This is part three of a three part 2011 season preview. The other two parts are below:
3. Ten Pirates Prospects Who Could Make An Impact In 2011
With the Pittsburgh Pirates focused on rebuilding through the minors, it’s a guarantee that every year we will see a new wave of top prospects arriving in the majors. Last year’s wave was full of potential impact guys, like Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata, and also included a surprise player, Neil Walker. This time around, the big impact players won’t be found, although there are a few guys who can make an impact. The biggest areas of need for the long term are the starting rotation, right field, and shortstop, and the Pirates have candidates in the upper levels for each position.
Here are the top ten prospects who could make an impact in the majors in 2011.
1. Rudy Owens - Perhaps the biggest potential impact this year could come from Owens, who is the most likely pitching prospect to arrive in the majors. Owens could arrive at some point in June, and will most likely be the first arrival from the 2010 Altoona rotation.
2. Bryan Morris - Out of the remaining Altoona starters, Morris has the most upside, and the best chance to arrive in the majors this year. He would have to move quickly out of Altoona, and have immediate success in AAA for this to happen.
3. Andrew Lambo - Lambo will start off in AAA, and could contend for the starting right field spot in Pittsburgh with a strong season. His defense isn’t the best, although he does have power potential, which would suit him well in right field.
4. Gorkys Hernandez - Like Lambo, Hernandez is also a candidate for an outfield spot in the majors. He will need to rebound his career, specifically the hitting for average. He is strong defensively, and fast, which means he could play center in the majors, shifting Andrew McCutchen to left, and moving Jose Tabata to right.
5. Alex Presley - Presley is the third outfielder in AAA, and is coming off a very impressive season in 2010. The big question is whether he can repeat that performance in 2011. He’s more of a sleeper to eventually win a starting role in the majors, and is more likely to serve as a fourth outfielder.
6. Josh Rodriguez - Rodriguez is an obvious choice, as he will start the season on the 25-man roster. His impact will probably be minimal, as he will mostly serve as a utility player. There is a chance that he could see some starting time at shortstop if Ronny Cedeno struggles.
7. Pedro Ciriaco - Ciriaco is another candidate to potentially take over at shortstop if Ronny Cedeno struggles. He is very strong defensively, but doesn’t hit that well at the plate, outside of his strong Spring numbers this year. As a defensive minded shortstop, his impact as a starter will be small, although it should help out the pitching staff in a big way.
8. Daniel Moskos - Moskos was hitting 97 MPH in the Eastern League playoffs last year, and was in the 92-93 MPH range during Spring Training. He has the potential to be a late inning left handed reliever, and should be up by the end of June, assuming his jump to AAA goes better this time around.
9. Michael Crotta - Another obvious choice is Crotta, who will start off in the major league bullpen. It would be easy to predict that Crotta will be your typical middle relief depth, although there is the chance that he could turn in to a strong reliever, especially with his excellent sinker. Even if he’s a strong reliever, the overall impact will be minimal.
10. Tony Watson – Watson should start off in the Indianapolis bullpen, and could emerge at some point this year as a left handed relief option in the majors. He would most likely serve as a middle reliever, which reduces his potential impact.
Have a shot, but no guarantees: Justin Wilson, Jeff Locke, Chase D’Arnaud, Matt Hague, Josh Harrison.