The 2010 season wasn’t a good one for the Pittsburgh Pirates, or their fans. The team lost 105 games, finished in last place, and while some new young talent arrived in the majors, it’s definitely not enough to pull a Tampa Bay Rays and do a complete 180 in 2011. Despite 2010 being a bad year, there were still some good moments. Here are five of my favorite moments from the last year.
5. The arrival of the top prospects.
Within a month, the Pirates called up Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and Brad Lincoln. Lincoln was the only one who struggled to make a successful jump to the majors, although the three offensive weapons, combined with Andrew McCutchen, gave some hope to the batting order. Despite the poor play all year by the Pirates, it was actually fun to watch those hitters in the order toward the end of the season. A top of the order with McCutchen, Tabata, Walker, and Alvarez definitely gives some hope for the future.
4. Winning the rights to Anthony Rendon.
The silver lining of the 105 loss season was that the Pirates won the rights to draft Anthony Rendon in the 2011 draft. Rendon has been compared to third basemen like Ryan Zimmerman and Evan Longoria, and could make it to the majors as soon as June 2013. If you think the lineup above looks promising, then imagine that lineup with a Zimmerman/Longoria type third baseman added to the mix. Rendon is a perfect fit for the Pirates, as he moves Pedro Alvarez to first, and adds another power bat, something which the Pirates are short on in the minors. There’s no guarantee that they draft Rendon, obviously, and there’s no guarantee that he reaches his potential, although I’d say each has a good chance of happening.
3. Trading for James McDonald.
This might rate lower on other lists, but I’m a big James McDonald fan, and was very happy when he was added. When I heard about the news, I was driving to Richmond to cover the Altoona Curve. I was pulling in to the stadium, waiting for MLB Network to reveal who the Pirates got for Octavio Dotel, and when they said James McDonald that was enough for me. After arriving to the press box, I found out that the Pirates also received Andrew Lambo, which was an added bonus. For some background, back in 2008 when the Dodgers and Pirates were rumored to be discussing every player on the Pirates’ roster (actually just Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Jack Wilson), I kept hoping for a deal including McDonald. The Dodgers obviously held on to McDonald, and he became one of the top prospects in baseball the following season. I still followed him, even picking him up on some fantasy teams when it looked like the Dodgers might give him a shot. They never gave him a shot, although he got that chance with the Pirates and was excellent in 2010.
Probably one of my favorite moments came just after the trade. I was driving up to Pittsburgh with my dad on a Thursday, planning on going to a Friday night game. We were talking about the trade the whole way up, and talking about how it sucked that we were going to miss McDonald pitching by one night. After awhile we started to think “why not go to the game tonight as well?” That’s what we ended up doing, and it paid off, as McDonald was excellent in that start, striking out about 500 batters in the first four innings. I went back later in the year with my wife, sure enough McDonald was pitching the next time around. If there’s one thing I’ve always liked, it’s watching a good pitcher. The Pirates haven’t had much of that in the last 18 years, which hasn’t provided many chances. McDonald obviously isn’t an ace, but I try to project out his starts in advance to make sure when I see the Pirates, I’m also seeing him. I haven’t done that since Oliver Perez in 2004-2005.
2. The addition of Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, and Luis Heredia.
As mentioned above, the Pirates haven’t had much pitching in the last 18 years. Their last ace could still be considered Doug Drabek. The Pirates have some talented pitchers in the minors, but none that are guaranteed to be top of the rotation starters, and maybe one or two who even have the remote chance to develop in to a top of the rotation starter. So when the Pirates added three pitchers with strong top of the rotation potential in less than a week, it was a massive boost to the farm system. Taillon and Allie are both hard throwing prep pitchers, getting their fastballs in the upper 90s. Heredia is a 16 year old top Mexican pitching prospect who can throw 92-93 MPH, and who could definitely see a velocity increase to the upper 90s as he fills out his 6′ 6″ frame. The Pirates signed Taillon and Allie on the 16th of August, and a few days later they signed Heredia, hours after he became eligible to sign. As with any prospect, there’s no guarantee that these three players will live up to their potential, although the Pirates are in good standing with the numbers game. The odds of all three of these pitchers becoming top of the rotation starters are very slim, although the chances of just one of them realizing their potential is extremely possible. If the Pirates can get just one ace out of these three pitchers, then the set of moves will be a success.
1. The growth of this site.
The 2010 season was a big one for this site, taking it from a normal fan site to an accredited media outlet that covers the farm system. The biggest change came when the site was renamed to Pirates Prospects, something I considered when I first started the site in January 2009. The site obviously isn’t exclusive to the farm system, which is why I held off on the name originally, although I felt this past summer that the site’s content range was established enough to make the change.
As for the jump to a media outlet, that’s where the 2010 season was the biggest. During the draft signing period, seven draft signings were broken on the site: Nick Kingham, Matt Curry, Jared Lakind, Casey Sadler, Kevin Kleis, Bryton Trepagnier, and Logan Pevny. Also during the 2010 season the site gained media credentials with over a dozen minor league teams, and I look to expand on that in 2011. This has allowed for a lot of prospect interviews, a lot of opportunities to see the young players in the system, and most importantly, the Pirates Prospects 2011 Prospect Guide, a 194 page book that comes out this month, detailing the entire farm system and every player in the system. None of this would have been possible without you, the readers, and for that I can’t thank you enough.
Here is to a much better 2011 season for the Pirates, and to continued improvements to the site!