Friday, June 25, 2010

10 most intriguing Pirates pitching prospects

By Mike

After watching the abomination that is the Pirates pitching staff for the first half of the season, it’s obvious they are in dire need for some help. With nobody in the rotation now that has a ceiling above a #4 in Paul Maholm, and the only pitcher with any sort of potential got absolutely shelled this year in Charlie Morton, there is no help in AAA to speak of. However, from AA Altoona and below, there are plenty of intriguing prospects with potential high ceilings and/or are just pitching lights out. My goal here is not to give you the top 10 prospects per se, but 10 guys I’m most excited about. Since I haven’t seen more than 2 or 3 of these guys pitch, and that mostly came from YouTube videos, it’s tough for me to put a firm ranking on them. I can put together a top 10 list if there’s enough interest after this post, but that wouldn’t be until after the signing period ends for this year’s draft, (Spoiler alert!) as I would have the top 2 picks this year, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, heads and heels above anybody else in the system.

1) Bryan Morris, 23, RHP – Fastball (92-95), Curveball, Changeup – AA Altoona
4-2 39.2 3.72 3.62 1.29 8.17 (AA)
3-0 46.1 0.60 2.24 0.95 7.77 (A+)

Morris was acquired in the Dodgers-Red Sox-Pirates trade involving Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez. He was a former first round pick by LA in 2006, had Tommy John surgery in 2007 that had him miss the whole season, and didn’t really have great results in the minors after that. This year, all he’s done so far is dominate, save for one start recently in Altoona. At the time of his call up from high A, he had the lowest ERA in any level of professional baseball. K/9 and FIP (fielding independent pitching) are usually pretty reliable for projecting performance at higher levels. The high K/9 and low FIP project great for Morris, and there’s a great chance he could contribute to the Pirates some time during next season. He’s probably the Pirates top pitching prospect in the system.

2) Rudy Owens, 22, LHP – Changeup, Fastball (88-93), Curveball – AA Altoona
6-3 86.1 2.80 3.47 0.94 6.57

Here’s probably the biggest surprise out of not only the Pirates pitchers, but also one of the biggest surprises in the minors the last 2 years. After only being a 28th round pick in 2006, he was 10-1 with an ERA under 1 in A ball last year. This year, he’s been fantastic as well. He’s supposedly improved his already plus changeup and the curveball is becoming a useful pitch for him. The fastball sits closer to the high 80s though, and he just isn’t striking enough batters out to be a projectable high-end starting pitcher, but he doesn’t put anybody on base. He’s still young enough at his level that the low strikeout numbers isn’t a red flag yet, and could have an outside chance of pitching in Pittsburgh as a September call up next year

3) Jeff Locke, 22, LHP – Fastball (90-94), Curveball, working on Changeup – A+ Bradenton
6-3 72.1 3.58 3.16 1.08 8.46

Locke came over in the Nate McLouth trade and he’s another pitcher that screams upside, not unlike Morris. He didn’t have outstanding numbers through 2009, but some huge K/9 of over 10 in A ball made him promising, and it looks like he’s putting the pieces together now. He’s really keeping hitters off-balance now, thanks to his serviceable changeup he added over the off season. He’s only walked 11 batters through 14 games; I’m looking to see how far he’ll jump up the Pirates top prospects list after the season. He isn’t all that far behind Morris in terms of talent and ceiling.

4) Nathan Adcock, 22, RHP – Curveball, Fastball (88-92), Changeup – A+ Bradenton
7-2 77.2 2.90 3.46 1.11 8.12

Here’s another Huntington trade pickup, this time coming over in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade with Seattle. Adcock is another pitcher simply mowing down high A batters. He was forced by the organization to learn how to throw his fastball for strikes when he came over, which kept his stats rather ordinary in 2009. However, he’s using the fastball well this year to better set up his curveball, his strikeout pitch. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in Altoona where he will meet more disciplined and better curveball/breaking ball hitters.

5) Zack von Rosenberg, 19, RHP – Fastball (88-91), Curveball, Changeup – A- State College
0-2 8 6.75 4.93 1.75 3.24

Here’s a very intriguing player to watch. He was drafted in the 6th round in 2009, but there are many people who feel he isn’t far behind 1st round pick Tony Sanchez. A signing bonus of $1.2 million (1st round money) kept him from keeping his LSU commitment. He’s 6-4, 200 lbs, and the Pirates feel that he will fill out, and add a few MPH to his fastball. He’s one I’ll be watching closely.

6) Colton Cain, 19, LHP – Fastball (90-93), Curveball – Gulf Coast League Pirates (Rookie Ball)
0-0 4 0.00 2.43 0.25 4.50

Cain’s situation was very similar to von Rosenberg. Cain was drafted in the 8th round last year, but dropped because he had committed to pitch at Texas. A signing bonus for over $1 million helped change his mind. He’s already a big kid, listed at 6-3, 225 but he’s highly projectable as well coming straight from high school. He just made his first start this week after off-season back surgery and this is certainly the type of stuff the Pirates are expecting out of him.

7) Tim Alderson, 21, RHP – Curveball, Changeup, Fastball (83-87) – AA Altoona
6-3 79.2 4.50 4.37 1.41 5.20

Alderson came over in the Freddy Sanchez to San Francisco deal last year. There are a ton of red flags here because his velocity has dropped 5-7 MPH over the past year. The Pirates are confident that his velocity will come back as he matures and re-works his delivery. He is starting to pitch well in the past month, with a FIP of 3.27. At 21, he’s still young for AA, so there is still time for him work through these problems.

8) Quinton Miller, 20 RHP – Fastball (90-93), Slider, Changeup – A West Virginia
1-0 6 1.50 3.19 1.00 4.50

Miller is another pitcher in the von Rosenberg/Cain mold. He was drafted a year before them in the 2008 draft, but in the 20th round because he made a strong commitment to pitch at UNC. He ended up signing for $900,000 (which ended up pissing of a ton of people in MLB for paying way out of slot, so late in the draft) He’s just starting as well, but he is intriguing because of the late draft money committed.

9) Justin Wilson, 22, LHP – Fastball (88-93), Curveball, Slider – AA Altoona
5-4 72 2.99 3.12 1.18 8.00

The knock on Wilson since his time at Fresno State has been the inability to control his fastball because of some hard late movement. The fact that he’s striking out a ton of people and keeping his WHIP low indicates he might be overcoming this problem. With more disciplined hitters in AA, I feared that he’d get rocked, but that hasn't been the case so far. He may still have a ceiling of a 3rd starter, but this season has me feeling much more optimistic than the beginning of the season.

10) Jared Hughes, 24, RHP – Fastball (89-92), Slider – AA Altoona
10-3 82.1 3.83 3.29 1.29 6.37

Hughes picked a good time to finally live up to expectations, as this may have been his last year before he got pushed out by other prospects. He was a 4th round pick in 2006 out of Long Beach State. College pitchers from major programs are expected to fly through minor league systems, but Hughes didn’t do anything until this year. He’s a tad old for AA, but it’s tough to ignore these numbers, although the low K/9 worries me. If it weren’t for the great season he’s having, I would’ve put a Trent Stevenson or a Hunter Strickland here, who are similar to Cain and von Rosenberg.

(Note – I don’t consider this next guy a great prospect, but he is an interesting case to look at, so think of him as an honorable mention)
10B) Daniel Moskos, 24, LHP – Slider, Fastball (88-93), Curveball, Changeup – AA Altoona
2-1 32.2 1.45 2.40 0.97 8.54

Here’s a bonus pitcher because he was promoted to AAA Indy last night. Relievers don’t excite me nearly as much as a starter, but he has performed well in Altoona and earned this promotion. He supposedly has a wipeout slider that is just devastating, but I’ve read a few articles contradicting this. The lack of a good slider was a big reason why he was a reliever with Clemson. He could become a nice bullpen piece, and could even be a September call up this year.

I hope this gives you an idea of what’s in the system, and that there hasn’t been this much talent on the farm in years, even if there are no aces in this bunch. If you have a question on any of the guys mentioned of any of the other guys you can think of, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Them Crooked Vultures – New Fang


  1. Sorry for the bunched numbers in all the charts. This blog didn't appreciate my excel charts, so I had to convert them all to text, which became another formatting error.

    Not perfect, but it's the best I could do.

  2. I had to do a double take. I thought that first pitcher was Matt Morris, which made me have to re-read the title of the post. Ohhhh, BRIAN Morris. Pitchers with potential, not massive mistakes by management, I gotcha.

    Doesn't everyone have a high ceiling in AA and A?

  3. Yeah you're basically right there. When scouts say high ceiling, that usually means a realllllllly young pitcher that strikes out everyone that could become as good as or better than a #3 guy in the rotation. ie not Zach Duke.

    If you want the legit "high ceiling" guys from this, they would be Morris and Locke for me. Cain and von Rosenberg probably too, but they're so young and have barely pitched for me to commit to anything yet.

  4. Don't throw the blog under the bus!

  5. I have a hard time getting excited for prospects in baseball because I never see them play. I see numbers, and they look nice, but I'm not seeing how those numbers get posted.