2011 Prospect Watching: Wilson, Watson, Lincoln, And Valdez

Brad Lincoln  —  Bats Left / Throws Right;  5′ 11″,  180 lb
Lincoln was the Pirates’ first round draft pick in 2006, and the 25-year-old made his major league debut in June 2010.  After missing the 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery, he came back to have a reasonable season in A level Hickory and A+ Lynchburg in 2008.  He began 2009 in Altoona, where he made 13 starts and though his record was 1-5, he had a 2.28 ERA.  Lincoln moved up to Indianapolis mid-season, but had some trouble in AAA.  In 12 starts, he had a 6-2 record but a 4.70 ERA, though he dropped his walk rate.  Lincoln returned to Indianapolis to begin the 2010 season, and began with an April similar to the previous season:  15 runs on a team-high 29 hits in 28.1 innings, for a 4.76 ERA.  He walked 9 and struck out 18 that month.  Lincoln heated up with the warmer weather in May, when he allowed 9 runs on 21 hits in 34 innings, dropping his ERA to 2.38.  He also walked only 4 batters and struck out 31, which included a 10-strikeout game (career high) and a 7-strikeout game.  In the game on May 17th, Lincoln pitched 6 perfect innings, then fell apart and allowed 3 runs on 4 hits in just one inning.  Lincoln was named the Indians’ Player of the Month in May, and was also rewarded by being called up to Pittsburgh in early June.  He made 9 starts for the Pirates over June and most of July.  His results were disappointing, allowing 37 runs on 64 hits in 44.2 innings for a 7.46 ERA.  Of those runs, 13 came in the last two starts.  He did strike out 21 batters and walked 14.  Lincoln returned to Indianapolis at the end of July and made 6 more starts there.  He allowed 19 runs on 29 hits in 25.2 innings in those starts, but 9 of those came in one 3.1-inning start.  Lincoln was recalled to Pittsburgh when the minor league season ended, and he made 2 relief appearances for the Pirates at the end of September, giving up 2 runs in one inning, then throwing a perfect inning in the second game.  Lincoln had a chance to compete for a spot on the Pirates’ Opening Day roster for 2011, but he was hit by a batted ball in a spring training game, and is still battling the bruising and swelling in his arm.  He will likely return to Indianapolis when he’s ready to come off the DL, where he’ll need to show the Pirates that he’s back in gear.

Cesar Valdez  —  R/R,  6′ 2″,  200 lb
Valdez is a 26-year-old Dominican native, who came to the Pirates from the Diamondbacks in the trade for Zach Duke.  He throws a great changeup and gets a lot of ground balls.  He pitched in the D’backs system for 5 seasons, reaching AAA in 2009 and making his major league debut in May 2010.  Valdez began 2010 with AAA Reno, where he gave up 10 runs in 23.2 inning in his first 4 starts.  He was called up to the D’backs, where he made 2 starts and 7 relief appearances, but he gave up 17 runs in 20 innings, for a 1-2 record and a 7.65 ERA.  He was returned to Reno in mid-June, and remained there for the rest of the season.  Valdez made 8 starts and one relief appearance over the rest of June and July, with poor results.  He allowed 27 runs on 43 hits in 37.2 innings, though he did strike out 28 batters.  August and September were not much better —  29 runs on 44 hits in 36.1 innings, with 39 strikeouts.  That gave him a 6-10 record and a 5.90 ERA in 97.2 innings for Reno over the entire season, with 110 hits and 64 earned runs.  He walked 49 batters (4.5 walks/ 9 innings) and struck out 92 (8.5 K/ 9 innings).  Valdez should be assigned to Indianapolis, where he will likely be either long relief or even make some spot starts.  He’ll need to get control of those hits and runs if he is going to progress.

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