We break down the top five prospects for each organization for 2010, 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 2010.
The Pirates keep rebuilding, rebuilding, rebuilding. They have a strong and deep collection of prospects, but the problem has always been getting them to hit at once so they don't have to usher good players out the door because they get too expensive. This year's class of prospects has some star power and elite potential, but it will be interesting to see how the pieces wind up fitting together. Eventually a Pirates regime will get the right mix.
1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, 23
Alvarez's first pro season produced the fruits expected of the widely acclaimed best hitter in the 2008 First Year Player Draft. Alvarez took a while to sign and then contested the contract after signing it, but he combined to hit .288 with 27 homers, 95 RBI, 80 runs, two steals, a .378 on-base percentage and a .535 slugging percentage in 465 at-bats between low Class A and Double-A. His numbers in the second level, though, really took off in the second half, when he went .370-9-31-30-1, .469-.618. There doesn't appear to be any reason to think Alvarez, a Vandy star and former teammate of David Price, won't be a top five Fantasy third baseman for years to come. Andy LaRoche will open the season as the Pirates' starter there, but Alvarez will take over midseason and never look back. Alvarez is a must-have in NL-only and long-term keeper leagues even while biding time in Triple-A this April.
2. Timothy Alderson, SP, 21
Teams live for pitching prospects like this. Some trade them for so-so middle infielders who are All-Stars by default. The Giants dealt Alderson for Freddy Sanchez and the Pirates have another control-and-command guy to add to their rotation some time in the next year or so. Alderson likely opens the season in Triple-A, but the Pirates hardly can block him for long if he proves capable at that level. Teaming with elite pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner before the trade, Alderson combined to go 10-3 with a 3.93 ERA and a .268 batting-average against in 137 1/3 innings between high Class A and Double-A. He doesn't strike out batters at a great clip (just 84 Ks last year), but he has the size (6-feet-6) and the look of a future 15-game winner. Pirates pitchers notoriously aren't big winners, especially immediately, but Alderson will be a member of their rotation before the end of 2010 and capable of being a sleeper in deeper formats.
3. Brad Lincoln, SP, 24
Like Alderson, Lincoln doesn't really have knockout strikeout numbers, but he's still effective at getting outs. He went a combined 7-7 with a 3.37 ERA, .262 BAA and 107 strikeouts in 136 1/3 innings between Double- and Triple-A. He could compete for a rotation spot out of spring training, but we see him teaming with Alderson in Triple-A for a fantastic 1-2 punch there to start the season. Lincoln won't be a big winner with the perennially rebuilding Pirates right away, but his potential makes him a sleeper in deeper leagues once he arrives. Long term, he should be a significant piece in the Pirates' ever-evolving rotation.
4. Daniel McCutchen, SP, 27
Prospects always seem bigger and better in New York than Pittsburgh, but the former Yankee farmhand stood real tall in his first full Triple-A season. He went 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA, .264 BAA and 110 strikeouts in 142 2/3 innings. His control was excellent as well, walking just 29 batters. He then showed well in his September call-up, posting a (1-2)-4.21-.271-19-11 stat-line that should earn him a rotation spot to lose out of spring training. Like the pitching prospects above him, his major league starter status won't earn him immediate interest in mixed Fantasy leagues -- since he pitches for the Pirates -- but he will be a sleeper to use when he is going well and facing a winnable matchup. Consider McCutchen a darkhorse NL Rookie of the Year candidate, especially since he is reaching his physical peak and could go wire-to-wire in the rotation as a rookie.
5. Neil Walker, 3B, 24
Walker has a real problem on his hands, actually a few of them. See, the Pirates boast the best third base prospect in baseball in Alvarez and LaRoche was once one of the elite prospects at the position a few short years ago. LaRoche gets the first crack at proving to be a major leaguer, but Alvarez is the long-term solution. There is a slight chance LaRoche moves to second base, we suppose, but still that doesn't solve Walker's problem. He is without a true path to the majors with the Pirates. Frankly, he should have stayed behind the plate years ago. Ironically, he moved to third to get to the majors faster. It is now what holds him back. Walker has good pop in his bat, evidenced by his 15 homers and 33 doubles in the minors last season, but he doesn't walk much (just a .304 OBP) and isn't real consistent (just a .256 average). Walker could get a call-up in 2010, but he needs the promise of an everyday job before he is anything more than a keeper-league stashee.
Best of the rest: Gorkys Hernandez, OF; Daniel Moskos, SP; Jose Tabata, OF; Rudy Owens, SP; Tony Sanchez, C; Aaron Pribanc, SP; Jeff Sues, SP; Jeff Locke, SP; Brett Lorin, SP; Jamie Romak, 1B; Jarek Cunningham, 3B; Kyle Bloom, SP; Victor Black, SP; Brooks Pounders, SP; Bryan Morris, SP; Ronald Uviedo, RP; Evan Chambers, OF; Zack Dodson, SP; Shelby Ford, 2B; Nate Baker, SP; Chase D'Arnaud, SS; Matt Hague, 1B; Justin Wilson, SP; Josh Harrison, 3B; Jordy Mercer, SS; Quinton Miller, SP; Brian Friday, SS; Robbie Grossman, OF; Nathan Adcock, SP; Nelson Pereira, SP; Wes Freeman, OF; Jim Negrych, 3B; and Steve Lerud, C.
2009 rookies to exhaust eligibility: Garrett Jones, 1B; Andrew McCutchen, OF; Jason Jaramillo, C; Jesse Chavez, RP; Steven Jackson, RP; Virgil Vasquez, RP; Donnie Veal, RP; Luis Cruz (service time), SS; Robinzon Diaz, C; and Evan Meek, RP.
Last year's top five here: McCutchen, OF; Alvarez, 3B; Romak, OF; Morris, SP; and Walker, 3B.
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