It’s almost the end of May, which means we’ve seen two months out of most of the prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system. We’ve already seen one promotion, with Bryan Morris going from high-A to AA, after an excellent run in high-A which saw him put up a 0.60 ERA in 44.2 innings, with a 40:7 K/BB ratio.
Two months isn’t enough time for some prospects to prove that they are ready, but it is enough time for some prospects, specifically guys like Morris who are repeating at their current level, and now showing success. Here are two players at each level who I feel deserve a promotion.
Neil Walker - Walker had struggled at the AAA level prior to this season, but those struggles have seemed to disappear. Walker is now hitting for a .323/.391/.561 line in 164 at-bats. Walker has played a lot of second base lately, and could be a replacement at the major league level for the struggling Aki Iwamura. Dejan Kovacevic reports today that change could be coming, and that could mean a Walker call-up very soon.
Brad Lincoln - Lincoln spent part of the 2009 season in AAA, and now seems to be ready to move on, especially with his recent outings in the month of May. Through four starts this month, Lincoln has a 2.79 ERA and a 24:3 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. I wrote this weekend that I could see him making his first start on June 2nd, at home against the Chicago Cubs.
Honorable Mentions - Pedro Alvarez is doing well in the month of May, with a .288/.391/.603 line, and five homers in 73 at-bats. His strikeouts are down to a respectable level, and his walk ratio is up. Still, Alvarez really struggled in the month of April, and might need a few more weeks to show that his recent success is legit. Jose Tabata is hitting for a .320/.379/.426 line this season, and certainly deserves a call-up. The only problem is that Tabata could be more than just a top of the order hitter, and might need some more time at AAA to develop some power.
Daniel Moskos - Moskos spent the entire 2009 season in the Altoona rotation, with a 3.74 ERA, but also with a 4.7 K/9 and a 3.5 BB/9 ratio. Since moving to the bullpen full time this year, Moskos has improved to a 1.31 ERA, an 8.7 K/9, and has maintained his 3.5 BB/9 ratio. Moskos was sitting in the 87-91 MPH range when I saw him on April 13th, although recent reports have him in the 90-95 MPH range. After almost 170 innings at the AA level, it’s time to see if he can carry this relief success to the next level.
Jared Hughes - There are guys in the Altoona rotation who are better prospects than Hughes, and who are also having success, but promoting Hughes serves two purposes. First, it creates space for guys who should be promoted from the high-A level. Second, it gives the other guys in the Altoona rotation some extra time at the level to develop. Hughes has a 3.45 ERA in 47 innings, with a 7.1 K/9, and a 2.9 BB/9 ratio. That’s almost identical to his 2009 numbers at the level. I could see him moving up to replace Brad Lincoln when Lincoln gets the call to the majors.
Honorable Mentions - Justin Wilson has been on fire lately, with a 1.63 ERA in the month of May, and a 31:11 K/BB ratio in 27.2 innings during that time span. If Wilson keeps this up, I could see him in Indianapolis by the end of June, and maybe even by mid-June if we see more starts like the one we saw from him yesterday. Ronald Uviedo has been strong in relief in Altoona this year, with a 2.79 ERA in 19.1 innings, plus an 11.6 K/9 and a 4.2 BB/9. Uviedo needs to cut down on the walks, but his strong strikeout numbers certainly make up for the free passes. I could see him up in AAA by the end of June, especially if his walk ratio decreases.
Nathan Adcock - After yesterday’s start, Adcock has a 2.50 ERA this season in high-A, with a 54:9 K/BB ratio in 50.1 innings. Adcock spent the entire 2009 season in high-A, with a combined 5.29 ERA, a 6.1 K/9, and a 4.4 BB/9 ratio in 126 innings between the Seattle and Pittsburgh farm systems. Like Bryan Morris, it appears that Adcock has figured out the level, which means it’s time for him to move to Altoona.
Jeff Locke - Like Adcock and Morris, Locke struggled in high-A in 2009, but seems to have put things together in 2010. In 2009, Locke combined for a 4.59 ERA, a 7.0 K/9 ratio, and a 3.1 BB/9 ratio in 127.1 innings between the Atlanta and Pittsburgh farm systems. So far this year he has a 2.72 ERA, a 7.8 K/9, and a 1.6 BB/9 ratio in 46.1 innings.
Honorable Mentions - Diego Moreno definitely needs to be called up. Moreno has been dominant this season in relief, with a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings, and an amazing 39:2 K/BB ratio. Tony Sanchez started off the season with a .348/.476/.606 line in the month of April, but has since cooled, with a .250/.341/.316 line in the month of May. Part of that could be due to his shoulder injury at the end of April. Sanchez has been heating up again in the last week, and could be a good candidate to be in Altoona by July with a strong month of June.
WEST VIRGINIA POWER
Nathan Baker - Baker has looked good in the West Virginia rotation this year, with a 3.99 ERA in 38.1 innings, plus a 6.3 K/9 and a 2.1 BB/9 ratio. He was drafted out of college, which means jumping to high-A this soon wouldn’t be a major jump. I could see Baker getting called up once Adcock and/or Locke get the call to Altoona. I think a lot of this will happen in a chain reaction once Brad Lincoln gets the call to Pittsburgh.
Kyle McPherson - McPherson has a 4.32 ERA in 41.2 innings in the West Virginia rotation, but his ratios have been strong, with an 8.4 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9. The strikeout ratio has spiked a bit from his last outing, when he struck out ten in five innings, but even without that outing his strikeout numbers are good. McPherson spent part of the 2009 season in low-A, and looks to be ready to love on, with a 3.80 ERA in the month of May, and a 30:2 K/BB ratio in 21.1 innings.
Honorable Mentions - Duke Welker has seen his velocity hit the upper 90s this year, but the main problem has been his control. Welker has a 12.0 K/9 ratio, but an 11.2 BB/9 ratio. He’s been un-hittable, with a 1.5 H/9 ratio, which probably isn’t sustainable. Welk
er is 24 now, and has been stuck at the low-A level for the last three seasons. It’s time to move him up and see what he can do in high-A. This is the second year for Gabriel Alvarado in West Virginia, and while his ratios have been the same as last year, his ERA has improved, probably to the level it should be at. Alvarado put up a 7.6 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9 ratio in 2009, but had a 5.05 ERA as a result. This year he has a 6.9 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9, but a 3.34 ERA, which is more in line with those ratios. Alvarado has pitched out of the rotation, and in long relief stints. I could see him filling either role in Bradenton, depending on how many open spots the rotation has.