Like the hitting prospects, there have been plenty of injuries to pitching prospects in 2010. Donnie Veal is out for the year with Tommy John surgery, Quinton Miller, Victor Black, and Brett Lorin have missed big chunks of time with injuries, and Billy Cain has been held back a bit by back trouble. Besides Cain’s injury (which is mitigated by the fact that he wouldn’t have started pitching until June anyways, so essentially it sent him to GCL Bradenton instead of State College), none of these injuries are good news.
That doesn’t mean there’s no good pitching news from the minor leagues in 2010. After a couple of years in prospect limbo, Bryan Morris has come back with a vengeance this year. He dominated the Florida State League before his promotion to Altoona, where he’s been very solid as well despite a bit of a bump in ERA. His strikeouts are doubled from last year’s numbers, his walks are down, and he’s still getting a ton of ground balls. I’d love to see him in Indy before the season ends, but he’s already made a big leap forward this year. The same goes for Jeff Locke, who recently joined Morris in Altoona. Locke struggled with his control in the Braves’ system last year, then lost some strikeouts with the Pirates as he worked on his control. This year in FSL Bradenton he’s striking out nearly a batter an inning with his lowest walk rate since rookie ball.
Rudy Owens was waiting in Altoona for Morris and Locke after coming out of nowhere and blitzing through West Virginia and Lynchburg last year. His strikeouts aren’t quite as impressive at Double-A this year (7.4/9, down from 8.2 last year), but his groundballs are way, way up. And Justin Wilson’s in Altoona, too, and he’s been elecritc since a rough start. Having a quartet like Locke, Morris, Wilson, and Owens in Double-A is really good news for the Pirates, who obviously need some pitching help.
The good news extends even beyond that. Nathan Adcock, aquired in the Jack Wilson trade, is pitching well in Bradenton after a rough 2009 in High-A with High Desert and Lynchburg, while Brett Lorin (the pitcher from that trade I was most excited about) is finally getting some game action after missing the early part of the season with back problems. And finally, last year’s high schoolers (Cain, Trent Stevenson, Brooks Pounders, Zach Von Rosenberg and Zack Dodson) are all starting to see some game action. They’re in the low levels of the system where the Pirates stress a lot of things that don’t produce impressive results, but at least they’re all starting their Pirate careers.
Perhaps my favorite part of this is the number of times I got to type, “This guy’s really taken a step forward since …” Besides the injuries, which are unfortunate, there are really some pitchers that have made big strides under Huntington and Stark in the last two years. Tim Alderson is a noticeable exception there, but as I note on his page I think you can say that he maybe hasn’t taken as big a step back as people think under the Pirates tutelage. In any case, the depth on this list is already incredible given where the Pirates were just two years ago, and it’s going to explode if the Pirates sign some of the guys from last year’s draft. Given the way the current front office has brought some of these other guys along, well, I’m really excited about the pitching in the Pirates’ system and I can’t remember the last time I could honestly say that.
Same caveat applies here as to the hitters; the rankings are my subjective weighting of potential vs. closeness to majors and I honestly don’t have a ton of confidence in that kind of thing at the moment. A much fuller rundown for each guy is at the link.