This will a tough selection for a couple of years; the system is almost purged of Dave Littlefield picks (Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens, Brian Friday, Starling Marte, Alex Presley, Tony Watson, Quincy Latimore and Danny Moskos are all that are left in GW's top 50).
Top prospects Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Steve Pearce and Pedro Alvarez are all on the big team now, decimating the old Pirate minor league boards. The Neal Huntington classes are young and pitcher heavy, so it'll be awhile before their books are written. Our take on the 2010 class of prospects:
1. Jameson Taillon, 18, RHP: 2010 first round power pitcher who throws a 92-96 MPH fastball with movement, a plus curve and slider, and a work-in-progress changeup. He's a big kid, too, at around 6'6'' and 225 lbs. He went straight to the Florida Instructional League after signing late for $6.5M, and will probably start 2011 at West Virginia.
2. Tony Sanchez, 22, C: The first round draft pick in 2009, he signed quickly at slot for $2.5M and started playing pro ball. He's hit over .300 at three levels. But he lost a big chunk of time to a beaning, and had a terrible time with base stealers (15% throw-out rate) because of a sore shoulder (although he was fine at the other defensive aspects of catching, especially handling the staff). Sanchez is playing in Arizona, and hopefully the time off during the season strengthened his arm. He should start at Altoona next season.
3. Bryan Morris, 23, RHP: He reestablished himself on the Pirate radar this season with a mid-90s fastball and hard curve. But a history of injuries and a lack of innings could hold him back. The last man standing from the Jay Bay deal, Morris has the upside to become a #2 pitcher in the rotation if he can build on 2010. He should start 2011 at Indy.
4. Luis Heredia, 16, RHP: Heredia was considered the top pitching prospect available on the international market, and the Bucs signed him for $2.6M. He's 6'6" and throws 92 MPH with movement and has rudimentary off-speed stuff. While anything can happen at his age, Heredia has the most upside this side of Taillon in the organization. He should start in the GCL next year, by-passing the DSL.
5. Zack Von Rosenberg, 20, RHP: The 6'5" righty throws 91-93 MPH with developing off speed pitches and good control. A 2009 prep pick in the 2009 draft, he inked a deal worth $1.2M. ZVR was strong at the finish of this season after a stormy start, and should move on to West Virginia in 2011.
6. Stetson Allie, 19, RHP: He has a rifle, throwing a mid-nineties heater that touched 100 and a hard slider. Allie signed late this season for $2.25M, and ended up in the Florida Instructional League after the season. He loses velocity as the game wears on, so whether he becomes a starter or bullpen guy is still very much up in the air. Allie should go to State College in 2011.
7. Rudy Owens, 22, LHP: Owens throws his heat at 91-92 MPH with a good curve, and a change-up. Her has exceptional control and can miss some bats. Owens has been the Pirates' Minor League Pitcher of the Year two years running, and is the most likely farm hand to compete for a starting role at Pittsburgh in 2011, along with Brad Lincoln, though he'll probably start off in Indy. He'll also join the 40-man roster, as he's Rule 5 eligible this season.
8. Brad Lincoln, 25, RHP: The Pirate arm of the future got rocked when he was called to the show, in all likelihood being the straw that broke Joe Kerrigan's back after JK messed with his mechanics. Lincoln has a 93 MPH heater and a sharp breaking ball, but has a history of giving up HRs and the big inning. He'll probably return to Indy to try to locate his old mojo in 2011.
9. Justin Wilson, 23, LHP: A 2008 #5 pick from Fresno State, Wilson had a good year at Altoona, with a low-90s fast ball, curve, and slider. GW has him a little higher on the list than most others, but we think he's just coming into his own. Wilson has a lot of movement on all his pitches, which often leads to control problems. If he can throw strikes, he could be a mid-rotation pitcher; he's pitching in the Arizona Summer League now to work on that issue. We expect to see him at Indy in 2011, where we'll have a better idea of his potential.
10. Jeff Locke, 22, LHP: He throws with low-90s velocity, and has a good hook and great control. His peripherals were also outstanding in a split season between Bradenton and Altoona. The lefty projects as a mid-rotation MLB starter. Locke is likely to start with the Curve in 2011 and be in line to be the first call up to Indy.
11. Starling Marte, 22, OF: A toolsy guy that hit .315 but rang up poor strikeout and walk rates in 2010 needs to smooth out the rough edges. He had hamate surgery, so 2011 will be a big season for him to improve his eye and power numbers; his glove and speed are already exceptional. Marte should be in Altoona to start 2011.
12. Quinton Miller, 20, RHP: He was on the DL with biceps tendinitis, a condition that has haunted him since high school. Miller throws 94 MPH with a slider and change-up. The Pirates fast-tracked him in 2009 after drafting him out of high school and hope to get a healthy season under his belt in 2011. He could stay at West Virginia or move up to Bradenton, depending on the numbers game and the condition of his arm.
13. Nick Kingham, 18, RHP: A 2010 fourth round prep draft pick from Washington, he throws a low-90s fastball with movement to go with a plus change and a in-progress curve. Kingham is considered to have big-time upside, and flew under the radar after the Taillon and Allie signings. He should start next season at State College after a brief appearance in the GCL this year.
14. Jarek Cunningham, 20, 2B: Missed all of 2009 with ACL surgery, but came back to hit .258/.309/.436 at West Virginia with 11 HRs. The only concession to his knee was a switch from SS to 2B. Cunningham has pop in his bat, but K's at a big rate, especially having problems with off-speed stuff. He should move to Bradenton in 2011.
15. Colton "Billy" Cain, 19, LHP: Cain was drafted out of high school in 2009, signing late for $1.25M. He throws in the low-90s, and has a plus curve and change with occasional control issues. Cain missed the start of the year after minor back surgery, so his year at SC was especially promising as he remained healthy. He'll be part of the West Virginia rotation in 2011.
16. Zack Dodson, 20, LHP: A 2009 prep draft pick out of high school who signed for $600K, he throws in the low 90s and his curve is his best pitch. Dodson had trouble with his control at State College but improved his command as the season went on. He's likely to move on to West Virginia in 2011, but his innings will be limited. Dodson only had 57 IP in 2010.
17. Chase d'Arnaud, 23, SS: d'Arnaud, 2008's 4th round pick, had trouble buying a hit this year, batting .247, but had a big championship series to end the year with a good taste in his mouth. He's still the top internal candidate for SS, so this will be a big year for him to prove he deserves that slot. d'Arnaud should start at Indy, but the Pirates have a logjam of SS's to be sorted out, so his assignment will depend on where other guys, like Brian Friday, Pedro Ciriaco and Argenis Diaz land.
18. Andrew Lambo, 22, OF: A former top prospect acquired in the Octavio Dotel deal known for his stick rather than mitt, he's trying to regain his star. He played AA ball as a 20 and 21 year old, young for the level, so that may be part of his problem. The Bucs thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League. Lambo should get a ticket to Indy in 2011.
19. Diego Moreno, 24, RHP: He missed nearly a month with a rotator cuff strain, and then got suspended for unspecified bad conduct. Moreno throws in the high nineties and is almost unhittable by righties. He's eligible for the Rule 5 draft and the Pirates will probably add him to the 40-man roster. The closer should open 2011 at Altoona.
20. Alex Presley, 25, OF: the Pirate Minor League Player of the Year, Presley showed that he can probably handle a fourth outfield position at the MLB level. He's likely to start 2011 at Indy as an insurance policy.
21. Nathan Adcock, 22, RHP: Adcock doesn't have a great heater or dominating off speed stuff, and profiles back of the rotation starter. He's also eligible for the Rule 5 draft, so the Pirates have to make a decision on him this season. If Adcock gets through the shuffle, he should be in the Altoona rotation in 2011.
22. Jordy Mercer, 24, SS: The third round pick in 2008, Mercer has played the middle infield with range and hit the ball well. He's another guy, like d'Arnaud, who's caught in the recent crush of upper-level middle infielders, but he's done his job fairly well over the past three seasons. He should be at Indy next year, but...
23. Robbie Grossman, 21, OF: Strikes out too much (although he improved in 2010), draws a lot of walks, and hasn't shown the power expected of him yet. he does have decent wheels, good range, and an accurate arm who has put together three decent OBP years. He'll probably start at Bradenton next season.
24. Gorkys Hernandez, 23, CF: Hernandez runs well and is very good defensively, maybe the best OF'er in the system, with a strong arm. He profiles as a top of the order bat with good base-stealing skills, and a fourth outfielder type behind Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata in Pittsburgh. Hernandez should begin 2011 at Indy.
25. Mel Rojas Jr., 20, CF: A third round junior college pick this year, he's raw but toolsy. He'll probably begin 2011 in West Virginia.
26. Nate Baker, 22, LHP: He throws between 88-92 with a slider and change, with good control. His stuff isn't dominating, and he doesn't miss too many bats, so each level up will be a challenge. Baker should start out 2011 at Bradenton, although Altoona is also a possibility.
27. Exicardo Cayonez, 19, OF: Signed in 2008 for a $400K bonus, he played in the GCL this season. Cayonez faded in August, having trouble hitting lefties. He's fairly toolsy, and the Bucs will move him on to State College in 2011 to continue his baseball education.
28. Brian Friday, 24, 2B: He was off to a good start as Indy's second baseman before a mid-season ankle injury fell him for awhile. Friday is Rule 5 eligible this year, making an interesting choice for the FO who have a ton of middle infield guys. If he stays with the organization, he should again be at Indy.
29. Matt Curry, 22, 1B: Curry was drafted out of TCU in 2010, and had a strong line of .299/7/29 at SC. He has a background as a good hitter, and will probably move up a level in 2011, although he could be jumped to Bradenton.
30. Zach Fuesser, 20, LHP: He's not a power pitcher, throwing 88-92 with a good curve and a developing change, and his control is an issue. But except for the walks, his peripherals were strong for SC, and he rebounded well from an early season broken finger. Fuesser was drafted in 2009, and signed for $125K. He'll start at West Virginia next season.
Rounding out the top fifty, in no particular order (except alphabetic), are: 3B Eric Avila, SS Yhonathan Barrios, SS Jorge Bishop, RHP Victor Black, OF Evan Chambers, SS Pedro Ciriaco, 3B Jeremy Farrell, C Eric Fryer, IF Josh Harrison, 1B Matt Hague, 2B Brock Holt, RHP Jeff Inman, 1B Jared Lakind, OF Quincy Latimore, RHP Brett Lorin, SS Drew Maggi, RHP Joe Martinez, LHP Danny Moskos, RHP Brooks Pounders and LHP Tony Watson.