Minor league teams prepare to expedite pipeline throughput- Class AAA
Update: The final roster is here. I forgot about a couple of people. Jonathan van Every, in particular. I really liked him in his few appearances with the RedSox. He could make a real strong case for himself in Indy, but I don’t see how he would make the major league team, at this point. Still, he’s very good AAA depth, in my opinion. Brian Bass and Brian Burres will be in AAA too, staying sharp (perhaps with starting), and I d expect at least one of them to see some time with the big league club. Vinnie Chulk is there, too, although I have a feeling we may not see him in Pittsburgh.
Oh well. The roster isn’t really set but we know all there is to know about the state of the organization that high. The talent in AAA is very limited, and hence the despair with the ballclub at the major league level- help is at least 2 levels away. What that means is that we don’t really need to wait for the rosters to be set to preview this group, since the few who will bear watching are certain to be there anyway.
Hitters to watch: Pedro Alvarez, the uber prospect. So much of the Pirates next decade rides on the shoulders of this man. Remember, though, that he is only half a season removed from a dismal start at high A, and while all signs point to his being with the Pirates in mid-2010, it is far from a foregone conclusion.
Jose Tabata, once a Yankee uber-prospect, saw his star fall as soon as he became a Pirate, then found out his mother wife kidnapped someone else’s kid. He has played well through the levels, and if his age is as reported, then he has a bright future ahead of him. His bat has some distance to go though, and while his approach at the plate is pretty decent, I expect the Pirates to wait for some signs of power in his bat before promoting him. ETA should be late 2010 or mid 2011, unless he sets Indy on fire.
Neil Walker. I had little expectations from him, before a blistering end to the season in 2009 allowed me to hope a bit for him. He showed encouraging signs in ST and in the winter leagues, especially with an inclination to take a walk. If he can refine his approach at the plate, I really like his chances as a big leaguer. I hope he finds a way to be in the lineup everyday in Indy.
Steve Pearce. We know what to expect from him now. He will do a decent job as the right handed half of a platoon at 1B. His best chance of making the big leagues is in that capacity, but I don’t expect him to get a shot with the Bucs, unless the guys on the ML roster collapse spectacularly.
Brian Friday: I don’t see him on the roster, but he won’t be at Altoona so this is where he must be. A meh bat, it would take a breakout for him to be a real prospect, but breakouts rarely happen in AAA.
Brandon Moss. Surprisingly cleared waivers, and will get a chance to get some rhythm back with the bat. His recent travails at the plate hurt to watch, and hopefully he can find some of his swing at AAA. Fringe bench prospect/4th OF at best.
Indy will also have Brandon Jones, Argenis Diaz and Brian Myrow. If Doumit gets traded, expect one of the Indy catchers, Erik Kratz or Luke Carlin to be up.
Pitchers to watch: Brad Lincoln. He profiles to be middle of the rotation inning eating starter. Mind you, that’s valuable in the big leagues. Unfortunately, the Pirates haven’t been able to do better with their top draft picks. It’s not outrageous to hope Lincoln could find that extra something to lift his game a notch, but it’s hard to expect that. Still, he would be a solid addition to the Pirate rotation when it happens.
Kevin Hart. Clearly, the management favorite to make the rotation out of ST blew something. Tortuous spring outings later, he finds himself in AAA. Its not clear how his ability to find the strike zone disappeared overnight. He never had great control, but he has better stuff than he showed in ST. I do find it unlikely that he will put things together as a starter in the long run. If he does harness his stuff enough to become a reliable middle reliever, I’d be semi-relieved.
Donald Veal, the Rule 5 pick for the 09 season, will attempt to continue a great winter league performance in AAA. He will likely get the better part of the year in AAA to start finding his spots more regularly. He could be a very good find if he can overcome control issues. Less than 50% chance of being a reliable big-league option for more than half a year, in my opinion, and I hope I am wrong!
Jeff Karstens, Chris Jakubauskas, Jean Machi and Steven Jackson will all be here to start the season. A few of them will see big league action this season, no doubt. Things won’t get too much better in Indy. Alvarez and Lincoln both figure to be up in the majors by midseason or so. Tim Alderson might reach AAA early this season, but aside from that, most of AA should stay there till late in the season. Very little to look forward to in games in Indy this season, unfortunately.
-Isn’t Tuesday intolerable? It seems like the one day between games is worse than the entire winter-long wait for the season. I will be glad when Furcal steps into the batter’s box in the evening!
-Randy Levine calls out the Brewers for whining over payroll. He probably has a point (its pointless to speculate without knowing the revenue sharing numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant chunk goes to the owners’ pockets), but nothing hurts his case as much as the exaggeration of his argument.
-Bryce Harper doesn’t fall past the Nats barring injury. In the meantime, Christian Colon has stepped it up, and Bryce Brentz has taken a step back. Still, getting back to No. 2 is probably too far for Colon, and falling to the 2nd round too far for Brentz. I still think the Bucs go with a pitcher. If they don’t go Taillion, I’ll say they go McGuire, Pomeranz or Sale (no rocket science there, those 4 are pretty much the top pitchers around, assuming you count Ranaudo’s big hurt as enough to knock him out of the top 5).
Quick game preview: Ross Ohlendorf against Clayton Kershaw. I don’t like our chances. I’ll go out on a limb and say Ohlendorf is the key, because it doesn’t feel like our lineup will do much against Kershaw. Plus Ohlendorf hasn’t looked real sharp at all this spring. If he can keep us in the game long enough to take advantage of the Dodger pen, we’ll have a shot. Otherwise, too many odds against. us Good lefty pitcher, plus our offense already had a day good enough for 2 days! But here’s hoping we keep bucking the trends this year, en route to the World Series!