That wasn't the only good sign. The Pirates system finished with a combined .528 winning percentage, good for eighth among all Major League teams. The Altoona Curve won their first Eastern Legaue title while the Bradenton Marauders made the Florida State League playoffs in their first year in the Class A Advanced League.
The Pirates continued to spend aggressively in the Draft and on the international front, with young, high-ceiling pitching continuing to be a focus. That kind of help might take longer to help turn things around in Pittsburgh, but while, numbers-wise, it may not look like some of the high school arms from the 2009 Draft accomplished much in their first crack at pro ball, Stark sees things a bit differently.
"As we look at young guys like that, who had never faced adversity, we welcomed that opportunity," Stark said of sending many to State College in the New York-Penn League. "There are things we could've done to help them put up bigger numbers, but that would have short-changed them. These are guys who grew up as men and as pitchers."
Organizational Players of the Year
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Starling Marte, OF: He made a splash in his United States debut in 2009, and the hope was that he'd continue in his first full season state-side. He certainly wasn't bad, hitting .319/.386/.460 with 26 steals, nearly all with Class A Advanced Bradenton at age 21. But he only played in 68 total games because of a broken hamate bone that required surgery.
Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP: The thinking was to go with one of the high school arms the Pirates took in the 2009 Draft. Von Rosenberg was thought to be advanced enough to have success right away in his debut season, and he wasn't bad, with a 3.20 ERA in 13 New York-Penn League starts. But ZVR's .267 batting average against and low strikeout rate (39 in 59 IP) means someone else gets the honor.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
Alex Presley, OF: The 2006 draftee looked more like an organizational type, a guy who spent two seasons in Class A Advanced ball in 2008-09. But something clicked for the outfielder, starting with a .350/.399/.533 line in 67 games with Double-A Altoona. He kept hitting in Triple-A to finish with a combined .320/.373/.494 mark and his first big league callup. He led the organization in hitting and finished fourth with 85 RBIs.
Rudy Owens, LHP: The preview read that it was hard not to go with Owens, who won this honor in 2009. Guess that hunch should've been followed. The lefty moved up to Double-A and promptly led the organization in ERA (2.46) and wins (tied with 12) and finished third in strikeouts (132). The 22-year-old held Eastern League hitters to a .226 average.