Yesterday I previewed the 2011 Bradenton Marauders infield, looking at players who could open the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ high-A affiliate, and looking at players who could make the jump from the lower levels later in the season. Today we’ll look at the outfield, again looking at all of the possibile players who could play in Bradenton this season.
The Pirates will promote two of their top prospects from the 2010 Bradenton outfield to Altoona, as I noted last week. Those prospects are Starling Marte and Quincy Latimore. Those two will leave behind Robbie Grossman, who played in Bradenton all year in 2010, and should return to the high-A level for another season in 2011. Grossman was signed out of high school in 2008, played full season ball in West Virginia in 2009, then got promoted to high-A in 2010, despite a high strikeout rate and average numbers in 2009.
Grossman did improve his strikeout numbers in 2010, although they were still on the bad side. He went from a 36.4% strikeout rate in 2009 to a 25.1% strikeout rate in 2010. His walk rate dropped from 14% to 12.1%, although that’s still above average. Grossman had a much better second half in 2010 than his first half. His season broke down as:
Pre All-Star Break: .216/.321/.294 in 204 AB, 27.0% K rate, 12.2% BB rate
Post All-Star Break: .267/.361/.383 in 266 AB, 23.7% K rate, 12.1% BB rate
The numbers after the break don’t look like much, but keep in mind that the Florida State League is one of the most pitcher friendly leagues in the minors. The most encouraging sign was that Grossman’s strikeout rate dropped to a respectable 23.7%. That went down to a 21.6% in 111 at-bats in August/September.
The thing to keep in mind about Grossman is that this would have been his junior year at Texas if he hadn’t signed with the Pirates. He wouldn’t have arrived in high-A until the 2012 season, under a normal path. So he is far ahead of schedule, and you could make the argument that he’s been rushed. The fact that he showed improvement as the year went on, and improved his strikeout rate, is a great sign. If Grossman can start hitting for power, and he has the tools to do so, then he could finally break out as the potential first round talent that he was projected to become when the Pirates gave him $1 M as a 6th round pick in 2008.
Opening Day Prospects
The two prospects who should arrive from West Virginia are Evan Chambers and Rogelios Noris. Chambers draws a lot of walks, and hits for power, but has put up a poor average and poor strikeout numbers so far in his career. He needs to improve in those areas, and if he just improves the average he would have the numbers to be a top prospect in the system. Chambers also has a lot of speed, which is another tool that makes him a valuable prospect.
Noris has similar issues, struggling with his strikeouts. In 2009 he struck out 37.5% of the time in the GCL. In 2010 he struck out 35.4% of the time in West Virginia. He’s also got horrible plate patience, with just a 3.4% walk rate in 2010, and a 7.5% walk rate in his career. His biggest tool is his power, which is arguably the best raw power in the system. However, without drastically improving his strikeout rate and his plate patience, that power is useless. He’s a prospect to watch, but he’s more of a project than a sure thing.
David Rubinstein is an interesting guy to watch, and he should get the call to Bradenton from West Virginia, where he will likely play off the bench, but could steal some playing time from a guy like Noris. Rubinstein in West Virginia last year, with a .289/.347/.409 line in 433 at-bats. He plays average defense, has decent speed, and hits for some gap power. Overall he projects as more of a bench player in the long term, although if he can continue to hit for average and get on base, it would increase his chances of moving up the depth chart.
Jose Hernandez is the other likely bench player, although there’s no guarantee he gets a promotion. Hernandez is pretty much a lower level roster filler, and should play off the bench in either Bradenton or West Virginia if he remains with the organization this year.
Prospects For Later in the Season
Just like the Bradenton infield, I don’t see this group moving up this year. That’s especially true for Chambers and Noris, as neither player will be ready to move to Altoona until they can improve their strikeout numbers, and show those improvements over a long period of time in Bradenton. Likewise, I don’t think any of the West Virginia outfielders will be pushing the Bradenton group this year. The top options in West Virginia seem to be Mel Rojas Jr. and Exicardo Cayonez, although both players are young and given the recent history with players like Grossman, the Pirates will probably give them a full season in low-A.
Grossman is the one candidate who could move up a level, depending on how well he carries over his late season success from 2010. He would likely be replaced by Rubinstein, although there are two other options who could be possibilities later in the year. They are Daniel Grovatt and Adalberto Santos, both 2010 draft picks. Santos was drafted as a second baseman, but played outfield last year in State College. He doesn’t profile as a starter, so he could get time at all of the outfield positions, and second base this year. Depending on how well he hits, he could move to Bradenton by the end of the year, maybe sooner rather than later.
Grovatt didn’t play much last year, due to signing late in the season. He has some injury history with his throwing arm, suffering a torn UCL last year. He should open in West Virginia this year, but could arrive in Bradenton by the end of the year, especially as a candidate to replace Grossman. Grovatt isn’t strong defensively, and has limited power. He does hit for average, with good plate discipline, and his arm is strong, when healthy, making him a right field candidate. He will either have to start hitting for power, or hit for a very good average to have any value as a prospect.
Opening Day Projection
The estimated opening day starters:
LF - Evan Chambers
CF - Robbie Grossman
RF - Rogelios Noris
Candidates for outfield playing time off the bench: David Rubinstein
Could be a late season arrival: Daniel Grovatt, Adalberto Santos
Could play in AA in 2011: Robbie Grossman