The Pittsburgh Pirates made a ton of minor league moves in the last day, promoting two of their top prospects, with plans to promote several other players who are performing well. Here is a run-down of all the moves:
Pedro Alvarez to AA: This move is kind of a bummer, as I’m no longer an hour away from seeing the top prospect in the Pirates’ system. That’s especially the case when I had plans to go with my Dad to see Lynchburg twice in the next two weeks. Hopefully we can see one of their top pitching prospects.
Alvarez doesn’t have the best looking numbers on the season. He’s only batting .247 and has 70 strikeouts in 243 at bats. However, he has 14 home runs and a .342 OBP, which is solid considering the poor average.
If you look at the monthly splits for Alvarez, you will see that he started off slow in April, with a .219/.341/.397 line. In May he started to heat up a bit with a .262/.347/.505 line. In June he hit for a .254/.333/.552 line. The average isn’t what you want from your top prospect in A+ ball, but the steady climb in OPS each month was encouraging.
One theory on the problem with Alvarez was that he wasn’t seeing good pitches in A-ball, and was swinging at bad stuff. You could go two ways with this. One way is to suggest that the talent level is better in AA, which means he will be seeing better pitches. Another way to look at this is that the AA pitchers will throw him junk, knowing he will get impatient and swing. I guess we will find out which theory is correct. One thing we do know, based on his home run totals, is that if they throw him a mistake pitch, he’s going to crush it.
Brad Lincoln to AAA: Lincoln started off the year slow with a 4.26 ERA in four April starts. He was on fire in May, with a 0.80 ERA in five starts, allowing just three runs in 33.2 innings pitched. The speculation began that he would be promoted, but the Pirates held off for two more starts.
That was probably smart. Although Lincoln had pitched in 11 games through the end of May, with a 1.68 ERA and an 0.87 WHIP, he had only played four different opponents. The final two starts saw Lincoln going up against someone he hadn’t played once (or twice) already this season. The result there? A 2.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 3.3 K/BB, and an 0.8 HR/9 ratio.
The Pirates promoted three more players from Lynchburg to Altoona. The first player was Dustin Molleken, a long reliever for the Hillcats. Molleken made 18 appearances, going 41.1 innings with a 3.48 ERA, .240 BAA, and a 42:8 K/BB ratio.
I’ve seen him pitch a few innings in person, and he has the frame and the stuff to be a decent bullpen arm at the least (he’s 6’4″, 228 lbs). I wouldn’t be surprised if Molleken steps in to the Altoona rotation in the spot vacated by Lincoln. He turns 25 in August, so the time is getting close for him to make it to the majors.
The second reliever was Michael Dubee, who spent some time pitching in the late innings for Lynchburg, even getting six saves. Dubee was acquired on April 17th in a trade that sent Andy Phillips to the White Sox. The trade was minor, but could be a steal considering Dubee rates as a decent prospect.
In 25 appearances this year (23 with Lynchburg), Dubee put up a 1.45 ERA in 37.1 IP, with a 53:3 K/BB ratio, a .203 BAA, and only one home run allowed. Those are some solid numbers, especially for a guy at the back end of the bullpen. Dubee turned 23 in January, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him in Indy by the end of the year, and possibly in Pittsburgh next year.
Finally, Miles Durham will be promoted later this week, after appearing in the Carolina League All-Star Game. Durham was second on the Hillcats in homers, with seven in 247 at-bats. Durham, a 6’4″, 205 pound right handed hitter, turned 26 in March. He was impressive this year, with a .296/.348/.490 line for the Hillcats.
Speculation and Rumors on Future Moves
-There have been a few rumors that West Virginia starter Rudy Owens would be promoted to Lynchburg soon. Owens threw five no-hit innings today, striking out seven and walking none. He hasn’t allowed a walk in his last five starts, spanning 33 innings, with 32 strikeouts in that time. He’s allowed no runs on five hits in 20 innings over his last three starts.
-With four players going to Altoona, and only one player (Lincoln) leaving, there is room for speculation on who else will get moved from Altoona. Some thoughts:
-Miles Durham played right field for Lynchburg. Altoona has been playing Gorkys Hernandez in right field, with Jose Tabata in center. Either Durham would move to left (with Jason Delaney possibly getting released?), or he would move to first, where Jamie Romak has been hitting .182 with five homers on the year.
-I don’t think the Pirates will promote Jose Tabata. Tabata struggled in AA in the Yankees system last year, batting .248/.319/.310 with three homers in 294 at-bats. He was on fire in Altoona, with a .348/.402/.562 line and three homers in 89 at-bats. So far this season Tabata has just one homer in 84 at-bats, with a .250/.333/.321 line. He turns 21 in August, so no need to rush him.
-There is the possibility that Gorkys Hernandez could be promoted. Gorkys is hitting .291/.337/.355 from the top of the lineup this season, although he has struggled since joining the Curve with a .189/.246/.226 line. However, he’s hitting .353/.421/.471 since Jose Tabata rejoined the team.
Altoona has been horrible all around this year, and Hernandez was beating up on the Eastern League before coming to the Pirates. I’d chalk the bad start up to Gorkys being the only bat in the lineup while Tabata was out. Easier to pitch around him when you’ve got guys like Romak hitting behind him. It’s harder when Tabata is hitting behind him. This would also leave right field open for Durham.
-With room in Lynchburg, could we see Robbie Grossman promoted from West Virginia? Grossman has a .358/.416/.494 line in 81 at-bats in the month of June. Grossman was striking out in 40 percent of his at bats in April and May. He’s shown a lot of improvement in that area, striking out in just 26 percent of his at-bats in the month of June. Alvarez was promoted with high strikeout totals, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the same from Grossman.
As if we didn’t have enough prospect updates, some updates to The Prospect Tracker:
-Jose Tabata went 0 for 2, entering the game as a pinch-hitter, and staying in right field.
-Gorkys Hernandez went 1 for 3 with a run, and was hit by a pitch.
-Daniel Moskos went five innings allowing five runs (only one earned) on seven hits, with three walks and a
-Robbie Grossman went 1 for 5 with a walk and his 22nd stolen base of the season.
-Tony Sanchez went 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts in his second game for State College.
-Rudy Owens and Quinton Miller will be added to the Prospects Tracker in the next few days. If you have any suggestions for another player to add, feel free to leave it in the comments.
-I’ve changed the level information for Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez on the Prospects Tracker.
-As mentioned above, I’ll be going to a few upcoming Lynchburg games. The first game will be on Thursday, 6/25. The second game will be on Tuesday, 6/30. I’ll be providing Twitter updates for both games. Click the link to follow me on Twitter.
The MVP Tracker
The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/20 game. Here are the big changes for the final loss of the Rockies series:
1. Paul Maholm: -.302 WPA
2. Eric Hinske: -.106
3. Jack Wilson: -.103
4. Robinzon Diaz: -.076
5. Andrew McCutchen: -.062