Minor league teams prepare to expedite pipeline throughput- Class AA
The Altoona Curve is the AA affiliate of the Pirates. Typically, this is the level at which a lot of foolers on the early prospect list start to fall off. Since most college players are fairly advanced, they handle the levels lower than this fairly well. For the Pirates, Altoona this year will be closely monitored, since a bunch of their premier prospects will be here in 2010. While they aren’t on the roster to start the season, Tony Sanchez, Bryan Morris and Jeff Locke should all see Altoona by June or so. Starling Marte should certainly hope to be here in 2010 as well if all goes well. For now though, here’s the list of people to watch on the roster.
Tim Alderson- His star has faded some, but if the drop in velocity in 2009 was merely exhaustion, then 2010 should prove that. Success for him should see him in AAA by mid-season. The Pirates will hope he is ready for the majors by midseason 2011.
Rudy Owens- broke out in 2009 like nobody’s business. After a short time at high A, this is an aggressive placement that should tell us if he is for real. I expect him to spend all or most of the year in AA, with a best case late promotion to AAA.
Justin Wilson- The 2008 draft pick out of Fresno was placed in Lynchburg high-A to start his pro career. After struggling initially, Wilson put things together in the 2nd half of 2009, earning a promotion to Altoona. Clearly, management thinks he is starter material. My big worry with him would be moving him too fast- he might just end up as a back end starter. I expect he will get a full year or close to it, at every level here on out.
Ronald Uviedo and Daniel Moskos should advance quickly if they can pitch convincingly at this level. Either or both of them could be in the big league bullpen to finish the season.
Michael Dubee also has an outside shot of moving up.
Hitters to Watch: Gorkys Hernandez will repeat AA, and this will be his big test. His status as a prospect has been in free fall, and a bad year could wipe him out. Luckily for him, the upper echelons of the farm are so phenomenally bad with respect to outfielders thanks to Littlefield and Creech that (along with his youth) a bad year might still guarantee him another shot. He has all the tools, now he needs to put it together!
The infield of Matt Hague, Jordy Mercer, Chase D’Arnaud and Josh Harrison were promoted together. I am not sold on Harrison, but we should find out in 2010 if Mercer and D’Arnaud are for real. Hague needs to find some power if he expects to play a corner IF in the bigs, but the tools appear to be there.