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Way Under the Radar

Despite the new top prospects lists that have been published recently, I haven't had enough fun, so here's a post for the serious minor league dorks about minor leaguers I haven't seen on any top prospects lists this year, but who might be worth watching anyway.

Here's a list of way-under-the-radar players who stand some theoretical chance of breaking out and being relevant after the season's over. I say "theoretical" here because the Pirates still don't have a very deep farm system and will probably again spend lavishly on the draft, so open spots on top prospect lists are likely to be filled by new acquisitions and not players who are already in the system. But still: Ronald Uviedo came from virtually nowhere to be protected on the 40-man roster after the season, and Jeff Sues finally emerged from injury oblivion and wound up protected too. Also, a number of recent Latin American signees--including some actual, interesting ones, of the sort we haven't seen in a long time--will make their stateside minor league debuts in 2009, and some could emerge as prospects. I've only listed Latin players who stand a decent chance of playing in the U.S. minor leagues this year, which means that 2008's top signees aren't included.

Starling Marte, CF, 10/9/88: Marte was the DSL MVP last season, and Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo loves him. He has good power, and his body has filled out as he has aged. Expect to see him at Bradenton this year.

Elicier Navarro, LHP, 10/26/87: The small lefty put up insane numbers in the DSL last year. Baseball America's Ben Badler had his eye on Navarro even before that. He doesn't throw terribly hard yet, but he does have three pitches.

Andres Santos, LHP, 11/8/86: Santos was one of the young Latin American players the Pirates grabbed in the minor league Rule 5 draft. The Yankees signed him years ago for $300,000, and he put up great numbers in the DSL last year, mostly as a starter. The other two players the Pirates picked in that draft, Gerardo Esparza and Rafael Quintero, are also worth watching.

Brandon Holden, RHP, 1/1/88: Holden was highly regarded coming out of a Florida high school before the 2006 draft, but he fell to the 13th round due to injury problems. He was awful in his pro debut in 2007, but he walked only five batters in 30 innings at Bradenton in 2008. It's too early to give up on him.

Chris Aure, LHP, 10/13/89: Aure held his own in the GCL last year, which doesn't sound like much, but it's actually pretty impressive given that his previous team was the North Pole High School Patriots. North Pole is outside Fairbanks, Alaska, so he did quite well against players who presumably have much more experience. The Pirates will probably move him slowly, so perhaps he'll be at State College this year.

Harrison Bishop, RHP, 8/17/84: Bishop has never been a heralded prospect, but he pitched well as a reliever for Hickory in 2008, then followed that up with a good performance in Hawaii Winter Ball. That the Pirates sent him to Hawaii at all probably says something.  

Andrew Walker, C, 1/22/86: The '07 fifth-rounder had a good debut at State College in 2007, then fell off the map in 2008. He hit very well in April and June, though; the problem was that he was absolutely awful for about a week's worth of at-bats in July before being shut down with an ankle problem. WTM saw him in July before he vanished for the year, and reported that the ankle was affecting Walker's play. Depending on how much his 2008 stats were affected by the ankle problem, there may still be upside here.

Rogelios Noris, LF, 3/12/89: The Mexican outfielder has had two consecutive good years in the VSL, showing good power and decent plate discipline both years. The Pirates like him and he'll almost certainly play stateside in 2009.