2009 Pirates Rookies: What to Expect

Pat's new Fanhouse post about Pirates prospects who could make an impact this season reminded me that a couple weeks ago Reds Minor Leagues asked me to do something similar. They didn't use most of what I wrote, so I've pasted it below. They asked me to do projections of any players who might join the Pirates as rookies next year. I felt a little weird about that, since the Pirates don't really have any rookies who are great bets to get a ton of playing time, except maybe Andrew McCutchen, and even he probably won't start the year in the bigs. But I gave it a shot anyway.

* * *

It's quite possible that out of all these guys, only one (a backup catcher) will make the opening day roster. Most of them will play much less than a full season in the big leagues. Taking my projections too seriously here would be a bad idea. Nonetheless:

Andrew McCutchen 250 AB .270/.340/.375
Robinzon Diaz 80 AB .270/.295/.320
Jason Jaramillo 160 AB .250/.305/.330
Neil Walker 80 AB .210/.270/.380

McCutchen is one of the best Pirates prospects; he brings good on-base skills and defense, but it may be a couple years before he starts hitting for much power at the big-league level. Diaz and Jaramillo are standard backup catchers; Jaramillo gets the edge in playing time because of his defense. Walker had a terrible year at AAA in 2008 and, barring major improvements, will have a very hard time reaching base in the big leagues.

Daniel McCutchen 90 IP 4.60 ERA 65 K 35 BB
Jesse Chavez 25 IP 4.90 ERA 20 K 15 BB
Jimmy Barthmaier 70 IP 5.20 ERA 55 K 35 BB
Evan Meek 45 IP 4.80 ERA 40 K 25 BB
Jeff Sues 25 IP 5.20 ERA 25 K 20 BB
Donald Veal 15 IP 7.10 ERA 10 K 15 BB

The take-home message is that these guys just aren't that good. As with any group of young pitchers, there's a lot of potential for variation among them, and so it wouldn't surprise me if one or two of these guys ended up being useful in 2009, but I wouldn't expect them to be very good right away. I expect at least a couple will pitch a few innings for Pittsburgh, completely implode, and spend the rest of the year in the minors. I like Dan McCutchen better than most do; he has a good performance record, and a lot less minor league experience than most pitchers his age. I think Donald Veal is a good, high-upside gamble as a Rule 5 pick and that the Pirates will take him north whether his Spring Training performance warrants it or not, but I think the odds are against him and they'll eventually have to send him back to the Cubs. Picking him was a chance worth taking, though.

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