In the last week the Pittsburgh Pirates have promoted Gregory Polanco, Nick Kingham, and Stolmy Pimentel. Today at PNC Park, Neal Huntington explained to reporters what led to those decisions from each individual player.
Polanco was one of the biggest breakout hitters in all of minor league baseball last year. He followed that up with a .312/.364/.472 line in 218 at-bats in the Florida State League this year, which is one of the most pitcher friendly leagues in all of minor league baseball. Polanco was improving as the season went on, with an .800 OPS in April and an .897 OPS in May.
“Simplest answer I can give is we felt like he was ready for the next challenge,” Huntington said on the promotion. “The pitchers’ command is gonna be a little better. The consistency of their stuff is gonna be a little bit better. It’s gonna challenge him a little bit more as a hitter. Much like any young hitter, as long as he commands the strike zone, he is gonna have a lot of success.”
Another hitter in Bradenton who is putting up great numbers in Bradenton is Alen Hanson. The shortstop was benched for a few games in mid-April after getting off to a slow start on both sides of the game. 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. Huntington said the difference was that Polanco applied his tools and skills more consistently, more quickly.
“Alen got off to a little bit of a rough start,” Huntington said. “His strong side is the left side. He faced a lot of left-handed pitching early. Alen had some struggles, and it took him a little bit to overcome those struggles. He has subsequently overcome them and we’re pleased with where he’s moving to. But we just felt like Gregory is ready for this next challenge the other day. Alen is working toward that.”
Pimentel got off to an amazing start this year with Altoona. In his first six starts he had an 0.73 ERA in 37 innings, with a 32:16 K/BB ratio. In his next five starts he did a complete 180, with a 7.94 ERA in 28.1 innings, with a 17:12 K/BB ratio. Pimentel has done much better in his last two starts, with three earned runs in 13 innings, along with a 12:7 K/BB ratio.
“He made a little bit of an adjustment,” Huntington said. “He had a tremendous April. He had a very tough stretch in May and allowed our guys to help him make an adjustment, just a small one. We felt like he’s done that, felt like he’s been able to sustain that to a certain degree. And again, much like Polanco, felt he was ready to take that next challenge in his development.”
Kingham was promoted from Bradenton to Altoona at the same time as Polanco. In 70 innings with the Marauders he had a 3.09 ERA and a 75:14 K/BB ratio. Kingham looked very polished, and didn’t look like there was a weakness to his game. Huntington and the Pirates saw the same thing.
“Nick was doing pretty much everything you’d want him to do: fastball, moving his fastball around the zone, throwing his breaking ball for strikes, good changeup for strikes,” Huntington said. “And again, much like Polanco, felt like he was ready to experience the next challenge. There’s really no flaw in his game, it’s just a continued refinement of how he uses his stuff and how he attacks hitters and building his overall pitch package.”