This will be part one of a two part installment looking at players the Pirates should target in the draft. In my first part, I will look at the three prospects, in no particular order, that I believe the Pirates should look at first. My second part will include a few under the radar second round or later picks.
Last year, Pirates management took a new approach to the draft and came out with a high quality prospect in third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Pedro has since been named, by Baseball America, the third highest prospect in baseball going into the 2009 season. What can the Pirates do to improve on the Pedro Alvarez pick to help the franchise going forward?
1. Grant Green, SS, USC. Grant was born on September 27th, 1987 and is listed at 6'3", 180 pounds. Last year at Southern Cal, Grant hit .390 with nine homers and 46 RBIs. Recently Grant has been compared to major leaguers, such as Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. As a shortstop Grant has very good range and an above average arm, but did commit 17 errors in 41 games this past summer in the Cape Cod league.
One negative to Grant is that he's a tall, skinny kid, and down the road when he figures to balk up he may lose his range at the shortstop position and require a move the third base. Another promising sign for Green is that he played this past summer in the wood bat Cape Cod league. Green, in only 161 at bats, hit .348 with six homers, 21 RBIs, stole 10 bases, .451 OBP, .547 Slugging, and a .998 OPS.
If Grant can improve this spring at USC he will have the potential to be a top pick in the draft. Will he fall to the Pirates?
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State. Stephen was born on July 20th, 1988 and is listed at 6'5", 220 pounds. Strasburg is projected to be a starting pitcher after a stellar year at San Diego State last year in which he 8-3 with a 1.57 ERA. Stats that popped out were his 133 K's in 97.1 innings, his 12.30 K/9, .136 opponent batting average, and .79 WHIP (walks & hits per inning pitched). He also pitched a pair of one and two hitters.
Stephen was also named a semifinalist for the Roger Clemens Award, as well as the Dick Howser Trophy. Over the summer of 2008 Stephen was a member of the Team USA collegiate national team that went 24-0. In seven appearances, Stephen went 4-0 and had a .88 ERA, struck out 62 and walked seven over 41 innings. In a game against Korea, he threw seven innings of no-hit ball while striking out 13 batters. He was also a member of the US Olympic team. Over in Beijing Stephen went 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA.
Stephen has often been compared to Mark Prior, excluding the health issues. Strasburg typically throws anywhere between 95 and 97 mph but has been known to hit 100 on the gun during games, which is rare among starting pitchers. Stephen also throws a great slider has good command of his pitches. He also has a lot of polish and is a great big game pitcher, which is rare for a kid with limited chances. If he falls to the Pirates, they surely can't pass this kid up.
3. Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats. Aaron was born on November 11, 1986 and is listed at 6'2" 205 pounds. Aaron is actually a 2009 draft re-entry after he failed to reach an agreement with the Washington Nationals. He then decided to sign with the Fort Worth Cats, an Independent League team.
Last year at the University of Missouri, Crow started 15 games and posted a 2.35 ERA in 107.1 innings. He threw 4 complete game shutouts and allowed only 85 hits. Crow was the 2008 Roger Clemens Award winner, mainly due to the fact that he went undefeated, 13-0, and as told above had four complete game shutouts.
Aaron, a very poised and aggressive pitcher, attacks hitters and can be an ace with any major league club. His fastball clocks as high as 97, but is typically in the low-mid 90's. His other two plus pitches are his slider and change-up. He has excellent control on his fastball, but is still working on his consistency on his other pitches.
A concern for many scouts, which is why he seemingly dropped from a potential No. 1 pick to No. 9 last year, is that he has an "odd little flip of his wrist during his windup, bringing to mind Rick Sutcliffe." A plus is that he holds his velocity deep into games, and was compared to a young AJ Burnett. Expect Aaron to be a top five pick this year, and on the Pirates radar for sure.
Expect part 2 of my article sometime tonight, and I will include a couple more 1st round potential picks. I will also look into the crystal ball and predict the top 10 picks of the 2009 MLB Amateur draft.