Neil Walker – Now
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, it is time for Walker to take over the second base job in Pittsburgh. Going back to last season, he now has over 250 plate appearances of excellent performance at Triple-A. There is nothing to be gained by keeping Iwamura in the lineup. Bring Walker up and see what he can do while there is an opening at second base.
Brad Lincoln – First week of June
Lincoln is probably ready now, as he has been dominant in his last few Triple-A starts. He is one poor Brian Burres start away from joining the Pirates (Note: I wrote this before Burres went out and had that lousy start). Lincoln has just a fringe change and his fastball is pretty straight, which could lead to struggles against lefties in the majors, but his curve is nasty and he can really pound the zone with his heater. He profiles as more of a mid-rotation starter than an elite talent, so I don’t think there is much to gain by worrying about Super 2 status. He will be here very soon.
Pedro Alvarez – Mid June
There have been indications from management that Alvarez could be the last to arrive from Triple-A, due to his low batting average and issues with lefties and strikeouts. But he shouldn’t be down much longer. He has heated up after his slow start, hitting .282/.388/.606 with reduced strikeout numbers in May. While a noticeable platoon split remains, he has improved greatly against left-handed pitchers. He currently has a .333 wOBA vs. LHP and a .384 wOBA vs. RHP. We should expect to see some awkward cuts against southpaws, but I have also seen a few encouraging swings from him, such as in the clip below (Hat tip to MarkInDallas). It is time for him to start making his adjustments to major league pitching.
Jose Tabata – July/August
Tabata is the one player who I think the team should be patient with. Yes, on the surface he appears to be a better option for left field than Lastings Milledge right now. However, if you compare each player’s peripheral numbers, they look remarkably similar.
Outside of a moderate edge in power, Tabata’s advantage lies mostly in batting average. Based strictly on the balls in play data, that advantage appears to be mostly random fluctuation. Not to mention, we are comparing Triple-A stats directly to major league numbers. I’m just not sure that Tabata would be a significant improvement over Milledge. Since Tabata is so young, there is no reason to rush him to Pittsburgh. Milledge has hit relatively well the past few weeks, and it just seems too early to give up on him. Let Tabata approach a full season at Triple-A before forcing him onto the roster. (Oh yeah, and quit playing Ryan Church over Milledge.)