Tuesday, June 29, 2010

5 Good Things and 5 Bad Things about the 2010 Pirates' Minor Leagues

It's just about time to flip the calendar over to July, which means that some trendline data can be compiled. There are no more "small sample sizes" as the halfway point is approaching for all the full-season teams.

First the Good:
1. Neil Walker flourished at AAA to the point the Pirates HAD to include him in this trainwreck of a season. Originally thought to be a "super sub", Walker entrenched himself at 2B and did quite well. That is until The Success Scourge, Ryan Church, ran into Walker and gave him a concussion -- putting him out for a while.
Walker AAA .321/.392/.560 (952 OPS)
Walker MLB .295/.325/.464 (789 OPS)

2. Bryan Morris has not only put himself back on the prospect map, but with all of the recent promotions he is probably the Pirates #1 prospect (until Taillon is signed). Morris absolutely dominated the Florida State League and, aside from 1 really bad start, is excelling at AA Altoona in the Eastern League, too. Kyle Stark has said that Morris could see some time at AAA in 2010, which is a bold statement from this group that keeps it close to the vest.
Morris A+ 44 IP, 37 H, 7 BB, 40 K, 0.60 ERA
Morris AA 45 IP, 41 H, 15 BB, 42 K, 3.35 ERA

3. Rudy Owens and his man-perm have proven that last year was not a fluke year. After getting just a taste of A+ last year (6 starts at the end of the year), Owens was jumped to AA. He has responding by showing that he can more than capably fill the role of #5 starter for the Pirates -- which sounds like a back-handed compliment, but has quite a bit of value.
Owens AA 87 IP, 67 H, 17 BB, 67 K, 2.74 ERA

4. Alex Presley decided to board a rocket ship at the start of 2010 and leave Earth's atmosphere. He has not been able to come back yet. I was mildly intrigued by Presley in 2007 (784 OPS with 22 2B, 11 HR, 18 SB) but his 2008 and 2009 involved him spinning his wheels at A+ for 2 years. Then he hung out with Jim Negrych this off-season and re-did his whole swing. He has put himself squarely in the DBS Top 30 at the end of the year, probably in the 11-20 range, even though he may only be a 4th OF. Presley has had an 8 RBI game this year and last week hit for the cycle in AAA, after being recently promoted.
Presley AA .350/.399/.533 (932 OPS)
Presley AAA .389/.389/.778 (1167 OPS)

5. This one seems like a cop-out, but the whole goal of the minor league is to supply cost-controlled talent to the major league team. I already discussed Walker separately, as not many people saw him as a key piece coming into 2010. However, people did see Alvarez/Tabata/Lincoln as key pieces. And the good news is that they didn't stub their toe on the way to Pittsburgh (in PGH is a different story).
Alvarez AAA .277/.363/.533 (896 OPS)
Tabata AAA .308/.373/.424 (793 OPS)
Lincoln AAA 68 IP, 54 H, 14 BB, 55 K, 3.16 ERA

And with the Good, there's usually the Bad....
1. Chase d'Arnaud was supposed to do his thing in AA...hit around .290 with a 1/1 K/BB rate and put himself in the mix in 2011 for either SS or 2B. Well, the coronation took a U-turn when Chase forgot that the season starts in April and not June. His April saw Chase drop a 599 OPS, followed by a 615 in May. However, his June has had a more Chase-like .298/.373/.471 (844 OPS). Hopefully his July and August stay hot and he can move out of this column.

2. Robbie Grossman has been a disaster...no sugar coating it. I have repeatedly sounded the alarm over his K rate not playing out as he moves up the chain. I thought it would rear it's head at AA, not this year at A+. It's probably more that he's just not making contact, though. His overall line of .221/.330/.322 (652 OPS) is yucky. When your OBP is higher than your SLG, you have a problem. His switch hitting woes continue, too. His batting average as a righty is .280 (749 OPS with a 25% K rate), but as a lefty it's .197 (612 OPS, 27% K rate). He needs to give up switch hitting. Like yesterday.

3. Quinton Miller was another 2008 draft bonus baby, but unfortunately he can't get on track. He currently is on the DL with bicep tendonitis, which is a pre-flag for elbow trouble in the pitching world. He has pitched 6 innings this year and just 69 in his whole Pirates career. Miller is just proof for why you can never have too much pitching...and why there is no such thing as a pitching prospect (the cynical flip side to that coin).

4. The whole crop of 2009 High School Pitchers (ZVR, Cain, Fuesser, Stevenson, Dodson, Pounders) all stayed behind in Extended Spring Training. Cain also had back surgery before the season and Stevenson had some mystery injury...safe to say that the beanpole didn't overeat at least (ahem, Pounders, ahem). Pounders, with his "pitchability" and exposure in the GCL last year, could have handled an assignment to Low A but he was out of shape. ZVR's velocity is in the mid to high 80's which is not good. It would have been nice to see someone break out, that's all I'm saying.

5. There have been (hopefully no more in the future) a decent number of injuries to key prospects this season. Sanchez broke his jaw and there are rumors about his shoulder bothering him. Marte got hit by a pitch and broke his hamate. Holt ripped his ACL up. All three are out for the better part of the remainder of 2010. Other players, like Lorin only starting a couple of weeks ago after being injured, and Farrell out for an extended period of time after ripping the cover off the ball, is a bummer. It happens every year to every team, but couldn't some org soldiers take one for the team instead of the top guys?

I've already started thinking about the 2011 DBS Top 30. Even with Taillon and Allie (hopefully), there is a void from #8 to #14'ish in terms of who DESERVES to be there. Hopefully some players can make a late case.

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