In the last few weeks the Pittsburgh Pirates have made a lot of prospect promotions. Gerrit Cole was promoted to the majors. Andrew Lambo and Stolmy Pimentel moved up to Triple-A. This week saw Nick Kingham and Gregory Polanco get promotions to Altoona. With half of the minor league season in the books, we should start seeing more and more moves.
I get asked “When will Player A be promoted?” all the time, and the truth is, I don’t know. I’m not the one making the call. I’ve got a good idea in some cases, based on what the Pirates have done in the past. But promotions are made based on individual players, and what those players are working on. So even if I feel a guy has the numbers, and even if I’ve seen the Pirates promote a similar guy in the past, I still don’t know for sure that they’ll do the same thing in this case. Pretty much when I know a promotion will be made, I put it on the site immediately.
That said, I still get asked daily when certain players will be promoted. With the above players already moved up, I decided to give my educated guess on the five players I get asked about the most. Keep the above disclaimer in mind that I’m just going off numbers, reports on the players, and precedent with similar players.
Stetson Allie, 1B - This week Stetson Allie will participate in the South Atlantic League Home Run Derby. The following day he will be in the SAL All-Star Game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets promoted soon after that. He has been crushing the ball in West Virginia this year, with a .324/.414/.607 line in 244 at-bats. One downside is that he’s striking out too much, with a strikeout rate around 30%. He also hasn’t been putting up monster numbers this month, but his .870 OPS on the month is still great. The strikeouts are a big concern with Allie, but he doesn’t seem to be challenged in low-A. The question is, where do the Pirates move him? Do they send him to Bradenton and cut into Jose Osuna’s playing time? Or do they make a Matt Curry move and skip him to Altoona where there’s no one blocking him? He’s the same age Curry was when Curry made that jump. The difference is that Curry had more experience hitting and had a great strikeout rate.
Orlando Castro, LHP - He’s had some of the best numbers in the system for a starting pitcher, with a 1.93 ERA in 74.2 innings, along with a 63:6 K/BB ratio. I got a lot of questions about Castro when the mid-season top 20 prospect rankings came out last week. Castro wasn’t anywhere near the top 20, although he was ranked toward the end of the top 50. The reason he was low on our list, despite the numbers, is that he’s a lefty with solid off-speed pitches and great command. That kind of makes his current numbers irrelevant, since that combination leads to success in low-A. A bigger test will be if Castro ever gets to Double-A. For now, he’s not being challenged at all by low-A hitting, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he makes his next start in Bradenton, or moves up shortly after that.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP - I get asked about Glasnow every time I do one of these lists. I don’t see him being promoted this year. No matter what. The Pirates usually have high school pitchers spend an entire season in West Virginia before promoting them up levels. Jameson Taillon did it. Nick Kingham did it. And now Tyler Glasnow will do it. That will give him some time to work on his command, which has fallen apart the second time through the lineup in his last two starts.
Jameson Taillon, RHP - There were some questions today asking why Stolmy Pimentel was promoted instead of Jameson Taillon. The reason is probably because there’s more urgency with Pimentel. He’s out of options at the end of the year, and needs to be in the majors next year. Meanwhile, Taillon probably won’t be in the majors until the middle of next season, and there’s no option situation to deal with, which means the Pirates can take a little bit more time with him. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move up by the end of the year. Taillon missed his last start with a stiff neck, and is scheduled to make his next start tomorrow. On the season he has a 3.10 ERA in 66.2 innings, with a 9.6 K/9 and a 3.6 BB/9. He’s had some control problems lately, walking 14 in his last 29.1 innings. He’s also given up four homers in his last four games, and there have been issues with him flattening pitches out. None of these are long-term problems, but they’re also issues he could work through at the Double-A level. I could see him moving up to Triple-A by the end of the year to help with Indianapolis’ playoff push, just like Gerrit Cole did last year.
Alen Hanson, SS - The promotion of Gregory Polanco raises the question of when Hanson will be promoted. I’ve mentioned several times about how Hanson got off to a rough start the first two weeks of the year on both sides of the game. The Pirates sat him down for a few games to clear his head, and he’s been much better since. After that time off, Hanson has been hitting for a .304/.377/.466 line in 191 at-bats. He’s also cut down on the errors, with eight in 50 games, after recording ten in his first ten games. There are still some issues he needs to work through. For example, he’s had three errors in the last five games. There were very little questions surrounding Polanco’s defense, and he was much more polished overall than Hanson (which is why we’ve had him ranked ahead of Hanson in all of our rankings this year, and in a higher tier). The jump to Double-A is the toughest for hitters, and it would be easier for Hanson to focus on his fielding in high-A if he doesn’t have to also worry about adjusting to a higher level of pitching.
If Hanson keeps up his hitting, and gets back on track with his fielding, I could see him moving up by the end of the year, maybe for the final month of the season. In Polanco’s case, the Pirates can afford to give him an aggressive push, since he doesn’t have as much to work on. Polanco could arrive in Pittsburgh as soon as next summer. Hanson is going to need more time to polish his fielding, and probably won’t arrive until 2015. So there’s no rush to get him to Altoona. I could even see him taking a Starling Marte path and spending an entire season in Double-A in 2014, then going Triple-A/MLB in 2015.
Links and Notes
**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 9: What To Do With the Rotation When The Starters Return?