Changes at the Top — Impact of the Pirates’ Draft
The Pirates’ 2010 draft signings changed the profile of their farm system in a hurry. Earlier in the season, the system had graduated several top prospects in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln, as well as Neil Walker, who’s suddenly re-emerged as one of the organization’s best young talents. We’ve each taken a look, in the form of top ten prospect lists, at how the system stands now.
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Tony Sanchez, C
3. Bryan Morris, RHP
4. Starling Marte, OF
5. Stetson Allie, RHP
6. Rudy Owens, LHP
7. Chase d’Arnaud, SS
8. Jeff Locke, LHP
9. Zach Von Rosenberg, RHP
10. Andrew Lambo, OF
There hasn’t been much of a change in my prospect order since my mid-season top 30, although that list was a month ago, which doesn’t leave much time for significant changes. The one change is the addition of Andrew Lambo to the top ten. Lambo is young and talented, and I think he still has the chance to live up to his potential, or at the least be a decent starter in the majors. Despite this addition, the one thing this system lacked was an impact prospect.
My top ten list has some potentially above-average starters in the majors. It’s got some very young players who have a shot at taking the jump to being an elite prospect. What it lacked before the draft was a prospect like Pedro Alvarez, who was almost a guaranteed impact player. Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie potentially give the Pirates two impact players at the top of their farm system.
There are no guarantees with prep pitchers, but with the stuff that Taillon and Allie possess, you can pretty much assume that if they make it to the majors, they will make it in a big way. Taillon is by far the top prospect in the system, and could end up a top 20 prospect heading in to the 2011 season. I have Allie in the top five right now, but he’s not at the top mostly because he’s not as polished as Taillon, and there’s a chance he could end up as a closer in the majors (and if he does, it could likely be the Joakim Soria type).
The biggest impact the addition of Taillon and Allie had was the pressure taken off the other young pitchers. Guys like Von Rosenberg were viewed as the crop that would bring the Pirates an ace. Now, the Pirates don’t need an ace from that group, and any top of the rotation pitcher that emerges is a huge bonus.
As for the rest of the 2010 draft class, guys I would consider in my top 30 prospects are: Mel Rojas, Jr., Nick Kingham, Drew Maggi, Matt Curry, and Jared Lakind. Rojas, Jr. would be the only player who could contend in the top 15. I haven’t made any official top 30 lists, so off the top of my head I’d say the others would fall in to the 20-30 range at this point, at least until they do something to stand out from other similar players in the Pirates’ system.
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP. He’s that hard-to-find potential true #1 that the Pirates have lacked for years.
2. Starling Marte, OF. True 5 tool player.
3. Bryan Morris, RHP. Nice turn around season for him. I blame recent “struggles” on extra workload this year.
4. Rudy Owens, LHP. Proving last year was no fluke, he can flat out pitch.
5. Tony Sanchez, C. Injury concerns, missed time dropped him on the list.
6. Jeff Locke, LHP. Finally producing numbers people expected from him, great K/BB ratio.
7. Stetson Allie, RHP. Could leap frog up this list next year.
8. Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP. Solid season after slow start. Lack of K’s and high velocity keep him lower.
9. Justin Wilson, LHP. His incredible movement on pitches actually works against him, as he can’t always control his stuff.
10. Andrew Lambo, OF. Youth and potential earned him the last spot. He’s looked real good so far.
Honorable mentions: Mel Rojas, JR, OF; Colton Cain, LHP; Nate Adcock, RHP; Exicardo Cayonez, OF, are all guys whom I considered for the 10th spot.
The goal of any minor league system is not the individual teams’ wins and losses. It is to develop the players within the system and provide a pipeline of young talent to the majors. In 2010, the Pirates minor league system has done exactly that with Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln (all pre-season Pirate Top 10 players) and Neil Walker all contributing to the major league team and exhausting their prospect eligibility.
As a result, the Pirates’ Top 10 was left with some noticeable voids at mid-season. This caused some short-sighted national services, bloggers, and fans to wring their hands about the state of the Pirates’ Minor League system.
The blood transfusion arrived on August 16th in the form of Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. The 2010 draft, in general, should contribute at least 2-3 other players to the revamped Top 30 of the Pirates this offseason. But Taillon and Allie are the sizzle to this steak.
Here is my current, revised Top 10 for the Pirates. The number in parentheses is the player’s 2011-season age as of July 1, 2011. I also have included a projected starting level for that player.
1. Jameson Taillon RHP (19, SS/A) — Think of him as the Pedro Alvarez of Pirate pitching prospects. If the Pirates are ever going to truly thrive and contend, it will be on his right arm. Quite simply, I can not remember a pitching prospect with the Pirates with this much hype and pressure on him.
2. Bryan Morris RHP (24, AAA) — Morris’s ascent to the majors has hit a small bump in AA, but I attribute a lot of that to being out of gas. His stuff (92-94 FB, curve, changeup) will play at the majors and he should be a low end #2 or high end #3 starting in June 2011.
3. Starling Marte OF (22, AA) — The first of two injury-afflicted players this season. When I see video of Marte hit, throw, and run, the first words that pop in my head are “lightning bolt”. He seems like pure energy on the field with a cannon of an arm in RF. The power has not developed and may be hampered in 2011 by the recovery from the hamate bone removal, but his other 4 tools are there on display.
4. Tony Sanchez C (23, AA) — By this time, Sanchez was supposed to be in AA, playing great defense and hitting the cover off the ball. But a mysterious shoulder injury that affected his throwing and getting his melon caved in by a fastball has ruined his season. I am slightly concerned about a catcher with a suspected shoulder problem, which is why he is at #4.
5. Rudy Owens LHP (23, AAA) — I’m a big proponent of “performance matters, not just potential” so the ever-consistent Rudy Owens gets this spot. Owens will be in the majors in 2011 and he should be a cross between Maholm and Duke. That sounds bad, but both of those guys at times have been quality pitchers. Owens is on the precipice of the majors and has never had an injury history.
6. Stetson Allie RHP (20, SS/A) — Let me just state that I love the Allie pick, but the name “Colt Griffin” has echoed in my head since draft day. Griffin was another 100-mph thrower who never became a pitcher for the Royals. I want to see some pitchability from Allie, even if he has to tone it down to 95-96 on the FB. Just as another asterisk, he will already be 20 by the start of next season.
7. Jeff Locke LHP (23, AAA) — Everything tells me that Locke’s upside is greater than Owens’ and that I should flip flop them, but I can’t get Owens’ consistency out of my head. I think Locke has been lost in the wash of Morris, Owens, and Wilson to an extent this year. Locke may not make the majors next year as they seem to be moving him slower than the others, but of the AAA guys mentioned here he could be the best.
8. Colton Cain LHP (20, A) — I love lefties that can gas it. I watch David Price and start to drool. I’m not comparing Cain to Price, but if he can wing it in there at 95-96 from the left hand side, that is a huge advantage for the Pirates. Cain has commanded his fastball well this year in the proving grounds known as rookie ball and short season. I think with his back injury behind him next year, they will take the gloves off Cain in 2011 and let him shine.
9. Chase d’Arnaud SS/2B (24, AAA) — I still believe. d’Arnaud’s plate discipline has remained solid this year, even with his batting average suffering mightily in the .240 – .250 range all year. He is still stealing bases effectively and is at least competent at both SS and 2B. I admit that there is a talent tier between Cain and d’Arnaud on my list.
10. Justin Wilson LHP (23, AAA) — I will put forth that I’m not the biggest Wilson believer out there, but his season in 2010 has to make me at least consider him as a possibility to start in the majors. Ultimately, he may be a reliever due to his spotty control numbers at times.
As for other 2010 draftees that could make a revised Top 30, I would say Nick Kingham for sure (around 15′ish for me) and possibly Mel Rojas, Jr. (around the low 20′s). Matt Curry would make it for me (low 20′s as well), but some may ding him for being a senior in the New York Penn League, even though he is only 21 in 2010.
Due to injuries and some ineffectiveness in 2010, the Pirates’ system has lost a little bit of its luster. But this draft, especially Taillon and Allie, has bolstered this system and provides more hope for the long-suffering Pirate fans, especially on the pitching side.
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Starling Marte, OF
3. Bryan Morris, RHP
4. Tony Sanchez, C
5. Stetson Allie, RHP
6. Rudy Owens, LHP
7. Andrew Lambo, OF
8. Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP
9. Jeff Locke, LHP
10. Mel Rojas, Jr., OF
The signings of Taillon and Allie, and the breakout season by Morris, make up for the loss of Alvarez, Tabata and Lincoln from the top of the list. It’s not easy for a system to graduate several of its top talents without a sudden drop-off. And Taillon gives the system a legitimate, marquee prospect. Adding three players from this draft leaves a top ten, in my view, made up entirely of players who have a good chance to be major league regulars or rotation starters, at the least. It’s a far cry from the old Littlefield days when the team’s top prospect lists would be littered with players who profiled as relievers or utility players.
Aside from the changes among the team’s top prospects, a number of other players from this draft would likely make a Pirates’ top thirty list. Certainly such a list would include RHPs Nick Kingham and Tyler Waldron, SS Drew Maggi, 1B Matt Curry and OF Dan Grovatt. RHP Ryan Hafner and 1B Jared Lakind could also work their way in once they’ve had a chance to show something on the field.