Yesterday I previewed the 2011 Indianapolis Indians infield, looking at players who could open the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ AAA affiliate, and looking at players who could make the jump from the lower levels later in the season. Today we’ll look at the outfield, again looking at all of the possibile players who could play in Indianapolis this season.
Players With Major League Experience
There are three players on the 40-man roster who are battling for an outfield bench spot in Spring Training. Those players are Alex Presley, Steve Pearce, and John Bowker. All three have major league experience, but the current roster projection only has at most one of them making the team.
Bowker is the only player who is out of options, which would mean that he would have to be designated for assignment if he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. He has a career .237/.288/.393 line in 544 at-bats in the majors, so he’s far from a guarantee to make the roster.
Pearce received an extra option this year, meaning the Pirates could option him down to Indianapolis if he doesn’t make the team. He had a .276/.395/.414 line in a mere 29 at-bats in 2010, but on his career is similar to Bowker, with a .240/.313/.394 line.
Presley had a breakout year in 2010, capped off with a September callup where he hit for a .261/.292/.304 line in 23 at-bats. This was after hitting for a .350/.399/.533 line in 246 at-bats in Altoona, and a .294/.349/.460 line in 272 at-bats in Indianapolis.
As mentioned before, only one of these three will win a spot on the Major League roster, and it’s possible that all three could be cut. Bowker is the only player that isn’t guaranteed to go to Indianapolis if he doesn’t make the Major League roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if all three players ended up spending time in AAA throughout the year, assuming Bowker would clear waivers. Out of this group, I think Presley has the smallest chance to make the Majors on Opening Day. He should get time as a starter in AAA, to prove that his 2010 season was legit.
Opening Day Prospects
The Pirates have two outfield prospects who have very similar stories. Gorkys Hernandez and Andrew Lambo were both considered top prospects in the game prior to being traded to the Pirates. The Pirates acquired each player after struggling at the AA level. Both players have shown some signs of improvement at the AA level since coming over to the Pirates in separate trades. Lambo started hitting for power at the end of the season in 2010, after being acquired at the trade deadline. He also had a strong campaign in the Arizona Fall League. Hernandez started hitting in June 2010, but his season was cut short due to a finger injury.
It’s possible that either player could be left behind in Altoona for the start of the 2011 season, although I don’t think both players will be left back. The Altoona outfield is projected to have Starling Marte and Quincy Latimore on the Opening Day roster, which would only leave one spot for Lambo or Hernandez.
Both prospects should make it to Indianapolis at some point in 2011, even if they don’t arrive on Opening Day. They both have strong tools, and are still young enough to revive their careers and live up to their former hype. Hernandez is 23 years old, has good speed, and is the best defensive outfielder in the Pirates’ system. He doesn’t hit for much power, but if he can hit for average, which he started doing in June 2010, he would make a strong center field option. Lambo is 22 years old, and while he doesn’t have the defensive skills like Hernandez, he does have power potential.
The Pirates have a good long term outfield situation in the majors with Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, which means they only need one more addition to round out the group. That addition could come from either Hernandez or Lambo.
One other prospect who could get some playing time in the Indianapolis outfield is Corey Wimberly. Wimberly is battling for a roster spot with the Pirates as a non-roster invitee this year, and he could also be a candidate for the Indianapolis infield. Wimberly can play a lot of positions, so it’s possible that he could get a regular workload by starting at a different position every day.
Prospects For Later in the Season
I mentioned Starling Marte and Quincy Latimore earlier as candidates to start the 2011 season in Altoona. Both could arrive in Indianapolis by the end of the season, depending on how their jump from high-A to AA goes. Neither player is a guarantee to arrive in Indianapolis this season.
Marte missed a lot of time in 2010 after being hit in the hand with a pitch, which forced him to have his hammate bone removed. That injury usually limits a player’s power production for a year. Marte didn’t have much power to begin with, although he’s still young, and at the stage where power starts to develop. Because Marte missed so much time in 2010, and because he will be recovering from the injury, it’s possible that he could see an extended stay in Altoona, even if he gets off to a hot start at the plate.
Latimore had a surprise season in 2010, hitting for a .266/.323/.444 line with 19 homers in 518 at-bats in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. Even if he does get off to a hot start in Altoona, there’s reason to believe that he won’t arrive in Indianapolis by the end of the year. Latimore has been a one-level-per-year player. He joined the GCL team in 2007 after being drafted by the Pirates in the fourth round. He moved to State College in 2008. In 2009 he went to West Virginia. Then, in 2010, he spent the entire year in Bradenton. Part of that could be his results. He hasn’t had impressive numbers at any level, with low walk totals, and strikeout rates that are borderline concerning. In order to play at two levels this year, he’s going to have to do a much better job than his .700 level OPS from 2008-2009, and he’ll need to top the .767 OPS from 2010.
One other prospect eligible player who could get some time in Indianapolis is Anthony Norman. Norman was signed last year out of the Independent leagues, and spent most of the season with Altoona. He hit for a .220/.336/.346 line, but showed good defense. He wouldn’t be anything more than a bench player, and it’s more likely that he spends the season in Altoona, playing off of their bench.
Opening Day Projection
The estimated opening day starters:
LF - Alex Presley
CF - Gorkys Hernandez
RF - Andrew Lambo
Candidates for outfield playing time off the bench: Corey Wimberly, Steve Pearce, John Bowker
Could be a late season arrival: Starling Marte, Quincy Latimore
Could play in the majors in 2011: Alex Presley, Steve Pearce, John Bowker, Corey Wimberly. Gorkys Hernandez and Andrew Lambo are also candidates if they have a strong rebound year.