When should the children arrive?

Brad Lincoln

Brad Lincoln - Tim Williams/BuccoFans.com

On Monday, Dejan reported that we might start seeing some Triple-A players arriving in Pittsburgh. So when should each player be promoted?

 

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.

 

Milledge Tabata
AVG 0.259 0.320
OBP 0.329 0.379
SLG 0.336 0.426
BB% 8.2% 8.4%
K% 16.8% 14.2%
ISO 0.077 0.106
LD% 16.9% 15.2%
GB% 55.9% 63.4%
FB% 27.1% 20.7%

 

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.)

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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  • Will

    Church was swinging the bat very well in April, so I can understand Russell wanting to ride a hot streak for a few games. But he’s still been in the lineup too regularly for a supposed “fourth outfielder”.

    Trouble is, Milledge just hasn’t done enough to keep Church on the bench more often, even though Church himself has struggled terribly since his hot start. I mean, ZERO home runs by Milledge in 150 at bats? While his batting average isn’t atrocious and he’s had some hits in the clutch and his glove has been better than average, overall that just ain’t gettin’ it done. I don’t know if he’s hurt or what, but surely he can’t keep going out there every day unless he really jacks it up at the plate, and I mean in a hurry.

    I disagree with you about Tabata because I’m ready to see him instead of Milledge and because I think Alvarez still has too many holes in his swing. I’m also of the opinion that Alvarez is unlikely to become an elite major league player and hitter, though I’ve no doubt he’ll be a good one. In any case, once Tabata is here, either Church or Milledge or both will be seeing a lot more pine time unless Jones is moved to first, in which case Clement is headed back to Triple A.