Prospect Watching: Jose Tabata and Miles Durham

Tabata was assigned to the Arizona Fall League after the season ended, and he made his presence known with the Scottsdale Scorpions. �In 28 games, Tabata hit an impressive .392, which was third in the league. �He was also third in the league in total bases (72) and led the league in hits (47). �He also had 6 doubles, 3 triples, a homer, and 21 RBI. �Tabata is on the Pirates’ 40-man roster (added at the end of 2008). �In Grapefruit League action this spring, he appeared in 12 games, and went 7-for-28 at the plate (.250) with 2 triples and one RBI. �He was optioned to Indianapolis, where the Pirates had planned all along to have him begin the 2010 season, on March 19th. �As long as Tabata continues to hit and continues to mature, he is expected to be promoted to Pittsburgh by the middle of the season. �Until then, the Pirates want him to work on consistency at the plate while he is with the Indians. �They would also like to see him get some work at all three outfield positions in preparation for jointing the Pirates’ outfield squad.

Miles Durham is a Texas native who was selected by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2006 draft. �He had a slow start in the Pirates’ organization, but hit well (.348) when he reached A level Hickory to begin 2008. �That earned him a promotion to A+ Lynchburg for the last couple of months of the season, and had a tougher time there, hitting .220. �Durham played both outfield and first base during the 2008 season, but he’s a much better outfielder than first baseman. �The right-hander began 2009 back with the Hillcats. �In 65 games there, Durham hit .296 with 19 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs, and 39 RBI. �He also stole 8 bases. He had a slower April, hitting .247, but picked up the pace in May, when he hit .333, including 6 of those home runs. �He hit .290 over the first three weeks of June, and was named to the mid-season Carolina League All-Star team (he went 0-for-4 in the game against the California League All-Stars). �Durham was promoted to Altoona at the end of June, and after a slow first week, he hit .330 for the month of July with 2 homers and 12 RBI. �He slipped a bit in August/September, when he hit .244 over the last 5 weeks, with 3 homers and 20 RBI. �For the Curve, in his second 65 games of the season, Durham hit a solid .275 overall, with 17 doubles, 5 homers, and 34 RBI. �He stole another 8 bases for the Curve. �Durham was not added to the 40-man roster at the end of the season, exposing him to the Rule 5 draft, but he was not selected. �He has been in the Pirates’ minor league camp for spring training, but has appeared in two Grapefruit League games with the big club, going 0-for-2 in each. �The 27-year-old could begin 2010 at either the AA or AAA level, depending on his performance in minor league camp, and on the other candidates for the outfield.

Free agents Jon Van Every, Brandon Jones, and Jason Cooper are also competing for the outfield spots in the upper levels of the Pirates’ organization. �Van Every and Jones have been in major league camp as non-roster invitees. �Van Every spent 2009 in the Boston organization, but missed most of the season due to knee and ankle injuries. �He hit .215 in 20 games with AAA Pawtucket and .364 in 7 games with the Red Sox. �In 10 Grapefruit League games for the Pirates this spring, Van Every went 1-for-11. �He was reassigned to minor league camp on March 19th, and is a strong candidate for a spot in Indianapolis’ outfield.

Jones was drafted by Atlanta in 2003 and this is his first season not in their organization. �He spent most of 2009 with AAA Gwinnett County, hitting .281 in 107 games, with 7 home runs and 57 RBI. �He also saw action in 5 major league games with the Braves, going 4-for-13 at the plate. �He has appeared in 5 games for the Pirates this spring, and went 1-for-8 at the plate. �Jones is on the Pirates’ 40-man roster. �He has an option year remaining, and was optioned to AAA on March 14th.

Cooper had been in the Cleveland organization until the 2009 season. �He split last year between the Mets’ AAA Buffalo team (26 games, hitting .169), independent league Lancaster (17 games, hitting.145), and independent league St. Paul (54 games, hitting .288). �The Pirates signed Cooper to a minor league contract just a couple of weeks ago, and he has been in minor league camp. �Today was the first time he got into a major league spring training game, and he had one at-bat. �Like Van Every and Jones, Cooper has plenty of AAA experience, but he is the only one without major league experience. �Could that mean that Cooper goes to AA Altoona or does he stay in Indianapolis and have Durham go back to Altoona? �We’ll know in another week or so.

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