Chase d’Arnaud — R/R, 6′ 2″, 200 lb
D’Arnaud came to the Pirates in 2008 as their 4th round draft pick. He split the his first full pro season, 2009, between A level West Virginia and A+ Lynchburg, and helped the Lynchburg Hillcats to the Carolina League championship. He hit .295 for the Hillcats, with 26 RBI in 54 games, and also hit .291 with 31 RBI in 62 games for West Virginia. That earned d’Arnaud a promotion to Altoona for 2010. He started the season while recovering from pneumonia, though, which may have contributed to his slow start. He hit .205 in April and .211 in May, but started picking it up in June, including a 4-for-5 day on June 11th. July saw him back to .218, and he finished up the season with a disappointing .247 average. He also hit 33 doubles, 9 triples, 6 homers, and had 48 RBI. Despite the low average, D’Arnaud was named to the Eastern League All-Star team, and he hit a grand slam in the All-Star Game. His speed didn’t fail — he stole 33 bases and was only caught stealing 7 times. D’Arnaud played mostly at shortstop for the Curve, with a few games at second base. He was errorless at second, but committed 28 errors at short, which is much more than his usual. D’Arnaud has maintained his composure about his performance in 2010, and has been quoted as saying that he believes his struggles have taught him to be able to make adjustments. D’Arnaud was also invited to the major league camp for Spring Training, and was also sent to minor league camp on Monday. The Pirates said they plan to have the 24-year old begin the 2011 season as the Indy Indians’ regular shortstop (which might suggest that Pedro Ciriaco is going to stay in Pittsburgh), but if someone needs to be bumped back to Altoona, d’Arnaud might be the unlucky one, due to his struggles last year. In either place, d’Arnaud needs to get his batting average back up.
Jordy Mercer — R/R, 6′ 3″, 190 lb
Mercer was chosen by the Pirates immediately before d’Arnaud, in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. He was promoted a little quicker than d’Arnaud, reaching A level Hickory in 2008, and beginning 2009 in A+ Lynchburg. Like d’Arnaud, Mercer played all of 2010 at AA Altoona, where he hit a solid .282 for the season, with just one down month (in May he hit .210). He did not show a lot of power, with just 3 homers, plus 65 RBI. He did strikeout fewer times than in 2009, just 69 times in 129 games (14.2%), though his walk rate also dropped — 31 walks (5.8%, down from 7.1% in 2009). Mercer split his time in Altoona between third base, second base, and shortstop. He seems to have better range at short than d’Arnaud, and committed only 3 errors there in 20 games. Mercer was invited to the Arizona Fall League after the regular season. For the Mesa Solar Sox, he got into 20 games, and hit .267 with one homer and 13 RBI. Mercer should be ready for AAA Indianapolis in 2011, but he might also be squeezed depending on what the Pirates decide to do with their middle infield. The Pirates would like to see Mercer get back some of his power, and also take more walks this year.