Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pirates: Center/Left Field

Yah, we know the corners are usually lumped together, but the Pirates have settled on playing a two center fielder set to cover PNC Park's spacious pasture. In the trade off, they've given up on the big bopper corner theory; that's a debate for another day.

The current duo, Andrew McCutchen, who turned 24 last month, and Jose Tabata, 22, have it all going for them. Both are young, speedy, under team control for awhile (McCutch is arb eligible in 2013 as it sits now, and Tabata a year later), good sticks (McCutch hit .286 with a .365 OBP in his two years; JT batted .299/.346 in 2010) and raw but promising defenders.

McCutcheon has average power, bopping 28 HR in his first 262 games; Tabata not so much, with 4 long balls in 102 games. Still, OK for the top of the order. Both have room to grow in the field and on the bases, and should do that growing in Pittsburgh.

25 year old Lastings Milledge (.277/.332/.380), who should be around at least through 2011, is adequate as a back-up for days off and injury time-outs. He's out of options and entering arbitration, but his pay grade makes him a keeper.

Alex Presley, 25, the Pirates minor-league Player of the Year, will be an insurance policy at Indy. He hit .261 in a September curtain call after hitting .294 at Indianapolis and .350 at Altoona.

Actually, this position is fairly well stocked in the minors, too. Gorkys Hernandez, 23, is the most polished minor league OF'er in the system, with a great glove, speed to burn, and a bat that needs some work.

He hit just .266 at Altoona, but after coming on following an ice-cold start, Hernandez broke a finger and missed the last three months of the season. He has no power to speak of and is a top-of-the-order guy. Hernandez was a Top 100 prospect as late as 2009 for Atlanta and still young enough to make an impression.

He'll join Presley at Indy, so the Bucs will be OK numbers-wise; this position is about as deep as it gets in the organization. And all five players are already on the forty man roster.

There are a couple of guys coming up, too, which bodes well for the future. Chief among them is Starling Marte, who missed a good portion of the season after hamate surgery. He still put together a .315/.386/.432 at Bradenton, but without a homer, possibly a lingering effect of his injury. He'll play center for Altoona in 2011.

The Dominican turned 22 in October, and is Rule 5 eligible this season, so he'll have to be placed on the forty man roster.

Robbie Grossman, 21, was a sixth round high school selection in the 2008 draft. He's not had the breakout year that the Bucs have hoped yet, but has been young at every level he's played at in the organization and has good OBPs (.381 - 2008; .373 - 2009; .344 - 2010).

The switch-hitter should be moving on to the Curve in 2011, though he may be starting at Bradenton. Grossman is likely to end up a corner OF'er, though he's been playing center and could still qualify as a PNC left fielder. If he wants a gig in right, he'll have to cut down his K's and pump up his HR's.

Two others to watch are Exicardo Cayones and Mel Rojas Jr. Cayones is a Venezuelan the Pirates signed for $400K in 2008 and who just turned 19 in October. He played in the GCL in 2010 and hit .263; the lefty had problems against LHP, but is on a fast track and could end up in West Virginia next season.

Rojas, 20, is a toolsy but raw player the Bucs drafted in the third round this year. He played at Wabash JC, and struggled at State College, barely hitting over the Mendoza line though drawing walks at a better than 10% rate. Like Grossman, he's a CFer now, but he's big-legged and may end up a corner OFer. His next stop is West Virginia.

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