Pittsburgh Pirates 2010 Half-Season in Review

For two years in a row, I’ve opened the season with a list of things to watch for during the upcoming season.  Both years I’ve numbered the list according to the consecutive losing streak, and the year the Pirates were currently on.  Last year at the All-Star break, I reviewed the list mid-season, and to continue with the tradition (or I guess to make a tradition out of it), here is the mid-season update from my 18 Things to Watch For in 2010.

18. The Contract Status of Neal Huntington and John Russell

Both the Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington, and manager John Russell, are entering contract years.  There has already been some speculation that one, or both, could be on the chopping block depending on how the season goes.  I think the Pirates would be foolish to get rid of Huntington at this point.  They’ve spent two years watching him blow up the roster and build the team he wants.  That team is just starting to come together, but won’t be complete in 2010.  You can’t get rid of him in the middle of the plan, unless of course Pedro Alvarez just bombs, along with pretty much every other minor league prospect Huntington has acquired.

As for Russell, if Huntington is true to his Cleveland roots, I could see Russell sticking around.  Cleveland brought in Eric Wedge during their rebuilding plan, and Wedge played a similar role that Russell is now playing with the Pirates.  That role didn’t include scape goat.  Getting rid of Russell now would kind of be unfair.  I don’t know of any manager who could have competed the last two years given the conditions.  I’m no fan of Russell’s decision to bat the pitcher eighth this year, and I hate the “no triples” defense, but firing him because the team has lost for three years is not just cause.  I think the Pirates will let him stick around, simply because he probably wasn’t expected to win in 2008 and 2009, and won’t be judged poorly for those results.  At the same time, I really hope we see the end of the “no triples” defense.


UPDATE: What a way to start.  Little did we know at the time that Russell and Huntington had been extended before the season even started.  I could go in to that situation, but it’s already been beat to death.  In short, I didn’t think it was a bad idea to extend either Huntington or Russell before the season, I don’t think it’s a bad idea now, and the only thing about the situation that sticks out is the strange decision to keep the extensions a secret.

As for Russell, a lot of people are calling for his head, but my stance is pretty much the same as above, with a few changes.  This season we’ve learned that Russell was not the root of strategies like the “no-triples” defense, but that those decisions came from above.  It’s not that I think Russell is doing a good job.  I just don’t think it really matters who the manager is if the manager isn’t going to be making decisions like these.


17. The Jeff Locke BUCCO Fans Curse

Just a quick recap for you.  Last year, after coming over from the Atlanta Braves in the Nate McLouth trade, Jeff Locke made 19 starts for the Lynchburg Hillcats, including two playoff appearances.  Locke put up the following numbers during the regular season:

Games I Was In Attendance: 4 G, 18.2 IP, 7.23 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 1.7 K/BB
Games I Wasn’t In Attendance: 13 G, 63 IP, 3.14 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 3.8 K/BB

Playoff Game I Was In Attendance For: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Playoff Game I Wasn’t In Attendance For: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

If you think that’s bad, consider Locke’s final ten outings of the season:

7/29: 6 IP, 1 ER
8/4: 5 IP, 1 ER
8/9: 5.1 IP, 1 ER
8/14: 5.2 IP, 5 ER
8/21: 5 IP, 1 ER
8/26: 6 IP, 1 ER
9/1: 5.2 IP, 3 ER
9/6: 6.2 IP, 0 ER
9/11: 5.2 IP, 0 ER
9/17: 1.2 IP, 4 ER

Guess which two games I was in attendance for?  If you guessed 8/14 and 9/17, you’re correct.  I’m guessing Locke has a huge year in 2010, simply because I won’t be a short trip away from jinxing him.  The bad news for him is that I’ve already received my media credentials for the Richmond Flying Squirrels when Altoona comes to town.  If Locke is pitching, the curse may live on.


UPDATE: I thought Locke would start out in AA, but he ended up going back to high-A.  He was just promoted to AA, and Altoona

comes to Richmond at the end of the month, so perhaps the Jeff Locke BUCCO Fans curse will live on.  The curse did rear it’s ugly head back in April, and all it took was a quick glance at Gameday:

If you’ve read this site for any decent amount of time, you probably know about the BUCCO Fans Jeff Locke curse. That curse took a new turn tonight. I was following the Bradenton game on Gameday when I realized I didn’t know who was pitching. Bradenton was up 4-0 at the time, after five innings. I scrolled down to see that Locke was the pitcher, and that in his five innings he had allowed one hit, two walks, and struck out ten.

Immediately after seeing this, the results of the sixth inning started to come in. Throwing error by Jeremy Farrell to put a runner on first, leading off the inning. Another throwing error by Farrell, putting runners on first and second. A fielder’s choice to second base, with no outs resulting in the play, followed that. Then Locke allowed his second hit of the game, a double, bringing in two runs. Coincidence? I think not.

16. Tony Sanchez on the Fast Track

Sanchez will start the season at high-A, but might not be there for long.  He didn’t hit for a strong average in his brief appearance last year, but it seemed like every ball he hit was to the warning track, and he displayed great power with a homer at Wilmington, one of the hardest Carolina League parks to hit a homer in.

Sanchez could end up in AAA as early as August, putting him on track for the majors by early 2011.  His defense is strong, and might be major league above average already.  He also calls every game, and has some experience with the AA staff, which could help him speed through that stop.  If he can display the ability to hit at each level, he will definitely be on the fast track to the majors, possibly living up to his Yadier Molina comparison.


UPDATE: It’s been a rough season for Sanchez.  He didn’t have problems hitting in high-A, but he did run in to issues with injuries.  Sanchez had an injured shoulder in the month of April, which allowed runners to run wild on him.  At the start of June he was hit in the head with a pitch, and missed a few games.  Later that month, he was hit in the face with a pitch, fracturing his jaw in two places, and forcing him to have surgery, putting him on the shelf for at least six weeks.

Sanchez currently has his jaw wired shut, and has lost 12 pounds, according to an interview he did with Rocco DeMaro.  I thought he could be in the majors by 2011, but the string of injuries this year could push that back to 2012.


15. How will the bullpen work out?

There was a lot of talk about the bullpen this off-season.  First the Pirates traded Jesse Chavez, then they non-tendered Matt Capps.  They followed that up by signing Javier LopezOctavio DotelBrendan Donnelly, and D.J. Carrasco, along with a ton of non-roster invitees.  The results will be easy to judge.  Will Octavio Dotel outperform Matt Capps?  Will Brendan Donnelly outperform Jesse Chavez (the Akinori Iwamura acquisition has to be factored in to that one)?  The Pirates put a lot of effort in to building up the pen, acquiring some criticism along the way.  We’ll soon see how good of a job they actually did.


UPDATE: This has been one of the bright spots in the majors this season.  Octavio Dotel ran in to some trouble in April, but has been great ever since then, he has put up a 2.81 ERA in 25.2 innings, with a 30:12 K/BB ratio.

On the surface, Donnelly looks bad, with a 5.33 ERA in 27 innings, and a 21:21 K/BB ratio.  However, Donnelly has been good when the Pirates need him to be good.  Donnelly has a .160 BAA and a .610 OPS in high leverage situations.  He has a .250 BAA and a .625 OPS in medium leverage situations.  His problem is that in low leverage situations (when the team is up or down by a large margin) he has a .295 BAA and a .962 OPS.

The best parts of the bullpen this year have been the two players who were here coming in to the off-season: Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan.  Meek was good enough to be the Pirates’ All-Star representative, with a 1.11 ERA in 48.2 innings, and a 45:14 K/BB ratio.  Hanrahan doesn’t have the ERA, with a 4.06 ERA in 37.2 innings, but he has the better secondary numbers, with a 52:14 K/BB ratio.


14. Charlie Morton: Breakout Pitcher?

A lot of people already have Charlie Morton as a potential breakout candidate in 2010.  Part of that stems from his strong performance last year, which was hidden by a one inning, ten earned run outing in August.  Take out that outing, and Morton had a 3.66 ERA in 96 innings, with a 61:37 K/BB ratio.  Morton has a chance to be a top of the rotation pitcher, and is my pick to be the 2010 version of Ross Ohlendorf.


UPDATE: That one outing turned in to every single outing during the 2010 season.  Morton was a huge disappointment this year, and has since been optioned to AAA.  I don’t think Morton is as bad as his 2010 season, as there must be something wrong with him.  You can’t go from the success he saw in 2009 (outside of that one start) to totally bombing in 2010 the way he has done.  That said, the “it was only one start” theory is pretty much shot to death.  A more appropriate theory would probably be “he’ll have one of those starts every once in awhile”.  Well, maybe that’s an optimistic theory, considering his

2010 results.


13. Can Ross Ohlendorf repeat?

The Pirates can never seem to have back to back strong years from any of their pitchers.  Ross Ohlendorf will be the next pitcher to attempt back to back strong seasons.  Last week I looked at why there is reason for concern with Ohlendorf.  Ohlendorf’s 2009 season was largely influenced by luck, especially in the second half.  I won’t be surprised if he posts a 4.50 ERA in 2010.  If that happens it won’t be due to a curse.  It will be due to his 2009 luck disappearing.


UPDATE: Ohlendorf is half-way to a 4.50 ERA, with a 4.22 ERA, falling between his 2009 numbers and that 4.50 mark.  He’s seen a slight increase in his strikeouts, and his walks are up about one per nine innings.  His FIP is still around 4.70, which is where it was last year.  His BABIP is a little low at .291, although not as lucky as his 2009 numbers.  His strand rate is the same story: a little high, but not as high as 2009.  Ohlendorf is getting lucky with the long ball.  In his career he has allowed a homer in 11.1% of his fly balls.  This year that number is 8.7%.  Ohlendorf will eventually see a correction, which means he needs to get more grounders to limit the impact of the inevitable 10-11% HR/FB ratio.

12. Will Lastings Milledge hit for power?

The Pirates swapped Nyjer Morgan for Lastings Milledge last year, which is a move I loved as Milledge has more upside than Morgan.  The question is, can Milledge achieve that upside?  In his time with the Pirates in 2009, Milledge matched Morgan’s production.  He hit for a .291/.333/.395 line, and posted a 16.4 UZR/150 from the left field position.  However, getting similar production to Morgan doesn’t make the trade worthwhile.  Milledge needs to exceed Morgan’s production, and the easiest way to do that is to hit for power.

Milledge has done this in the past.  In 2008 he hit 14 homers, with 13 of those coming in 349 at-bats from the end of May to the end of the season.  That’s a 20 homer per season pace.  Most projections have him hitting around ten homers this year, with a slugging percentage in the .410-.425 range.  That’s an upgrade over Morgan, but what the Pirates need is a 20 homer season, and a slugging percentage over .450.


UPDATE: Milledge isn’t hitting for power on the season, with just three homers, although all three came recently.  After a .570 OPS in April, Milledge jumped to a .706 OPS in May, and a .905 OPS in June.  Milledge hasn’t let up in July, with a .982 OPS, although he has seen some playing time disappear to Ryan Church recently.  It’s too early to tell whether the success in June and July are the real deal for Milledge, or just a fluke hot streak.

11. Can Andy LaRoche hit like September 2009?

Andy LaRoche entered September 2009 with a .245/.324/.367 line.  In his final 96 at-bats of the season, LaRoche hit for a .313/.359/.552 line, with five homers.  If LaRoche can come close to that number, he will pose an interesting problem for the Pirates: what to do with Pedro Alvarez.  LaRoche has strong defense at third, and if he can boost the offense, he may push Alvarez to first.  Or LaRoche could move to second, where he would become even more valuable, assuming he could learn the position.

Most projections have him hitting around .260 with about 15 homers and an OPS around .750.  That kind of production would warrant a move to second.  A .280 average, 20-25 homers, and an .850 OPS would be enough to keep LaRoche at third, and move Alvarez to first.


UPDATE: LaRoche started off strong, with a .333/.415/.456 line in 57 at-bats in April.  From that point forward LaRoche hit for a .188/.240/.250 line in 144 at-bats.  His defense also slipped at third, which hurt his main value from the 2009 season.  LaRoche has been moved to the bench, and has learned a little bit of second base in the process, although at this point he’s going to have a hard time escaping the bench.

10. Will Ryan Doumit bounce back (and stay healthy)?

Doumit had a poor 2009 season, thanks in part to a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for most of the season.  Entering the month of September he was hitting for a .215/.250/.395 line, which is a far cry from his .318/.357/.501 line in 2008.  He finished up strong with a .329/.406/.459 line and two homers in his final 85 at-bats in 2009.  The key to Doumit’s season will be staying as healthy as possible, which is no easy feat.  If he manages this, he could easily repeat his 2008 success, which would be huge for the Pirates in 2010.


UPDATE: Doumit hasn’t really bounced back at the plate, with a .260/.334/.415 line in 265 at-bats this season.  He’s been horrible on defense behind the plate, catching only 11% of base runners stealing, down from 31% in 2009.  With Jason Jaramillo recently being optioned down to AAA, I have my speculation that Doumit could be traded by the deadline, with Jaramillo only spending time in AAA to get ready for the starting role after Doumit is dealt.<

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9. How will the Pirates handle the draft?

The 2010 draft hasn’t shaped up yet, but a few things are apparent.  Bryce Harper is the obvious number one talent, and the Pirates can’t afford to pass him up if the Washington Nationals don’t take him.  Jameson Taillon is looking like the second best prospect in the draft, although he’s a high school pitcher, and the Pirates took an unorthodox strategy in 2009 just to avoid taking a high school arm in the first round.  Drew Pomeranz and Deck McGuire are both having strong seasons, although both are college pitchers who come with risks due to the workload placed on college aces.  There’s also still time for Anthony Ranaudo and Christian Colon to regain top draft prospect status.

Anything could happen with the Pirates, as we saw last year.  I wouldn’t rule anything out, and that includes taking Taillon.  The only consistent trend the past two years is that they’ve taken a college bat in the first round, and have gone over slot in the later rounds.  There aren’t many college bats stepping up this year, which could break that trend.  As for the overslot guys in the later rounds, I fully expect that to continue.


UPDATE: This pretty much played out as mentioned above.  Taillon wasn’t off-limits just because he was a prep pitcher, and they went for overslot guys in the later rounds, including Stetson Allie in the second round.  Now they need to get them all signed.

8. Will Zach Duke or Paul Maholm be traded?

There’s a good chance that Duke or Maholm, or possibly both, will be traded this year.  Part of that has to do with the number seven thing to watch for.  Another part has to do with the success of guys in the rotation, like Morton, Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen, and Brad Lincoln in June.  Duke and Maholm are each under contract for a few more seasons, with Duke becoming a free agent after 2011, and Maholm having an option in 2012, with free agency in 2013.  Both could bring a big return for the Pirates, and in the long run (2011 season) their losses might not mean anything because…


UPDATE: I only feel that I should update 7 and 8 at the same time, so…

7. How will the pitching depth work out?

The Pirates suddenly have a lot of pitching options, and a lot of them are getting close to the majors.  At the AAA level they will have Kevin HartDonald Veal, and Brad Lincoln, with Lincoln almost guaranteed to be up this season.  At the AA level they have Tim AldersonRudy Owens, Jeff Locke, and Justin Wilson.  All seven of these options could challenge for rotation spots as early as 2011.  That largely depends on how they do in the minors in 2010.  If the majority of them succeed, we could see a big “yes” to the question in #8.


UPDATE: The pitching depth didn’t work out.  Hart and Veal are both out for the season, and will probably miss time next season too.  Lincoln is in the majors, but getting adjusted.  They currently have Jeff Karstens making starts, and the sad thing is he’s considered their MVP.  It’s looking like 2011 will be when the pitching rotation gets a boost, with guys like Owens, Wilson, Locke, and Bryan Morris all capable of challenging for a rotation spot come June 2011.

Going back to number seven, I don’t think it’s a guarantee that Duke and Maholm will be traded.  If I had to pick one who could go, it would probably be Duke, although his value is down coming off his injury. Duke will make the first start after the All-Star break, which should maximize the amount of starts he has before the trade deadline rolls around.


6. What long term middle infield options will emerge?

Akinori Iwamura is only under contract for one season.  I’m not much of a believer in Ronny Cedeno, who is only under control for two seasons, and Bobby Crosby is only here for one year.  That means the Pirates need middle infielders, and they need them fast.  There are a few guys who could challenge for starting roles by mid-season 2011.  Chase d’Arnaud leads the group, with the ability to play either second base or shortstop.  Jordy Mercer needs to improve his hitting, and maybe hit for a little more power, but he could emerge as a sh

ortstop in the Cal Ripken mold.  Josh Harrison is a speedy second baseman who might turn in to a David Eckstein type player, and might make a strong utility player with the ability to play third base and right field as well.


All three of those players will likely start the season at the AA level, putting them on track for the majors in June 2011.  Brian Friday could be an answer as early as 2010.  All he needs to go is get off to a hot start at AAA in 2010 to get consideration for a mid-season call-up.  Friday finished the 2009 season strong at AA, with a .275 average and a .388 on-base percentage.  There’s an outside chance that he could replace Iwamura as the second baseman this year, although that would require Friday to get hot right away at AAA.  Argenis Diaz is another middle infield option, with very strong defense, although Diaz only has the offensive upside of a guy like Jack Wilson.  Chances are Diaz will end up as a bench player, similar to Alex Gonzalez.


UPDATE: Surprisingly, Neil Walker ended up being the middle infield option that emerged.  Coming in to the season, Walker was looking like a utility player at best.  His career at AAA coming in to the season featured an on-base percentage around .300, with very little power, not a good thing for third base.  Then Walker decided to learn second base, learned it well, and drastically improved his OBP skills, with a .321/.392/.560 line in 168 at-bats in AAA this year.  In the majors he has been good, with a .275/.318/.423 line in 142 at-bats, although his walk rate is slipping, which is a concern.

As for the AA players, Harrison has been the best of the trio at AA this year, with a .313/.357/.413 line in 310 at-bats.  Harrison projects more as a utility guy, especially with Walker playing second base in the majors and Harrison lacking te power for third base.  D’Arnaud has struggled at the plate this year, but is getting back on track recently, with a .316/.383/.500 line in June, although he’s struggled again in the start of July.  Mercer has also had some problems this year, although he’s been doing much better in June and July, even seeing a .799 OPS so far in July.  D’Arnaud and Mercer could compete for the starting shortstop position, as early as June 2011, although one of them will have to step it up from now until then.


5. Jeff Clement’s defense

A lot has been made recently about Jeff Clement’s defense at first base.  Clement played the final month at first base in 2009 at the AAA level, and will get a shot at holding down the job in the majors.  Personally I’m more concerned with his offense, as I think his upside will be a .265 average and an .800 OPS, and that’s hardly what you want from a first baseman.  Clement is a guy who can make or break the team, depending on how the experiment goes.  I don’t have high hopes, but I agree that this is the only time Clement has to prove himself, so the Pirates might as well see what they have.  Once Alvarez arrives in June, Clement could very well be without a spot, unless his performance keeps him in the lineup.

UPDATE: As I expected, Clement’s defense really wasn’t an issue.  The issue was his hitting, or lack of hitting to be exact.  Clement was optioned in early June, and might have trouble getting back to the majors with the Pirates.  He did play one game at catcher, so that could be a scenario to watch, although he’d have to get more work in for the “Will Clement go back to catching” rumors to start.  At this point, it can’t hurt him to try catching again.

4. Surprises in the minor leagues

Last year we saw Rudy Owens, Chase d’Arnaud, and Starling Marte break out as surprises, along with a few other guys like Ramon Aguero and Ronald Uviedo.  Who will be the big surprises this year?

My big breakout player (or in this case, comeback player would be more appropriate) prediction is Bryan Morris.  Morris has been working on altering his mechanics, and has received good reports all Spring, plus he looked good while I was down at Pirate City.  I’m also looking forward to Exicardo Cayonez and Jorge Bishop making the jump from the Venezuelan Summer League.

Matt Hague could turn his gap power in to home runs this year, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all.  Calvin Anderson is huge, and I’m surprised he’s not putting up Ryan Howard like numbers with his size.  The Pirates also took a lot of talented arms in the 2009 draft, with Zach Von RosenbergJeff InmanBrooks PoundersNathan BakerZack Dodson, and Trent Stevenson getting the chance to show what they can do this year.

Two pitchers that I’ll be watching closely are 

>Nelson Pereira and Jhonatan Ramos.  Pereira looked good last year, although his season numbers don’t reflect it.  Ramos looked strong when I saw him at Pirate City.  He may be small, but last year his numbers looked very effective, and in my brief time watching him it didn’t look like he was afraid to go after hitters.

UPDATE: Morris definitely was the breakout player this year, although I still don’t consider that a breakout performance.  Cayonez has been great so far in the GCL, but it’s way too early to call him the next Marte.  Matt Hague isn’t hitting for the power you’d want from a first baseman, although Calvin Anderson is doing a good job in Bradenton.  He’ll probably put up Adam LaRoche numbers before he comes close to Ryan Howard numbers though.

It’s too early to tell on the prep pitchers, although Nathan Baker is having a good year in West Virginia, even though he’s a little old for the level.  The Pirates released Pereira before the season, and Ramos started with West Virginia before being demoted to State College.  Ramos has been great since the demotion.

It’s hard to pick a breakout prospect mid-season.  Do you go with a guy like Neil Walker, who is more of a bounce back prospect?  Do you go with Nathan Adcock, even though he’s been struggling lately after his hot start?  That’s a hard decision to make mid-season, and it’s even tougher considering the Rudy Owens act that the 2010 breakout player has to follow.

3. How will the high school arms work out?

I mentioned it in #4, but this deserves it’s own category.  The Pirates took a very unorthodox approach in the 2009 draft, loading up on hard to sign high school talent in the later rounds by offering above slot signing bonuses.  In the end they netted Brooks Pounders, Zack Dodson, Zach Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, and Trent Stevenson.  Cain will start the season on the disabled list, and most of these guys will probably spend some time in extended Spring Training, similar to what Quinton Miller did last year.  Once July rolls around we’ll get our first chance to see whether the Pirates made the right moves in their scouting and selections of these players.

UPDATE: It’s too early to tell here, although there have been some good results with the K/BB ratios.  That’s going to be the big thing this year, and early next year, as all of these pitchers will work on their fastball control and command.

2. Will Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones repeat?

The 2009 season saw two pleasant surprises.  Garrett Jones came out of nowhere to surprise everyone with a .293/.372/.567 line and 21 homers in 314 at-bats.  Andrew McCutchen was expected to succeed one day, but I don’t think anyone expected him to have immediate success, which he did from day one, ending up with a .286/.365/.471 line and 12 homers in 433 at-bats.

Both players need to repeat their 2009 success to give the Pirates a chance in 2010.  That will be easier for McCutchen, who may even see improvement on his 2009 numbers.  As for Jones, it would be a lot to expect him to maintain a pace that would lead to 40 homers, although expecting 30 homers might not be out of the question.  The big question for Jones will be how he handles left handed pitching, which was a problem for him last year.  That will determine whether he can repeat his .293 average, or hit for an average closer to .260.

UPDATE: McCutchen has been excellent this year, with a .287/.363/.435 line, and eight homers in 324 at-bats.  He’s also stolen 20 bases in 26 attempts.  That’s almost similar to the performance we saw from him in 2009, although his power has taken a bit of a drop.  He could end the season with 15 homers and close to 40 steals.

Jones has seen a dip in his production, with a .272/.337/.431 line in 327 at-bats, and 11 homers.  Part of that could be due to being pitched around early in the season.  Jones was on fire in the month of June, going from a .771 OPS in May to a .904 OPS in June.  Coincidentally, that’s when Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata arrived to join Jones and McCutchen at the top of the lineup.  Jones is struggling some against lefties, with a .675 OPS and three homers in 127 at-bats, compared to an .826 OPS and eight homers in 200 at-bats against right handers.

1. The debuts of Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln, and Jose Tabata

If there’s one thing that impacts the long term success of the Pirates the most, it’s the debut of these three players.  Alvarez is the best prospect the Pirates have had since Barry Bonds.  Lincoln is the top pitching prospect in the system.  Tabata has a lot of upside, already proving to be a great hitter, but potentially having the ability to add some power to his game.

It’s safe to say that if these three players fail to reach their potential, the Pirates will be in for a long future.  The current rebuilding plan pretty much revolves around these three guys leading the team, along with McCutchen, who is already in the majors.  That means that by the end of June, we could see the core that might finally break the consecutive losing streak, and make the Pirates contenders.  That might be sooner than later if these three players come up with the same immediate success that we saw from McCutchen in 2009.

UPDATE: All three players have gotten off to a slow start in the majors, although all three have shown potential.  Alvarez hit for a .152/.216/.196 line in 46 at-bats in June, with no homers.  In 38 at-bats in July, Alvarez has hit for a .289/.341/.605 line, with three homers.  It usually tak

es Alvarez some time to adjust to a new level.  Let’s hope his start to the month of July is proof that he’s adjusted to the majors.

Tabata has struggled at the plate, with a sub .700 OPS so far, although he’s good at getting on base, and has some skills stealing bases, stealing eight out of 12 so far.  Tabata needs his hitting to arrive at the major league level in order to maximize his value as a leadoff man.

Lincoln had a great outing on June 30th, pitching seven shutout innings, with four hits, one walk, and six strikeouts.  Before that time he was struggling.  Since then he’s made two starts, with his best outing being a six inning, three run on seven hit performance, with two walks and three strikeouts.

All three should come around, hopefully well before the start of the 2011 season.

SUMMARY

In short, it’s been a disappointing half-season for the Pirates.  The major league team is on pace for an embarrassing record, and what’s worse is that they might not even be bad enough to get the number one overall pick next year, likely to be college star Anthony Rendon.  The minor league system has seen some big injuries to top prospects, as well as some struggles with other prospects who looked to be the future coming in to the season.

The silver lining is that the Pirates have a good group of young talent in the majors with Alvarez, Tabata, Walker, Jones, McCutchen, and Lincoln, with a lot of pitching prospects at the AA level, likely to get the call to AAA by the end of the year.  This year is pretty much shot, so the second half will be all about getting the major league players adjusted to the majors for 2011, and getting the minor league pitchers ready for a mid-season call-up next year as well.  Although the biggest thing for the team’s future might be that Anthony Rendon watch for the 2011 draft.

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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