The 2009 West Virginia Power team was probably the best team in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system this year, in terms of the talent which passed through the level. Between the 2008 draft, the 2009 draft, and the massive amounts of trades this year, a large majority of players in West Virginia were legit prospects. That’s rare for any level.
The team struggled in the first half, putting up a 27-43 record, which ranked last in the SAL Northern division. They turned things around in the second half, with a 40-27 record, which just missed the playoffs due to the 45-24 record by Kannapolis.
A big key to the second half success was the addition of new talent. Tony Sanchez
and Starling Marte
both joined the team in late June for the start of the second half. Rudy Owens
allowed two earned runs in five starts before being promoted to Lynchburg at the end of July. Quinton Miller
joined the rotation on July 1st.
Casey Erickson was added at the end of June in the Eric Hinske trade. Hunter Strickland was added a few weeks later in the Adam LaRoche trade. Brett Lorin
and Aaron Pribanic
joined the bunch after the Jack Wilson trade. The addition of the last two helped cover for the loss of Owens, who was named the SAL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher for 2009.
Maybe West Virginia is the first indication of how things will be under Neal Huntington. You could easily argue that at least 12 players on the lists below could qualify for the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates top 30 prospects list. Think about that for a second. Over 1/3 of our top prospects played at West Virginia this year. With that said, let’s get to the recap, broken down by age group.
Click the tables to see the larger version:
The Pitchers: Owens was outstanding this year, and if this is any indication as to the results of the work at State College (establish fastball command), then I’d say keep up the good work down there. Hunter Strickland has a good frame, and put up some nice numbers after the LaRoche trade, including combining with Diego Moreno for a no-hitter in his first start.
As for Quinton Miller, I’m very encouraged by the results. He would normally be a freshman in college at this point, and probably wouldn’t see many innings in his first year. He’d then potentially enter the rotation next year, and really show what he’s made of his junior year in 2011. For that reason, I’m not expecting much out of him (or any of our high school pitchers from the 2009 draft) until his would-be junior year. The whole reason we went above slot for him was to get a guy who could develop in to a first round talent, rather than letting him go to college and do the same, only to end up elsewhere.
The Hitters: Starling Marte was incredible, especially for someone who essentially made the jump from the VSL to West Virginia, skipping a few levels in between. Marte had a hit in 48 of 54 games with West Virginia, including three homers and 24 steals.
Robbie Grossman was impressive, but I put him in the same boat as Quinton Miller. Grossman was supposed to be a five tool talent, although we didn’t see much power this season. He’s young, so I’ll wait a few years before judging him there. One thing is for sure: he needs to cut down on the strikeouts.
Tony Sanchez made a nice start to his professional career, demonstrating not only that he could hit, but also that he could manage some power, with seven homers in 155 at-bats.
There has been some debate over whether Quincy Latimore is a prospect. Latimore was ranked as our 22nd best prospect in 2008, although he hasn’t put up impressive numbers, including a below average performance this year. He had some decent numbers this year, with a lot of extra base hits, but nothing that would make him a strong contender for the top 30. I wouldn’t close the book on him because he’s young, but he has a long way to go.
The Prospects: Owens and Miller are top pitching prospects, with both having the potential to pitch in the Major League rotation. Strickland has the upside of a #4-5 starter, but provides good depth in the system.
Sanchez and Marte are now in Lynchburg, although that’s likely to get them more playing time this year. Sanchez could speed through the system, while Marte could take his time, possibly continuing a level per year. Robbie Grossman is another top prospect who could give us the pleasant misfortune of having too much talent in the outfield.
Owens, Miller, Sanchez, Marte, and Grossman could easily rank in a lot of top 15 lists next year, with Owens, Sanchez, and Marte most likely ranking in the majority of top 10 lists.
The Pitchers: Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic had the best numbers of this group, with both coming over in the Wilson trade. Both were taken in the 2008 draft by Seattle, and both have the upside of 3-5 starters, or power relievers.
Brian Leach is another player from the 2008 State College Spikes, and while he didn’t have the success that Rudy Owens did, he clearly benefitted from the teachings last year.
Diego Moreno was arguably one of the best relievers in the Pirates farm system this year, with a lot of strikeouts, and good control numbers to go with that.
The Hitters: Chase d’Arnaud
played in West Virginia the first half of the season, and definitely deserved the promotion to Lynchburg with those numbers. Calvin Anderson is an interesting first base prospect. Anderson has a huge frame, at 6′ 7″, 240 lbs, and hit for a decent amount of power this year, although those numbers could improve, along with the strikeouts. Kyle Morgan is an example of what Anderson needs to do. A homer every 17-18 at-bats, and a low strikeout rate.
Jeremy Farrell had a good start to the season, batting .275 with three homers in 91 at-bats in the month of May. From there he struggled, batting .235 with two homers in 179 at-bats the remainder of the season.
Lorin, Pribanic, and Leach all add starter depth, while Moreno could become a good power reliever. Anderson and Morgan are both optio
ns at first base, with both possessing power potential. d’Arnaud as gone on to have success in Lynchburg, and is one of the top middle infield prospects in the system.
The Long Shots: Casey Erickson put up some impressive numbers this year, with a low walk total being the most impressive thing. He turned 24 in late August, so he’s not really too old for the level. Ramon Aguero has moved up to AA, and posted much better numbers than his time here. Noah Krol has also moved up, going to Lynchburg, where he has continued his success. Erickson is the only guy who I’d consider a prospect, although Aguero could end up as a good relief prospect if he continues his success from Lynchburg and Altoona.
Outside of a few guys at the upper levels like Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata, this will be the first big wave of prospects to come through the system. The first guys could arrive as early as 2011, with most coming in 2012 or 2013. The big strength here is the pitching. Even after Owens left, there were six quality starting pitching prospects (Miller, Strickland, Lorin, Pribanic, Leach, Erickson). Several of those guys should move up to Lynchburg next year, although there may be a log jam in pitching prospects at the lower levels. Did you imagine hearing something like that before the season? My top ten prospects from the 2009 team:
1. Tony Sanchez, C
2. Starling Marte, OF
3. Rudy Owens, LHP
4. Chase d’Arnaud, SS
5. Robbie Grossman, OF
6. Quinton Miller, RHP
7. Brett Lorin, RHP
8. Aaron Pribanic, RHP
9. Hunter Strickland, RHP
10. Diego Moreno, RHP