We are almost to the mid-way point of the 2011 season, and so far we’ve already seen several prospects make their Major League debuts. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have Josh Harrison, Daniel Moskos, and Tony Watson on the active roster, with Michael Crotta on the disabled list. The Pirates Prospects 2011 Prospect Guide provided reports on every player in the system coming in to the 2011 season, including the four players mentioned above. Three of those players were rated on the 2011 Top 50 Prospects list in the book. Here is what we had to say about each player coming in to the season. If you want to see what we said about the other players in the system, you can still buy the 2011 Prospect Guide, currently on sale, by going to the Products page.
Josh Harrison – #23 Overall
Harrison was acquired by the Pirates at the trade deadline in 2009, and has helped lead the Pirates’ minor league affiliates to championships in high-A and AA since the trade. Harrison made a great jump to AA this year, with a .300 average, and a big improvement on his walk rate, all while keeping his strikeout rate low. He carried that hitting success over to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit for a .330/.390/.516 line in 91 at-bats, with a 12:10 K/BB ratio.
Harrison is short, but has a thick frame for his height. His best skill is his speed, allowing him to be a top of the order hitter. He doesn’t have much power, although he does hit for gap power, with a lot of extra base hits over the last two seasons. He swings at a lot of pitches he shouldn’t, leading to a low walk rate, although he has great contact skills, leading to his very low strikeout rate despite the ill-advised swings. He doesn’t have a true defensive position, playing second, third, and the corner outfield spots in his career. The lack of a defensive position makes Harrison more of a future utility player than a starting option, although if he continues hitting like he did in 2010, the Pirates would have to find a place for him to receive regular playing time.
Daniel Moskos – #31 Overall
After spending two years in the rotation, Moskos returned to relief at the AA level to start the 2010 season, and had a big bounce back season. Early in the year Moskos was struggling with his velocity, and wasn’t looking overly impressive. As the year went on, Moskos started getting his velocity back, eventually touching 97 MPH with his fastball by the end of the season. He was moved up to AAA in the middle of the season, but struggled majorly with his control, and was demoted back to AA. From there he recovered, serving as the Altoona closer during their playoff run.
It hasn’t been the quick ascent to the majors that was expected of Moskos when he was drafted over Matt Wieters with the fourth pick of the 2007 draft. He showed this year that he still has the arm capable of being a back end reliever in the majors, rebounding to become one of the top relievers in the minors. There are two big concerns at hand with Moskos. First, his control is a little wild, and while that has only translated to a 3.5 BB/9 at the AA level, there are concerns that he’s getting some swings on pitches that advanced hitters would lay off of. A bigger concern comes from his struggles in AAA this year, mostly because of the previous concerns with his lack of control. Moskos should get another shot at AAA in 2011, and if he can avoid the control issues this time around, he could finally arrive in Pittsburgh by mid-season. It would be ironic if he was up in time for the June 20-22 series against Wieters and the Baltimore Orioles.
Tony Watson – #50 Overall
After being named the Pirates’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, Watson was affected by injury issues in 2009, going down after five starts at the AA level. He returned to AA in 2010, after a successful stint in the AFL in 2009, and put up strong numbers working between the rotation and the bullpen. He saw a jump in his strikeout numbers in 2010, especially out of the bullpen where he struck out 66 in 63.2 innings.
Watson usually throws in the mid-80s, but as a reliever he averages around 89, touching 91. He is currently behind the other options from the 2010 Altoona rotation, which makes it unlikely that he makes it as a starter going forward. Watson could project as a Jeff Karstens type pitcher, working out of the bullpen, but also serving as an emergency starter if needed. At the least he could make a strong LOOGY in the majors, with a .131 BAA versus left handers in 2010.
Michael Crotta – Unranked
In 2008 the new management group installed a “no sinker” policy, which forced Crotta, a heavy sinkerball pitcher, to use a four seam fastball until he figured out the pitch. He struggled initially, but had good ratios in 2008 and 2009, before getting off to a great start in 2010, followed by a quick promotion to AAA.
Crotta is a heavy ground ball pitcher, due to his sinker ball, and throws a 90-93 MPH fastball. He’s been hit hard as a starter, although he usually gets off to a good start early in the game. His future will likely be as a solid middle reliever who can provide the occasional start. That could be as soon as the 2011 season, as he should be forced in to relief at AAA to start the season, and could be an option for the Pirates at some point during the year.