In the Nate McLouth trade to Atlanta, the Pirates received Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke. Both players had huge improvements on their development as Charlie lead the NL in groundball outs with his devastating mid90s sinker. Meanwhile Jeff Locke made his MLB debut as a September callup after starting the season in AA. Although Jeff has yet to earn his first major league win, he did manage to get his feet wet and I suspect he will be back in the majors come the summer.
In the Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady trade to the Yankees, we saw breakout performances from both Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen in 2011 as they solidified themselves as some of the most durable arms on the Pirates pitching staff. Jose Tabata, also aquired from NY in that deal, signed a long term contract that could keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2019 season.
The 2 month rental of Octavio Dotel yielded us James McDonald and Andrew Lambo from the Dodgers in 2010. JMac was a solid number 4-5 starter and saw career highs in nearly every category in 2011 and he also had a bases clearing double offensively. Lambo struggled on his promotion to AAA, but still shows nice potential to be a good 4th outfielder/1B bench power bat.
Neal Huntington draft picks Chase D'arnaud and Pedro Alvarez saw time on the major league roster, while other 2008 draft picks were named all-stars in the minors (Jarek Cunningham, Jordy Mercer, Matt Hague, Robbie Grossman, and Matt Curry)
With the Pirates flirting with a division championship through the July trade deadline, the Pirates even acquired Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick to try and improve the offense. Unfortunately, the team became infected with many injuries to some of their top talents and finished with another losing season and 4th in the division.
The biggest shocker to the prospect field came when the Pirates were able to sign high school 5 tool switch hitting outfielder Josh Bell away from college with a $5 million dollar signing bonus. Josh had sent out a letter to all MLB stating that no sum of money would sign him away from his college commitment and was expected to be a top 10 talent in the draft. Neal Huntington must have had elephant sized balls or some insider information when the Pirates drafted Josh with the first pick on the 2nd day. As with most draftees, he waited until the last day to sign and has yet to make his professional debut. I expect Josh Bell will be with the Pirates in 3 years or less because he is that good based on scouting reports I've seen.
There's hope coming in the form of the Pirates own homegrown prospects.
MLB.com recently revealed their top 10 at each position and the Pirates have a top 10 talent in the outfield, 1st base, and 2 pitchers. It's been a long time since the Pirates have seen this much homegrown success make these type of lists.
Here's the rundown
Starling Marte ranks number 7 of all outfield prospects in baseball
Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole are numbers 3 and 6 respectively for top RHP prospects.
Alex Dickerson ranks as the 9th best 1B prospect in baseball.
It feels good to have top talent coming from the draft that can be added to the major league roster by as early as 2012. I guess this is what Tampa Bay Rays fans have been feeling since 2008. Let's Go Bucs!
Here's some of my unposted cards featuring the Pirates top 10 Prospects
Jameson Taillon 2009 Upper Deck USA Jersey Relic
Alex Dickerson 2010 Topps USA Baseball AUTO 3 JERSEY RELIC 191/219
Starling Marte 2011 Bowman AUTO
Gerrit Cole 2011 Elite Extra Edition Best Compared to Stephen Strasburg insert 18/499