Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DBS' Top 30 2011 Pirates Prospects - #26 to #30

It's time for the 2nd annual and hotly-anticipated DBS Top 30 Pirate Prospects for 2011! Contain yourself and maintain professionalism, please.

The requirements to be on the Top 30 list are similar to Baseball America's thresholds for rookie eligibility -- 50 innings pitches and 130 at-bats in the majors.

The age in parentheses is the players 2011-season age (using July 1 as the cutoff) and the level is my projected starting assignment.

30. Quinton Miller (21) RHP, A+ -- Miller was part of Neal Huntington's first draft as GM of the Pirates in 2008. I sometimes refer to Robbie Grossman and Quinton Miller as being an oasis in the desert for Pirate prospectors. For years, Dave Littlefield's drafts consisted of college players of all shapes and sizes. Rarely were high-end high school players, let alone over-slot players, brought into the system. So when Miller, a highly touted North Carolina recruit, was signed there was mass rejoicing.

Things have been slow going at best, teeth-grinding at worst for Miller. He has fought injuries for both of his first 2 full seasons with the Pirates. This year, Miller only pitched 66 innings (primarily at Low A West Virginia), giving up 71 hits, walking 17, and striking out 38. Not only did he not build up his arm any further, but he didn't strike many people out. The good news is that Miller had a 1.64 ground out/air out rate, but he has definitely been eclipsed in the pecking order by 2009 and 2010 draftees.

29. Evan Chambers (22) OF, A+ -- Chambers is perhaps the most puzzling player to rank in all of the Pirates' system. With a shape like Kirby Puckett, but none of his contact skills, Chambers offers a tantalizing mix of speed/power/patience. This year in Low A WV, Chambers put up a triple slash line of .239/.384/.386 (770 OPS) with 12 HR's, 35 SB's and a pile of walks (92 to be exact). Chambers possesses all 5 tools, except the most important one -- the hit tool. There is a school of thought that Chambers desire to display patience gets him into too many 2 strike counts, leading to his high K rate and lowers his batting average. Late in the year, coaches tried to make him more aggressive. Right now he has too many tools to ignore, but 2011 needs to be a turning point for him.

28. Diego Moreno (24) RHP, AA -- Moreno is a pure relief pitching prospect, with no chance of him being a starter. But this has allowed him to be rated as one of the top relief prospects in all of minor league baseball, thanks to his blazing upper 90's fastball, rated anywhere from a 70 to 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Moreno started the season in High A and embarrassed the league (38 IP, 14 H, 5 BB, 57 K's, 1.17 ERA) before getting bumped up to AA. He had a setback there and encountered a disciplinary problem that got him sent back briefly to High A Bradenton. Moreno will be sent to Altoona to start 2011 and hopefully get bumped up to AAA by July. Moreno is still a great candidate to be a member of the Pirates' bullpen, but the discipline problem and his age are starting to act against him.

27. Nate Baker (23) LHP, A+/AA -- Baker is one of those guys that is going to have to work for it at every level. He's never going to be aggressively promoted or highly hyped, but if he keeps producing like he did in 2010, he'll find a spot in PNC eventually. Baker had 16 starts in Low A and 9 in High A with very similar results. His overall numbers for the season were 132 IP, 110 H, 37 BB, 94 K's and a 1.14 GO/AO rate with a 3.00 ERA. His arsenal is average stuff across the board, but he has "pitchability". So there's that.

26. Brian Friday (25) 2B/SS, AAA/MLB -- Friday may very well have already debuted with the Pirates if he weren't apparently constructed out of glass. In 2010, Friday again missed significant time and only appeared in 103 games (93 in AAA). He had a fair season of .257/.347/.378 (725 OPS) while having steady, if unspectacular, defense. His upside at this point is a utility infielder, but due to his proximity to making the majors he still gets a spot on my Top 30 for one more year.

The fun will continue tomorrow with #21 to #25.

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