Why Not Alex Presley?

Let’s create a scenario.

Say Andrew Lambo, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top overall prospect heading in to the 2009 season, and the number 49 prospect in baseball, was currently hitting for a .361 average in AAA.  Let’s also say that he had a .942 OPS, and was on fire, with a .474/.512/.711 line in 38 at-bats over ten games heading in to tonight’s contest.

With those numbers, would we currently be talking about creating room on the roster for Lambo to assume a starting role, similar to the talks last year that surrounded Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker?  My guess is yes.

Unfortunately, that scenario doesn’t apply for the former top prospect, as Lambo has a .220/.288/.360 line in 100 at-bats this season, even after going 2-for-3 with a homer tonight.  Fortunately, those stats belong to another Pirates prospect: Alex Presley.

Presley is hitting for a .361/.405/.538 line this year.

Presley has been on fire since the start of the 2010 season.  After combining for a .257/.313/.379 line at the high-A level during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Presley was moved up to the AA level as a starter.  He quickly caught fire, hitting for a .350/.399/.533 line in 246 at-bats, before getting moved up to Indianapolis.  With the Indians, he continued his hot hitting, with a .294/.349/.460 line in 272 at-bats.  That performance was enough to earn him a spot on the 40-man roster.

In two years with the Indians, Presley has a .319/.371/.490 line in 386 at-bats prior to today’s game.  With anyone else, we’d be asking every day why the player wasn’t in the majors.  A similar demand for Presley has been minimal so far, despite the fact that he does nothing but hit.  In fact, to illustrate this, let’s compare Presley to another player:

Presley: .350/.399/.533 in 246 AA at-bats, .319/.371/.490 in 386 AAA at-bats

Player A: .303/.370/.404 in 228 AA at-bats, .296/.358/.419 in 358 AAA at-bats

Presley has clearly out-performed Player A at both levels, especially in the power department.  Despite that, Player A is currently in the majors, while Presley remains in the minors.  Player A is Jose Tabata.  The AA numbers were his 2009 season, which was considered a huge bounce back year, and rightfully so.  His AAA numbers represent his career totals.  Tabata had fewer at-bats in AAA than Presley has now, and a lower performance across the board, and still got the call to the majors.

So why not Presley?  At the start of the year I mentioned how it was important for one of the Indianapolis outfielders to emerge as a candidate to start along side Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata.  Presley’s numbers sure are making him look like a strong candidate.  Maybe he’s not the ideal choice.  Perhaps we were hoping that former top prospects Andrew Lambo or Gorkys Hernandez would have these numbers that Presley is putting up.  But Presley is the one putting up the numbers.  So why not him?

I feel that a lot stems from his sudden rise to fame.  Presley had horrible numbers in Lynchburg in 2008-2009, which caused his 2010 numbers to look like a fluke season.  With Tabata, he had success, and the prospect hype.  We could look at him and say “he’s finally living up to his potential”.  With Presley, we look and think that he’s playing over his head, mostly because this is unexpected performance.  At what point do we assume he’s just this good?

As far as the comparison to Tabata, the situations are a bit different.  The Pirates had a lot of holes on the roster in 2010.  They had no problem finding Neil Walker a spot, as Aki Iwamura was struggling.  Andy LaRoche wasn’t doing a good job of keeping Pedro Alvarez down.  Jeff Clement left a hole at first, and when Garrett Jones moved over, Jose Tabata stepped in to replace Jones in right field.  That’s not the case this year.

The Pirates have a platoon in right field of Jones and Matt Diaz.  Jones is doing his part so far, with a .284/.404/.554 line against right handed hitters.  Diaz has struggled against left handers, which is normally the strong part of his game.  So far this year he’s 4-for-26, with all singles.  Presley wouldn’t be a good replacement for Diaz, as he is left handed like Jones.  Also, considering the career numbers for Diaz, 26 at-bats is too small a sample size to draw any conclusions.

Lyle Overbay hasn’t had the best season, with a .228/.307/.333 line.  I mentioned last week about how Overbay should be platooning, and since then the Pirates have been using Steve Pearce more often against left handers.  Numbers-wise, a Pearce/Jones platoon at first base could work, although the defense would suffer with the move from Overbay to Jones.  That would create a spot for Presley in the outfield.

There’s not really room for Presley on the bench, as Xavier Paul has been on fire since being claimed, with a .300/.364/.400 line in 20 at-bats with the Pirates.  Presley and Paul are identical players, and the Pirates already have one of them working out in the majors.

The most important thing here is that the Pirates are actually winning in the month of May.  Last year the Pirates could sit Iwamura, despite his salary, because the team was performing so poorly.  This year, those choices are limited.  The best options for Presley would be a platoon mate with Garrett Jones (and constantly lefty vs lefty matchups might not be the best thing for his development in the majors), or a full time job in the outfield, with Jones moving to a platoon with Pearce, replacing Overbay.  That last option might be too much trouble, and not enough gain, as we don’t know how Presley will perform in the majors.

I’m not about to say that the Pirates’ current above-.500 record is legit, and that they are contenders in any way.  I will say that this is a situation that has been rare for the Pirates.  When someone has looked ready in AAA in the past, they’ve always had room to call him up.  This year there’s not much room, as the team is actually winning.  It’s too early to say it’s legit, but at the same time you don’t want to mess with a good thing.

This is a situation that happens with winning teams.  They have a prospect that is performing at the AAA level, and no room for him in the majors.  Either that prospect continues to perform, forcing the team to make some sort of move on their own roster, or that prospect becomes trade bait to upgrade another part of the team.

In previous years, Presley would have already done enough to warrant a call up to get a shot with the Pirates.  For now, he’s blocked at the major league level.  Now if he’s still hitting over .350 with an OPS over .900 by the time June rolls around, you might have to consider making one of the above moves.  Or the Pirates would have the option of using him in a trade to upgrade the team, depending on how other teams value him.  Then again, maybe someone gets injured between now and then, opening up a window for Presley to get his shot.

In any case, Presley’s performance in Indianapolis has been spectacular this season.  We wanted a third long-term outfielder, and he’s stepping up as the answer right now.  The only problem is that there’s little trust in him as the answer.  So at what point do we start to trust him?  When is it time for Alex Presley to get a shot in the majors?

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Should Jose Ascanio Be Added to the 25 Man Roster?

Next Story »

Curve Fall In 9th; Cumpton Earns Second Win

  • Anonymous

    Hope they don’t have to look at this option, but what happens if Tabata continues to freefall. Then you have to decide what is going to hurt Jose more, a demotion to regain confidence or continue to struggle in the majors.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

      no need to demote Tabata. his swing was noticably off before he got hurt and hes working on it now. Hes made solid contact the last couple of games so be patient. you dont demote because of a slump.

  • Anonymous

    I mentioned this in a minor league thread here one night….I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that Presley will be the 3rd piece in a future trade for the Pirates. Hopefully to upgrade the ML roster, of course.

    I think the Pirates think Paul can do everything Presley does with a better OF arm.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AGRPLJJRC5GNBYXDY6LHF2U6DU white angus

    Paul was picked up to be our 4/5 outfielder, defensive replacement and pinch runner. Presley can do all of this. Big difference is that Paul doesnt have much long term value but is perfect for his role. Presley will have trade value and should continue to start in AAA. However, if an outfielder in Pitt goes down for an extended time, Presley should get the calland Paul stays the backup

Latest Analysis

  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    21 hours ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    2 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    4 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    5 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    6 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    7 days ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    1 week ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    1 week ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    2 weeks ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Jason Creasy

    Another Pitcher to Watch From the Pirates’ 2011 Draft

    2 weeks ago

    The 2011 draft is shaping up to be a great class for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They picked first overall that year, so naturally you’d expect good things ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles