One of the things I say to myself that I'm going to do more of every season is follow the minor league affiliates and post updates. There are obviously blogs better than mine if you're really into this kind of information (Bucco Fans is always all over this sort of stuff), but I'm going to do my best to do minor league updates every Monday afternoon, especially when the Pirates are off on Mondays. Each team's name is a link to their stat page.
Neil Walker (.314/.429/.486 with a homer, three doubles, and perhaps most importantly seven walks in 42 plate appearances) and Steve Pearce (.375/.444/.775 with 10 of his 15 hits going for extra bases) are both killing the ball and, as Charlie notes, potential early season call-up candidates (I'd have Pearce up for Raynor in a heartbeat at this point given Pearce's actual ability to hit left-handed pitching and the fact that I'm just not sure what Raynor's purpose is at this point). Pedro Alvarez is doing what he did early last season; mashing homers and striking out a bunch. His batting average is just .233, but his four homers have his SLG up at .535. He's K'd 14 times in 48 PAs. Jose Tabata's got a nice batting average (.333), but he hasn't done much else with just two doubles and two walks drawn.
There's not much to talk about on the pitching side of things except for Brad Lincoln. He followed up a rough first start with six shutout innings in his second start. He'll go again tonight. Kevin Hart has also been decent in his last two outings, striking out nine and walking just three in 7 1/3 innings, though both starts were obviously short.
Josh Harrison, part of the Tom Gorzelanny trade, is off to a hot start with a .342 batting average. He's only drawn one walk, but the Pablo Sandoval act (high average, little to no plate patience) has been his calling card in the low minors so don't expect it to change much. Jim Negrych is also killing the ball though he's 25 now and repeating the level. Jordy Mercer is off to a decent start (.295/.395/.382) after his struggles last season. Gorkys Hernandez and Chase D'Arnaud are struggling early.
On the pitcher's side of things, Tim Alderson has a nice ERA (3.60) through two starts, but just four strikeouts in ten innings and there have been some discouraging reports about his velocity. Michael Crotta and Jared Hughes are pitching well, though they're both a bit older and have been in Double-A before. Danny Moskos is yet to allow a run in relief, though his peripherals currently aren't great.
I know it's early and the wind can be crazy in Florida at this time of year, but in general the FSL is thought of as a pitcher's league and right now this team is just killing the ball. Tony Sanchez (.379/.500/.724 with 2 homers and four doubles), Starling Marte (.375/.500/.500 with a triple, two doubles, and four stolen bases), Quincy Latimore (.364/.405/.636 with three homers), and Jeremy Farrell (.333/.421/.667 with three homers and two doubles) are all absolutely on fire. Robbie Grossman got off to a nice start and still has a solid early-season line (.294/.432/.441) but his strikeouts are starting to crop up again with seven in his last four games. 2009 draftee Brock Holt also just made his season debut in Bradenton this week, so there's a lot of players worth watching here.
On the pitching side, Bryan Morris and Nathan Adcock have both made two good starts. Jeff Locke's ERA is a bit high (5.14), but his control seems decent so far with three walks in 8 2/3 innings. All three of these guys, along with Aaron Pribanic, are worth watching. Diego Moreno is also off to an excellent start in the bullpen, with five scoreless innings, three hits allowed, 5 K's, and no walks.
Jarek Cunningham is off to a nice start in bouncing back from his injured ACL last year, as is Jesus Brito (the return for Brian Bixler). 2008 36th round pick Kyle Morgan, who's a bit old for low-A, is also hitting well. There are a bunch of other players worth watching at this level right now, like Benji Gonzalez, the 20-year old Puerto Rican shortstop taken in the seventh round in 2008, Evan Chambers, and Aaron Baker.
There's some bad news on the pitching side of things, though, with Quinton Miller coming out of his last start after just one inning wiht tendonitis in his biceps. DK says it doesn't sound serious to him, but it's worth watching. Nate Baker, last year's fifth rounder, has made two good starts for the Power so far, and Phillip Irwin, the 21st rounder, has a nice ERA in two starts, even if his peripherals aren't there yet.
Odds and Ends
Of course it's incredibly early to draw any conclusions here, but there are some encouraging signs all over the map, especially in Bradenton. Their hitters are the ones excelling so far, but their pitchers (particularly Morris, Locke, Adcock, and Pribanic) are the ones that are worth keeping an eye on. Miller's injury is worth watching, too. Hopefully it's not serious. There are a few interesting players in the upper levels of the system, but they're the ones everyone knows about. Of course it's worth keeping an eye on Alvarez's strikeouts, Tabata's power progression, Alderson's velocity, Lincoln's performances, etc., and we'll all be doing that, but the real progress in the system is still going to be measured in the lower levels.