This will be a weekly feature that takes a look at which prospects in the Pirates’ system are trending up and which are trending down. The idea isn’t exactly to do a “who’s hot, who’s not” feature, because the focus will be on prospects, not minor league veterans, and on whose status is being affected the most, which won’t necessarily be the ones whose performance was the best (or worst).
This first installment features fast starts to the season by several of the Pirates’ key pitching prospects and by a couple class A firstbasemen. On the down side we find some struggling infielders.
Alex Presley, OF (AAA): Presley was red hot in the first seven games, then cooled a bit, but is still hitting 370/420/522. He could get a callup if an outfielder or firstbaseman gets hurt, so a good start was key for him. Still a concern: four walks and eleven strikeouts.
Josh Harrison, IF (AAA): He just keeps hitting, 303/395/485 so far in the early season. He’s also controlled the strike zone well, with four walks and only three whiffs.
Starling Marte, OF (AA): Marte raised some concerns by fanning in five of his first six ABs, but he then got nine hits in his next three games, showing some of the power that the Pirates have hoped to see. Overall he’s at 351/400/514. The lack of patience is still an issue, though, as he has only one walk and ten strikeouts.
Jeremy Farrell, 3B (AA): It’s hard to say which is better news, the fact that Farrell is hitting (324/375/541) or the fact that he hasn’t gotten hurt yet. He’s a little old to be debuting in AA, so he needs to continue to do well, and stay on the field, to establish himself as a legitimate prospect.
Rudy Owens, LHP (AAA): So far, so good. Widely expected to be the first pitching prospect to get called up (unless you count Brad Lincoln), Owens did nothing to disappoint in his first two starts. He had the only two wins in Indy’s first eleven games, allowing ten hits, two walks and just two runs in 13.1 IP, with eight strikeouts.
Daniel Moskos, LHP (AAA): With no good left-handed relievers at the major league level, opportunity is knocking. Moskos in his first five outings hasn’t shown any sign of repeating his 2010 AAA meltdown: seven innings, five hits, just one walk, five strikeouts, no earned runs. He did have trouble throwing strikes in his first outing (just 16 in 32 pitches), but since then he’s thrown 51 strikes in 67 pitches.
Aaron Thompson, LHP (AA): In two starts, Thompson has allowed just three hits, two walks and a run in twelve innings, with seven strikeouts. This is his fourth stint in AA, so a strong start is vital if he’s to regain the prospect status he had with the Marlins.
Aaron Baker, 1B (A+): The Pirates have a logjam at first in class A, one that would be helped by some players earning promotions. Baker is doing his part so far, hitting 353/465/588.
Ramon Cabrera, C (A+): Cabrera had to wait for Chris Snyder to vacate the catching position, but he’s gone 12-for-26, with just one strikeout. At 5’7”, he’s never likely to hit for any power, so he’ll have to carry a high average to continue moving up.
David Rubinstein, OF (A+): Old for the level at nearly 24, Rubinstein will have to put up big numbers like his current 387/487/581. The most positive sign may be the seven walks and six strikeouts, as plate discipline hasn’t been a strong suit so far.
Kyle McPherson, RHP (A+): The surprise addition to the 40-man roster has started off well, walking nobody in his first three starts, covering 16.2 IP, with 14 hits, 16 strikeouts, and three earned runs. His second start was cut short by an ejection when he retaliated for the opposing team hitting Jarek Cunningham.
Matt Curry, 1B (A): Like Aaron Baker, Curry is doing his part so far to address the 1B logjam, starting off at 364/475/697, with outstanding plate discipline (7 walks, 3 Ks). Hopefully he’ll keep at it, earning an early promotion and leaving the position to Justin Howard, who’s also off to a solid start.
Gift Ngoepe, IF (A): Ngoepe struggled mightily to make contact with offspeed stuff in 2010, so four walks and just four strikeouts in 31 ABs are as good to see as his overall 308/400/500 line. He even has a HR. With his speed and glove, any progress with the bat is a big plus.
Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP (A): It’s only one start, but Von Rosenberg surprised with nine strikeouts in five innings. He allowed only four hits, one walk and one run. His ability to get swings and misses will make the difference between him becoming a prospective mid-rotation starter, or better, rather than a potential Brian Meadows clone.
Colton Cain, LHP (A): Cain has opened with two strong starts, allowing just six hits, two walks and one unearned run in 10.2 IP. He’s fanned ten. The Pirates need Cain or Von Rosenberg to take a big step forward this year. Breakouts from both would be huge.
Pedro Ciriaco, UT (AAA): There was some consternation when he lost out on a roster spot to Josh Rodriguez, but the Pirates’ concerns about Ciriaco’s bat weren’t erased by a few spring training ABs. They seem to have known what they were doing, as Ciriaco has started off 2-for-34, with one walk and no extra-base hits.
Jordy Mercer, SS (AA): Mercer was probably bummed when the Pirates sent him back to AA after a solid season there in 2010. A good start would have helped, but instead he’s 5-for-31. The good news is that he’s fanned only four times.
Brian Leach, RHP (AA): Leach has good stuff and it seemed possible a move to the bullpen might help him become more dominant. Instead, in three outings, he’s walked six while fanning only one in 4.1 IP. He’s only allowed two hits and two runs, though, so he may just need to get used to the role.
Quinton Miller, RHP (A+): Miller’s poor 2010 could be excused due to continuing arm problems, but he’s apparently healthy now. He’s simply gotten bombed in both starts, giving up 13 earned runs on 17 hits in 7.1 IP.
Nate Baker, LHP (A+): Baker returning to Bradenton was a minor surprise, but the Pirates may have had their reasons. He’s struggled in both starts, allowing ten earned runs on 18 hits in 10.1 IP.
Drew Maggi, IF (A): A 1-for-24 start, with just one walk, over his first seven games continued the severe struggles of his brief time at State College in 2010. At least he went 2-for-4 in his last game before sitting out Sunday.
Elias Diaz, C (A): The Pirates have stated they like Diaz better than 2009 tenth round pick Joey Schoenfeld, but he’s struggled so far after an aggressive promotion, going just 3-for-31, with one walk and nine strikeouts. He’s also thrown out only one of ten base stealers, after cutting down over 40% previously.
Brandon Cumpton, RHP (A): As a college draftee, the Pirates hoped to see Cumpton move quickly, but he may have to move in the wrong direction. He’s been bombed in both starts so far, allowing 16 hits and 14 earned runs in eight innings. He may need to switch to relief, which is probably where he projects anyway.