With the 2010 season approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Pirates most intriguing prospects that you should keep an eye on.
Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Pirates farm system. Of those 10, three remain on the 2010 list.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B: With heaps of expectations upon the second overall pick in the 2008 Draft, it took a while for the third baseman to get going in his first full season. But after putting up so-so numbers with Lynchburg in the Carolina League, the Pirates moved him up to Double-A. Alvarez responded by hitting .333/.419/.590 and finished with a combined 27 homers and 95 RBIs before going to play for Team USA in the IBAF World Cup. It's hard to imagine not seeing him in Pittsburgh at some point in 2010.
Brad Lincoln, RHP: Following Tommy John surgery in April 2007, the 2006 first-rounder kind of flew under the radar. He got himself back into shape in 2008, then showed why he was the fourth overall selection back in '06 during this past season. Splitting time between Double- and Triple-A and finishing with 11 scoreless innings, he ended up with a 3.37 combined ERA. He then went on to win two games for Team USA. He could be ready to contribute to a big league rotation this season.
Jose Tabata, OF: Tabata shook off some off-field adversity last spring to back up his Pirates debut in the summer of 2008 with a very solid 2009 campaign. After batting .303 with Altoona, he got bumped up to Triple-A and held his own by hitting .276 over 32 games before swinging the bat extremely well in the Arizona Fall League. He's listed as having turned just 21 in August, and he's just about knocking on the door. If the Pirates can keep him motivated -- and there's no reason to think they can't -- he could fulfill his mountains of potential sooner rather than later.
These five players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Robbie Grossman, OF: It wasn't a bad year, at age 19, in full-season ball for the 2008 draftee. But with the influx of talent, a .266/.373/.355 line with 35 steals puts him just on the outside looking in.
Andrew McCutchen, OF: His days as a prospect are now over after a debut that had him get serious consideration for NL Rookie of the Year honors.
Daniel McCutchen, RHP: It's hard to move a guy who went 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA in Triple-A off, but this McCutchen is now 27 and the Pirates added some more intriguing arms via trades during the season.
Daniel Moskos, LHP: There were some encouraging signs for the 2007 first-rounder, including a 2.10 GO/AO ratio and a 2.91 ERA/.236 BAA after the All-Star break in Double-A. He pitched in relief in the Arizona Fall League, and that might be his ticket to the big leagues.
Neil Walker, 3B: The 2004 first-rounder did make his big league debut in September, but his .256/.304/.469 drops him from the "10 to watch" spot he's held for years. He's also got Andy LaRoche in front of him and Pedro Alvarez right behind him.
Prospects to watch
Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Tim Alderson, RHP
Shelby Ford, 2B
Pedro Alvarez, 3B
Robbie Grossman, OF
Chase d'Arnaud, SS
Brad Lincoln, RHP
Gorkys Hernandez, OF
Andrew McCutchen, OF
Brad Lincoln, RHP
Daniel McCutchen, RHP
Starling Marte, OF
Bryan Morris, RHP
Rudy Owens, LHP
Daniel Moskos, LHP
Tony Sanchez, C
Jose Tabata, OF
Jose Tabata, OF
Neil Walker, 3B
Zach Von Rosenberg, RHP
The following seven players are new additions to the Pirates Prospects to Watch list.
Tim Alderson, RHP: Perhaps the highest-profile prospect the Pirates got in their slew of trades this year, Alderson was ranked No. 33 on MLB.com's midseason Top 50 prospect list. There were some who felt his stuff suffered in Double-A this past season, and he was a little up-and-down following the trade. That being said, he pitched at that level at age 20 and continued to show exceptional command for a pitcher of his age.
Chase d'Arnaud: Whether d'Arnaud is the Pirates shortstop of the future remains to be seen -- some think he'll end up at second -- but there's no question the Pirates are excited about d'Arnaud's future. The Pepperdine product hit .293 with a .398 OBP and 31 steals across two levels in 2009, then was named MVP of the championship series as Lynchburg took home the Carolina League title.
Gorkys Hernandez, OF: Could Hernandez be one of those raw talents with a ton of upside who never quite figures out how to hit? Perhaps. Could he also start to put it all together soon, as he'll play all of next year at the ripe old age of 22? That's also possible. There's no question about his speed and his ability to patrol the outfield. How he hits could be the biggest factor in evaluating the Nate McLouth trade that brought him to the organization.
Starling Marte, OF: Marte made his U.S. debut in 2009 and certainly opened some eyes in the South Atlantic League after hitting .312 with 24 steals in just 54 games. He's raw and has a way to go, but he's the kind of exciting, high-ceiling athlete the Pirates haven't had a lot of in years past.
Rudy Owens, LHP: Talk about a breakout season. The lefty who was a 2006 draft-and-follow spent most of his first taste of full-season ball with West Virginia but then moved up to Lynchburg to help with their playoff push. He went 11-2 with a 2.10 ERA overall, holding hitters to a .219 average overall with a ridiculous 113:17 K:BB ratio, then went on to pitch well in two postseason games.
Tony Sanchez, C: While there were some who questioned the Pirates' selection of Sanchez at No. 4 overall in the 2009 Draft, the early returns are certainly making them look smart. He played at three levels, finishing at Lynchburg for the postseason, and he hit .309 in 48 games, along with a .409 OBP and .539 SLG. A .949 OPS from a catcher with strong receiving skills isn't all that common, and it might be the Pirates who have the last laugh.
Zach Von Rosenberg, RHP: Having thrown just one inning of pro ball in the Gulf Coast League, it's kind of tough to rank Von Rosenberg. But consider him the representative for the slew of high-upside high school arms the Pirates aggressively pursued in this past Draft. They took Brooks Pounders in the second round, then went well above slot to sign Zack Dodson in the fourth, Von Rosenberg in the sixth, Trent Stevenson in the seventh and Colton Cain in the eighth.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.