All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects for 2011
1) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Grade B+: This grade is actually conservative; if he lives up to full potential it will be an A- or even an A soon enough. Future number one starter if all goes according to plan.
2) Stetson Allie, RHP, Grade B: Like Taillon, this is a conservative grade until we see him in action. Number one starter potential, or perhaps a power closer.
3) Tony Sanchez, C, Grade B: If injuries don't get in the way, I still expect him to be a very good starting major league catcher.
4) Rudy Owens, LHP, Grade B: Harder to be skeptical now with a strong Double-A season under his belt. Looks like a future number three starter.
5) Luis Heredia, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Very hard to rank international players with great scouting reports but nothing objective to go on. Reports indicate future number one starter potential, but a long way away. Remember Michael Ynoa.
6) Jeff Locke, LHP, Grade B-: Like Owens, a number three or four starter though I don't like Locke quite as much.
7) Diego Moreno, RHP, Grade B-: Few relievers offer this combination of velocity and control, but scouts wonder if his breaking stuff is good enough for him to close.
8) Zach "The Junker" Von Rosenberg, RHP, Grade B-: Although I don't like the low strikeout rate in the NY-P, I buy into his projectability.
9) Justin Wilson, LHP, Grade B-: I seem to like him more than other people do, although he does need to lower his walk rate.
10) Starling Marte, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Can hit for average, dangerous on the bases, but lack of strike zone judgment and home run power are issues.
11) Bryan Morris, RHP, Grade C+: I don't like him as much as other people do. He looks like a number four starter to me, and I prefer the southpaw candidates.
12) Colton Cain, LHP, Grade C+: Very projectable, still learning what he's doing, grade could rise easily this year.
13) Brock Holt, INF, Grade C+: Played great before he got hurt. One of several future 2B-SS utility types in the system.
14) Nick Kingham, RHP, Grade C+: Projectable right-hander out of high school in Nevada, looks like a breakthrough possibility this year or next.
15) Tony Watson, LHP, Grade C+: Overshadowed by the other pitchability lefties but could sneak into majors in '11 and surprise people.
16) Evan Chambers, OF, Grade C: Short, but athletic and strong, draws tons of walks, if anything is too passive. If he can add a bit more aggressiveness to his approach, could break out big.
17) Zach Dodson, LHP, Grade C: Another young but raw pitcher with good projection.
18) Gorkys Hernandez, OF, Grade C: Great glove, but bat is stagnant.
19) Mel Rojas, Jr., OF, Grade C: Great tools, couldn't hit in the New York-Penn League.
20) Chase d'Arnaud, SS, Grade C: Double-A season brought mixed results, still has a chance to be more than a utility player.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Tim Alderson, RHP; Eric Avila, 3B; Nate Baker, LHP; Jorge Bishop, 2B; Victor Black, RHP; Exicardo Cayonez, OF; Jarek Cunningham, 2B; Matt Curry, 1B; Brian Friday, INF; Robbie Grossman, OF; Josh Harrison, INF; Phil Irwin, RHP; Andrew Lambo, OF; Quincy Latimore, OF; Kyle McPherson, RHP; Jordy Mercer, INF; Quinton Miller, RHP; Daniel Moskos, LHP; Alex Presley, OF; Trent Stevenson, RHP.
While there is a lot of Grade C+/C in this system, I like the trends here and I think they are on the right track.
Pitching is the focus: there is a foundation of an excellent pitching staff here, with Taillon, Allie, and Heredia all potential aces and a large number of guys who project as number three or four starters behind them. Of course, some (many) of these guys will get hurt or not pan out, but gathering as many arms as possible is a viable strategy that should pay dividends.
Hitting is a different matter. There are no surefire stars here. Sanchez should be solid, but after him you have some high risk tools guys, mixed in with future role players. They have a lot of options for future utility infielders.
Overall, the system could use more hitting but I like what they are doing on the pitching side.