By John Perrotto
The Pirates’ Class AAA Indianapolis farm club has three big-time prospects in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln. Class AA Altoona, on the other hand, is thin on potential major-leaguers.
Three scouts who have watched Altoona in recent weeks could not unanimously agree on one player who they felt could eventually make a major impact in Pittsburgh. The closest they came was with shortstop Chase d’Arnaud, though he is hitting just .211 in 28 games.
Two of the three scouts feel d’Arnaud could be a starting shortstop in the major-league while the third says that could happen but ultimately projects him as a utility infielder.
“This kid doesn’t immediately knock your socks off when you see him but I’m really starting to like him,” said one scout who was pro-d’Arnaud. “He doesn’t have one great tool but he’s a pretty good athlete with pretty good speed and pretty good range. I don’t know if he will necessarily be an All-Star in the major leagues but he will definitely be able to play shortstop every day at that level and be solid.”
Said the dissenter: “He would be exposed by major-league pitching if he got 500 at-bats in a season. I think he’d be a good player off the bench, though. You could play him all over the infield and he’d hit a little bit and steal you a few bases.”
All three scouts project Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer as utility infielders in the majors, Harrison being most useful as a guy who can get on base and Mercer providing pop off the bench.
The three scouts are also unified in their belief that center fielder Gorkys Hernandez isn’t good enough to start in the major leagues. “He can fly but he just doesn’t hit enough and, frankly, I don’t see that changing. He’s repeating Double-A this year and the bat is regressing.”
The pitcher the scouts have been most impressed with is left-handed Danny Moskos who had been a major bust since being the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2007. Moved into the closer’s role this season, Moskos is thriving.
“He’s not going to close in the majors but I’m starting to think he could be a pretty decent set-up guy,” one scout said. “His fastball and slider both have more life now, like they did when he was in college at Clemson. I think he’s going to have at least some kind of a big-league career after all.”
The scouts feel left-hander Rudy Owens will be a No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the major leagues.
“He’ll be like Zach Duke or Paul Maholm, not an ace but a guy who will usually be reliable every fifth day,” one scout said. “The one thing he has going for him is that he can eat left-handed hitters up with his curveball.”
Two of three scouts also think right-hander Jared Hughes could wind up as a starter at the back end of a major-league rotation, with one saying, “he’s sort of like Owens from the right side with his good curveball.”
Right-hander reliever Ronald Uviedo projects as a possible major-league middle reliever in each of the scouts’ eyes and all were in agreement that right-hander Tim Alderson is not the same pitcher who was considered one of the top prospects in baseball before the Pirates acquired him from San Francisco in a trade for Freddy Sanchez last July.
“Alderson is only throwing about 83 mph and his curveball is just a looper without any bite,” one scout said. “I don’t know what’s happened to this kid. Is he hurt and hiding it? Is it a mechanical thing? It’s the $64,000 question.”