Baseball America released their top 20 prospects from the 2010 International League (scouting reports for subscribers here). Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln, and Jose Tabata made the list for the Pirates. Alvarez came in at number eight, Lincoln came in 15th, and Tabata followed at number 16.
Obviously none of these players qualify as prospects anymore, although Baseball America uses this list to show who the best prospects were throughout the season, and all three players were prospects in their time in the International League. This list is a good method to compare top prospects who have graduated to the majors against top prospects who are still in the minors. It also provides a good look at the true potential of players, without being crowded by their rookie numbers in the majors.
A prime example of that is the case with Alvarez. Alvarez finished behind Carlos Santana, Jeremy Hellickson, Aroldis Chapman, Jesus Montero, Freddie Freeman, Zach Britton, and Desmond Jennings. He didn’t have the best debut in the majors, but to be ranked with that group of prospects says a lot about his potential. At worst, I can see Alvarez turning in to an Adam Dunn type player. If he improves his strikeout numbers and in turn improves his hitting skills, I could see him being a star player on the level of a Prince Fielder. It’s pretty much a consensus that Alvarez will eventually move to first base, although he should remain at third for at least the next year or two.
Lincoln over Tabata was interesting, considering Lincoln was the only rookie to totally disappoint for the Pirates this season, while Tabata had an impressive debut. Lincoln has a 92-95 MPH fastball, as well as a big breaking curveball. He struggled in his debut, partly due to a mechanics change that went wrong. Lincoln returned to the majors at the end of the season and seemed to have a much better result, although his appearances were limited. The thing he needs to work on is his changeup. He could contend for a rotation spot next Spring, but he might be better off spending a little bit of time in AAA to make sure he’s fully rebounded from his issues this summer.
Tabata had a great debut, which I detailed in my 2010 left field recap. His debut lived up to his hype, with strong hitting skills, above-average speed, and strong defense in left field. Baseball America noted Tabata needs to work on improving his power, as well as making adjustments against left handers. Tabata hits for a lot of extra bases, but could afford to boost his home run totals due to playing in left field. If he maintains his hitting, he would only need 15 home run power to provide the Pirates with the value they need, since they’re already getting above-average power from Andrew McCutchen in center field, and Neil Walker at second base.
Speaking of Walker, he didn’t make the list, despite his strong season in the International League, and even stronger debut in the majors. Walker was nowhere near a top prospect coming in to the season, as he was seen as a future utility player. His rebound at the plate this year was enough to make him the everyday starter at second base in Pittsburgh, where he was a big success. I didn’t expect him to make this list, but it will be interesting to see what the long term opinion is of him in the Baseball America chat later today.