Alex Presley has been 2010's feel-good story in the Pirate organization.
The 25 year old lefty stands 5'9" and weighs in at 180 pounds, and was considered a sort of tweener by the scouts; he didn’t show quite the arm or range to play center but didn't have the pop to play the corner spots. Looks and sounds like the second coming of Nate McLouth, hey?
He was born July 25, 1985 in Monroe, Louisiana, and played for the Neville Tigers in high school, where he was named a 3rd Team HS All-America. Presley went on to the University of Mississippi, where the outfielder made the Baseball America second-team Freshman All-America list and never hit under .300. The Pirates took him in the eighth round of the 2006 draft (230th overall), reeling him in with a $95,000 bonus after he hit .321 as a junior.
Presley signed a couple weeks after the draft and struggled initially at short season Williamsport while alternating between left and center. He ended up hitting .260, but his plate discipline was weak, drawing 17 walks while striking out 55 times in 244 plate appearances. Presley had a terrible time handling LHPs, posting a .357 OPS.
In 2007 he started for Low A Hickory, opening as the left fielder and moving to center later in the season. After another a poor start, Presley ended up with a line of .293/11/63. He hit all of his HRs against RHPs and struck out a lot - 108 times - but showed some muscle and a little more patience at the dish, drawing 45 walks.
He started 2008 as the regular CF for High A Lynchburg, but had another terrible start and then was hurt, and didn't return until May. He was hurt again in August, ending his season. His line there was .258/6/35 in only 325 at-bats.
He returned to Lynchburg in 2009, penciled in as a backup OF'er, but ended up playing regularly, mostly in center, thanks more to a lack of outfielders in the system than anything he did to impress. His line of .257/4/37 mirrored 2008's, including his inability to hit LHPs, and with 150 more at-bats.
Presley seemed like an organizational player at best by this time, but he impressed the Pirates in training camp and made the Altoona roster as a reserve. Then the baseball gods gave his head a rub, and he had a breakout season in 2010 that was every bit as amazing as the one Rudy Owens had last year.
For the Curve, he hit .350/6/47 in 67 games, bettering any full year he had at Lynchburg. On June 24th, he was sent to Indy a couple of weeks after the Pirates called up Jose Tabata, and kept on there, with a line of .294/6/38. His combined AAA/AA line for 2010 was .320/12/85.
Then on September 7th, he was added to the Pirates' 40-man roster and brought to the show. And he got his first hit Wednesday night.
The current book on Presley is that he's got the potential to be a big league hitter with adequate range and arm to play a corner outfield position, and can steal an occasional base, too. He's most likely slotted to be a fourth outfielder who plays hard and maximizes his abilities, a grinder rather than a toolsy player.
In other words, he's on the road to becoming another Nate McLouth. Presley was a teammate of Florida's Chris Coghlan’s for all three years at Ol' Miss, too...maybe his career track will rub off on him.
Hey, one good year is no sure ticket to anything except one more year. But one thing that he has going for him is his college background. The SEC has been a monster of late, producing players like Coglan, Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith, Ryan Theriot, Jeff Keppinger, and Julio Borbon.
Besides that tradition, we think until guys like Gorkys Hernandez, John Lambos, or Starling Marte make a move, Alex Presley is the most accomplished outfielder in the farm system. 2011 should tell.