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The Minor League Season Winds Down

The Post-Gazette recaps the Pirates' minor league season. If I tried to recap the minor league season myself I'd probably wind up repeating a lot of stuff I wrote a couple weeks ago in my prospects list, so I won't, but I'd like to react to a few tidbits from the Post-Gazette's article.

-P- At least for part of the year, Pirates minor league pitchers weren't allowed to throw sinkers, in the hopes of having them work on commanding their fastballs instead. At some point, the Pirates relented and allowed sinkers. The article names groundballing Lynchburg pitcher Michael Crotta as an example of a pitcher who was affected by this policy. It would be interesting to know when exactly the policy was changed. Crotta had a 5.88 ERA and about a 2.5:1 K:BB ratio before the break; after, his ERA was 3.65 and his K:BB was nearly 7:1. He also only allowed one homer after the break. It appears Crotta may be a better prospect than his overall stats make him look. 

-P- Neil Walker was named Indianapolis' MVP? Yikes. He had a horrible season. I guess it's mostly just counting stats and the turnover on the roster: he led the team in RBIs, and any pitcher who was half decent got called up before too long. So it looks like Walker got the award almost by default. Andrew McCutchen was far better, though.

-P- Finally, there's this:

Still, it probably speaks loudest about the state of the system that management sounds most excited about the teenagers all the way down the ladder in Bradenton, a group that represents the first real infusion of Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo's prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

"We see players there who have a chance to contribute in Pittsburgh," Stark said.

There are only a handful of teenagers actually in Bradenton (and anyone older than that and playing at so low a level probably isn't much of a prospect, anyway). Here are the most interesting ones, so that you'll know who the Pirates are so excited about:

Chris Aure, 18: Alaskan pitcher selected in the 15th round of the 2008 draft. Decent stats at Bradenton, which is no mean feat coming straight from high school and a region that's far from baseball-rich.

Nelson Pereira, 19: A short starting pitcher from El Salvador who posted a 1.62 ERA in 50 innings. He's definitely worth watching.

Andury Acevedo, 18. The infielder struggled badly this year, but he just turned 18 and made it to the GCL in 2007 as a 16-year-old. He has plenty of time, and it's no surprise he'd encounter speed bumps as a 17-year-old.

Jarek Cunningham, 18. Third baseman from Washington state, selected in the 18th round of the 2008 draft. He looks like a great find so far. He put up a fantastic offensive performance at Bradenton, and it doesn't look particularly fluky. He hit for average, showed pretty good strike zone command, and had 17 extra-base hits in 148 at bats. That includes five homers, which is very impressive for a player so young. 

Benji Gonzalez, 18. Didn't hit much but still managed a .331 OBP and handled most of the time at shortstop. Gonzalez was the Bucs' 7th-round pick in the 2008 draft. There were questions about his hitting when he was selected, and this performance did little to quell them, but he probably did well enough to move up a level next year.

Other teenage prospects at Bradenton include Robbie Grossman and Wesley Freeman, who both signed too late to play a whole lot. 

Only two of these guys--Pereira and Acevedo--are Latin American signings, so I'm not sure how much Rene Gayo has to do with the talent at Bradenton, most of which was assembled in the draft. Maybe the Pirates are just really excited about those two players.