Lots of player movement in the final weeks of the minor-league season, so if I put anyone in the wrong category, I apologize.
Class AAA Roundup: Steve Pearce is hitting .345/.393/.602. Pearce is a strange case - he's already 24, but he's improved by leaps and bounds this year. A bolder team would probably try to trade Xavier Nady or perhaps even Adam LaRoche in the offseason to free up some playing time for Pearce, and they'd probably get something pretty nifty in return, too. But that seems far too risky for the Pirates, since you have to wonder if a player Pearce's age might be peaking right now, which would probably make him a mediocre major leaguer. Still, all Pearce's indicators are good: he's hitting for average and power, he isn't striking out, and he's even showing some athleticism, stealing five bases since his promotion. I bet he has a future, and I'd be willing to deal Nady or LaRoche to find out. Besides, even if he doesn't, Ryan Doumit is a decent contingency plan.
Elsewhere, Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker have played badly since being promoted, and Brian Bixler has faded more and more as the second half has gone along. Brian Rogers has been very good in August, but there isn't much pitching help on the way.
Class AA Altoona: With the promotions of McCutchen and Walker, there isn't much of interest here. Corner guy Jason Delaney has been merely okay in AA, hitting .267/.374/.416, since blowing through the Carolina League in April through June; he's already 24, so he'll need to have a strong start in 2008 to show he has a future. Outfielder Brad Corley and reliever Pat Bresnehan were recently sent to Altoona as part of Dave Littlefield's plan to promote everyone who's even played passably so that no one will notice that the minor league system is a mess. But Corley struck out seven times as much as he walked at Lynchburg, and Bresnehan walked 32 batters in 63 innings. You're not fooling me, Dave.
Oh, and the Pirates promoted Olivo Astacio from Hickory, where he'd pitched well, to Lynchburg, then sent him to Altoona even though he'd gotten bombed in Lynchburg. Astacio's just young enough to be a prospect, so jerking him around isn't going to help. Put him in the Corley-Bresnehan category, too.
Class A+ Lynchburg: Urgh. Shelby Ford hit the DL in July, just as he was starting to pound Carolina League pitching. Jamie Romak is still the intriguing enigma he was at the beginning of the season - the walks (55 in 294 at bats) are off the charts, and the power (37 extra-base hits) is great, but he really should be posting a higher batting average than .252.
The pitching staff is a complete wasteland. The one guy I was really excited about, Jose Diaz, has completely come apart. Strange thing: the Pirates let Diaz pitch 4.2 innings on August 18, then had him throw 4.1 innings more the next day. Why would you let a 20-year-old pitching prospect do that? I have no idea. They seem to be using Diaz, one of their few age-appropriate players, as a swingman - isn't that what the entire rest of their roster is for?
Class A Hickory: Anthony Watson, picked in the ninth round of this year's draft, was promoted about a week ago and has pitched very well so far, striking out fifteen batters in ten innings. He's one to watch closely. After that, this is bad, really bad. Jared Keel has taken a dive in August, and after that, I've got nothing. Charles Benoit? Alex Presley? (Cricket sounds)
Class A- State College: Second-round pick Duke Welker is back up and running. Several players on this team might one day be interesting: outfielder Justin Byler is hitting .372 in August and has a .928 OPS overall; catcher Andrew Walker, the Pirates 2007 5th-round pick, has hit pretty well, and Marcus Davis has shown good power and speed, as well as good overall numbers for a player who didn't have good coaching in college.
There aren't many pitchers besides Welker who look much like prospects, but there are a couple putting up absurd numbers - 23-year-old Adam Simon has struck out 41 batters in 26 innings, and 22-year-old Nicolas Suero has walked two batters in 77.7 innings. Two! Unfortunately, he's only struck out 43.
By the way, Daniel Moskos pitched yesterday and got pelted again. This isn't good.
Rookie League Bradenton: It's hard to know what to say here, since there aren't any obvious hotshot prospects. There are a ton of guys with huge OPSes, but most are far too old for their levels. There aren't a lot of pitchers who jump out either, although Kyle McPherson, who's only 19 and won the last game of the season, could be worth watching.