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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Pre-Season Prospects in Review

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Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

1) Zach Duke, LHP
Pitched brilliantly after promotion to Pirates, 8-2, 1.81 in 14 starts. 58/23 K/BB in 85 innings isn't awesome, but he keeps the ball down so well and throws strikes that he's been very effective thus far. Some pullback is likely, but Duke should remain effective as long as his arm holds up. The pitcher than Burnett was supposed to be.

2) Ian Snell, RHP
11-3, 3.70 in 18 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis, 104/23 K/BB in 112 innings. Still a solid strike-throwing, power-pitching prospect.

3) Neil Walker, C
Hit .301/.332/.452 with 33 doubles, 12 homers for Class A Hickory. Also a solid prospect, has lived up to expectations so far.

4) Tom Gorzelanny, LHP
8-5, 3.26 in 23 starts for Double-A Altoona, 124/46 K/BB in 130 innings. Doesn't get as much attention as he deserves, but he has a good southpaw arm and has made large improvements with his command.

5) John VanBenschoten, RHP
Torn labrum. Expected to be healthy in '06.

6) Nate McLouth, OF
Hit .257/.305/.450 in 41 games for the Pirates, hitting for more power than expected, but showing less speed and weaker on-base skills than in the minors. If he can combine both aspects he will be a very effective player.

7) Matt Peterson, RHP
Went 11-9 for Altoona, but with an ugly 5.51 ERA and an 87/74 K/BB in 144 innings. Has a good arm but command is a major problem and will prevent him from succeeding unless it changes dramatically.

8) Rajai Davis, OF
Hit .281/.351/.369 with 45 steals for Altoona. I think he could be a good bench outfielder due to speed, glove, and adequate on-base skills.

9) Kyle Bloom, LHP
Brilliant at Class A Hickory (1.87 ERA in 12 starts), but hammered for Class A Lynchburg (5.86 ERA in 12 starts) due to serious control problems at the higher level (43 walks in 63 innings with just 34 strikeouts). Doesn't throw hard enough to get away with K/BB like that.

10) Brad Eldred, 1B
Slugged 12 homers in 55 games after promotion to Pittsburgh, but hit just .221 and struck out 77 times in 190 at-bats. Numbers tell the story: great power, but major problems with contact.

11) Paul Maholm, LHP
Pitched well for Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, then went 3-1, 2.18 in six starts for the Pirates. Standard command-control lefty, has to be sharp to survive but usually is. Best news is full recovery from injury-plagued bad luck '04 season.

12) Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Hit .291/.336/.400 for the Pirates. Performance was exactly in line with expectations generated during his minor league career.

13) Wardell Starling, RHP
10-10, 5.22 in 28 starts for Lynchburg, 102/55 K/BB in 153 innings, 168 hits allowed. I thought he was a sleeper a couple of years ago, but his ratios are deteriorating, not improving, and he has not matured emotionally.

14) Bobby Bradley, RHP
Released after allowing 23 runs in 12 innings for Indianapolis.

15) Jeff Miller, RHP
3.53 ERA for Indianapolis, 62/27 K/BB in 82 innings. Looking for a middle relief role somewhere.

16) Ronny Paulino, C
Hit .315/.372/.538 with 13 homers in 77 games for Indianapolis. He has enough power to definitely be useful at the major league level.

17) Joe Bauserman, RHP
Pitched well in short-season ball, going 6-2, 2.84 for Williamsport in the New York-Penn League. Should move up to full-season competition in '06. K/IP is not impressive so he isn't a sure thing just yet.

18) Eric Ridener, RHP
Didn't pitch this year due to nagging injuries but expected to be healthy in '06.

19) Bryan Bullington, RHP
Rebounded by going 9-5, 3.38 in 18 starts in Triple-A, reestablishing prospect status. Shoulder problems will sideline him early in '06.

20) Josh Sharpless, RHP
Sleeper prospect, fanned 59 with just 14 walks in 36 innings between Lynchburg and Altoona. Throws hard and has improved his command. Elbow injury supposedly OK.

There are some sleepers in this farm system, and I think it's in better condition than a lot of people think.