Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates saw the Major League debuts of several young players. They saw big time prospects like Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata reach the majors in mid-season, and stick around. They also saw a few minor players get called up for a cup of coffee, like Alex Presley and Pedro Ciriaco.
The Pirates should expect more prospects to arrive this year, and not just the 2010 Altoona rotation. Here is a list of the players who could potentially make their first appearance in the majors in 2011. My focus was on players who had any sort of chance of arriving this season, without trying to predict which individual players would or wouldn’t make it. I did break all of the players down by their chance of arriving this year, with some notes at the end of each list.
Strong Chance to Make the Majors:
Most of these guys are expected to start in AAA, with the exception of Rodriguez, who is a Rule 5 pick. Morris, Locke, and Owens are three starters who could be in the majors by the end of June. Owens should start in AAA. Locke and Morris could start in AA, but I don’t think they’ll stay at the level for long if they get off to a good start. Crotta, Watson, and Moskos are bullpen options who should all be pitching out of AAA to start the season.
Need a Strong AAA Performance:
Aaron Thompson has been a starter, but should switch to the bullpen, based on the starting depth in the upper levels. I put him behind Watson and Moskos due to his struggles in the AA level, and the fact that he could return to the level to start the 2011 season.
I don’t have Justin Wilson in the Owens/Morris/Locke group due to his control issues. That’s not saying he won’t make it to the majors this year, but I think he’ll need some strong control numbers in AAA to jump past the other pitchers at the level and get a shot in the majors.
Friday, D’Arnaud, and Mercer have an opening in the majors at shortstop, although none really stand out as guaranteed starters. D’Arnaud is coming off a down year in AA. Mercer lacked power in AA. Friday didn’t really do much in AAA last year. Still, one of them could break out and get a shot at shortstop by the end of the year.
Hague and Harrison are both coming off strong AA seasons, although neither has a starting role in the majors. Hague is more likely to be a starter, since there are no long term first basemen, and Lyle Overbay is only under contract for one year. Harrison is blocked at second and third by Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, but could become a super utility player off the bench.
Long Shot to Make the Majors (Will probably have to go from AA to the majors):
Hernandez and Lambo are former top prospects who could possibly return to AA to try to get back on track. Both players showed signs of turning things around last year. Hernandez started hitting from the start of June until he got hurt in July. Lambo started hitting for power after being traded to the Pirates, and had a strong outing in the Arizona Fall League. Both players would have to prove that their small sample sizes were no fluke, followed by a quick move through AAA to make the majors this year.
Aguero is coming off an injury filled year, which means he will have to go from AA to the majors. Moreno was suspended last year, and demoted back to high-A, which means he will also have to jump from AA to the majors. Both pitchers have the potential to be back of the bullpen relievers, although a more conservative timeline would have them making their debut in 2012.
Dubee, Hughes, and Colla could all start in AAA, or arrive to AAA early in the season. They have all put up good numbers as high as the AA level, although their upside is middle relief in the majors, which means the best case is that they’re only going to be emergency options throughout the year.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Focusing only on the players with a strong chance to make the majors, I am hoping that Owens and Morris force there way on to the team. I think those two and Lincoln getting back on track could do a lot of good for the franchise. We know that Maholm is on the block, but who are the other chips to if this happens? Does Ohlendorfs arbitration win make him next? If all three work out what”s to become of the current rotation? Starters bring pretty good returns in trade deadline deals. Could they end the season with a rotation of McDonald, Morton, Owens, Morris and Lincoln, and be in a good situation? How much could the return possably be with the ability to trade three starters? I know it”s best case, but one can dream.