2011 Prospect Watching: Cunningham, Gonzalez, And Friends

Continuing to look at the middle infielders in the Pirates’ minor league organization:

Jarek Cunningham —  R/R,  6′ 1″,  185 lb
Cunningham was the Pirates’ 18th round pick in the 2008 draft.  After a solid debut with the GCL Pirates (.318 average with 5 homers and 22 RBI), he missed the entire 2009 season due to knee surgery.  He returned with a healthy knee in 2010, assigned to West Virginia.  Cunningham jumped right out to a good start, hitting .304 in April, with a homer and 5 RBI.  He slumped in May to just .194, with 2 more homers and 5 RBI.   Then he popped up again in June, with a .317 average, 3 homers, and a big 17 RBI.  The average slipped a little in July, to .279, though the power production continued, with 4 homers and 14 RBI.  The slip continued into August, as he dropped to .214 with 2 homers and 6 RBI.  He finished the season with a .258 average, and not much left-right difference (.265 against lefties and .256 against righties).  He had 37 doubles, 7 triples, 12 homers, and 49 RBI.  He struck out a lot — 132 times in 121 games (27%), and that rate was highest in July and August.  He walked just 30 times (5.6%), and that was best in June and July.  Cunningham played entirely at second base during the 2010 season (2008 was split between shortstop and third).  Now that there is less concern about his knee, and with his good range and arm, he could spend time at shortstop too.  The 21-year-old should be ready for A+ Bradenton for 2011.  He’ll need to work on plate discipline and cutting back on the strikeouts.  

Benji Gonzalez  –  R/R,  5′ 11″,  160 lb
Gonzalez was picked in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, coming out of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy.  After two seasons in the GCL, Gonzalez was promoted to West Virginia for the 2010 season.  He had hit a solid .286 in the GCL in 2009, but that did not carry over to 2010 with the Power.  He hit .196 in the first half of the season, then he improved to .279 for the second half, for a .236 average overall.  Gonzalez has limited power, with just 12 doubles, one triple, one homer, and 35 RBI in 2010.  He stole 18 bases, but was also thrown out 14 times, so that needs some improvement.  Gonzalez was the main shortstop for West Virginia in 2010, and showed strong defensive play with good range and a strong arm.  He’ll need to work on cutting back on the errors (32) of course.  After the regular season, Gonzalez went back to Puerto Rico and played in 19 games for the Puerto Rican Winter League’s Gigantes de Carolina.  He did not hit well there either, just .184 with 2 doubles.   Despite the low hitting, Gonzalez will likely be assigned to A+ Bradenton for 2011, where his hitting will need to improve.

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George Van Haltren and the Pirates

The following is from Pirates Prospects contributor John Dreker, as part of his ongoing Pirates History feature. The feature focuses on the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and every Sunday, John will take a look at a different piece of that history. This week John looks at George Van Haltren. George Van Haltren was a very good 19th century baseball player who is all but forgotten despite putting up some impressive career numbers....

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Updates On The Non-Roster Invitees

This spring the Pittsburgh Pirates invited 22 non-roster players to their major league camp for spring training. Now just under a month into the camp, 16 of them still remain with the big league squad. In this article I will breakdown the performance of each individual player going into Sunday along with, in my opinion, their chances of making the opening day roster. First, I will start with the players who did not survive the first...

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