Former first round pick Andrew McCutchen was selected by John Perroto as the Pittsburgh Pirates' #1 prospect. Perroto writes the report for Baseball America each season. This is good news for Pirates fans, as McCutchen, a center fielder, is likely to get his first cup of coffee with the big club in September. McCutchen is reported to be a plus in every category, save his throwing arm. He hits for average, power, drives in runs, steals bases, has Gold Golve potential in his fielding, and is a smart player. He is projected to start the season at AA Altoona, where he played the final few weeks last season. Chances are he will be playing in the Futures Game in July with a possible jump to AAA if he continues to be consistent and shows signs of development. People within the Pirates organization have stated he is further along in his development than they expected him to be when the drafted him.
Coming in at number two on the list is catcher Neil Walker. Walker has disappointed some with his slow progression through the minor leagues and will begin this season, like all of the Pirates decent prospects, in Altoona. Walker is intriguing, as he hits from both sides of the plate with enough power potential to belt 30+ home runs a year. His defensive progression has disappointed some, and there has been talk of moving him to the outfield or third base. This seems likely due to the durability and consistency of big league catcher Ronny Paulino.
Third on the list is the Pirates 2006 first round draft pick Brad Lincoln. At six foot tall Lincoln is considered short for a pitcher, however he has the leg strength to power the ball up to 97 mphs. He sits in the low ninties with a plus curve and plus 2 seam fastball. Lincoln started out with the GCL Pirates before being promoted to the low-A Hickorey team. He then proceeded to get hurt, which sounds an awful lot like many of the Pirates former "prospects". Lincoln, though, projects as a top of the rotation starter. He is projected to begin the season at High A ball but should be with the AA Altoona Curve shortly after the start of the season.
After the top three prospects we have Yoslan Herrera at four, Josh Sharpless at five, Steven Pearce at six followed by Brian Bixler, Brad Corley, Todd Redmond and Mike Felix. Read the report to find more information about the rest of these guys as some are old and some you've already read about.
This brings me to my point. All of our "prospects" this year will no doubt be playing together in AA for almost the entire season. Some of these fellows will be promoted to the major leagues together, and some have already played together. The main prospects I'm speaking of are McCutchen, Brad Lincoln, and Neil Walker. These three should all reach the big leagues around the same time, and they will have been playing together for at least a season before this. I hope to see McCutchen before the rest, but if Lincoln develops as he is projected, our rotation in 2009 could be Lincoln, Snell, Duke, Gorzelanny, Maholm. It is encouraging to know that Maholm will be a fifth starter, since he has all the capabilities to be a fourth starter, and everyone knows how hard it is to find a fifth starter.
In other news, MLB.tv is reporting the Pirates have signed Tony Armas Jr. to a contract, nothing has been specified as of yet.