Lately I have noticed a growing trend criticizing the Pirates farm system. I do believe there have been a few players who have disappointed this year but the system overall is better than it was at any point since Huntington and Coonelly have taken over.
Lets look at the disappointments.
Tony Sanchez - Quite possibly the most disappointing minor league player because if he was succeeding this year he could easily fill a potential void next year in the Majors. My take on Sanchez is that I wish he would be ready now but I also understand that calling a game and getting hit in the face with a pitch can be quite stressful. I think he could easily bounce back after this horrible year.
Altoona 4 (Owens, Wilson, Locke and Morris) - This quartet is definitely a disappointment overall, primarily due to the belief that one or more of them should be knocking on the door to the Majors but none of them have actually stepped forward. One bad or neutral season does not mean they cannot have success next year. It just means they probably shouldn't have been ranked as high and that they will be bumped lower on the Pirates list.
Starling Marte - He has continued to hit and play solid defense. Yes he has some issues with strikeouts etc. but he is an athlete.
Matt Curry - He has raked all year (except for a brief slump shortly after his promotion to AA).
Matt Hague - Many doubt that he can play a huge role at the majors but he continues to hit. He could be next years Walker or Presley.
McPherson - Has been this years Owens.
Robbie Grossman - Has performed well, reduced his strikeout rate (although it is still somewhat high), increased his walks and scored a ton of runs.
Gorkys Hernandez - has somewhat resurrected his prospect status. Excellent defender and could be trade bait.
Elevys Gonzalez - has hit well all year.
2009 HS Pitchers (including JC Fuesser) - ZVR and Stevenson have been disappointing but Dodson, Cain, Fuesser and Pounders have all been satisfactory to great at times this year. ZVR also seems to have games where he is pitching well and then gets bombed the next game. The reason why they are positives is because Huntington is using the right strategy in drafting quantity. There is no way all 6 make it to the Majors and perhaps ZVR is one who doesn't but maybe Dodson and Cain make it. Also, the 5 HSers would only be Sophomores in college right now. It is usually wise to wait til after a Pitcher's junior year to fully begin evaluating where they stand.
Other (neither here nor there for various reasons) - *note - many fans will consider some of these players disappointments and that is understandable
Stetson Allie, Luis Heredia, Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Ryan Hafner - These five are the HS draftees (minus Heredia of course) from last year and are going through a very regimented program. Hafner and Kingham have looked great, Taillon so-so and Heredia and Allie have been lackluster. Part of the reason why some are being considered disappointments is due to the high standards set by the media and fans. Remember, Allie only really started pitching as a Senior in High School and Heredia is 16. The hype has led to them being considered disappointments and I do not agree with that. I say we give them a year or 2 to see how they develop and progress. Lets face it, it would have taken pretty amazing seasons for them to continue on an upward trending prospect path.
d'Arnaud, Harrison, Presley and Lincoln - These four probably won't count towards prospect status but that does not matter. They are still a part of this farm system and could help the Pirates in the near future. They definitely add depth to the entire system. None of them may become stars but they could definitely fill roles that will allow us to spend money elsewhere.
2011 Draftees - Cole (hopefully), Bell (hopefully), Dickerson, Gamache? and all the HS pitchers are barely into our system. After watching the 2010 HS draftees pitch both for the Pirates affiliates and in college (specifically Austin Kubitza) I am beginning to trust our scouting department (I could be totally wrong).
Maggi, Rojas Jr., Cunningham, Grovatt, Chambers, Lorin, Waldron, Cumpton, Quinton Miller, Wes Freeman, Gift Ngoepe, Mercer and Brock Holt have all shown flashes of great play and could easily break out (or fail) by this time next year.
Sorry if this seems long but this is what I think of the farm system. I feel that the top prospects (or those that were considered top prospects at the start of the year) have not seized the opportunity. However, they still have the potential to get better and be factors. It is not as bleak as it seems because the Pirates have a much deeper minor league system than in the past.
I'm sure I missed a few players and am sorry this is so wordy.