The Pirates’ season has gone down the tubes in the blink of an eye, with nearly two months still left. Meanwhile, the minor league seasons are winding down in a less dramatic fashion, with a couple weeks to a month left, depending on which league you’re talking about.
Matt Hague, 1B (AAA): Hague seems to be heating up again, maybe making a late push for a September callup. He hit a grand slam on Saturday and over his last ten games is hitting 366/422/610. Whether it’s making any impression on the Pirates is unknown and Hague will be 26 in two weeks. It’s painfully obvious, though, that the Pirates need to revamp their lineup to have any hope of success.
Jordy Mercer, SS (AAA): Mercer got off to a slow start when he moved up to AAA, but he’s shown signs of coming around lately. In the past week he went 10-for-24 (.417) with four doubles. He’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this fall, so how he finishes the season could play a role in the many tough roster decisions the Pirates will have.
Starling Marte, CF (AA): One of the flaws in Marte’s game that’s always depressed his stock value is the lack of power. This week he homered on Friday and Saturday, giving him nine on the year. Maybe even better, his name came up in trade rumors at the deadline, which hopefully shows that he interests people outside the organization. In his last ten games he’s gone 15-for-42 (.357) with four doubles and the two homers. Maybe next week he can start working on walks; he didn’t draw any in those ten games, although he also fanned only three times.
Jeff Locke, LHP (AA): In his one start, on Wednesday, Locke went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks, while fanning six. Back in mid-July, the Pirates gave Locke nine days between outings. In his four starts since then, he’s had an ERA of 2.52 and allowed just 15 hits in 25 innings.
Kyle McPherson, RHP (AA): McPherson hasn’t really had any “trends.” He’s just pitched the same all year. His performance in AA has been nearly identical to what he did in high A: 2.89 ERA and .227 opponents’ BA in high A, 2.84 ERA and .225 opponents’ BA in AA. His walk rate is up, but it’s still very low, and his K rate is also up to almost exactly one per inning. In his one outing during the week he allowed two runs on six hits and a walk over seven innings, while fanning six. He is an extreme flyball pitcher and his HR rate is up from one every 18 innings to almost one every ten, so that’ll have to be watched.
Bradenton Catchers: They just keep hitting. Ramon Cabrera and Carlos Paulino both went 9-for-21 (.429). Cabrera is now hitting 359/429/468 on the season, with 32 walks and just 21 strikeouts. Paulino is hitting 316/360/469. If Tony Sanchez gets sent back to Altoona next year, it’ll present a problem.
Elevys Gonzalez, 3B (A+): Gonzalez had four-hit games on Friday and Sunday and added a HR in each game. That left him 19-for-42 (.457) over his last ten games. On the year he’s hitting 316/368/469 and is second in the Florida State League with 30 doubles.
Zack von Rosenberg, RHP (A): Just when his season appeared to be an unmitigated fiasco, von Rosenberg seems to be figuring some things out. In his one start during the week, he went six innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk, with six strikeouts. In his last four starts, he has an ERA of 1.64, allowing just sixteen hits and one walk in 22 innings, with nineteen strikeouts.
Wes Freeman, OF (A-): I never expected to be putting this name in a “trending up” section. After posting a par-for-the-course .508 OPS in June, Freeman improved to .732 in July and 1.121 so far in August. He’s even starting to make strides with his plate discipline; he had two walks and 29 strikeouts in June and July, but so far in August has five of each.
Nick Kingham, RHP (A-): In his one outing during the week, Kingham allowed one unearned run on five hits and no walks over five innings. He hasn’t allowed more than a run in any of his last six starts, for an ERA of 1.29 in that time. He’s walked just two in his last 25 innings.
Willy Garcia, OF (R): The GCL Pirates have by far their most interesting group of position players in the past . . . well, I don’t even know how many years. Possibly the highest ceiling belongs to Garcia, a potential five-tool outfielder who’s starting to produce with the bat. In his last ten games he’s hit 361/455/556. He’s also starting to control the strike zone better. He had five walks and eight strikeouts, after totaling four and 23 in his previous 22 games.
Luis Urena, OF (R): Urena is another outfielder in the GCL whom the Pirates believe has significant potential. He’s very raw and they’re bringing him along slowly, but he’s improved substantially over his debut last year in the Dominican Summer League. His OPS has gone from .482 last year to .810 so far this year, and his K:BB ratio from 63:5 to 20:13. Of course, that’s still a lot of whiffs for 57 ABs, which is all he has so far this year. In the past week he had five hits, three of them triples, in ten ABs. He also walked four times and struck out once.
Jodaneli Carvajal, SS (R): One of the first six-figure Latin American signings by the Pirates, Carvajal is a glove-oriented shortsop who probably won’t be more than a slap hitter. He started slowly in the GCL, but in his last ten games he’s 14-for-41 (.341), with six steals in six attempts.
Justin Wilson, LHP (AAA): Wilson started only once in the past week, on Monday, so the Pirates may be giving him some rest. He lasted only 3.2 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks. In his last 40 innings he’s walked 24 and has an ERA of 5.40.
Tony Sanchez, C (AA): The lost season continued, as Sanchez went 4-for-19 (.211) with no extra base hits in the past week. Since the end of May, he’s batted .210 with just six extra base hits in 54 games. Even worse, the Pirates were rumored to be inquiring about catchers on other teams who probably would not have been just short-term rentals, such as Chris Iannetta and Geovany Soto.
Tim Alderson, RHP (AA): Alderson seemingly had found a viable role in relief, posting a 1.17 ERA in April and May. Since then, his ERA has been 6.59. In his one outing during the week he got only one out while allowing three earned runs on five hits and a walk. In his last three games he’s allowed eight earned runs in 4.2 IP.
Evan Chambers, CF (A+): Chambers turned things around in June after struggling badly through the first two months. He posted an OPS of .809 in June and .968 in July. August so far has been a speed bump, as he’s gone 3-for-18 (.167) with ten strikeouts, including three straight hat tricks.
Victor Black, RHP (A): Once he was healthy enough to pitch, Black pitched scoreless baseball over his first ten games. In his eleven outings since then, he’s allowed twenty runs, sixteen of them earned, in just fourteen innings. That includes twelve walks, which illustrates his primary problem: lack of command. He also hasn’t shown the mid-90s velocity the Pirates hoped to see. In his two outings in the last week, he gave up eight runs, seven earned, in just two and a third innings.
Stetson Allie, RHP (A-): Over his first four pro appearances, Allie was holding his own, but he’s come unglued since then. He’s walked eleven in his last 7.1 innings and has failed to get through an inning in his last two games, including his one outing in the past week. For a guy who never really pitched until his senior year in high school and who skipped rookie ball, this shouldn’t be a complete shock. The Pirates knew they were getting a project when they drafted him. At least he’s fanning over a batter an inning.
Jose Osuna, OF (R): Osuna had a great first six weeks in the GCL, but he’s gone hitless in his last four games and went 1-for-20 (.050) for the week. Its probably just things evening out, as he’s still controlling the strike zone well. He fanned only three times while walking twice, so it’s not like the pitchers have discovered a big hole in his swing.