Alderson was the only acquisition from the Giants in the Freddy Sanchez trade and it’s pretty easy to find a wide range of opinions on him. Entering last year, he was highly rated by a lot of people, but his low strikeout rate caused many scouts and prospect-types to lower their opinion of him. Still, he held his own in Double-A as a 20-year old, which is nothing to sneeze at.
That makes 2010 as something of a fork in the road for him. It seemed like he lost some velocity on his fastball towards the end of last year and some said his curveball lost some bite. That sort of thing is always discouraging to hear about a young guy, but he also saw a pretty substantial inning increase in 2008 and he may have simply run out of gas towards the end of last year. He’s still a big guy (6’6″) with very good control and a potentially great curveball, so it’s hard to relegate him to the back end of the rotation or the bullpen in my mind, just because of a questionable half-season at a young age at Double-A.
He’s likely to begin 2010 in Altoona’s rotation, which is where he finished 2009, so we should have a pretty good idea off the bat of what direction his career is going to head in.
July 2010 update: There’s a lot we could say about Alderson, the trade, etc., but let’s take a different tack here. When the Pirates acquired Alderson, most of the prospect guys (Keith Law, Kevin Goldstein, etc.) all agreed that his 2009 season was pretty disappointing and they didn’t have him ranked as high as they did at the beginning of the season. The Giants and Pirates knew that, too, which is pretty much the only way the Pirates could’ve gotten him in a trade for a guy like Freddy Sanchez. So far in 2010, Alderson has more or less pitched exactly how he did before he came to the Pirates, when whispers about his velocity and mechanics had already started.
So the Pirates have demoted him down to FSL Bradenton to try and work on some things. But that’s not the end of the world. Alderson’s still just 21, still has good control, and still knows how to pitch. Essentially, he’s a 6’6″ guy who they’re trying to work on mechanically, knowing that if they do he’ll be light years ahead of other projects. It might not work, but it still seems like a worth venture to me even after his demotion. July 2010 rank: 11
January 2011 update: Well, yikes. When the Pirates acquired Alderson, he was one of their best non-Brad Lincoln pitching prospects. In July, I had him in the middle of the pack of my prospect rankings. Now, I’ve got him down to 16 of 21 and that’s mostly because the guys behind him haven’t pitched much in their careers. Basically, all of the concerns everyone had about Alderson when we got him in 2009 came true. His strikeout rate came up a bit from where it was at the end of 2009 to just a smidge below 6.0 K/9, but that’s just not good enough and he got blasted for more than a hit an inning both in Double-A, where he started, and High-A, where he was demoted to. Without some kind of dramatic improvement (in velocity or a secondary pitch or anything), it’s just hard to see him reaching anything like what people projected for him back when he was a Giants’ prospect. January 2011 rank: 16