We are breaking down the top five prospects for each organization for 2009, taking into consideration: games, at-bats, innings and major-league service time. We expect these players to have rookie status remaining heading into next year.
According to MLB rules: "A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a major league club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list)."
Note: Statistics are those at each stop in the minors this season and age represents how old they will be on opening day 2009.
The Pirates don't have a great farm system on their own merits, but midseason trades of Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte gave them much-needed depth. They have a much better chance of producing some useful major league talent or bargaining chip with strength in numbers -- something that haven't had since the days of Jimmy Leyland and Barry Bonds. It will seemingly be forever before they can compete again, but at least the organization appears to be headed up now.
1. OF Andrew McCutchen, 22
He seems to be very similar to the Nats' Lastings Milledge to us. That is good news and bad news. He will arrive sometime during 2009, perhaps even out of spring training, but he is still a year or two away from being a real impact Fantasy player. The tools are there -- all five of them -- and he will be a sleeper in NL-only Rotisserie leagues this season.
2. 3B Pedro Alvarez, 22
Alvarez, a Vandy teammate of the Rays' David Price, is one of the biggest prizes of the 2008 draft and he should be able to arrive very quickly. The Pirates finally straightened out their contract dispute with him and will push him as high as Double-A this season. With that said, we wouldn't be surprised to see him contributing in Pittsburgh by year's end. Few players have a higher ceiling as a slugger long term, but the fact we haven't seen him as a pro yet should lead you to be cautious right now.
No stats/DNP in 2008.
3. 1B/OF Jamie Romak, 23
If you are a fan of free-swinging power prospects, Romak is one to get your hands on. The problem is he follows the footsteps of failed slugging Pirates farmhands Craig Wilson, Brad Eldred and most recently Steve Pearce. Romak will be one of those guys who goes on a wicked power tear in the minors next season and threatens to push some underperforming young vet out in Pittsburgh.
4. SP Bryan Morris, 22
The Bay trade brought in some major league ready prospects, but Morris was that low Class A name that was slipped in under the radar. The 2006 first-round pick might prove to be the biggest prize of that deal for the Pirates long term. He has a good arm and scouts see him as a middle of the rotation starter, but once he is ready, the Pirates could be a sleeper contender that can make him a winner for Fantasy owners.
|Low A||2||4||3.20||17||17||1||1||0||81 2/3||74||34||29||5||31||72||1.70||.247|
|Low A||0||2||5.02||3||3||0||0||0||14 1/3||17||9||8||2||12||11||1.29||.288|
5. 3B Neil Walker, 23
We liked Walker a lot better when he was moving through the Pirates' system as a catcher. As a third baseman in a system that has LaRoche in the majors and Alvarez on the fast track behind him, Walker's luster has been lost as a prospect. Consider him a sleeper to surprise with a second full season in Triple-A, but don't count on him being the elite Fantasy player he could have been had he stayed behind the plate.
Best of the rest: SP Daniel McCutchen, OF Jose Tabata, SP Brad Lincoln, SP Daniel Moskos, SP Tony Watson, 3B Jim Negrych, OF Shelby Ford, SS Chase d'Arnaud, 1B Miles Durham, SS Jordy Mercer, SP Justin Wilson, SP Duke Welker, SS Jonathan Barrios, SS Luis Cruz, OF Brad Corley, C Steven Lerud, SP Jimmy Barthmaier, RP Dave Davidson, RP Pat Bresnehan, SP Yoslan Herrera, C Robinzon Diaz, C Andrew Walker, RP Jesse Chavez, RP Marino Salas, RP Romulo Sanchez, 1B Jason Delaney, SS Brian Friday, SP Olivo Astacio, OF Marcus Davis, and RP Evan Meek.
2008 rookies to exhaust eligibility: OF Brandon Moss (trade from BOS for Bay), 3B LaRoche (traded from LAD for Bay), OF Pearce, SS Brian Bixler, RP Ross Ohlendorf (trade from NYY for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte), OF Nyjer Morgan, SP Phil Dumatrait (claimed off waivers from CIN) and RP T.J. Beam.
Last year's top five here: 1B/OF Pearce, OF McCutchen, 3B Walker, SP Bryan Bullington (waived, now with TOR) and OF Corley.
You can e-mail Emack your Fantasy Baseball prospect questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: Pirates prospects in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.