Here's an update on the Pirates' top picks in the 2006 draft.
1. Brad Lincoln: Mowed down the Gulf Coast League, as a top college pitcher should, then ran into a wall at Class A Hickory. A strained oblique has kept him out of action since August 7. At the time, Pirates farm director Brian Graham described the injury as "not anything too serious." One wonders why a strained muscle that's not too serious would require such a long recovery time.
2. Mike Felix: Is striking out a batter an inning for Class A- Williamsport, but is walking way too many batters. He gave up five walks in his last start.
3. Shelby Ford: Killed the ball at Williamsport, then headed to Hickory, where he's been respectable, posting a .748 OPS. He's struggling against righties, however, posting a .677 OPS against them. He's a switch-hitter but throws right-handed; I wonder whether it might be better for him to hit righty all the time.
4. Jared Hughes: Promoted to Hickory despite a poor strikeout rate at Williamsport, he's posting a 5.82 ERA with more walks than strikeouts. There isn't much to see here, I don't think.
5. Pat Bresnehan: Pitching well in Williamsport, with a 2.68 ERA and a 3.5:1 K:BB ratio. Those are better stats than he posted in college, although a big-conference college program like Arizona State may be a tougher pitching environment than the New York-Penn League.
6. James Negrych: Had a miserable start at Williamsport, then was coming on strong in August before an injury ended his season early.
7. Austin McClune: Cooled down after an extremely hot start at rookie-league Bradenton. He hit for average there but with almost no walks or power - in his last ten games, he had eleven hits but only one extra base hit (a double) and no walks. Obviously, though, he still bears watching.
8. Alex Presley: Was doing nothing at Williamsport until recently - he's 14-for-32 in his last nine games there. Time will tell whether that means anything. Presley is striking out way too much.
9. Steve MacFarland: Has 19 walks in 23 innings at Williamsport.
10. Charles Benoit: Having a pretty average season at Williamsport, striking out 28 batters and walking 14 in 30.2 innings.
Other notables: 13th rounder Brandon Holden, a rare late-round, high-upside pick for the Pirates, has signed but hasn't yet pitched competitively. He'll probably be in Bradenton in 2007. 17th-rounder Mike Crotta pitched decently at Williamsport - showing much better control than he had in his mediocre college career, then was promoted to Hickory, where he has had one good start sandwiched by two terrible ones. 31st-rounder Jared Keel, a third baseman, pounded the ball against younger players at Bradenton, and has been Williamsport's best hitter (which doesn't mean much) since being promoted there.
Obviously, it's very early, but this draft doesn't look so hot so far. Nobody the Pirates picked except maybe Ford and Keel are playing very inspiring baseball right now. The success or failure of this draft will probably depend heavily on Lincoln, and his season so far hasn't been nearly as good as one would expect.