Pittsburgh Pirates 2009 Minor League Review
Overall farm ranking via Baseball America
2009 (18) | 2008 (26) | 2007 (19) | 2006 (19) | 2005 (18) | 2004 (11)
Record of Major and Minor League Team(s)
MLB: [62 – 99] NL Central
AAA: [70 – 73] International League
AA: [62 – 80] Eastern League
A+: [73 – 66] Carolina League
A: [67 – 70] South Atlantic
A(ss): [38 – 38] New York – Pennsylvania League
R: [29 – 31] Gulf League
The Run Down
Trades to the Yankees and Red Sox in 2008 (Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, and Jason Bay) reaped benefits in 2009 as five of the eight prospects played a role for the Pirates (Craig Hansen, Jeff Karstens, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Ross Ohlendorf). Granted, LaRoche and Ohlendorf were the bright spots, the remaining prospects still have potential to help the team in 2010. Furthermore, when the Pirates salary dumped Nate McLouth, they gained more prospects (Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke) to replenish their depleted farm system that lacked any sort of depth. Not to mention sending Freddy Sanchez to the Giants for Tim Alderson. A record 17 straight losing seasons probably won’t end in 2010, however, their prized prospect, Pedro Alvarez, is one year closer to the majors as are a few other pitching prospects. Pirate fans don’t hold your breath just yet, the losing isn’t over. Progress is being made however, and the future is brighter than Capt’n Jack’s chance at a fourth movie. But please give three cheers to the act that The Dread Pirate can put on while you wait for the other players to arrive on set. Plus, there is more talent on this young squad than most will give them credit for (Andy LaRoche plays great defense, Garrett “Robot” Jones, Paul Maholm, and Milledge). Although they didn’t improve greatly, their farm system should stay ranked in the middle of the pack for 2010.
Players of Interest
Gorkys Hernandez, Jeff Locke and Tim Alderson’s prospect rankings are from their previous teams (Atlanta for the first two and San Francisco for Alderson).
#1 – Pedro Alvarez | 3B | A+/AA | 22 | .288/.378/.535 | 465 AB | 32 2B | 27 HR | .247 ISO | 129:71 K:BB | .350 BABIP | 42.5 GB% | 14.5 LD% | 43.1 FB% | 10.3 IF/F%
Splitting time between High-A and Double-A, Alvarez laced the ball all over the field. His slash line improved greatly between the two levels (.247/.342/.486 at High-A compared to .333/.419/.590 at Double-A). However, his BABIP at Double-A was over a 100 points higher (.407). I wrote about Alvarez with the last Scouting the Unknown of the year. There is no reason to repeat myself. Let’s just say if you’re looking for Braun/Longoria type rookie numbers for 2010, look no further.
#17 – Chase d’Arnaud | 2B/SS | A/A+ | 22 | .293/.398/.454 | 423 AB | 33 2B | 7 HR | .161 ISO | 31/8 SB/CS | 72/60 K:BB | .332 BABIP | 37.3 GB% | 17.9 LD% | 44.3 FB% | 13.8 IF/F%
His slash line between the two levels was pretty even. He had a great combined walk rate this past year (~12.4%) but he finally hit for a bit of power, granted, at the cost of a few more strikeouts. This Chase will never be confused for Utley, both with the bat or the glove. However, the brother of Travis d’Arnaud — I was wondering about that too — has the making of an slightly above-average (if not just average) second baseman in his future. With a little pop and some speed, he’ll be an enticing middle infield grab in the near future, if he can hit next year in Double-A.
#3 – Jose Tabata | RF | AA/AAA | 20 | .293/.357/.406 | 362 AB | 22 2B | 5 HR | .113 ISO | 11/8 SB/CS | 43:30 K:BB | .322 BABIP | 52.8 GB% | 19.3 LD% | 27.6 FB% | 6 IF/F%
The prize return in the Nady/Marte trade in 2008. He isn’t the speedster that he once was as he has started to fill out his frame. Additionally, he hasn’t hit for much power ever. The most home runs he has ever had in one season has been five. Although he hasn’t played a full season, his homer cap seems to be in the low-to-mid teens if it develops. He hits most his balls on the ground (52.8 GB%). Turning just 21 this year, Tabata has a lot time to develop his game. But he can’t be written off yet.
#4 – Gorkys Hernandez | CF | AA | 21 | .282/.331/.358 | 556 AB | 25 2B | 3 HR | .066 ISO | 19/16 SB/CS | 130:35 K:BB | .363 BABIP | 53.1 GB% | 19.3 LD% | 27.1 FB% | 11 IF/F%
Remember Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins? Hernandez is much like him but with a strong arm – all speed and no power. His talent is the stereotypical leadoff hitter. With gap power, stellar speed, and great defense, the Braves were forced to trade him because they have Jordan Schafer who is nearly identical (with a bit more power and poorer strikeout rates). As it stands, Hernandez has annually struggled with strikeout rates and this year was no different. When he does put the ball in play, it is usually on the ground (53% ground ball rate) which plays into his strengths. Part of the McLouth trade, Hernandez will push Andrew McCutchen for the starting center field position in 2011. However, he will have to improve his on-base percentage to supplant McCutchen as the leadoff hitter. Look for him at Triple-A in 2010.
#4 – Tim Alderson | RHP | A+/AA | 20 5.5 K/9 | 2 BB/9 | 137 1/3 IP | 3.93 ERA | 4.29 FIP | 1.28 WHIP | .9 HR/9 | .294 BABIP | 46.9 GB% | 15.8 LD% | 33 FB% | 12.3 IF/F
Alderson lost over a strikeout per inning in his promotion from High-A to Double-A (5.7 K/9 to 4.2 K/9). Furthermore, he had a rate of ~7 K/9 in 2008. Control has never been an issue for Alderson, but there are now red flags about his speed of his pitches being sacrificed for said control. Nevertheless, if he can improve his strikeout rate by about one per inning in 2010 (so between 5.5 K/9 to 6 K/9) and induce a few more ground balls, Alderson can still be an effective pitcher. Just his value has declined as his strikeout rate has declined. Keep in mind that he was still ranked as the #33 ranked prospect in all the minors after the trade by MLB.com.
#4 – Brad Lincoln | RHP | AA/AAA | 24 | 7.1 K/9 | 1.8 BB/9 | 136 1/3 IP | 3.37 ERA | 3.48 FIP | 1.2 WHIP | .7 HR/9 | .309 BABIP | 39 GB% | 17.2 LD% | 39.4 FB% | 16.2 IF/F%
Lincoln works a low-to-mid 90’s fastball, a power curve, and a change-up. He keeps most of his pitches near the strike-zone which is both a plus and a negative – he gives up too many homers, especially when the ball is in the upper half of the zone. A Tommy John survivor, Lincoln seems to have recovered from the surgery fine, pitching effectively in 2009. He received a September call up and looks poised for a starting gig in 2010. If he can improve his ground ball rate slightly, he could be nice waiver wire pick-up in early May.
Rudy Owens | LHP | A/A+ | 21 | 8.2 K/9 | 1.2 BB/9 | 124 IP | 2.10 ERA | 3.32 FIP | .94 WHIP | .8 HR/9 | .263 BABIP | 38 GB% | 15.2 LD% | 39.5 FB% | 17.5 IF/F%
Aided by a low BABIP (.263), Owens dominated High-A (he only threw 23 IP at Low/Single-A). He isn’t an overpowering pitcher and the low ground ball rates (38%) is way too low for him to excel at the next level. The control is excellent, and if he pounds the lower half of the zone, Owens could be a prized low draft pick. Look for him to start at Double-A in 2010 with a late season call-up.
#7 – Jeff Locke | LHP | A+ | 21 | 7 K/9 | 3.1 BB/9 | 127 1/3 IP | 4.55 ERA | 3.48 FIP | 1.48 WHIP | .363 BABIP | .4 HR/9 | 48.6 GB% | 16.3 LD% | 29.8 FB% | 14.8 IF/F%
Finally, a pitcher in the Pirates’ farm system that has a good ground ball rate. He has a 51 GB% for his career too. The other prospect received in the McLouth trade, Locke pitched adequately. He gave up a ton of hits but was cursed with a high BABIP. Look for that number to rebound to the league average (.300 to .305) and for his WHIP to fall. He has a low 90’s fastball, a biting plus-curve and an above-average change-up. He should start the year in Double-A.
#9 Dan McCutchen | RHP | AAA | 26 | 6.9 K/9 | 1.8 BB/9 | 142 2/3 IP | 3.47 ERA | 3.30 FIP | 1.22 WHIP | .6 HR/9 | .316 BABIP | 33.6 GB% | 19 LD% | 42.3 FB% | 15.2 IF/F%
The last piece to the Nady/Marte trade, Capt’n McCutchen isn’t your typical prospect. Old enough to quote The Goonies, and more tired than the trek those young boys took, Dan threw 171 innings in 2008 with the Yanks and Pirates. Thus, the Pirates chose to rest him for the beginning part of 2009. After being homer prone for most his career, he significantly cut his homer rate this year. Definitely a fly-ball pitcher, McCutchen has a 90 to 93 mph fastball, a hard curve and a decent change-up. With impeccable control and the potential to be the middle of the rotation stalwart (no. 3 or 4), the Pirates should give McCutchen all the chances he needs to pitch in the majors in 2010 as he has performed well at each level in the minors.
#10 – Robbie Grossman | CF | A | 19 | .266/.373/.355 | 451 AB | 21 2B | 5 HR | .089 ISO | 35/12 SB/CS | 164/75 K:BB | .405 BABIP | 54.4 GB% | 22.1 LD% | 22.8 FB% | 5.3 IF/F%
Another all speed and no power outfielder. Actually that is a half-truth (which isn’t feasible, but just go with me), he has gap-power. In returning to his senior season at Texas University, Grossman lost a step and now only have above-average speed at best. With a decent arm, he’ll likely end up in left field. Like Gorkys and Tabata, Grossman has utilized one of his stronger suits, speed, by hitting the ball mainly on the ground (54 GB%). Oh, and because my Vikings played the Bears Monday, this Grossman is already better than Rex.
#19 – Dan Moskos | LHP | AA | 23 | 4.7 K/9 | 3.5 BB/9 | 149 IP | 3.74 ERA | 4.49 FIP | 1.46 WHIP | .7 HR/9 | .308 BABIP | 54.6 GB% | 12 LD% | 27.6 FB% | 10.4 IF/F%
Forever linked with Matt Wieters as the Pirates chose him in the 2007 draft ahead of Wieters. None of his stats are overly impressive, except for his envious ground ball rate (54%) and line-drive rate (12%). Truthfully, since his disastrous rookie season in which everything that could go wrong did, 2009 was a great improvement. Although he doesn’t have jaw-dropping strikeout rates or a minuscule walk rate, Moskos isn’t done pitching at a high level. He’ll most likely get promoted to Triple-A, and if he put up identical numbers in 2010 as he did in 2009, the Pirates may have the next Joel Pineiro. Nothing great, but how many players can eat innings while providing adequate services? Livan Hernandez doesn’t count anymore.