The Pirates Prospects 2011 Prospect Guide was released last week, featuring 237 prospect reports, interviews with Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, Zack Von Rosenberg, and Zack Dodson, the 2011 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, the top ten prospects will be released on the site.

Be sure to purchase your copy of the book by clicking “Buy Now” at the bottom of this page (or to the right).

To recap the countdown so far:

10. Colton Cain
9. Zack Von Rosenberg

We continue the countdown with the number eight prospect, Jeff Locke.

8. Jeff Locke, LHP

Locke could be in the majors as soon as June 2011.

Locke was one of the top prospects in the Atlanta Braves farm system, coming over in the Nate McLouth trade in June 2009. That was a surprise, since the Braves had refused to include Locke in packages for Jason Bay and Jake Peavy. He became available after his poor start to the 2009 season, with his control being a major problem.

Locke improved his control after coming over to the Pirates, but didn’t fully bounce back to top prospect status until the 2010 season. He remained in high-A to start the year, putting up a great strikeout ratio, and a very low walk rate. What’s more impressive is that he continued both of those trends in the jump to Altoona.

Locke’s fastball sits in the 88-92 MPH range, topping out at 94. He commands the fastball well, pounding the strike zone to keep his walk rates low. Locke’s best pitch is a hard curve ball that sits in the mid-to-high 70s. It is hard to control at times due to the amount of movement on the pitch, but is a strikeout pitch when effective.

Locke is a polished pitcher, throwing four pitches for strikes, with great control. Despite returning to high-A to start the 2010 season, Locke should start the 2011 season in AAA, rather than returning to AA. He projects as a 3-5 starter, and could make his debut in the majors as early as June 2011.

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