Monday, February 27, 2012

Pirates Top Pitching Prospects

Here's a listing of the Pirates Top 10 Prospects heading into the 2012 season by

1. Jameson Taillon
2. Gerrit Cole
3. Starling Marte
4. Josh Bell
5. Stetson Allie
6. Luis Heredia
7. Tony Sanchez8. Robbie Grossman
9. Jeff Locke
10. Justin Wilson

I covered Marte, Bell, and Grossman in my previous posts on outfielders of the future and have talked extensively about Tony Sanchez in the past.  Since everyone else on this list is a pitcher, I plan on talking about the Pirates top pitching prospects and some that didn't make the Top 10 overall list.  I'm not going to focus too much on Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon.  Their exposure over the past two seasons should speak for themselves.  Both are ranked in the top 15 of all prospects in baseball.  To the best of my knowledge, the Pirates have never had 2 pitchers rank that high. So instead of getting scouting reports on both of them, you just get to see these cards below. I am so excited to see these guys come up together and see them both become top of the rotation starters for the Pirates.
Taillon 2010 Bowman Chrome AUTO
 Taillon 2011 OBak
 Taillon 2011 Obak Oversized Box Topper (Mike Trout on back) 
numbered 9/80
Taillon 2009 UD USA Future Watch
AUTO/Jersey 555/899
Taillon 2009 UD USA By the Letter "S" AUTO 9/100

As if you couldn't tell I like to collect Jameson Taillon.  The guy has filthy pitches.

Gerrit Cole 2009 UD USA By the Letter "A" AUTO 41/100

Cole/Hosmer/Beckham 2008 OMR Draft Future Stars

Stetson Allie 2011 Heritage Minors Red Tint 355/620
Drafted in the 2nd round the same year the Pirates selected Jameson Taillon is Stetson Allie.  Allie was viewed as a 1st round talent for his radar busting heat he throws.  Despite not having much pitching experience in his career, he's still viewed as the Pirates 3rd best pitching prospect due to his upside. Allie throws hard, really really hard (clocked at up to 100MPH) but he lacks control.  In 2011 while a member of the State College Spikes (short season A ball) Allie had a monsterously high 10BB/9.  This lead to an inflated WHIP (1.88) and ERA (6.58).  Despite the lack of control, he still managed over a strikeout per inning which is a good sign.  Allie must continue to focus on his fastball control if he wishes to become a MLB starter or future closer for the Pirates. 
2011 Leaf Metal Black Valiant 4/5 AUTO

What's not to love about a 16 year old that can throw in the mid90s?  That's what many teams asked when top Latin American pitching prospect Luis Heredia became age eligible to sign.  It's far too early to project Heredia as he's barely old enough to drive in some states.  However in 30 IP in the Gulf Coast leage, Heredia racked up 23 punchouts while only surrendering 3 homeruns.  He will most likely begin the season in short season State College to continue his advance. 

Jeff Locke and Justin Wilson were part of the "Altoona 4" pitching staff that won the Eastern League Championship for the Altoona Curve in 2010.  Justin Wilson was named MVP of that series by averaging a K per inning and surrendering shoutout innings. 

Locke was aquired along with Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez from the Braves farm system as part of the 2009 trade that sent beloved fan favorite Nate McLouth to Atlanta.  Locke began the 2011 season repeating in AA before a midseason promotion to AAA.  In September, Locke was called up to began his MLB career when he faced the Florida Marlins on September 10th.  Locke struggled with his command in his first 4 professional outings, but looks to be able to contend for a rotation spot when the season start should the Pirates need a spot start or injuries to the staff occur. 

Justin Wilson has been moving up the minor league 1 level per season since being drafted out of college.  He struggled in AAA Indy last year and was moved to the bullpen to finish out the year.  His fastball velocity increased once the move happened and was clocked at up to 99MPH which is incredibly hard for a lefty.  If he can work on his command, his hard throwing fastball and off speed breaking balls should enable him to see time in Pittsburgh before the year is over.

Outside of the Pirates Top 10 prospects exist guys like Kyle McPherson, Zach Von Rosenberg, Colton Cain, Trent Stevenson, and Clay Holmes.  All were selected out of high school and could project to be solid pitchers in the Pirates future.  While they don't have the pure heat of guys like Cole, Taillon, Heredia, or Allie they all show good signs.

When discussing Pirates pitching prospects who have shown success in 2011, Kyle McPherson comes to mind.  Voted the Pirates minor league pitcher of the year, McPherson started in Bradenton (A) before being promoted to Altoona (AA) to finish out the year.  During his breakout campaign in 2011, McPherson controlled the strike zone very well, averaging just a hair under 8K/9 while maintaining a 1.02 WHIP.  He will continue to develop in AAA and may see time in Pittsburgh by the end of the 2012 season.

 ZVR 2010 Tristar Opak AUTO 27/50
ZVR 2010 Tristar Pursuit Green AUTO 24/25
 ZVR 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition AUTO 384/770

Zach Von Rosenberg or ZVR as I will refer to him from now is the kind of pitcher that the Pirates like to draft in recent years.  He's tall, throws hard, and is very projectable out of high school.  Despite giving up a freakishly amount of homeruns to start the 2011 season, ZVR showed great improvements during the 2nd half finishing with a 8.2 K/9.  He will most likely begin the season in playing A ball in Bradenton.

Trent Stevenson threw a very impressive 11 strikeouts per 9 innings as a junior at Brophy Jesuit Prep.  The 6-foot-6 righty struggled in West Virginia (low A) last season and was demoted to short season State College.  His command over his minor league career has been pretty good (1.92 BB/9), but he hasn't missed many bats either as hitters get an average of 1.22 HIP.  I think that if he can just retool his mechanics to better hide the ball, he will become a better pitcher and start to increase his K/9 which currently sits at only 4.4.

I've mentioned Colton Cain on this blog before and think that he is the best LHP prospect the Pirates have.  He throws in the mid90s and is a very polished pitcher despite being in only short season A ball.  If he can continue to improve and pound the strike zone, he should start moving up the system quicker.

 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Aspirations AUTO 40/100
Clay Holmes was the top pitching prep arm in Alabama entering the 2011 draft.  The Pirates had to go well over slot to sign him away from his Auburn commitment and has not yet made his minor league debut.  As a senior, he struck out 89 while pitching only 60 innings.  He has the projection to be a front of the rotation power arm due to his raw tools.  It may take a few more years for him to develop than all the other pitching prospects the Pirates have in the system, but when he hits the majors WATCH OUT!

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