It is way too early to be talking about any trends, hot starts, numbers, or anything else from the minor league season, which only started on Thursday. Some players have gotten off to hot starts, some players have gotten off to cold starts. Some pitchers had great outings, some pitchers had bad outings, and some pitchers haven’t even pitched yet. Any analysis of a player’s 2011 numbers is far too premature.
There are certain players that the Pittsburgh Pirates really need to see good performances out of this year. While it’s too early to analyze a hot start, it’s never too early to point to a player and say “the Pirates need him to succeed”. So with that said, here are five players who got off to a hot start this past week, and who need to continue playing well this season in order to help the Pirates out, both in the short term, and in the long term.
Chase D’Arnaud - D’Arnaud had a breakout year in 2009, followed by a down year in 2010. So far he’s off to a good start in AAA, with a .381 average in his first 21 at-bats, with four of his eight hits going for extra bases, after going 2-for-4 with a triple today. The Pirates have a long term need at shortstop, and D’Arnaud is the best option to fill that role.
Rudy Owens - His first start in Indianapolis was the same thing that we’ve been seeing for the last two years: seven innings, one run allowed, seven hits, no walks, and five strikeouts. The Pirates have a need for starting pitching, and Owens could be the closest prospect to the majors in terms of being polished. If he continues putting up starts like we saw in his first outing, he could get the call by June.
Starling Marte - Marte is off to a great start, with a .429 average, including three doubles and a homer. All of that damage has come in the last three games, after struggling in his first two appearances. Gorkys Hernandez and Alex Presley are also off to great starts in AAA. The Pirates need one of these three to step up in the next year to become the long term third outfielder beside Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata.
Colton Cain - Cain got off to a great start in West Virginia, throwing 4.2 innings, allowing an unearned run on five hits, with a walk and five strikeouts. We rated Cain as the tenth best prospect in the system this year, and a strong season from him could put him in high-A by the end of the year, possibly reaching AA by next season with a Rudy Owens-2009 type performance this year.
Aaron Thompson - Thompson got off to a great start in Altoona, going six innings in his first start, while allowing a run on one hit, with a walk and two strikeouts. He’s a former first round pick who was claimed off of waivers this off-season. The Pirates saw a problem with his delivery, and claimed him with a shot at fixing it. It would be a bonus if he could regain his prospect status as a starter.