The MVP’s For Pittsburgh’s Future
The Pirates have all kinds of young talent in every level of their system. They have pretty much no veteran or proven talent in the majors, so it’s making the future a pretty big question mark. No prospect is a sure thing, so it’s always kind of risky to depend on them like the Pirates are doing right now. I’ve compiled a list of the most important young players for the Pirates. These will be the main guys I will be watching and hoping to improve their games and live up to their potential. If they do meet that potential, the Pirates will be a winning team in less time than anyone thinks. Here we go.
1. Andrew McCutchen
The 2005 first-rounder has burst on to the MLB scene and has already opened eyes around the league. McCutchen is legit and will be one of the Pirates best players for years to come. He’s the kind of guy that can’t fall off. His hands are so fast and his swing is so short that it’s hard for him to get into long slumps. You can’t lose speed either, which automatically makes him an above-average big league player. He is a fantastic center fielder and can get on base at any time with his ability to run. The Pirates have a great guy to build around at the top of the order, and he is my number 1 most valuable Pirate.
2. Pedro Alvarez
Pedro is the power bat the Pirates have been searching for for years. He’s a big corner infielder with 40+ home run potential. The Pirates took him with the 2nd pick in the 2008 draft and paid big money to sign him. There were big question marks after he started slow in A ball, but he since silenced those questions as he has been absolutely terrific at AA Altoona. He is hitting .335 with 9 bombs and 30 RBI in 47 games with the Curve. His average has been rising steadily in the last month, he has been on an absolute tear hitting the ball. He still strikes out a lot and struggles with left handed pitching, but he is definitely looking like a future star.
3. Brad Lincoln
If you’re going to win in the big leagues, you need pitching. The Pirates haven’t had a guy with great stuff that can completely dominate an offense since Oliver Perez’s fantastic performance in 2004 (and we all know how that turned out). Brad Lincoln, another first round pick, has ace-level stuff and has worked his way up to AAA Indianapolis this year. He dominated early in the year in A and AA but has struggled some in AAA. Lincoln is 3-2 with a 5.56 ERA in 9 starts. We’re going to need to see better numbers that from him when he gets to the big leagues, he is one of our only pitchers with capabilities to be an ace some day.
4. Tim Alderson
Tim is here for the same reasons Brad Lincoln is. Tim is one of the few ace possibilities the Pirates have in their system, and pitching is the most important part of being a good team. Alderson has been great in AA, so let’s hope he keeps up the good performance as he keeps moving up the system towards the majors.
5. Delwyn Young
I know it sounds weird rating Delwyn Young ahead of guys like Jose Tabata and Tony Sanchez, but there is a reason that Delwyn is more valuable to the Pirates than those guys. The Pirates have a surplus of high-upside outfielders and catchers, while we have very little talent in the middle infield. That remains the biggest question mark for this team’s future, who is going to step up and fill the holes at second and short. After the Freddy Sanchez trade, Delwyn has started to be the everyday second baseman, and has played well there. His bat is the only reason he even got a chance, he has been great at the plate this year. He has a second-base bat, hits for good average with a little bit of power. If Delwyn can step up and solidify himself at second base, we wouldn’t have to rely on guys like Brian Friday, Shelby Ford, and Chase D’Arnaud, guys that I don’t particularly like.
6. Andy LaRoche
This is another one like Delwyn Young. The main reason I put Andy here is because of how we acquired him. Andy came over in the trade that sent Jason Bay to Boston. That deal is starting to look ugly, as Bryan Morris, Brandon Moss, and Craig Hansen have all been pretty bad. Andy needs to step up and become a definite part of the future for the Pirates to make that trade a good one. Also, Andy has the capabilities to play second base and possibly even shortstop. I personally don’t think Andy has the power bat to be a third base man for much longer. Some people thought he would develop 20-30 HR power, but I don’t really see that happening. I think a move to middle infield is inevitable.
7. Jose Tabata
Jose Tabata has immense upside. He could be a perennial all-star and was a steal in the trade that sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees, a deal in which the Pirates also got Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen, and Jeff Karstens. Tabata is only 20 years old and is now in AAA. There are talks of Tabata being called up when the rosters expand in September, I don’t really think that will happen though. Tabata is the future right fielder. He doesn’t have much home run power right now, he only has 3 on the year. However, as a 20 year old, he is still growing and has some definite power upside. I’d say 30 home runs a year aren’t out of reach for Tabata, although you should probably expect something closer to 20. He will hit for great average and has above average speed.
8. Ross Ohlendorf
Ohlendorf earned a spot in the rotation this spring training, and has proved he deserved it so far this year. He is pitching great, and he just keeps getting better. Ross is a big, physical right hander with an outstanding sinker that makes him very hard to string hits together against. Ross doesn’t have great velocity or any other real good pitches, but that sinker alone makes him a solid 3-4 option for the future. I definitely see Ross in this rotation for a long time, and that makes him a very valuable piece of the puzzle.
9. Jeff Clement
Clement is another guy like Andy LaRoche, he has big expectations because of what the Pirates gave up to get him. He came over in the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell trade, which made a ton of Pittsburgh fans angry. Clement was a former #1 prospect with big power potential. He was a catcher in Seattle, but the Pirates moved him to first base (thank heavens). Clement is another guy that has been rumored to be a September call up, but again, I think he’ll be up next year. He has already spent time in the majors, so I can definitely see him starting at first base on opening day of next year. Clement is another guy with a big power bat that the Pirates really need. He could definitely be a 3-5 hitter in the order and hit 30-40 homers. That’s a big if however, but Clement is a very valuable piece to the Pirates future.
10. Lastings Milledge
hold on I can find a more appropriate picture…
That’s his dad, I swear. Anyways, Milledge is a former #1 prospect for the Mets who got bounced around the Nationals and eventually to the Pirates because of his behavior off the field. Lastings has since made a change in his life and is starting to grow up. This is outstanding news for the Pirates, because now Lastings can develop into a star in this league and the Pirates didn’t give up much for him. Milledge is a 5-tool player who finally hit his first homer as a Pirate last night. When Milledge broke into the league people were thinking he had 30 HR power, although he seems more like a 25 guys to me. Lastings is getting better in left field and hitting for good average. He will continue to get better and will complete quite an impressive outfield along with McCutchen and Tabata.