Pittsburgh Pirates Top 50 Prospects: 29 – Aaron Pribanic

To cap off the end of the 2009 season, I’m going to be counting down my list of the top 50 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system. I’ll be counting down one prospect per day, with an extensive recap on each player, until I reach number one. Check out the previous installments:

Now on to prospect number 29:
29. Aaron Pribanic, RHP
2009 Season: Pribanic was acquired by the Pirates in the trade that sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to the Seattle Mariners. Pribanic was playing in A-ball for Seattle at the time of the trade, where he had a 3.21 ERA with a 54:26 K/BB ratio in 87 innings pitched.
After the trade, Pribanic joined West Virginia and continued his success in A-ball. In 37.2 innings with West Virginia, Pribanic put up a 2.15 ERA, and an 18:5 K/BB ratio. The one downside was that he allowed five home runs in those 37.2 innings, after allowing just one in his 87 innings with Seattle.
On the season Pribanic pitched 124.2 innings in A-ball in 2009, with a 2.89 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP, a 5.2 K/9, a 2.2 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 ratio. Pribanic showed great control with the low walk totals, but wasn’t very dominant with the strikeout ratio. Pribanic also faced a bit of luck in Seattle, with a .282 BABIP, and a lot of luck in his short amount of innings in West Virginia with a .234 BABIP. Pribanic did have a very extreme ground ball ratio, with 61.9 percent of balls in play hit on the ground, which could explain those low BABIP numbers, and could also excuse the lack of strikeouts.
Information: Pribanic was selected by Seattle in the third round of the 2008 draft. He’s got a projectable frame at 6′ 4″, 200 lbs, although he already throws with decent velocity, consistently working between 91-94 MPH, and topping out at 96. Pribanic came out of college, but unlike a lot of college arms, he won’t see the normal wear and tear on his arm.
Pribanic entered the JuCo level after high school, attending Hutchinson Community College. He redshirted his first season, then pitched in the 2007 season, putting up a 3.33 ERA with a 64:28 K/BB ratio in 67.2 innings pitched. That didn’t get Pribanic selected in the 2007 draft though. Pribanic transferred to Nebraska, where he pitched 74.1 innings, with a 4.72 ERA, and a 59:32 K/BB ratio in his first year.
Pribanic was eligible for the 2008 draft since he was three years removed from his graduating class. He only pitched 142 innings in college ball, giving him a very fresh arm. Pribanic throws a curveball and a slider, but neither are as reliable as his fastball. He throws a splitter that he uses as a changeup. One issue Pribanic has been working on is maintaining balance on his delivery. He worked with Seattle last year on incorporating his lower half in the delivery, along with keeping his body from drifting. Continuing to work on this should help his consistency, and could greatly improve his game, potentially in the strikeouts area.
Pribanic turned 23 in September, and a level per year approach would put him on pace for the majors by the age of 26, although there’s nothing that says the Pirates will have him on this path. Pribanic is the grandson of former New York Yankees All-Star right handed pitcher Jim Coates.
2010 Expectations: Pribanic should join Lynchburg in 2010, where he will likely enter the rotation. The rotation could be very crowded, so I can see him as a candidate to piggyback stars with another starter.
Optimistic Projection: Pribanic has the ability to be either a 3-4 starter, or a back of the bullpen reliever. An optimistic look says that if he maintains his good control, and improves his consistency, he could become a very good number three pitcher. Think Ross Ohlendorf this season.
Conservative Projection: If Pribanic doesn’t improve the strikeout numbers, but maintains the good control, he could end up like Daniel McCutchen, with more velocity. That would make him a back of the rotation starter, and possibly a better bullpen option, as he would likely see his velocity increase in shorter outings.
Check back tomorrow for prospect number 28…
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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, 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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