July 13, 2010

Revisiting the Top 20 Prospects - Part I

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / July 13, 2010

To an increasing number of fans, it is seeming like this blog's prediction of a World Series title in 2010 might not be correct. For those of you already looking to the future, let's take a look at how the Pirates' top prospects did in the first half of the year.

Of course, the minor league season ends Labor Day weekend so each team is well over halfway through the year.

There are a lot of prospect rankings. I am using John Sickels' Top 20 rankings, which notably like most lists didn't rank Neil Walker at all. Here are grades for the top 10, the rest will be in another post. The grades are for how well these players done this year, not how good of a prospect they are overall.

1. Pedro Alvarez - B-
Alvarez hit .277/.363/.533 at Indianapolis earning a major league callup. He really struggled early but has shown some power lately and is hitting .214/.272/.381 in 24 games with Pittsburgh. His defense has been better than expected but still needs a lot of improvement. On offense, clearly he needs to either take more pitches, make better contact, or drive the ball more.

Keep in mind Alvarez is in his second professional season. I've heard a lot of negativity about him on the radio and in my forays into real life. It is too early to worry. Another player of the same age and experience, the Rangers' Justin Smoak, only hit .209/.311/.346 yet the Mariners still liked him enough to give Cliff Lee in a trade for him. A decent hitting third basema named Mike Schmidt hit only .196 at this age. I'm not concerned, yet, with what we've seen from Alvarez. Considering his great work at Indianapolis, the half season has been about what I expected.

2. Jose Tabata - A-
Tabata was promoted to Pittsburgh after hitting .308/.373/.424 at Indianapolis. In the majors he's hit .241/.323/.328 through 29 games.

While Jose's offensive production has been below average, unlike Alvarez Tabata has had good at bats even when he's made outs. He's also playing the outfield at a Gold Glove level. Considering most players his age are still in AA or High A, I am fine with his hitting so far. He needs to cut down on times caught stealing. Overall, his year has to be considered a success to this point.

3. Tony Sanchez - A-
Tony hit .314/.416/.454 at Bradenton before his season was ended after 59 games due to a broken jaw suffered when being hit in the face with a pitch.

Provided that the mental trauma of this injury does not affect Tony's approach at the plate, I am still very pleased with his season. A broken jaw is not a chronic type injury and he alredy showed more than enough to start next season with Altoona. The Florida State League is the most pitcher-friendly league in baseball and those offensive numbers are just outstanding. He would have been a legitimate MVP candidate in the league. While Sanchez loses a half season of play, that's half a season less wear and tear on his knees considering he would have started 2011 at Altoona no matter what anyway. My only concern would be that he threw out only 15% of base stealers.

4. Zack von Rosenberg - Incomplete
Still only 19, von Rosenberg is currently in the State College rotation. He's gone 0-4 with a 5.57 ERA yet has shown great control in five starts. I am not going to grade the short season guys because they've only played a month. Also it's common for prospects this young to improve dramatically even between June and August - which is hopefully happening with Zack.

5. Tim Alderson - D
Tim Alderson's season has been somewhat of a disaster. He went 7-5 with a 5.30 ERA at Altoona while allowing opposing batters to hit .307. Alderson has alternated good games with complete disaster starts, the latest of which earned him a demotion to Bradenton.

Alderson is still only 21 and certainly has time to turn things around. But at this point he's looking like a poor return for the Pirates' All-Star second baseman.

6. Brad Lincoln - B
Lincoln went 6-2, 3.16 in 11 starts at Indianapolis and earned a promotion to the big league rotation. At Pittsburgh he's gone 1-3, 5.14 in seven starts. None of his starts have been disasters but he also hasn't struck anyone out and is looking like another pitch to contact, back end starter. That's valuable but you would hope to get more out of a #4 overall pick, although it's not Brad's fault that Dave Littlefield drafted him too high.

7. Chase d'Arnaud - D
After hitting .293/.398/.454 during a breakout season in A ball last year, d'Arnaud has slumped to .240/.325/.356 at Altoona. At age 23 he should be showing a lot more to justify top prospect status. He has good range but has already made 20 errors at shortstop. Chase is still walking a lot and is 17-of-19 in stealing bases, but he'll be a utility infielder in the major leagues if he can't hit for contact better than this.

8. Starling Marte - Incomplete
Marte has missed most of the season after undergoing hand surgery, but is still hitting .283/.374/.391 in 26 games at Bradenton which is very good for a 21-year-old center fielder. On the bad side, he has 26 strikeouts and no home runs. He's only played 85 minor league games in the U.S. and will probably play in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball this offseason to get more experience.

9. Rudy Owens - A
Owens has gone 8-3, 3.00 at Altoona so far in his age 21 season. He had 81 strikeouts compared to just 17 walks. Owens was just a 28th round pick but emerged as a prospect last year when he put up a 2.10 ERA in A ball. His stock has really risen with his mastery of the AA level.

10. Ronald Uviedo - Gone
In 16 relief appearances at Altoona, the 23-year-old Uviedo had a 3.22 ERA and was striking out over a batter an inning while holding hitters to a .165 average. In one of the dumber trades in recent memory, the Pirates shipped him to Toronto for Dana Eveland, a 26-year-old righty who had a 6.45 ERA with the Jays and walked more batters than he struck out. Eveland was terrible in three games and was designated for assignment; no other team wanted him so he went to Indianapolis where he has a 15.75 ERA. Meanwhile the Blue Jays have unsuccessfully converted Uviedo to a starting pitcher.


  1. maybe you and the Jays thought more of Uviedo than NH thought of him? perhaps?

  2. He's not a great prospect but replacement level pitchers like Dana Eveland can basically be claimed on waivers at any time.