Now for all those Pirates fans who have been told the talent is coming, here's a chance to see the organization's two most promising stars, First-Year Player Draft picks Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez, up close. Both have been chosen to play for the United States in the upcoming All-Star Futures Game.
The 11th annual XM All-Star Futures Game, pitting the best Minor League prospects from the U.S. against the best from the rest of the World, will be held at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on All-Star Sunday, July 12, at 2 p.m. ET. MLB.com will provide complete coverage before, during and after the game, which can be seen live on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on Gameday.
Brad Lincoln, RHP, Triple-A Indianapolis (U.S. Team)
After starting the season in Double-A, Lincoln recently earned a promotion to Triple-A, where he has immediately joined the rotation. Lincoln, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player's Draft, has had a stellar season in what is just his second year back from right elbow surgery.
His 1-5 record in 13 Double-A starts is not indicative of the season he's having. In 75 innings with the Curve this year, Lincoln allowed only 19 earned runs. His 65 strikeouts and just 18 walks provide further proof that Lincoln is over any ill effects from 2007's arm surgery. Lincoln's fastball is back to pre-surgery velocity and he has recently developed a changeup that gives him three above-average pitches.
Lincoln remains the most highly-touted pitching prospect in the organization, and his recent promotion means that his big league debut may not be far away. Though it's unlikely that the 6-foot-4 righty will be in Pittsburgh this season, a 2010 arrival is certainly realistic.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Double-A Altoona (U.S. Team)
No other drafted player in recent years -- or maybe ever in this organization's history -- has brought or carried as much buzz as Alvarez, who was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2008 Draft. Coming out of Vanderbilt University, Alvarez began his professional career this year with Class A Lynchburg before being promoted to Double-A over the weekend.
Alvarez has felt some effects from sitting out all last summer, but has been quite the clutch performer this season. Despite hitting just .247 in 66 games with Lynchburg, Alvarez drove in 55 runs and finished with 14 homers. His 70 strikeouts with the Hillcats were largely a result of Alvarez getting too aggressive as pitchers tried to pitch around him. He should see more pitches to hit now in Double-A.
Alvarez remains on the fast track to Pittsburgh, and like Lincoln, a 2010 debut for Alvarez seems likely considering what he's done in his first two and a half months in professional baseball. The third baseman's swing has been compared by some to that of Pirates Hall-of-Famer Willie Stargell, and the expectations for his Major League career remain at least as high.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.