the way I see it, they all have better stuff than Owens, who is more of a control pitcher.

    Morris and Locke are also at a higher level, and I'm sure they could do well at West Virginia too (which means it's time to get Owens to Lynchburg).

    As for Miller, the way I look at him is that this would be his freshman year if he picked UNC. Most college pitchers (like Brad Lincoln) don't really break out until their junior year. So I'm not expecting much out of him until the 2011 season, which would have been his junior year at UNC, and probably would have propelled him in to the first round of the 2011 draft.

  • Tim Williams

    Brian Friday just missed the cut. I had him 24th in the original rankings.

    I'm not sold on his defense, and he's not hitting that well for a top of the order guy.

    I realize Altoona was weak to start the year, but he hasn't improved since they added Pedro/Gorkys/Tabata to the lineup in June. He actually has gotten worse, batting around .200 in June and July.

  • Anonymous

    If the Bucs are able to get him signed Cain will be within the top 5 on this list in the next 12 months. I see him being the top prospect in the organization in less than 2 years.

    Major league debut-late 2011 or to start the season in the rotation in 2012.

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