As the season’s last week is winding down, Scouting the Unknown will be put on hold until pitchers and catchers report to camp in February. Don’t be sad. Why? Because Grey and I have devised a new article to warm your innards during the harsh winter (or if you are in the south – the brisk morning) weather. What is this new article you may ask? Well, it still deals with the minor leagues, but instead of individual players, I will briefly outline all minor league affiliates and their records of the major league team along with key players. The order will be Baseball America’s 2009 farm rankings, reporting the rankings backwards. At first I will write about two teams at a time and eventually be talking about a single team. This means the first two will be Houston and San Diego. If you have any tidbits, advice or other information sections for the article, here is a week heads-up.

Casey Crosby | SP | Detroit Tigers | DOB: 9/17/88 | 6-5 | 200 lbs | Bats/Throws: Right/Left | DET #4 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Has no ratings on Crosby

Thanks to Tommy John surgery, this young lefty has flown under the radar – or maybe it’s the nasty walk rate that is causing the blimp to disappear. Either way, Crosby suffered an elbow injury during instructional league, and within nine months he was throwing a baseball once again. No, this is not a typo; he came back in NINE months. That is rather fast when you consider most players aren’t at full strength until almost two years after the surgery. Baseball America raved about how his athleticism allowed him to come back so quick; specifically noting how he was an All-State pitcher and Wide Receiver at a suburban Chicago prep school.

In throwing a fastball that is clocked between 92 to 94 with a max of 97 (supposedly) with late life and a Circle Change-up that sits between 84 and 86, he is able to induce a high percentage of ground balls (50.2% in ’09). He also possesses a hard slider that tops out at 87 and a slow sweeping curveball. His delivery was consistently critiqued as clunky and erratic, but still remains deceptive. He lacks polish because of his injury, and because he happens to be pitching where snow and wind is less reliable than Congress. Here is a quick look at his numbers:

08 (R) 3.9 K/9 | 5.8 BB/9 | 4 2/3 IP | 0 HR/9 | 0 ERA | 1.5 WHIP
09 (A) 10.1 K/9 | 4.1 BB\9 | 104 2/3 IP | .3 HR/9 | 2.41 ERA | 1.13 WHIP | 50.2 GB%

Throwing aside 2008, his 2009 numbers are slightly about average with a notable negative mark which has plagued him since high school. What is really impressive is that his WHIP could be under one if he was able to cut his walk by a third (or 15 less). The strikeout rate is strong; he keeps the ball in the park; and he is a hard throwing lefty. Some things to watch as he progresses to A+ or possibly AA to start next year is his delivery, his control and pitching more innings each year. With the emergence of Rick Porcello and the return to dominance that Justin Verlander had this year, the Tigers are still in need of viable middle and end of the rotation starters. Crosby is still a full year away from contending for a major league rotation spot. However, his name could be swirling around the July trade deadline (like it was this year) and he could be up around that time next year if all goes well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him vying for a bullpen spot in spring training, but he should stay as a starter for now.

Pedro Alvarez | 3B | Pittsburgh Pirates | DOB: 2/6/87 | 6-2 | 225 lbs | Bats/Throws: Left/Right | PIT #1 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Power (99) | Speed (39) | Contact (33) | Patience (96)

How Pedro Alvarez slipped from my conscious is only known by Freud – or maybe it’s the seventeenth straight losing season that is going on over in Pittsburgh. He would have been the top pick in the 2008 draft, except the Tampa Bay Rays already had Evan Longoria. With an award shelf already overflowing with 2006 Freshman Player of the year and two straight All-American selections at Vanderbilt, Alvarez is on track to keep adding to his impressive accomplishments. Possessing quick hands, great bat speed and stellar plate discipline, he has been compared to Albert Pujols. That is a rather large comparison, but Pittsburgh needs a player of that caliber to work through its minor league system. Drafted as the “future face of the franchise,” and paid handsomely, the Pirates brass have a lot riding on his … well you get the point.

With Steve Pearce manning first base since the trade of Adam LaRoche and Andy LaRoche playing excellent defense with adequate offense at third, I suspect that Pearce will be moved to the bench and either Andy LaRoche or Alvarez will play first. Alvarez has mediocre defensive skills at third and would be at least slightly above average at first. Any way you line it up, when you have Garret “Robot” Jones leading your team in homers with only 292 AB any power addition will be forced into the lineup. Just recently he hit three homers in a game against Chinese Taipei. He hit 49 homer in a little over two and half years at Vanderbilt and has hit like this in the minors:

09 (totals) .288/.378/.535 | 465 AB | 27 HR | 32 2B | 71:129 BB:K
09 (A+) .247/.342/.486 | 243 AB | 14/.239 HR/ISO | 28.8 K% | 13.2 BB%
09 (AA) .33/.419/.590 | 222 AB | 13/.257 HR/ISO | 26.6 K% | 13.3 BB%

It is important to note that he broke his Hamate bone (the power sapping injury for hitters) in his right hand in 2008, which lead to him having reduced power numbers in 2008 at college and removing 23 games from his career. With that said, it may put his splits between high-A and double-A this year into perspective. He started with a poor April and had a decent May. Other than that, it wasn’t until July when he went to double-A Altoona. From that point on, he simply raked. The power is straight legit, the average at the major league level will probably drop down to the .260 to .270 range (Marc Hulet say the .250 to .260 range. His strikeouts are comparable to BJ Upton and Mike Cameron, which isn’t the company I would like, but his walks are essentially the same as Cameron’s though. Matter of fact, Cameron’s plate discipline would nearly mimic what Alvarez has done in the minors so far.

All in all, Alvarez should either be the Pirates starting first baseman or third baseman to start the 2010 season. However, with all teams being arbitration pansies, he will probably be called up in June. If the Pirates want fans to actually show up next year they should have him start from day one. I personally think he will struggle for a few weeks up and then go off like Longoria his rookie year. Yes, this is hyping him early, but I would take him over Posey, Heyward, and Smoak. Trust the Alvar-tros Pirate!

  1. generic says:

    I have Alvarez, Heyward, and Smoak (along with Ackley, Alonso, and Wallace) in my six minor league spots in my dynasty league.

    Life is good.

  2. Stephen says:

    @generic: Life should be AMAZING. You may want to find a pitcher though.

  3. Simply Fred

    Simply Fred says:

    @Stephen: Once Alvarez is in the lineup routinely, how does he project compared to someone like Beckham?

  4. Stephen says:

    @Simply Fred: Long term or just next season? Next season, Beckham will be hyped a bit more, but they are pretty similar. Alvarez will probably hit just like Beckham did this year. Alvarez will have a bit more power and should be placed in the order higher and thus receive more chances for RBI.

  5. Simply Fred

    Simply Fred says:

    @Stephen: Gold. Thanks, Stephen for all of your work and astute analysis. (I realize it’s baseball and anything can happen, but I like that Alvarez should come pretty cheap.)

  6. Simply Fred

    Simply Fred says:

    @Stephen: What do you know about Brad Kilby, RP for Oakland? He had pretty good numbers in the PCL this year: .213 ERA,10.88K/9, 1.01 whip. September callup yielding .60 ERA. Why is this guy not a closer? Likely on Oakland’s roster start of 2010 as middle reliever?

  7. generic says:

    @Stephen: Pitchers really aren’t as valuable as hitters in the league, it’s one point per total base, plus one point per steal, and only wins (12 points) and saves (5 points) qualify for pitchers. Plus you play 5 hitters and 2 pitchers (it’s a 20-team league), so it’s quite easy to just handle pitching through the draft.

  8. Simply Fred

    Simply Fred says:

    @Stephen: Thanks for FanGraphs link. Having trouble seeing the struggles with control. Clearly doesn’t appear to being groomed for a closer’s role. Will stash him on my watch list to see if trade, etc. opens up opportunity in the future. Those FanGraph numbers look pretty solid to me, but I don’t have the expertise to know what other minor league numbers compare.
    Thanks again.

  9. Stephen says:

    @Simply Fred: a 3.5 BB/9 is slightly below average. Think like Kershaw walk rates.

  10. Stephen says:

    An update on Pedro Alvarez and the Pirates via Rotoworld:

    Andy LaRoche-3B- Pirates Oct. 4 – 11:57 am et

    “Andy LaRoche may move to second base in 2010, general manager Neal Huntington revealed. The move would make room for prospect Pedro Alvarez, the No. 1 pick in 2008. Alvarez excelled after a mid-season promotion to Double-A and is expected to make his major league debut in the second half of 2010, although this is not certain. “If that’s going to help us out for me to go to second, that doesn’t bother me at all,” said LaRoche. The 25-year old would see a fantasy boost if he moved to second and has seen his power develop over the final couple months of 2009.”

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