Every year as the anticipation
towards Spring Training increases, the folks at Baseball America begin to put
out their organizational top ten players as a tease for their prospect
handbook. Baseball America is the top publication service in scouting and reporting
on amateur and Minor League Baseball players and their stuff, more often than
others, is pretty accurate.
Baseball America announces the top 10 for free, but rightfully so,
makes you pay for the scouting reports and the rest of the top 30 players.
Since, here at CurveBall Blog, we appreciate what Baseball America does, I’ll
give you the top 10 prospects in the Pirates system, some personal analysis and
a recommendation that if you like baseball and ever attend a Minor League
Baseball game, to buy the full Prospect Handbook.
2011 Pirates Organization Top 10:
Bold=Former Curve Players
Italic=Potential 2011 Curve
1. RHP Jameson Taillon
2. C Tony Sanchez
3. RHP Stetson Allie
4. OF Starling Marte
5. RHP Luis Heredia
6. RHP Bryan Morris
7. LHP Rudy Owens
8. LHP Jeff Locke
9. RHP Zack Von Rosenberg
10. INF Chase d’Arnaud
Right off the bat you’ll notice that pitching dominates the top 10 (7 of 10)
and this has been due to a recent draft philosophy by the Pirates organization and as a result of trades.
Last season, the Pirates took Taillon as the No. 2 player and top pitcher and
scouts absolutely love his stuff and his ceiling. He isn’t ticketed to play in
Altoona for a few years. Additionally, last year Stetson Allie was surprisingly
still available at No. 52 so they went back-to-back high school pitchers. This
season, with the top selection, expect an experienced bat to come off the board
for the Pirates (Anthony Rendon).
Tony Sanchez was taken fourth overall in 2009 and
all he has done is hit since he has been selected. A catcher out of Boston
College, Sanchez should be the Curve Opening Day backstop and he will hope to
improve upon his defensive play which comes highly touted as well. Catchers are
never really expected to contribute offensively, but Sanchez could be a rare
breed of both an offensively and defensively minded catcher.
Starling Marte is a raw athlete who, despite
playing four seasons professionally, has played in only 235 games. Health is the key
for Marte, who will be expected to be in center field for Altoona on Opening
day. He is coming off a hand injury which limited time in 2010 and had a sub-par
performance in the Dominican Winter League after the season concluded. If Marte
can play in 110+ games this season, improve defensively and hit in the vicinity
of his .294 career average, then 2011 will be a success.
Heredia is a young arm from Mexico, who the Pirates took a chance on signing
for a record $2.6 million. He may serve as a test product for the international
market because if he pans out, the Pirates may begin to put more money into
international players. Another young arm, Zack Von Rosenberg had a decent debut last season and was an
above-slot guy taken in the 2009 6th round. He will start the season with West
Virginia, a team that figures to have some pretty exciting pitching.
Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke are similar in that they both pitched
in Bradenton and Altoona last season, both were 2006 draftees by teams other
than the Pirates and they both saw success in 2011. Morris is considered
the slightly more advanced of the two and there may only be a spot for one of
them in the Indianapolis rotation leaving the other to begin the season in
Altoona. Both could see the majors in 2012 though.
Rudy Owens, the back-to-back Pirates Minor League
Pitcher of the Year is in a similar mold, for me as the Atlanta Braves Brandon
Beachy. For both, when you look at the numbers, all they do is pitch well, but
both are seen with a lower ceiling than many other prospects. Owens took a few
years to mature but his numbers speak for themselves. He has been tremendous
the past two seasons and 2011 is going to be his big year. If Owens has the
same success in AAA as he has had the past two years, his stock will sky-rocket.
An interesting prospect, Chase d’Arnaud has a big year ahead of him. In a
full season with Altoona last year, d’Arnaud under-performed, but don’t get me
wrong, I like this kid a lot. d’Arnaud is a solid hitter who I expect to really
rebound this season. It is unknown if he will begin back in Altoona or advance
to Indianapolis, but I think he starts in AA, begins the season extremely well
and earns a mid-year call up. A huge year for d’Arnaud as he looks to catch up
to the prospect level of his brother Travis, a catcher in the Toronto
That’s a look into the top 10 with the rest of the top 30 littered with former
and future Altoona Curve players. With two of the top five players playing in
Altoona in 2011, it’ll be exciting to see some of the top stars for the Pirates
try and establish themselves.