2012 Indianapolis Indians Season Recap and Top 10 Prospects

Indianapolis was one of the most successful teams in the Pirates’ system this year, fueled by Starling Marte and a strong pitching staff. By the time the playoffs came around, all of the players who got them to the post-season had been promoted to the majors, which resulted in a first round loss. Here are the results from the individual players, as well as the top ten prospects at the level this year.

The Hitters

The top hitting prospect in the system spent most of the season in Indianapolis. Starling Marte put up impressive numbers in Triple-A, and really caught fire starting at the end of June. Marte ended up with a .286 average and an .847 OPS prior to his promotion to the majors.

Another player who saw a promotion to the majors this year was Brock Holt. The infielder was on fire in his 95 at-bats in Triple-A, with a .432 average and a 1.013 OPS. That was enough to make him a surprise September callup, where he received a lot of playing time with injuries to Neil Walker.

Tony Sanchez arrived in Triple-A in the second half of the season, and finally displayed some power after seeing that part of his game disappear the last two seasons. Sanchez hit eight homers in 206 at-bats, which would be a pace of about 19 in a full season. His average was still low, but the increase in power was a good sign.

Jose Tabata and Alex Presley were both sent to Triple-A at different points in the year, after struggling in Pittsburgh. Yamaico Navarro, Matt Hague, Jordy Mercer, and Jeff Clement were other players who spent time in the majors this year, but had better numbers in Triple-A. The Pirates were relying on Tabata and Presley to handle their corner outfield spots, while the hopes were for some of the other guys to take some infield spots. No one from this group has emerged as a major league starter yet.

The end of the season saw Ramon Cabrera and Matt Curry promoted to Triple-A, although neither player got significant playing time. They should both start in Indianapolis next season.

The Pitchers

Heading into the year, the Triple-A pitching staff was supposed to provide depth for the majors. The staff was projected to have Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson, Brad Lincoln, Kyle McPherson, and Rudy Owens in the rotation at some point in the year, plus Bryan Morris in the bullpen. Owens was part of the trade to bring in Wandy Rodriguez. Lincoln was a key member of the bullpen, and was then dealt for Travis Snider. Locke and McPherson helped in the rotation late in the year, although neither secured a future rotation spot. Wilson and Morris served out of the bullpen in the majors late in the year.

Heading into next year, the pitchers from Triple-A should play a bigger role. McPherson and Locke could compete for rotation spots on Opening Day. Morris should be in the bullpen, as he’s out of options. Wilson is expected to move back to the rotation, but could find his way back to the majors as a reliever.

The other guys who arrived in Triple-A this year should make the majors later next year. Gerrit Cole is the top guy from that list. He made one regular season start and one playoff start, with poor results in the latter outing. Cole will need some time in Triple-A, but should arrive in the majors by mid-season.

Phil Irwin had impressive numbers in his limited time in Triple-A, highlighted by a 28:7 K/BB ratio in 21 innings. Irwin could provide depth next year as a back of the rotation starter, or a reliever if needed. Duke Welker should also enter the mix as a relief option. He struggled with his control in Indianapolis, but he’s got a great arm and the potential to be a late inning reliever.

Top 10 Prospects

The cutoff for prospects was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. The cutoff prevented a lot of the top prospects at the level from making the list. Brock Holt, Kyle McPherson, Gerrit Cole, Matt Curry, Ramon Cabrera, and Phil Irwin were all excluded due to their playing time. Guys who are no longer in the organization, like Rudy Owens, were also excluded. Because of these exclusions, the list was very weak, and difficult to fill out at the bottom. Some of the players on this list no longer have prospect eligibility (Starling Marte, Jeff Locke). Those players are included because they had prospect eligibility coming into the year.

1. Starling Marte

2. Jeff Locke

3. Justin Wilson

4. Tony Sanchez

5. Bryan Morris

6. Jordy Mercer

7. Duke Welker

8. Yamaico Navarro

9. Matt Hague

10. Kris Johnson

Tim Williams

Author: 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.

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  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 jlease717

    Cabrera has the great blessing of youth, and maybe Sanchez is coming around. The Indians obviously won with pitching. Not much there that hasn’t already been in Pittsburgh yet.

  • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

    Speaking of the Indians, both Eric Fryer and Tim Wood are gone (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121110&content_id=40236968&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb)

    Can someone from this site explain to me, again, how the Fryer for Hinske deal was a huge victory for Neal? I have a hard time seeing it that way.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Wow. You’re still going on about the Hinske deal? You might be the only person who cares about that trade.

      • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

        I don’t so much care about this deal – as I noted in our previous discussion on this, I consider this to be a minor deal (although a big failure at that). What I do care about is that a web site that gets approx. 1 million page views per month taking the view that Neal Huntington has a stellar trade record. He does not. I think you have an obligation to your readers. Do you seriously think this trade was either a huge victory or big?

        I’ve been told we should trust Huntington’s process. If that’s the case then his trades shouldn’t be gauged in a vacuum (you suggested in a previous conversation that they should be or at least that what Hinske did after the trade and what his replacement did after the trade has no bearing on your assessment of it). And even if they are considered as stand alone events, the vast majority of his trades have still been bad.

        But looking at this as a process:
        1. Huntington got a waiver wire catcher (Fryer) and a minor league pitcher who never made it past A+ (Casey Erickson) for a competent MLB hitter (Hinske), something that the Pirates lacked
        2. In Overbay, Huntington signed a less competent and less versatile replacement for Hinske for about three times what Hinske was making
        3. While Huntington was making the Hinske deal, the Nationals were welcoming Mike Morse to the team, whom they got for a lesser player (Ryan Langerhans) than Hinske.

        A huge victory? Not even close. One (a minor one at that) in a series of bad trades.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I don’t think anyone is basing their evaluations on Huntington based on the results of the Eric Hinske deal.

          • http://twitter.com/beatembuccos21 beatembuccos21

            Agreed – no one is or should be judging Huntington on this one move.

            My concern is that a web site like yours – with a bunch of readership – is telling its readers that Huntington’s trade record is good (not just this trade, but the entirety of his trade record). It clearly is not. This trade is a microcosm of the problem – Huntington has had multiple failures in dealing players and this web site has propped up his trade record as being successful (with this trade in particular somehow being tabbed a ‘huge victory’). That’s what my concern is – you reach a lot of Pirate fans and yet are telling people that this move was ‘big’. That seems unjustifiable and speaks poorly of your credibility to judge other trades that are actually significant.

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

            The article you keep referring to was a two part article with over 4000 words evaluating the trades. You’re looking at one line from that article and drawing a huge conclusion.

            First, here is a summary paragraph from that same article showing my overall evaluations for the trades.

            “The track record of trades isn’t perfect, but at the same time it’s hard to say that the track record is bad. That’s especially hard to say when you look at the current roster, and see that most of the top players (Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Tabata) were all acquired via trade. Huntington’s trade record seems normal for a General Manager. You win some, you lose some. You have some disasters, and you have some big wins. You trade some guys away who go on to surprise, and you get guys for next to nothing who surprise you.”

            That’s not exactly “propping up Huntington’s trade record”.

            Second, that article was written in early July, 2011. At the time Fryer was in the majors, had been hitting well in the minors, and looked like a guy who could be a strong backup catcher. You’re arguing his value a year and a half later, with the benefit of hindsight.

            Maybe “huge win” wasn’t the best term. Maybe “huge bonus” would have been better. And in fact, looking back, I said “huge victory”, not “huge win”. But it’s semantics. The overall point was that Hinske had no trade value, yet they got someone who, at the time, looked like he could have a major league future. I still think that’s true of Fryer, although less likely than when the article was written.

            And if you notice, when I was doing my long summary of the trades in those same articles, I barely even mentioned the Hinske deal, since it wasn’t significant. I even said that the deal was a minor one:

            “As for the minor deals, with bench guys and relievers (Eric Hinske, Javier Lopez, Jesse Chavez), the results haven’t been huge, although the expectations shouldn’t have been that great to begin with.”

            So perhaps you need to drop the whole “Eric Hinske trade” argument. You’re clearly trying to make something out of nothing.

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: Nice revue – like to see the Pirates commit to Jeff Locke at the No. 5 spot in the Rotation. He came up earlier than expected in 2011 from AA and a cup of coffee at AAA because there was not anything else to consider. Last year he was brought up after pitching 142 innings at AAA, and leading Indy to the Playoffs. His record, ERA, 3/1 K/W Ratio, and .215 average against have earned him the opportunity. In fact, I think all of the Top 5 will see considerable time at PNC in 2013.

  • http://battlingbucs.wordpress.com battlingbucs

    Hate to get on you about a minor point here Tim but d’Arnaud did not have prospect eligibility coming into this season. He had 143 AB last season which is above the 130 AB limit.