1. Pedro Alvarez – Clearly the top prospect in the system. Alvarez has an impact bat that should make him a perennial All-Star candidate, regardless of his ultimate defensive position.
2. Jose Tabata – His power is the only thing missing at this point. Tabata has an exceptional line drive swing with very good plate discipline. Solid range and a strong arm should make him an above average corner defender. Even with only moderate power, he will be an impact player.
3. Brad Lincoln – A plus fastball and curve will likely make Lincoln a mid-rotation starter. If his change develops into an average offering, he could be more. Lincoln will find a spot in the Pirates rotation at some point in 2010.
4. Tony Sanchez – Sanchez’s impressive professional debut was encouraging, but he will need to prove his offensive ability at higher levels before he can be considered an impact prospect. At the least, the talk of his selection being an “overdraft” should be minimal at this point.
5. Rudy Owens – Owens’ dominant 2009 was accompanied by equally impressive peripheral numbers. His average stuff may not be as effective against more advanced hitters in the future, but he has a reasonable chance to ultimately end up as a mid-rotation starter.
6. Tim Alderson – Alderson regressed greatly last year after an impressive 2008 season. The reports of dipping velocity have accompanied his declining strikeout rate. His impeccable control make him a good bet to reach the majors, but his days as an impact prospect may be dwindling.
7. Starling Marte – Marte possesses elite physical tools, but he is still pretty raw. His impressive 2009 numbers were BABIP-inflated and he struck out nearly five times more often than he walked. However, with continued development, he could easily be the top prospect in the system this time next year.
8. Chase D’Arnaud – Solid in virtually every aspect of the game, D’Arnaud’s high walk rate and respectable power bode well for his future at the plate. His performance at Double-A in 2010 will be the true test.
9. Zach Von Rosenburg – Von Rosenburg has true ace potential, but he is a long way from Pittsburgh. He could easily move to the top of this list within a year.
10. Jeff Locke – Locke has posted solid peripherals throughout his career, and he recovered from control issues in the first half of 2009. He finished the season strongly and has mid-rotation potential.
11. John Raynor – Raynor was a solid addition in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. He has posted impressive minor league walk rates and possesses elite speed. He should already be a quality fourth outfielder. If his defense holds up enough to keep him in center field, he can be a legitimate starting outfielder.
12. Robbie Grossman – Grossman had a pretty impressive debut, posting a .373 on-base percentage and 14.3% walk rate in full-season ball as a teenager. His strikeout totals are clearly a concern, but that may improve with additional experience.
13. Quinton Miller – At 19 years old, Miller’s respectable numbers in West Virginia were inspiring. He still has much work to do, but he has the raw stuff to eventually become a quality major league pitcher.
14. Jarek Cunningham – After recently recovering from a torn ACL of my own, I am less concerned with Cunningham’s knee injury than many others seem to be. If I can recover with no issues, I see no reason why a world-class athlete cannot do the same. Expect Cunningham to have a breakout season in 2010.
15. Gorkys Hernandez – Hernandez is a great athlete and a polished defender, but his bat has never really developed. He’s still relatively young, so there’s still a chance for him to become a competent hitter.
16. Colton Cain – Another high school pitcher from the 2009 draft, Cain has huge upside. He is comparable to Von Rosenburg, although he is not quite as polished.
17. Bryan Morris – Morris had a forgettable 2009 season, but his good stuff could lead to a rebound in 2010. This is probably a make-or-break year for Morris.
18. Donald Veal – The control issues have always held Veal back. He was very impressive in the Arizona Fall League, indicating there is still a chance that he can harness his impressive arm. Although I am cautiously optimistic, I remain very much unconvinced.
19. Daniel McCutchen – There is not a whole lot of upside remaining for McCutchen, but he is a virtual lock to become at least a serviceable number five starter for the Pirates.
20. Brett Lorin – Lorin is 6’7”, 245 pounds, with good strikeout numbers and manageable walk rates. He also has kept the ball in the park to this point. There’s quite a bit to like there.
21. Ronald Uviedo – Uviedo had a decent 2009 after transitioning from reliever to starter. He has a good arm, and he might sneak up on a few people in the next couple of years.
22. Argenis Diaz – I am higher on Diaz than most. He has been a black hole at the plate, but his impact glove makes it highly likely that he will make it to the majors as at least a utility infielder. As a 22 year old in Triple-A, there is still plenty of time for the bat to develop enough for him to be a useful player.
23. Brooks Pounders – Pounders does not have the raw stuff of the other high school arms from the 2009 draft, but he already throws four decent pitches. He signed quickly after the draft and pitched well in the Gulf Coast League.
24. Trent Stevenson – Stevenson is probably the rawest of the high school pitchers drafted this past June. His body needs to fill out quite a bit, but he could become something special if everything breaks right.
25. Neil Walker – Walker is unlikely to become a starting option at this point in his career. But good power, defensive versatility and the ability to switch-hit make him an ideal bench player.
26. Brian Friday – Friday is an average defensive shortstop with solid walk rates and decent contact ability. His future is probably that of a utility middle infielder at this point.
27. Victor Black – Black has a live arm, but he has struggled with his control. If he can harness his good stuff, he can develop into a late-inning reliever.
28. Jordy Mercer – Mercer struggled in 2009, but he adjusted a bit as the season wore on. It is far too early to give up on him, but he needs to improve this year.
29. Justin Wilson – Another 2008 draftee that started slowly, Wilson came on strong down the stretch. With improved control, Wilson has a reasonable chance to become a back-of-the-rotation starter.
30. Brock Holt – Holt had a solid debut with State College, including an impressive K/BB ratio. He probably has the defensive ability to stay at shortstop, making him an interesting prospect moving forward.
Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
Nathan Adcock – Numbers have been inconsistent, but still some upside.
Jose Ascanio – Good potential, but labrum surgery rarely ends well.
Evan Chambers – Interesting player with huge walk and strikeout numbers in his pro debut.
Shelby Ford – 2009 season was so bad that he had to be playing through some sort of injury.
Wesley Freeman – Struggled greatly in 2009, but still has tremendous tools.
Josh Harrison – One walk in 155 post-trade plate appearances is alarming.
Jeffrey Inman – Potential first rounder before injury-filled 2009 season. Could be a steal.
Diego Moreno – Could be a sleeper bullpen option in the near future.
Daniel Moskos – Poor peripheral numbers as a 23 year old in Double-A are not encouraging.
Aaron Pribanic – Good velocity and high groundball rate could lead him to the back of a rotation.
Hunter Strickland – Reports of recently improved velocity could indicate success in 2010.