April Prospects Rundown: Indianapolis Indians

The Indianapolis Indians had an interesting month.  Three of the top prospects in the farm system, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Brad Lincoln, were expected to be the best players.  Instead, Steve Pearce and Neil Walker, two players who have seen multiple seasons at the AAA level, started the year with breakout performances.  The starting rotation hasn’t seen any regularity since the beginning of the season, due to the injury and performance issues in Pittsburgh.  The bullpen, made up of non-roster invitees and waiver claims, has been atrocious.

Here is a quick breakdown of the first month of the season, with players who played up to expectations, some surprises, and some disappointments.

Good as Advertised

Jose TabataTabata was on fire in the mont of April, with a .308/.370/.429 line in 91 at-bats, with two homers, and nine stolen bases.  The .429 slugging percentage isn’t much, but it’s an improvement over the .404 line in Altoona last year, and the .410 line in Indianapolis.

Steve Pearce - There’s no question that Pearce is good at the AAA level.  In over 850 at-bats, he has a .282/.354/.482 line.  However, Pearce has been on fire this year, with a .367/.474/.633 line in the month of April, including a 13:16 K/BB ratio in 79 at-bats.  The performance could get Pearce a promotion before this week is over.

Justin Thomas - Thomas has only pitched in five games, going ten innings, but has been excellent in that time.  He has a 2.70 ERA, an 11:1 K/BB ratio, and one home run allowed.  Thomas is left handed, and could end up in the majors at some point this season.

The Big Surprises

Neil Walker - Coming in to the season, Walker had a career on-base percentage below .300 at the AAA level.  Walker hit for a .321/.396/.524 line in the month of April, with a 13:11 K/BB ratio in 84 at-bats.  Walker also homered three times and stole seven bases.  Walker has also played at first, second, and third base, plus left field.

Donald Veal - How many people saw Veal’s April performance from the starting rotation coming?  Veal put up a 3.22 ERA in four starts, spanning 22.1 innings, with a 14:9 K/BB ratio.  The 3.6 BB/9 ratio represents a big improvement for Veal, although he had some control trouble in his most recent start on May first.  Veal is on the short list of starting pitching prospects in the upper levels, and could end up in the majors this season if the Pirates’ rotation woes continue.

Luke Carlin - Carlin was expected to be the backup catcher to Erik Kratz, but has actually received more at-bats this season, and has been excellent in those at-bats.  Carlin had a .378/.451/.511 line in 45 at-bats in the month of April.  In 2009 he hit for a .321/.430/.481 line at the AAA level, although that was in the PCL.  Carlin won’t keep this level of performance up, but something around his 2009 numbers would be excellent.

Kind of Disappointing

Pedro Alvarez - I’m not worried about the slow start by Pedro Alvarez, for all of the reasons I listed this past week.  However, you can’t deny that his April numbers (.224/.298/.424 in 85 at-bats) weren’t ideal.  This is the first time Alvarez has seen AAA pitching, and he’s already showing signs of breaking out of his early season slump in the last few days.

Brandon Moss - Not only did Moss struggle at the major league level last year, he’s also struggling at the AAA level.  Moss hit for a .224/.288/.343 line in 67 at-bats in the month of April.  He’s quickly falling further and further down the outfield depth charts.

Brad Lincoln - Lincoln’s season hasn’t been extremely disappointing, but he’s not putting up the numbers you’d want from your top pitching prospect, especially since he’s already seen the AAA level before.  Lincoln has a 4.76 ERA in 28.3 innings of work.  The big concern is that he’s not striking out many, with a 5.7 K/9 ratio.  His walks are low, and his .269 BAA is decent, but he won’t be much more than a number three starter at best if he doesn’t improve the strikeout numbers.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Lee Young

    ” It seems that 36.2 innings is a few starts short of an expected promotion.”

    That almost sounded like one of those “few fries short of a Happy Meal” type comments.

    :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

    I’m pretty sure the charge w/ more merit is how the Pirates handle their Pitchers and their innings limit during the games. For instance, I’ve read K-Law and Sickel (the former negatively, the latter positively) write about the ‘kid gloves’ treatment that the Pirates have used w/ Taillon. They aren’t saying that he should be promoted or that the Pirates are being too conservative w/ his placement, they are saying that pitching 3 innings at a time (in his first year) didn’t give him the benefit of facing hitters a second time through the lineup. I happen to agree w/ the Pirates approach but thought this criticism is more prevalent and has a more sound argument (though not one I agree w/ per se).

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      That is a different argument. The Pirates aren’t the only team that does this. Look at Dylan Bundy. For all of the hype that has surrounded him and his incredible start in low-A, he’s pitched 3-4 innings per start.

  • john.alcorn

    Tim, there was a study on this subject on Baseball Prospectus looking at a 5 year span. If I remember correctly, the Pirates were one of the quickest teams promoting pitchers and one of the slowest with hitters, Of course this was a year or two ago and covered the current and DL regime.

    Ha found it – 2005 to 2009

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13018